Scott Reyns on voice acting in games AMA

Scott Reyns
May 23, 2018

Hello! Fun to have been recently invited here. Happy to play. Honored!

I've been a working voice actor for 15+ years and have played characters in games from major publishers, also indies, including some work this year on some newer titles. If curious about things like

  • Working with voice talent if you're an indie game dev
  • Games and related e.g. apps work vs. other types of character work
  • Character work vs. other types of voice over work; what's common / diff
  • Best practices, protocols etc. voice actors follow
  • Projects I've worked on (already released stuff only)

et al, feel free to ask me anything. Cheers!

Web | IMDb | YouTube | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


NB!!! Early Access for one of the games I've worked on this year will be coming out in a few days. It's an MMORPG and this afternoon I just received an Early Access code. It's for playing the game via Steam 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/681660/Bless_Online/

Drop a question below if you want to get the code, will be happy to share!

***UPDATE***

Our winner is DALIBORROSIC who managed to post first after the announcement! Congratulaitons!

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How big is the voice acting industry? If you were to change something about it, what would it be?
May 26, 9:42AM EDT0

I've heard an estimate of $4.4B - so, not that large at all, really - but am not sure how much it's been studied. 

What I'd like to see happen would be for the traditional business to increasingly lean into how much technology has changed the business, namely with regard to P2P (pay-to-play) online casting and crowdsourcing sites. These have done immense damage to the industry, leaving some actors making today about 1/10th of what they made 10-20 years ago. "Aging out" of some types of roles is natural but that kind of thing is not. I know some great voice actors that have now largely moved onto other ways of making a living.

So, on one hand and for the carrot. I'd like to see trade unions like SAG-AFTRA and Equity set up their own online casting platforms and/or partner with, certify the standards and practices of, and do cross-promotions with select platforms like Voice Casting Hub and/or VoiceOver.biz which respectively have folks like members of the VO Agent Alliance and WoVo behind them and vetted, professional agents and talent on them. On the other hand and for the stick, I'd like to see such trade unions go on the offense by publicly issuing Do Not Work notices against select other websites and/or buyers who are known to use them. All of these things should be doable, and might be required to save the business from turning into something where only a small number of actors in it can still make a decent middle class living.

Last edited @ May 26, 1:54PM EDT.
May 26, 1:52PM EDT0
Of all the characters you've played, which is your abolute favorite and why?
May 26, 9:00AM EDT0

My favorite character is whichever my next one will be. Second to that is whichever I did most recently.

Last edited @ May 26, 2:56PM EDT.
May 26, 2:56PM EDT0
How can someone break into the voice acting business?
May 26, 1:49AM EDT0

There is no "breaking in" in the sense that it's not burglary. On one hand, there's a great quote from Rosie O'Donnell about showbiz; that nobody gives you the power so you just have to take it. On the other though, if clients don't find someone bookable, that person simply won't work no matter how much schmoozing they do or how many selfies with microphones they post.

Maybe the best advice I could give to someone who thinks they might like this kind of life would be to take classes and just study it - from authoritative, reputable sources - for info. Focus not on objectives or shiny objects like studio gear, making a demo or getting an agent. Embrace the process of getting your acting chops together, build your reel working for copy and credit and then go hustle. Find a way to start booking work of some kind at decent pay and make money for yourself first, before trying to convince others you might help them make money; tackle that as its own (albeit related) project. Take it in steps. Get to where you've a few bookings per year, then try to ramp that up to per quarter, then per month etc. ... Today I've multiple, but I spent 8+ years doing that before I signed with my first agent. Stay patient, stay active, and bust ass.

Go about it the wrong way and you might blow thousands of dollars and then end up feeling lost and with nothing to show for it. Take risks, but calculated ones, and watch out for scammers. Making a career as an actor, even just a part-time one, includes asking "What's my motivation?" as well as "What's theirs?"

Go about it the right way, however, and there probably won't ever be a day where you suddenly wake up feeling like you've gone pro. Find good mentors. Seek to learn all you can and help others; get referrals, give referrals. Network and observe what you hear that's common vs. conflicting and then follow your gut in making best sense of it. There will be milestones, catalysts, successes and failures along the way and that never ends. Study how good the work can get, and if it motivates you more than it scares you, just keep going. The more you net out what you really want to do or not, evaluate "paying your dues" in context of that. Owning what you owe or not per always lies with you.

Have fun, and good luck!!!

Last edited @ May 26, 4:10AM EDT.
May 26, 2:55AM EDT0
Did you receive any kind of training before becoming a voice actor?
May 26, 12:06AM EDT0

Yes. I took drama from elementary through high school, as I enjoyed acting. I took classical singing classes and private, more pop/rock-oriented lessons in college, because I also wanted to make music. I took voice over classes afterward as I'd found myself learning about the business somewhat by chance and then drawn to it. After I'd been working on and off in VO for some years and then eventually signed with my first agent, I went "back to school" to get private voice over coaching because I wanted to make sure I was good enough for not just non-broadcast, but also broadcast work.

That all said, I'm not sure I subscribe to the "becoming" concept. In many crafts and though both are needed, nature matters more than nurture. In this craft, I tend to think the job of coaches isn't to turn people into actors. It's to help people who already are actors, for better or worse, connect and come to terms with with that and then figure out how to not suck at it. Because despite how it's not for everyone, everyone sucks in the beginning. That way, what's always been their instinct eventually becomes something people find value in, and enough to pay a living wage for.

Last edited @ May 26, 3:19AM EDT.
May 26, 1:33AM EDT0
What sides of the gaming industry you've seen that most gamers don't know about? How did it change your perception as a gamer?
May 25, 4:54PM EDT0

Hm... I'm not sure but I'd guess maybe the business side in terms of things that were in play at different stages of negotiations during the strike. I'm not a union member currently so unlike a number of my friends who were actually on the picket lines, but I did follow some finer parts of what transpired leading up to the strike eventually ending. I'm not sure how deeply most gamers actually follow such things; the details of what goes into collective bargaining efforts.

For me, I don't think the strike and its eventual resolution changed my perspective as a gamer (I'm not sure I can claim that title so much, actually) but it did give me a new appreciation for now much work and sacrifice goes into such processes. The strike gave me a heightened appreciation for what the union does, also for how much more progress can be made tackling issues that can often be complex considerations for folks on both sides of a given table.

Last edited @ May 25, 7:17PM EDT.
May 25, 7:12PM EDT0

Hi, Scott!We all have our favorite video game quotes and the soundbites that we'll never forget. What was your favorite sentence? What are some of the ones that made you laugh? I really look forward to your reply because I saw on Twitter that you want to give an early access code for playing the game via Steam. I really liked the trailer, so I cannot wait to hear that line in the game :)

May 25, 10:03AM EDT1

Haha, thanks for asking but between now and its official release, or at least until May 30th, I probably shouldn't say (Must... resist... temptation!)

There are many memorable highlights though, so have fun playing and finding them. There may well be some Easter eggs I'm totally unaware of... Such secrets, only the Devs know for sure!

Last edited @ May 25, 7:02PM EDT.
May 25, 7:00PM EDT0
When you first got into it, were you surprised at how involved acting could be for video games?
May 24, 7:24PM EDT0

Not so much. I grew up playing games, first on things like DOS-era PCs, Commodore 64 and Atari 2600. Somewhere in my parents' attic may still be Pong. Despite never being a heavy gamer, I'd a thorough appreciation for how they'd evolved over the years, by the time I started doing voice acting.

May 24, 7:51PM EDT0
How much time do you spend on video games as opposed to other types of media?
May 24, 11:46AM EDT0

I'll work on average a few game or app jobs per year, each of which will take anywhere from a single 3-4 hour session to a few.

I've got all kinds of devices (computers, mobile devices) and as consoles go I've got an XBox 360 and a PS3 which I need to get modded, for which my library of games is a mix of a few titles I've worked on, stuff I liked to play when I'd play regularly in my late teens and early-mid 20s, and otherwise stuff I got for my son.

I should arguably be spending more time playing games, watching cartoons and TV and listening to the radio not just organically for the shows but specifically for the commercials and promos. If one pays attention one can observe the association between what types of spots run at what times and around what kinds of programs. For example, I love watching 60 Minutes. The content is engaging, informative and entertaining and in between segments the commercials keep me mindful of how my future will be one of impotence, toothlessness and incontinence; all kinds of awesome.

Actors don't always have time to do such as much as they'd like to keep up with how trends change - I know that's true in my case - so that's part of why even some full-timers will still regularly go to classes and/or workout groups. If one falls way out of touch with where the business is moving, also with the community, not good.

Last edited @ May 24, 5:59PM EDT.
May 24, 12:13PM EDT0
Have you ever been the voice for characters that you identified with, or you felt were like yourself?
May 24, 8:55AM EDT0

Many times. A lot of the work, to me at least, is about finding a part of oneself in any given thing one's reading.

Connecting to it really has to happen in the audition. Then, on the actual jobs more often than not it's about coming prepared to replicate whatever one did in the audition, while staying flexible and open to tweaking it if/as directed to any given way.

May 24, 10:37AM EDT0
How do you manage different roles? What’s the hardest part of doing all different characters?
May 24, 6:53AM EDT0

The hardest part for me is making sure no two characters within any given project sound too similar. Often, production teams will ensure it's not an issue by just casting an actor in only so many roles, but on lower-budget or tighter-turnaround projects they may be more likely to have actors play multiple roles. The more a wider range actors are needed, the more coordination and time can become involved to book sessions during mutual availabilities, also an actor's fee might be N for the first hour and then 80% of N per additional hour. 

Fortunately in cases where within a given project I'm voicing multiple characters who are pretty similar, producers are normally very tuned in and listening very closely, so will sometimes stop me mid-way through a character to listen back to another I'd previously done to ensure they're staying different enough.

May 24, 10:28AM EDT0
When providing gaming voices, is there any kind of specific direction or preparation you use?
May 21, 6:50PM EDT0

I focus on whatever specs came with the audition. Usually there are at least some, and often there's also a visual reference, sometimes also links and so on. Sometimes, and relative to how much info like that came with the sides or not, also to however much time and bandwidth I have, I'll also go scouring the Web for things like videos; teaser trailers or gameplay from previous releases within the franchise if I'm auditioning for a part in the next installment etc. 

In those cases, sometimes I may come across how other actors had previously voiced a given character, but I've never been one to go researching how others have played a character before me, if it's not required in advance of an audition.  

When producers want a sound-alike, they ask for it and provide maybe a link to clips of the animated series or include an MP3 or other reference in the attachments. Some of the games work I've done has been sound-matching like that. Sometimes producers will highlight that they don't want a sound-alike. Either way, that kind of detail is always very helpful. When they're what's asked for, I'm happy to do sound-alikes if/as I can. Barring those occasions though, it's pretty critical for actors to make their own interpretations and choices and commit to them. Casting directors need and want to hear what comes of that.

It's always fascinating, though, to see what choices g*t made, not just by actors but also by producers, creative directors and others in the chain. Whether on a game or a commercial spot, seeing how stuff came out even if one just happens across it while watching TV, listening to the radio or surfing around, and even if it's something one auditoned for and just didn't book, it's all in the game and part of the fun.

Last edited @ May 23, 12:33AM EDT.
May 21, 7:39PM EDT0
Is auditioning for a voice role in a series much different from auditioning for a game performance?
May 21, 8:57AM EDT0

Not necessarily. Historically between the two formats the former was more narrative and story-driven but that's changed now. Now there are some games that are very story-driven.

Between different types of work the mechanics and applications can be different but in any event, whether the performance will be promoting product or part of product itself, the actor's challenge is still basically to follow the direction, give an appropriate performance and give life to things.

May 21, 11:25AM EDT0
Is there any series/label/ franchise that you’ve dreamed of being a part of but it hasn’t quite happened yet?
May 20, 7:12PM EDT0

Dude. Now I want to bust out all my old comics; so many cool characters and worlds. Usagi Yojimbo, Man Bat, Shuriken, Moon Knight, Robotech... 

Yeah. In high school I was pretty literally clowing around; my friends knew me as Jestre as I sported the hat, cane and bad juggling, my great uncle was in the Royal Order of Jesters, so I've always had a certain take on The Joker in my blood. I'd love to play any part of The Batman franchise though, and am likewise a big fan of many other iconic ones both from DC and Marvel, and of course Star Wars. Of course, who doesn't  want to part of those?

I'd love to be part of any fun thing I remember growing up with, where it's being taken into a new format. Hm... Zoids, Silverhawks, M.A.S.K., Sectaurs, Airwolf, The Great Space Coaster, Streethawk, GoBots, Manimal, Battletech? If it hasn't been made into a game yet, but then someone starts to make that happen, I especially want in. If it's already been made into a game but not an animated series yet, yeah. If it was a great RPG but now is being taken into any given format that would require voices, bring it on! You get the idea.

I like playing darker characters but I'll be a huggle or a terror bear or whatever, and I know that there's been a whole couple generations of amazing franchases that've come out since I was a kid, many of which I'm still wholly ignorant of. Adulting, man. It'll get ya... I still don't want to grow up. 

Last edited @ May 23, 12:39AM EDT.
May 20, 7:59PM EDT0
What do you recommend? Setting up a home studio or using a commercial recording facility?
May 15, 10:14AM EDT0

Home studios are critical now. Actors can often be granted 12-24 hours to submit auditions but sometimes we only get an hour or three. Some types of the work are done very quickly so it's not just about having a home studio. It's about staying in it as much as possible during business hours. 

Tight communication, time management, coordination and finding a cadence as much as possible is critical, too. It can be a bit of an art and science because on one hand the sooner one can turn auditons and jobs around the better, but at the same time one has to obviously do them well. Add to that how one has to record at times when things are quiet, and it can be a juggle. Even a good booth is sound resistant, not sound proof, so you can't be recording - especially not live, billable sessions - if you'd be picking up any bleed or other interruptions from things like delivery trucks, construction or leaf blowers outside or household activity inside and so on. Working from home full-time still means getting tactical about what times of day or night become for recording vs. editing vs. other stuff.

Commercial recording studios still sometimes get used for auditions but I normally find myself in them only for paying jobs. I don't get called to work in them nearly as often as I'd like. Fortunately I do sometimes book things through my local market sometimes, some of which become gigs that get me out of the house sometimes. There are a lot of really great commercial studios in the Bay Area with awesome people, rooms and setups. Plus, I think actors give their best performances more naturally when they don't have to worry about also playing engineer or editor and such.

Last edited @ May 23, 3:54PM EDT.
May 15, 11:17AM EDT0
What’s a typical day like in the voiceover business especially in the gaming industry?
May 15, 3:59AM EDT0

It's hard to say what's typical but for a lot of us it's mostly auditions day and night. Sometimes things can be pretty quiet for a while and then within a given afternoon or evening a surge of stuff comes in to do ASAP or by start of biz the next morn.

Myself, I try to manage my time this way:

  • If not collecting, I should be billing.
  • If not billing, I should be on a gig.
  • If not on a gig, I should be booking my next.
  • If not booking my next, I should be auditioning.
  • If not auditioning, I should be networking and marketing.
  • If not networking and marketing, I should be training.
  • If not training, I should be on misc. administration.
  • Otherwise I should be staying healthy, having a life.

There are other actors who've done many times more games than I have, but I doubt their days are all that different. Even the most visible voice actors in gaming don't necessarily live strictly or mainly off game gigs.

Unless one is super established I suppose, it isn't all that different from being a real estate agent or other type of salesperson. It's professional services; no salary or time-cards punching. Kind of the extreme sports of freelancing. The game's always on so some folks never take time off ("booking out") and take their mobile recording rigs with them if/as they travel and so on. Not that getting clean sound while on the road is easy to do.

Last edited @ May 23, 3:56PM EDT.
May 15, 10:58AM EDT1
What's the scope of voice over business in the gaming world? Is it going to boom further or will decline with time?
May 14, 9:07PM EDT0

I'm not yet privvy to anything that might quantify that first part, like how many games use voice talent vs. don't and to what degree when they do, but that would be interesting data to see, for sure. 

As big as games are now, I think there's still room to grow and work opportunities for actors and others along with. There's something to be said for Moore's Law and how it can continue drive the entry cost of production down, so I'd like to think that between that and advances in AR and VR, the broader growth outlook looks solid with more opening for indie game development included. We'll see if things hit $170B this year and $235B by 2022, as some have projected. That SAG-AFTRA and the major game studios were able to ratify a new agreement late last year was a very good thing as well.

Speaking more broadly and thinking further out, I'd like to think we're moving toward a more efficient and equitable future, not just in the gaming industry but across all digital and interactive media. The implications for what blockchain technology might do, not just for how software products and digital content can get developed and distributed but also for how actors, musicians and others could get compensated for their work (and by how much, in a world with more and better fraud prevention - piracy being arguably a form of fraud), are pretty huge.

So I'm hopeful, yeah.

Last edited @ May 23, 1:09AM EDT.
May 14, 11:00PM EDT0
How did you begin working in the voice talent industry?
May 12, 6:58PM EDT0

Training, eventually professional quality demos, dips in and out of it depending on how my music career was going, and straight-up hustle.

For the most part up until 2007 or so, being a musician had been my priority. Eventually I found that my work there, as much as I'd loved it, it'd largely always just burned money whereas my VO work eventually had actually become profitable. I'd found a sustainability outlook with one career but not yet with the other. Not without making compromises with it that I'd never been willing to make, anyway.

I've been a slow, late bloomer.

Last edited @ May 23, 1:10AM EDT.
May 13, 12:19AM EDT0
How hard is it to do voice acting? Is it like doing general acting, or maybe harder?
May 12, 10:40AM EDT0

Acting is challenging in general. Between stage, voice and on-camera I don’t think any given form is any harder than the others. The tools and dynamics just vary.

With film and TV work, a camera might be inches from your face but you have to just not see it; be and stay in the scene. That takes a lot of focus. With voice work one doesn’t have assists like lighting, props, sets and costuming but can more easily explore one’s range. Not having to memorize things or spend half of one’s time on sets waiting for shots to get set up is nice, too. I’ve only worked on camera a few times. Cast and crew on such productions often put in long, hard days. On-camera people have to look presentable. I mostly get to bump around looking like a bum.

Stage work is a rush. I’ve not done any since I was a kid but do miss it. So many things that need to be subtle if not very subtle with voice or on-camera work need to be so much bigger, so even the people in the back of the house can see and hear them. Bright, hot lights, a sea of blackness beyond in which floats an audience you can hear and feel but maybe not really see, and naturally there are no retakes. Live is live, baby!

Last edited @ May 13, 11:35PM EDT.
May 13, 12:15AM EDT0
Without disclosing anything, how many jobs do you have lined up for this year?
May 12, 4:55AM EDT0

Most of my inbound leads are for commercials so for me, the business largely doesn’t work like that. If projects are larger then I get more notice, like “Please only audition if you’ll be available next month within the 15th - 30th” but most of what I engage is the world of “Audition actors today, book one tomorrow, record them the next day.” On any given day, voice actors often have no idea what they’ll be auditioning for that day or what they might work that week, if anything. They might have only 2-3 next gigs booked, or none just yet, at any given time. If one doesn’t have contracts, one gets this job by applying for it over and over again every day and isn't living month-to-month or paycheck-to-paycheck. One is living gig-to-gig and trying not to end up living out of one’s car... I presently do not have a car... (gulp)

Currently my pipeline tends relatively light in that I’ll have 6-12 auditions per day. 2-5 bookings per week, most of which come from a few key accounts; clients with whom I’ve open-ended ongoing service agreements or annual contracts. As games go, I’ve worked on a couple titles so far this year and hope to work on more as I can. I know some actors who consistently work on several games per year.

On one end of the spectrum, some actors might do 20-30 auditions per day yet have only 1-2 dozen bookings per year, maybe one of which becomes what they mainly live off that year. Some are union members who audition only through agents. Others are non-union, mostly living off direct bookings, and on the opposite end of the spectrum some of those are people who do many jobs per day but at much, much lower average sales price by accepting work that some others categorically just don't.

At the high level I manage my business by checking every 3 months...

  1. Last quarter, did I make more than in the same period the previous year?
  2. For this year, am I on pace to beat my revenue number for last year?
  3. Re. expenses (capital + operating), are my YoY margins looking better?

(3) “Yes” answers = Great, (2) = Good, (1) = OK, (0) = WTF.

Those are my key performance indicators. Other metrics e.g. conversion rates like (Bookings / Auditions) and (Auditions / Leads), I treat as either secondary or tertiary.

Last edited @ May 23, 3:57PM EDT.
May 13, 12:14AM EDT0
How do you get inspiration to do your job in terms of prep work, learning about the character you play? How do you get in the zone?
May 12, 3:21AM EDT0

Great copywriting is always a gift. Great illustration, character design and storyboards too. All stuff to honor and do right by. I’ll research things if needed but thankfully oftentimes auditions will come with a link or two to reference or some other details. Sometimes auditions come as just the copy, and maybe no info on even who the client or what the name of the project is, so in those cases I just use my imagination.

To me the zone is the special state that psychologists call “flow” and some days even though I might be giving good reads, I never really hit it. Only sometimes does the work feel like it’s happening so naturally and intuitively that it’s just channeling through me with a life of its own, like something has just taken over and is doing its thing and I need to just follow and let it.

Diet, exercise and staying healthy help keep both my energy and spirits up, and minimize moments of “I don’t feel like doing this.” Fun work is still work even if most of the time one is working for free, so everyone has those sometimes, but fortunately I have them pretty rarely.

One might be an actor, a barrista, an athlete, a welder, lawyer or whatever. In any given trade every new day, every next thing, is a chance to find the zone. The zone feels good like nothing else.

Last edited @ May 18, 8:49PM EDT.
May 13, 12:14AM EDT0
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