Earlier this year, Women in Gaming held a panel at the NYC Microsoft store, hosting Voice Actresses that changed the game! Lucie Pohl (Voice Actress for Mercy in Overwatch), Jen Cohn (Voice Actress of Pharah in Overwatch) and Ivy Dupler (Voice Actress of Viv in Marvel Avengers Academy) gave their perspectives on the professional voice acting side of the gaming industry. It was an amazing experience! You can check out some of the funny clips on our Instagram page.
Key Takeaways from the Panelists:
- Where do I apply for a role in voice acting? You can usually find open calls online, which you can take from the comfort of your home. You do not need a fancy studio or need to be local. Technology has made it so that you can be anywhere in the world. The internet has made it easier to apply to all types of jobs and this is no exception. If you want to build up your resume, you can look at language recording/voice over jobs (Lucie, famous for voicing Mercy, took this route by doing German translations for a learning course). So, what are you waiting for?
- What equipment do I need? This is a matter of preference and you should consider hearing your voice on different microphones to see which one works for you. Ivy has done clips through her iPhone (make sure there isn’t excessive background noise). Also, She has had friends that have ordered Ubers in order to go into a quiet place (they have made sure to explain this to the Uber driver to make sure it is okay). Once you have the job, Ivy recommends having a proper home studio. Ivy uses a Shure KSM42 microphone with a Scarlett 2i2 and does her work in her closet with foam on the walls. Remember that sometimes the type of mic and range can affect how your voice sounds. A good place to test your voice is at B&H. Some B&H locations have a mic room where you can test and see which mic sounds best for your voice. On the other hand, Jen says a good starter is a USB mic ($100-$150) and the room you use should be contained(foam works great). Her favorite mic is the Rode because it sounds like a studio mic and is relatively inexpensive. Lucie takes a different approach and has done her clips in bed under her covers, which is how she booked Mercy! Lucie uses an Apogee Plus mic because it is small and travels well. She also uses headphones and plugs it into her phone. As far as the type of file you should be producing, MP3’s work great.
- What’s the best part of being a voice actress? You can be anyone when voice acting. If you are a woman, you can apply to be a tiny 85-year-old goblin man. You also get to wear whatever you want since no one can see you. More importantly, it’s fun!
- What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into voice acting? According to Lucie, there is no recipe and everyone has their own path. If someone says “don’t do this or that” don’t listen to it. It’s not like going into Law or Medicine, there are no set rules. It’s about trying it and seeing what sticks. You must be in it for the process and be willing to learn. Ivy feels it is about perseverance and that it is an amazingly long journey. Be bold and make your own path… it is a marathon and not a sprint. Jen’s advice is a bit different. She feels that everyone should pursue everything they are interested in. You can be a voice actor and like to do other things like water skiing, drumming and yoga. You just never know how the combination will come together where you are the only water-skiing yoga voice actor that is exactly what someone is looking for. In essence, pursue it all so you can become a specialist. Even more important, make friends with people because you can help each other and collaborate. And don’t forget to be nice to everyone because you don’t know who you will pass on your way up or down…
- Favorite genre to voice act? Lucie and Jen prefer comedy and Ivy loves high drama, like adventure games and death scenes. The drawback with death scenes is that they can be taxing on the throat. She highlighted that there have been voice actors that have come out spitting out blood due to the burden of making constant death noises for long periods of time!
- What roadblocks have you faced in your careers? For Lucie, she explained that as an actress you constantly get rejected. Eventually, you get to understand that It’s about the process and not the results. You need to keep going even if you are told no. You need to find another way. Lucie has been told that she isn’t tall enough, blonde enough, old enough, young enough, American enough, the list goes on. When you are passionate enough you keep going no matter the obstacles. Those experiences of rejection and loss, make you stronger. Make sure to keep evolving, ultimately, obstacles force you to become better at what you do. Ivy’s obstacles are a bit different. She mentioned that she works a 9-5 job as a copywriter so balancing two careers is difficult. This means she often doesn’t get enough sleep. In the end, it is exciting and worth it but a long process that involves patience (such as going weeks without booking any voice acting roles and getting discouraged). You need to believe in yourself and be kind to yourself physically and mentally. Jen feels that there is a misconception that once you have been successful that you made it and it is smooth sailing but that is far from the truth. The struggle never ends… You always want to do something bigger or your cost of living goes up or you are out of style, or there is new technology you need to learn to use.
- Overwatch female characters – What’s to love? Lucie loves that they are all three-dimensional characters. In particular, Mercy is very educated, capable, empathetic and feminine. She is a badass and cares about people deeply. She has all these personality traits that may seem contradictory but actually make a real person. ”What’s great about Mercy and the other female characters is that they are strong but not necessarily manly… You don’t have to be a man to be a strong female… it is okay to be emotional that doesn’t mean you are not strong, it’s okay to be feminine.” Jen loved meeting male Overwatch players and cosplayers that are Mercy, Diva, windowmaker etc… As a kid, she never saw boys take on female characters… this is a welcome change for people to be able to pick heroes that aren’t of the same gender. Also, Jen loves that Pharah is unapologetically macho, it is unusual to see a female gaming character wear armor that doesn’t have cleavage or is in a catsuit. Pharah is tough and badass and righteous with mother issues. She is well rounded, like a real person. Jen remarked that most women in film, if they are in a fighting situation, are usually portrayed as having been damaged in the past or broken… as if only damaged women are fighting. That is why Overwatch is groundbreaking and refreshing because most of the heroes are fighting for what is right (and the women are not necessarily damaged or broken).
- Women and the gaming industry, is it better? Jen believes it is an exciting time for women in the industry. There is a lot of opportunity and room for creativity (creating positions that didn’t exist). If you have curiosity and patience then this is the time for women in gaming especially coming out of the MeToo era. People are more aware of how women are/should be treated. Women feel more confident and comfortable now. Ivy has observed that the Indie scene is exploding with talented women (developers, artists, and writers). It’s cool that there is awareness now in creating interesting female characters and not just the damsel in distress. Now, a woman can be Dr. Who or a James Bond. Lucie also sees that more women are being allowed to be in positions of power in film, video games, and entertainment, which increases female representation in the industry. The days are starting to disappear where women have to be likeable characters… if a female character isn’t likeable, what does that even mean? In the words of Lucie, “I love having more edgier and meaty women!”
- Favorite projects to be a part of? The panel agreed Overwatch because of its diversity and fandom. Other notables were the TV show Red Dwarf XI, the Whispers of a Machine video game, and AssyMcGee (Jen did the voice for all of the girls in the show) in adult swim. Jen’s role in AssyMcGee was exciting! She would come in and at a moment’s notice would be told to “make her sounds fatter” and then “make her sound Cuban” It kept her on her toes!
- Dream job? Fun Fact! Jen’s dream job is to be a Utility player in south park! Lucie would love to play Mario from Super Mario (she is friends with the voice actor).
- Ivy on getting hate messages when playing video games. I’ve always played games growing up and still do, starting with the Nancy Drew series (a female-led series). Gaming got me into this industry because I grew up in this world. Unfortunately, there are still stigmas when it comes to women playing video games. Whenever I play an online game and get hate over the headset, like “girls don’t play games” I just say “I AM GAMES.”
- Lucie’s views on the diversity of Overwatch. What’s great about Mercy and the other female characters is that “they are strong but not necessarily manly… You don’t have to be a man to be a strong female… it is okay to be emotional that doesn’t mean you are not strong, it’s okay to be feminine”
- Lucie on women in the gaming industry. Women don’t have to be just likeable characters… if a female character isn’t likeable, what does that even mean? I love having more edgier and meaty women!
- Jen on her feelings for the female characters of Overwatch. Pharah is tough and badass and righteous with mother issues. She is well rounded, like a real person. Jen remarked that most women in film, if they are a in fighting situation, are usually portrayed as having been damaged in the past or broken… as if only damaged women are fighting. That is why Overwatch is groundbreaking and refreshing because most of the heroes are fighting for what is right (and the women are not damaged or broken).
- Jen when speaking about her role-model. “The primary lesson that she taught us is that there is always a way to figure out how to get what you are going for…when someone says no in a professional capacity that does not mean no that means that that person cannot provide you with what it is that you need and you’ll have to find another way into get it… applicable everywhere professionally.”
- Ivy when explaining her first protagonist role in the Whispers of a Machine video game. “a Nordic noir…post-apocalyptic cyber punk setting in far future Sweden and she’s like this homicide detective who is having like dead boyfriend visions… and he wears socks with sandals it’s terrible… based on the choices made she can be very analytical or empathetic.”
What do you think? Would you consider voice acting? Let us know in the comments.