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To buy wow gold "Star Wars" fans he has been the face of one of the most beloved characters in film, Luke Skywalker. To video game players, though, Mark Hamill is the unmistakable voice of the Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels.
Mr. Hamill is one of a number of movie and television actors who are becoming increasingly valuable to a video game industry focused more on storytelling than ever before.
For video game developers, finding the right voice for a character is crucial to the narrative.
"Casting is the true heart of successful voice recording for video games," said Andrea Toyias, casting and voice director for Blizzard Entertainment, creators of the popular World of Warcraft franchise. "When you cast just the right actor with just the right connection to the role, that is when the true magic happens."
In the early days of video games, when play was almost entirely confined to arcade titles like Pac Man and Galaga, character sounds were little more than atonal blips and bleeps. These days a game is as heavily scripted as any television series or film. Voice actors read their lines multiple ways to accommodate the choices gamers make while playing, and as a result, performing for games is often a test of endurance and imagination.
That holds even for veteran actors like Mr. Hamill, who, at 64, has a voice textured by years of maniacal laughter in his voice acting work.
"It's tons and tons of verbiage because you have to cover the neutral response, the negative response and the positive response," he said, referring to the choices that video games provide to players. "The players, you give them all these jigsaw puzzle pieces and they can assemble the puzzle the way they wish, and once you can accept that as part of the form, then you're going to have a great time."
Mr. Hamill's career in voice acting for cartoons and games has spanned the last 30 years and has allowed him to reach a few different audiences. His take on the Joker began with "Batman: The Animated Series" in the early 1990s, and has been adapted for several entries in the Batman game series developed by Rocksteady Studios. His voice will next be heard in Star Citizen: Squadron 42, which features a voice cast including Gillian Anderson, Gary Oldman, Mark Strong and Andy Serkis.
Keith David, who has appeared in TV shows like "Community," has been the voice of the Arbiter, a character first introduced in Halo 2 as an enemy to the series' protagonist, the Master Chief.
And it is a thrill to see what actors bring to their roles, Ms. Toyias said.
"Everything changes when the actor walks into the room," she said. "Suddenly a three dimensional, fully fleshed out character with thoughts, opinions and philosophies appears right before your eyes, in colors and frequencies you never even thought of."
Sophisticated tools that record the movement of objects or people allow actors to contribute visual performances as well. With the data, a studio's animation team matches characters' movements with their dialogue to create an added layer of realism.
Travis Willingham, who voiced Frederic 104, a supporting character in Halo 5: Guardians, said the process required a different kind of imagination than conventional acting. A change in dialogue might call for a different movement, or that movement might shift the way dialogue is spoken.
"You're being asked to wear skintight body suits covered in small reflective markers, along with helmet rigged cameras that shine lights back into your face as you try to perform a scene," Mr. Willingham said. "Meanwhile, you're in a stark soundstage with little to no set for visual reference, and only a series of tape marks or boxes on an otherwise plain floor to inform you where items in your immediate, imaginary space may be."
Even highly successful actors can find it difficult to transition to gaming work. Destiny, the action role playing game released last year by Bungie Studios, was faulted by fans and critics for its vague plot and repetitive action. But it was a performance by Peter Dinklage, a star of HBO's "Game of Thrones," as the game's Ghost character that garnered the most contempt. Players scorned the dialogue as lifeless and uninspired.
Bungie ultimately rerecorded all of Ghost's dialogue with a performance by the seasoned voice actor Nolan North, known primarily for his work as Nathan Drake in the Uncharted franchise.
Others, like Keith David, who has appeared in TV shows like "Community" and films like "Platoon" and "Requiem for a Dream," transition easily.
Mr. David has been the voice of the Arbiter, a character first introduced in Halo 2 as an enemy to the series' protagonist, the Master Chief. However, as the franchise has grown, the Master Chief and the Arbiter have built a partnership that is more complex.
Mark Hamill is the unmistakable voice of the Joker in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels.
Dave J. Hogan / Getty Images
"Shakespeare is a great model for a lot of stories, and I feel that that relationship started out adversarial but as in 'Coriolanus,' where you have Aufidius and Coriolanus; it's the respect of great adversaries," he said.
Many actors who lend their voices to games have also worked on animated television shows or films, but creating a character for a game is distinct.
Dee Bradley Baker, who has worked on the Disney show "Phineas and Ferb," has an uncommon ability to generate distinctive creature sounds. This makes him a go to actor for "the weird stuff," as he puts it, and the challenges associated with his recording tend to be more physical. Scripts with groans or bloodcurdling screams can be just as common as those with eloquent dialogue for Mr. Baker, and he said there is a method to the sounds of madness that he projects.
"I don't think of creature vocalization as 'sound effects,'" he said. "There is intent, movement and often intelligence that must fuel a creature sound performance."
The strenuous nature of many game recording sessions, along with the more frequent use of motion capture technology, has led SAG Aftra, the union representing voice actors in ongoing negotiations with game publishers, to call for an increase in compensation and changes to industry safety procedures.
The union wants what it calls "vocally stressful" sessions to be limited to two hours, stunt coordinators to be present for projects requiring performance capture, and voice actors to receive bonuses based on a game's financial success.
Despite the stresses, voice actors like Mr. Hamill say they enjoy the creative freedom that video games bring.
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