What’s So Special About A Character’s Voice?

With the invention of voice acting a few generations ago, videogame characters have become like celebrities. We know exactly what they’re supposed to look like, how they’re supposed to act, and how they sound. From Mario to Sam Fisher, and yes, to Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series, we know exactly how these characters are supposed to be. So just what is it that makes them so special, and why is it their voice that’s so important?

For videogame characters, unlike real-life celebrities, their physical appearance will never change, and it doesn’t have to. Mario will look the same as he does now, in twenty years from now, much like Mickey Mouse, and Goofy. These characters are timeless. Disney has tried to keep their legacy characters as familiar as possible, and so too have many of the today’s videogame mascots. That includes having their voices stay as close to the originals as possible.

He might look like Sam Fisher, but his voice is completely different, and so too may his connection with gamers.
He might look like Sam Fisher, but his voice is completely different, and so too may his connection with gamers.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk over the one human element of these characters, their voice. Ubisoft came under fire when it was revealed Michael Ironside would no longer be the voice behind Sam Fisher, one of their most popular characters and lead of Splinter Cell. They said this move was done because the game featured a much younger Sam Fisher. They said the motion capture wouldn’t work with Ironside because of how much older he is compared to the character he would be playing. That’s them just being polite. In the world of games it’s super easy to simply add voice over in editing.

So the question is, will Sam Fisher actually be Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell: Blacklist? Like I said before, the only human element in these characters is their voice, and having that changed could dramatically alter our perception of the character.

Another example is that of Snake from the MGS series. Since Metal Gear Solid on the original PlayStation, David Hayter has been the voice of Snake and Big Boss. He has been an active supporter of the series for well over a decade, and has been featured in every MGS since. It was announced yesterday that Kiefer Sutherland would be replacing Hayter as the title character in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Given how successful the series has been, and how story-driven the games are, it got me wondering whether or not the character would still connect with gamers. Sure the game itself will undoubtedly be great, but given how many years players have spent with this character, will they feel a disconnect?

David Hayter is out, but will the iconic character remain the same?
David Hayter is out, but will the iconic character remain the same?

As of right now I don’t know. David Hayter was shocked he wasn’t asked to return, and in some way this new MGS is being treated as a series reboot of sorts, so that’s likely the reason they wanted to go in a different direction. That said, I’m still very sad to know Hayter won’t be the voice behind the iconic character.

When you see this image you know exactly what you're getting.
When you see this image you know exactly what you’re getting.

So what about all of you? Could you care less about this, or are you like me and kind of sad to see these changes being made. It’s almost as if suddenly Mickey no longer sounded like Mickey. Imagine Nolan North no longer being Drake in the Uncharted series. Would that work the same way for you? I’m curious what you all think of this, so sound off in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “What’s So Special About A Character’s Voice?”

  1. I think it depends. If the voice actor can replicate the iconic voice quite well, I don’t mind changing the voice actor. Sonic is an example. He’s gone through three voice actors I believe and he still sounds the same if not better now. Mickey is the same thing. No one lives forever after all.

    MGS has been a complete fiasco. They haven’t given any valid reason for changing Hayter. Keep in mind that the Japanese voice actor has not been changed. Why change the English VO? Another thing to keep in mind is that Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain will feature all voice actors from Peace Walker, so how come those weren’t changed, too? Kiefer is a good actor and all, but as you suggested I will feel some sort of disconnect. What makes Snake Snake is Hayter’s gruff voice, which I highly doubt that Kiefer will replicate as Kojima is encouraging a complete transformation. It’s too early to boot Hayter out, not to mention that I don’t consider MGS5 a reboot because it’s still in the same universe.

    The only theory that remains right now is that Hayter may voice a younger Solid Snake in MGS5, which is why they changed up Big Boss. It’s a big possibility that the two Snakes will be present in the game. This would obviously be a huge spoiler, which is why there’s no actual talk here. Hayter did also hint that he will be in E3 and he’s going to voice a game. Whether it’s MGS5 or not I can’t tell. But the most probable thing is that he’s been booted out of the role.

  2. If that’s the case then ok, but it’s still an interesting point, and we see eye to eye on this. I’m down with new voice actors coming on-board if they replicate the original as much as possible, because as you said, no one live forever. I just hate the idea of having losing one of the very best voice actors around because he did such a phenomenal job with the character. I suppose time will tell.

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