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One of the focuses at this year’s GamesBeat Summit has been the visibility of women in the gaming industry. This includes the literal female voices gamers hear: One of the panels was titled “Women in video game voice acting.” Moderated by Julia Bianco Schoeffling of the Halp Network, the panel featured three voice actors and covered diversity, equity, and inclusion in the world of game voice acting.
All three panelists concurred that the climate of the voice acting world has changed. Though there are still efforts to be made in making the space diverse and inclusive, the industry as a whole has more diverse
Diversity and inclusion
Jennifer Hale, known for her work as Commander Shepard, Rivet, and Bastila Shan, said that when she first started, there were only certain roles available to her. “It’s been a phenomenal thing to watch the evolution of the consciousness of how stories are told, and how they’re presented, and what’s available to women. We stopped being just ‘girls’ and we’ve become people in stories. We’ve become main characters.”
Cissy Jones, known for her work as Delilah in Firewatch and Fury in Darksiders 3, adds the roles are more diverse. “There’s more than one woman now, in a game, whereas it used to be one woman and 20 dudes.” Anjali Bhimani, known for her roles as Symmetra in Overwatch and Rampart in Apex Legends, added that the industry is not just changing its views of gender diversity, but of background and personality as well. “We’re not only a woman, we’re all these different things… It feels like everybody is now seeing themselves onscreen or in the game in one way or another.”
Though Bhimani also raised the point that, in an effort to champion diversity, casting can sometimes be a bit rigid. “I feel like we’re all treading a very fine line — not just in games, but in the entertainment industry in general — where even though we’re all actors and we’re all playing someone that is not us, we’ve been almost more pigeonholed.” Hale called this a “corrective period” for casting.
The experience of women in video game voice acting
One of the areas where they agreed the industry could use some work is the understanding of women’s voice acting tools. Jones mentioned that not all vocal cords are built the same, and it’s crucial for directors to understand how best to care for their actors. “It’s really scary to go into a session where I’m expected to scream at the top of my lungs for what’s supposed to be two hours but sometimes will bleed into longer sessions with a director who may not know how to take care of the actor.”
Another area where the panelists felt there needed to be more progress was in the role of actors in the story process. Hale compared it to film and television, where creatives such as actors will be involved in early workshopping of the script, which doesn’t happen in the games industry. “It was such a technically drive media for so long, but now the role of story and character is so important… It all comes back to collaboration, cooperation, not competition.”