Fill your mouth you sonofabitch!
August 17, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

“That’s what the badge says.” Dear God, celebrity had already wreaked havoc on me. —A single-link Paris Review blog entry in which voice actor Colin Nissan tries to find himself in Red Dead Redemption.
posted by kipmanley (52 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is great. I wonder how they finally used his voice.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:34 AM on August 17, 2010


"...maybe even legitimize the fact that I play more video games than a forty-year-old who has been laid, probably should. "
"whitehead-ravaged clerks"
"pasty, callous-thumbed virgins on rare leave from their Hot Pocket-scented catacombs"


There's a fine line between self-deprecating apologia and desperation. He's trying way too hard to let us know that he's not "one of them".
posted by Lorc at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


I have a bunch of friends who are improv comedians and actors at a theatre here in Atlanta. A couple of them have done a lot of voice work for TV, video games, and most prominently Adult Swim as well as FX's Archer (the show is produced in Atlanta). A lot of times they do reads and jobs where they find themselves replaced afterward. So I feel bad that this guy doesn't get the "glory" as it were, but as some of my friends down here would vouch, the key thing here is he got paid and he did his job right so hopefully he'll get more work. Assuming he doesn't do anything like make a big public complaint about not having his voice lines used the way he wanted toooooohhhhhhh.

Bottom line, fun behind the scenes about how voice work in a video game is done, but yeah, this is whiny. "Succumbed to my urge to tell people who I was?" Give me a break.

"Heartbreak?" People get ditched from parts all the time. Come talk to my friend George who spent three months being told he'd have a part in a Cartoon Network series only to be fired a day before shooting started. Or the guys who didn't find anything yet and would be THRILLED to be told they'd get $300 to do a Saturn commercial.

That all said, a bunch of the guys down here know a guy from another improv theatre in Canada, Mark Meer, who is the voice of (male) Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. I did, in fact, see him get approached at Dragon*Con. So... yeah I guess sometimes you can live the dream if that's what you'd call it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:41 AM on August 17, 2010 [8 favorites]


This is great. I wonder how they finally used his voice.

There are about 200 names in the credits under "additional voices" for RDR, including some celebrities like Opie & Anthony and Wil Wheaton, who are friends with the Rockstar staff. RDR has a massive amount of randomly generated crowd characters and I imagine that Rockstar ultimately hired different actors to play at most one or two people to keep the diversity high.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2010


"...pasty, callous-thumbed virgins on rare leave from their Hot Pocket-scented catacombs..."

Wow, it's like he's the Allen Ginsberg of being a dick.
posted by griphus at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2010 [17 favorites]


There's a fine line between self-deprecating apologia and desperation. He's trying way too hard to let us know that he's not "one of them".

I'm getting really sick of this treatment from people, too.

By the way, the town's name is Armadillo, not Armarillo. And Blackwater is one of the last towns one is able to visit in RDR. Armadillo is one of the first. Bonnie MacFarlane tells you to go see the Marshall there within the first hour of the game. Call me a nerd if you must for knowing these things, Colin.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:49 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


I imagine that Rockstar ultimately hired different actors to play at most one or two people to keep the diversity high.

I really appreciate this. While occasionally playing Oblivion with the missus about, I like to point out "Hey, it's the orc from Slash n Smash!" everytime I run into yet another character done by the same guy. It's not a huge irritant but it doesn't help much with immersion (though Oblivion is so far from immersive there's little damage done).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are about 200 names in the credits under "additional voices" for RDR, including some celebrities like Opie & Anthony and Wil Wheaton, who are friends with the Rockstar staff. RDR has a massive amount of randomly generated crowd characters and I imagine that Rockstar ultimately hired different actors to play at most one or two people to keep the diversity high.

To the people at Bethesda working on the next TES game: please please learn from this. There were embarrassingly few voice actors in Oblivion.
posted by cog_nate at 9:57 AM on August 17, 2010


Bottom line, fun behind the scenes about how voice work in a video game is done, but yeah, this is whiny. "Succumbed to my urge to tell people who I was?" Give me a break.

He's joking. The article is humor. He is poking fun at himself.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


I shot a man in Armadillo, just to watch him die.

Come to think of it, I did that in Blackwater too.

Actually, you could probably just go ahead and fill in the blanks of "I shot a ____ in ____, just to watch ____ die." and it would be a pretty representative description of my gaming style in Red Dead Redemption, (though you could also add the caveat "and then I skinned ____ for fun and profit," but I don't know if that would make me sound better or worse...
posted by quin at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2010


Forget the Marshall; I want to know who voiced Herbert Moon. If you haven't dueled with him yet, do so (try cheating at cards). Shoot the gun out of his hand. Watch hilarity ensue.
posted by cereselle at 10:01 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


jinx, cog_nate!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:01 AM on August 17, 2010


He's joking. The article is humor. He is poking fun at himself.

If that was his attempt I missed it and I read the damn thing twice. It reads as though he spent more time trying to "poke fun" at people who play video games because... umm... video games! And passive-aggressively complying he got replaced for a larger part by a better voice actor. That's not really a message that plays well in an attempted self-depreciative tone.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:14 AM on August 17, 2010


*complying --> complaining
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:15 AM on August 17, 2010


you could probably just go ahead and fill in the blanks of "I shot a ____ in ____, just to watch ____ die." and it would be a pretty representative description of my gaming style in Red Dead Redemption

I am a big fan of shooting random people, but Rockstar seems to have gone out of their way in their last couple of games to make it really unfun. The rabid police presence in GTA4 sucked all the enjoyment out of random mayhem-making, and the whole civilian tattletale and bounty BS in RDR is doing the same thing.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quit your whining and get back on your horse.
posted by Elmore at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2010


I shot a man once, just to watch him die. Then at the last moment, someone distracted me and I missed it.

(My favorite SCTV joke)
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:26 AM on August 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Celebrity has also evidently wreaked havoc on his ability to spell Marshal. One L for the job, two Ls for the name.
posted by emelenjr at 10:32 AM on August 17, 2010


He's joking. The article is humor. He is poking fun at himself.

His whole "I play videogames but I'm not one of those people" makes him look like a huge douchebag. I don't care what your excuse is, dude, you stood in line for a midnight release. That's as "videogame nerd"-y as it gets.
posted by graventy at 10:35 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait a minute: they audition voice talent for video games? Because from what I can tell it's more of a first-come-first-serve deal...
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:53 AM on August 17, 2010


Valve should learn from Rockstar. Boy am I tired of hearing the same guy and girl telling Dr. Freeman to reload all the damn time. GLaDOS, Eli and Alyx are great, but the same generic NPC voices all the time wear thin quickly.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:59 AM on August 17, 2010


That's as "videogame nerd"-y as it gets.

Yes. And he's mocking himself with his obviously exaggerated descriptions. It's self-deprecation. How much more unsubtle and over the top must his writing be before it's obvious to everyone? I thought it was hilarious, and didn't get even a hint of seriousness in his mocking of the "virgins."
posted by peep at 11:04 AM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]



Wait a minute: they audition voice talent for video games? Because from what I can tell it's more of a first-come-first-serve deal...


You obviously haven't played Read Dead Redemption.
posted by Elmore at 11:16 AM on August 17, 2010


infinitewindow: "Valve should learn from Rockstar."

Could be worse, they could be learning from Bethesda. Excuse me, I mean " 'ey courld be loirnen from Befesta".
posted by boo_radley at 11:36 AM on August 17, 2010


Great story. Reminds me of my first freelance writing job I did. I interviewed a company owner for a book of business profiles for the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. Did the interview, wrote my ass off, submitted it. Months later they shipped me a copy, which UPS tried delivering three times (I kept missing them). I eventually had to take light rail and two buses to the UPS depot to pick up the book, then missed the last bus on the way home and had to walk about four miles in scorching heat. Finally home, I opened the book and flipped to the contributor page.

They left me off it. My article was in there but no mention of me among all the other contributors. No name, no picture, no credit, no nothing. I was crushed.
posted by notmydesk at 11:36 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


and another. There's a lot of weird VA problems in that game.
posted by boo_radley at 11:37 AM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


I want someone to hit me on the head hard enough to get (just a little) amnesia so that I can play the game all over from the start "fresh"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a big fan of shooting random people, but Rockstar seems to have gone out of their way in their last couple of games to make it really unfun.

Once again, Saints Row 2 to the rescue. I'm replaying the thing and on careful observation I'm dead sure that they've stuck characters in here and there with the express purpose of egging you on to beat the shit out of them.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I write the dialogue (sometimes) and put the resulting lines into the gameplay (sometimes) after the sound guys have recorded the actor and got it cleaned up. Something I've noticed is that voice acting for games has different qualities from shows and movies in a way that a lot of actors without a lot of game experience aren't aware. We get lines recorded that would sound great in a movie, yet are unusable.
Eg, the actor is concerned about portraying the character well and will get the line right in a way that would work for a movie or a show, but to do so might involving drawing it out long enough that it would break the pace the of the game and cause a lot of players to skip the interaction, or take an upcoming side-tangent comedic timing from quick surprise to groaning "We get it already! We saw it coming a mile off!"
Or I might be using expository dialogue as a gentler way to ensure a player knows something than stopping the game, and in getting the character right, the player's attention might be drawn to something other than the critical piece of information.
Or it might be during the midst of battle, and the speed at which things can change, timing is critical.

With thousands of lines to record from all sections of the game, sometimes there is no one person in the recording studio who knows firsthand the broader context of each line, so things work much better when we can send some notes with each line, the actors obviously prefer to have at least some context with which to work, a chance to know what we're after.
But also, weird stuff isn't unusual, eg. perhaps it's part of multiple productions being made with multiple companies all making products for the same IP and their different schedules might mean that to all use the same actors, the bulk of voice acting has to be recorded before the game story is done.
And comedic timing is something that can be fine enough that even with context notes and superb actors, when there are thousands of lines, not many hours, and layers of process between the production and the actor, plus as-yet-unknown technical constraints from technology and tools still being built, there is a fair margin for hit or miss.
Often, short and punchy is more versatile than lengthy, and versatile is useful if aspects of the game get changed after recording. OTOH, versatile at cost of character is not useful if things don't change. You can't win :)

This guy's background is advertising, so he'll have a lot of experience with drawing attention to the precise information he's imparting while sounding like he isn't, and with saying things quickly (for 15 second ad spots etc) while sounding like he's taking his time. I'd think those skills would be useful for voice acting in games. Although reading the article, it sounds like maybe he was trying to make a break from that and put his effort into being the character - possibly he isn't putting enough stock in the tricks and skills he learned in advertising?

Or any of a thousand things happened that have nothing whatsoever to do with him.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:42 AM on August 17, 2010 [11 favorites]


How much more unsubtle and over the top must his writing be before it's obvious to everyone? I thought it was hilarious, and didn't get even a hint of seriousness in his mocking of the "virgins."

I will once again repeat my last comment here.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:42 AM on August 17, 2010


Read Dead Redemption

A zombie western novel? Or born-again handbook?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:44 AM on August 17, 2010


My wife and I like to play "spot the Steve Blum voice" in video games and cartoons. He seems to be everywhere. Though, surprisingly he wasn't in Avatar: The Last Airbender at all. Avatar did have femShep and Kaidan though.
posted by kmz at 11:52 AM on August 17, 2010


sometimes there is no one person in the recording studio who knows firsthand the broader context of each line

Ah yes. Leading to the awesome mis-emphasis of certain words.

"The Beast! Have you SEEN it?"
"No, but I'VE heard the tales."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:52 AM on August 17, 2010


That all said, a bunch of the guys down here know a guy from another improv theatre in Canada, Mark Meer, who is the voice of (male) Commander Shepard from Mass Effect.

No offense to Mark, who I imagine is very talented, but I HATE his delivery as Shepard. So flat, so detached, so blase, so ... bad. I suppose it is subjective, though. Glad he is getting work.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:54 AM on August 17, 2010


I want someone to hit me on the head hard enough to get (just a little) amnesia so that I can play the game all over from the start "fresh"

Yes please. Me too.
posted by gemmy at 11:55 AM on August 17, 2010


With any luck, Rockstar will release stellar expansion packs for Red Dead Redemption on par with their Lost & Damned and Ballad of Gay Tony packs for GTA4. Then we won't necessarily need to be bonked on the head to experience the old west 'fresh.'
posted by NationalKato at 12:25 PM on August 17, 2010


Once again, Saints Row 2 to the rescue.

In that game, I hijacked a police APC, and put it into my garage making it "mine". I then modified it to have something like 50" spinning rims and (if memory serves) hydraulics.

This was so patently absurd that it made me giggle. I told a friend that such a thing was possible, and it made him, as someone who had professed to hate it previously, re-evaluate it, and then subsequently go on to use this as a selling point for a half dozen other people at his game store.

It was never advertised, it was never suggested as even being possible, but you can do it. And that is exactly why that game is so freakin' great. There are tons of nonsense little things just like that.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on August 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


How much more unsubtle and over the top must his writing be before it's obvious to everyone?

Eh, it's just super-lazy stereotyping, and I don't find that very funny.
posted by graventy at 12:40 PM on August 17, 2010


Ah, quin, during the battle of the "art car" definitions in a recent thread, SR2 was what immediately leapt to mind. Not that you can create Burning Man-type vehicles -- you can't. But I customized some extremely stylish, and also ridiculously absurd vehicles. I'm not even a "car guy", and I found the temptation to waste endless time customizing vehicles irresistable.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:41 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, come to think of it, I had a pretty sweet modded APC as well.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:42 PM on August 17, 2010


The games that adults play...
posted by vhof at 12:49 PM on August 17, 2010


gemmy: I want someone to hit me on the head hard enough to get (just a little) amnesia so that I can play the game all over from the start "fresh"

Yes please. Me too.


See while other people complain about not enough random violence in their games, I read these comments and think "Okay, I could make a career out of hitting people in the head all helpful-like"

I should really probably start gaming again.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:51 PM on August 17, 2010


No offense to Mark, who I imagine is very talented, but I HATE his delivery as Shepard. So flat, so detached, so blase, so ... bad. I suppose it is subjective, though. Glad he is getting work.

FemShep is BestShep! Jennifer Hale is just too awesome.

I did like Mark Meers's little Improv Monologue thingy though.
posted by kmz at 12:58 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't care if Bethesda hired Fran Drescher to do every single voice in the game as long as they finish Elder Scrolls V. Soon. I fear the popularity of Fallout has the Bethesda folks thwacking that cash-stuffed piñata instead of working on a follow-up to Oblivion.

Also: people played Shepherd as a MALE? Unthinkable. Jennifer Hale rocks.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:16 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


as long as they finish Elder Scrolls V.

Hear, hear.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:31 PM on August 17, 2010


Forget the Marshall; I want to know who voiced Herbert Moon. If you haven't dueled with him yet, do so (try cheating at cards). Shoot the gun out of his hand. Watch hilarity ensue.

Here's how I spent my last hours as John Marsden:

1. Ride to Blackwater, optomistic about my chances of winning at Poker and claiming that sweet-looking US Army outfit.
2. Check into my hotel room, realize that I'm not allowed to change clothes into my poker-cheat suit because I'm too near the end of the game and they temporarily disable that feature for some reason.
3. Shrug, confident in my Texas Hold 'Em abilities, head downstairs and drink a few shots to steady my nerves.
4. Walk out to the back porch and sit down at the poker table.
5. Get my ass handed to me.
6. Stand up from the poker table, $100 poorer.
7. Walk casually out into the street, pausing to toss a lit stick of dynamite under the poker table.
8. BOOM
9. Raise hands and surrender to the police.
10. Go get a beer IRL while Marsden sits in prison and considers the error of his ways.
11. Leave jail, check back into hotel room.

Repeat steps 3-11 until you win, run out of dynamite, or run out of IRL beer.
posted by chaff at 3:35 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not that I expected a banner when I arrived later that night, but I figured the Marshall deserved a cut in line, maybe a free T-shirt.

Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:54 PM on August 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, this is pretty much how I experience voice acting in videogames. Sorry, voice actor dudes.
posted by mhum at 9:08 PM on August 17, 2010


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by broken wheelchair at 10:39 PM on August 17, 2010


I guess we can't all be the guy who got to do this line.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:26 AM on August 18, 2010


They used to call it the "cutting-room floor."
posted by bardic at 7:54 AM on August 18, 2010


Wait, gameplay continues in Mexico? I thought this shit was over and done with. Awesome?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:30 PM on August 19, 2010


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