I stayed home from today’s lecture so I could catch up on the Film History reading. It’s a subject that wobbles precariously between entertaining, fascinating, and boring. But it did get me thinking about the internationality (is that word?) of the games industry – funny how most things make me think about games these days.
Originally, the film industry was very international. Denmark, for example, was one of the major producing countries in the silent era, thanks to Nordisk Film (Great Northern) , and France and Germany were also very significant players on the international market. Localization was a breeze back then, as it was just a matter of translating the words on the intertitles and at most filming an alternative, more depressing ending for the Russians. But when the sound film came about just before the start of the 30′s, the national film industries became much more localized and Hollywood pretty much became the only major international film industry, largely thanks to the language (there were other factors, but language was a major one).
So now I’m thinking… when you make a movie, you make heavy use of actors, right? In fact in anything but animation movies, the actual shooting phase wherein you use actors takes up a lot of time, even though editing is a time-consuming process as well. And the Star System is also a major selling point in films, we want to watch movies with good actors that we know (personally I would watch anything featuring Johnny Depp, even if it’d received abysmal reviews).
But in games, the voice acting phase is comparatively minuscule. It takes AGES to design the art assets, program the engine, script the interface and the story, design the levels, test for bugs and balance, and wrap it up into something playable. Voice acting is pretty much an afterthought, which I think is a large part of the reason why it’s possible for Danish IO Interactive to gain international success with the Hitman series, for Ukrainian GSC Game World to earn everybody’s attention with their bold plans for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. , and for French Ubisoft to kick so much ass you wouldn’t believe it. Sure, American studios have a huge share of the international market, but that seems to be mostly because they invented the damn thing, so I’d say they kinda deserve it. I’m just happy it’s possible for everybody else to sell their games to the US, seeing how it’s damn near impossible for a foreigner to break into the American film market.
Bethesda has upped the ante by hiring Patrick Steward and Sean Bean to voice act for Oblivion though. Perhaps that’ll finally bring the Star System into play within game development as well, and we’ll see the American market cut off from foreign game studios just like the film industry? One could hope, however, that gameplay, narration, and even graphics will continue to be more important than acting, even when the acting in games finally achieves the same level of professionalism that you find in the film industry.
If you have any input, please feel free to drop a comment, I’d like to get some perspective on this subject