Voices behind the scenes
Games these days have reached such a level in both graphics and gameplay that we most of the time fail to catch the awesome performances by voice actors (people providing voice to animated characters). Imagine a game with no dialogues in those flashy cinematic cutscenes or in-game action sequences and you'll find a gaping hole in the perfect gaming experience current game developers take pride in. And it is during the discussion regarding voice actors that the name Nolan North constantly pops up.
Nolan North, born in New Haven, Connecticut, started his carrier 1997 and every least mentionable game in the last decade has his name in the credit, whether it's the voice of the protagonist or the villain or just an insignificant voice in the background.
Now, people might think giving voice to a character while seating in a studio is easy, but the voice actor has to synchronise his voice with the situation of the game properly and this is where things get challenging. An actor who is acting in a WW2 movie has a whole set around him and a number of people constantly helping him to get into his character but a voice actor, who is going to give his voice in Call of Duty or Medal of Honor has to imagine himself as a soldier in WW2 while he is in the studio and has to pull up a convincing voice of a soldier caught in the middle of a war. This is what Nolan excels at; whether it's the voice of a treasure hunter hanging from a cliff or the growl of a God burning to have revenge or the strained tones of a banished prince, he does them all efficiently.
Some of his most famous acts are as Nathan Drake in Uncharted series, Desmond Miles in Assassins Creed, Hades in God of War 3 (yeah, that ruthless voice which gave us all goosebumps belonged to this guy), Prince in Prince of Persia, The Penguin in Batman Arkham City, and Doctor Edward Richtofen in CoD: Black Ops and many more. If you recall, you'll realise how little similarities each of these voices have with the others and how impeccably each of them were done.
Besides these games, Nolan voiced quite a number of animations and anime. He also showed us his acting skills in TV shows like Ugly Betty, Modern Family, CSI Miami but all these were minor roles.
Besides Nolan, Tony Jay (Magneto in X-men Legends), David Hayter (Solid Snake), John DiMaggio (Marcus Fenix in Gears of War) are few of the talented voice actors in the business who year after year constantly provide us with exclusive games yet with little acknowledgment. So, next time you come across an excellent voice in any game, be sure to check the voice actors out.
Play to change the world
Our generation has been called many things; tech-savvy, social networkers, attention seekers. Many things but go-getters. Most of us have spent our childhoods sitting in front of a screen, with our favorite video games and lived and relived our fantasies in virtual worlds, and we were the first generations to do so. We had incredible adventures and some of the most meaningful moments of our lives, made a world of differences. Yet unfortunately a lot of people including ourselves, would not take us seriously if we say we are going to change the world.
Gamers playing games to create a better future doesn't sound reassuring to most people, even to most hardcore gamers. Most of us would question the skills we have gathered from those hundreds of hours of playing video games. Finishing guitar hero in expert does not imply we are eligible to fight poverty. Game designer Jane McGonigal, a pioneer at the Institute of the Future, begs to differ. In her 2010 TED (if you are unfamiliar with TED, it is an organisation that brings together ideas that are worth sharing) talk, she emphasised on the fact that gamers and especially online gamers have the ability to create a better future for the world.
How? Well, McGonigal argues that today's world spends 3 billion hours a week just playing online games. That is a mind boggling number by itself, but when we consider the fact that by the time a regular gamer turns 21, he will already have spent almost 10,000 hours playing different types of video games, which is also the amount of hours he will have spent in school. Also, researches show that, investing 10,000 hours in any type of activity will turn a person into a virtuoso in the field. All the gamers playing hours after hours are slowly turning into experts in gaming. But what else are they getting better at? According to McGonial, they will have gained four types of invaluable skills - urgent optimism, the desire to act immediately to solve any problems thrown at them, an unique social fabric of bond shared among gamers and particularly online gamers; blissful productivity, referring to the fact that we are actually more content working harder at games than relaxing; and epic meaning of games, the fact that gamers love collaborating and working hard towards intricate and meaningful adventures.
Games that involve utilising these specific skills to creatively solve real world problems are coming up now, for example, 'World Without Oil', an online game designed to make the gamers live their lives without oil. Another game is Superstruct, which tells the gamers that humans only have 23 years left on Earth and they would have to plan the future of food, safety, power for the whole human race. 'Evoke' is a recently launched online gaming initiative by the World Bank Institute that targets students from developing nations to collaborate and build social enterprises to save the world. What's more; you will actually be certified as a social innovator after finishing the game.
It's not difficult to figure out why we are not as enthusiastic about real world problems. They involve unnecessary hurdles that will not reward +1 life for solving. And they just keep piling up. That is why games today are mostly getaways from that. But in order for us to actually move forward, the power of video games must be acknowledged and utilised, and to solve the problems the real world throws at us, we need human beings for the future. We need the incredible enthusiasm, concentration and creativity of the most avid of gamers.
If you are interested to make a change, you can check out Evoke at www.urgentevoke.com. Jane McGonial's TED talk can be found on YouTube.