A VGA at the NFTS

A VGA at the NFTS

We caught up with Laurence Bouvard, voiceover artist and Video Games Ambassador, after her visit to the NFTS.

Most of us in games know the statistics by now: The games industry is worth more than the film industry worldwide, by a long shot. And yet, looking at the curriculum of many arts and media programmes in UK schools, you’d be hard pressed to deduce this was the case. This is why I was surprised, and heartened, to be invited as a video games audio artist to that bastion of traditional recorded media training, the National Film and Television School, to assist students on the school’s brand new Games Design and Development MA course.

I'm a voice actor, but also direct voices, translate and localize scripts, and with my MSc in computer science, code in various languages. So as someone involved in different areas of games, I'm excited by the possibilities that the industry provides for those with cross-disciplinary skills. Developers are key to games, but so are 2D and 3D artists, sound engineers, PR people and more. Together we make a game happen, and it helps to have an understanding of what each other does to make that game in the best way possible. This is one of my motivations for becoming a Video Games Ambassador, encouraging students to realize there is more than one path into this burgeoning field. 

So far I've mainly participated in talks and workshops; this was my first experience of hands’ on training on a student project. The student team I was assigned to at the NFTS were all first years, and interestingly, all women. Along with the statistics about the size of the games industry, we also all know the sobering numbers: While women make up almost 50% of players, they currently only represent about 22% of those working in the industry. It was thus reassuring to see young women with an eye on a games career. 

On this occasion, my role was to breathe life into the characters the students had created, crafting a voice for each, and discussing different challenges that arose in the process. The students hadn’t anticipated, for instance, the importance of casting and balancing different voices based on vocal quality and ability rather than an actor’s look or age. Thus, though one of the characters was closer to my real age, I have a light voice, and was suited to a different, much younger role at one point in the script; however, since a trained audio artist can easily multi-voice, I was able to play a completely different character later on. This surprised the young team used to more traditional, theatrical casting.

Another issue was that, used to film and TV, they had written long, chunky speeches in their scenes. I discussed with them the concept of dialogue in a game as computer coding, how each line of dialogue needed to be respected as a line of code, and that it would make their game cleaner and more agile if they had shorter segments of dialogue which then would have the potential to be used in multiple places in the game. We also talked about how much context an actor requires to deliver the scene properly – just enough to understand where they are, who they are speaking to and why, and who they are as a character, without needing to inundate them with hours of gameplay.

Overall, it was an incredibly satisfying afternoon for all involved. I enjoyed watching the students acquire a new understanding of the challenges this part of game development involves; for their part, I think it was helpful for them to have a working professional bring experience of the real world to their academic environment. I hope that they will take forward from this the knowledge that each job within the games world requires a skilled professional, and that we all bring something valuable to the final product. I would strongly encourage everyone working in the games industry to consider becoming a VGA, as we need an influx of fresh talent to carry on the amazing work that is happening. There are many different facets to games industry work, requiring talents of all flavours, so whether you are a level designer or a 3D artist, a community manager or a script writer, you have something to pass on. 

If you are interested in becoming a Video Games Ambassador, please check out gamesambassadors.org.uk and sign up for free today. Help us to inspire the next generation of video games talent.

Have any questions about the VGA scheme? Please don't hesitate to email Jenny.