Watching the trailer at E3 for the hotly anticipated indie game “12 Minutes” put me in a bad mood. Don’t get me wrong, the game seemed fantastic, a sort of thriller, action, puzzle game. In fact, because it looked so good, I was disappointed when they put three familiar names on-screen together: Daisy Ridley, Willem DaFoe and James McAvoy. I have absolutely no negative feelings toward any of these actors. I especially enjoyed Willem DaFoe in “The Lighthouse” as well as Daisy Ridley and James McAvoy in their prevalent roles. Still, many games I have experienced that needed to flaunt actors as a marketing technique tend to be worse for wear.
Off the top of my head, “Cyberpunk 2077” is an example of such a flop. Starring Keanu Reeves, the game was almost unplayable to anyone running an older-generation console or high-end PC due to the graphical intensity and poor optimization, as well as a huge number of bugs, almost on par with a Bethesda game. The poor release cannot be completely blamed on the makers, CD Projekt Red, as there was a pandemic and a lot of fans pushed for the game’s early release. Still, even with the considerable amount of shortcomings, Cyberpunk 2077 was a huge success commercially, selling over 13 million copies in three months, and was received well critically, with an 86 on Metacritic. For such a horrible game, it’s incredible how much money they made off of it. This was one of the most anticipated games of the decade, years in the making; however, it will go down in history as one of the biggest flops in quality of all time. With high expectations preceding it, it was good, but not good enough.
Voice can be a powerful tool to convey emotion, but taking a popular actor and pasting them all over the marketing for a game fails to appeal to me. A game that needs this endorsement and marketing probably spent more on securing someone who will sell their game instead of making a game that is good enough to sell itself. There are many successful actors who do fantastic voice acting, such as Mark Hamill as the Joker in the Arkham Series or Susan Sarandon in “Dishonored,” but these games were great in their own right, and didn’t heavily rely on celebrity endorsement to make sales.
Problematically, many of the games with well-known actors are triple-A titles like Call of Duty, which make a lot of money. Great performances go to waste in games like these because you don’t play it to feel emotion, you play it to shoot zombies or other players. The strongest voice acting performances come from the most unexpected places, my personal favorites being Handsome Jack from “Borderlands 2” as well as the more recently released “Hades.” Both of these games have well-thought-out writing and character development and succeeded without leaning on celebrity voice actors.
During the E3 presentation for “12 Minutes,” I was drawn in by the trailer and turned off by the actor lineup. After some reconsideration, I put my bias behind me and did some more research into the game. The game is advertised as a sort of movie/game, and it has a review comparing it to a Martin Scorsese directionality. With a turn in gameplay and a focus on story, I hope for an end to bad games with branded actors.
I thoroughly respect actors who take a dive into voicing for a meager video game, and if this game turns out to be a hit, it should be based on its quality, not the people involved in it. Outstanding performances are not determined by your popularity, they’re determined by their effect on people, the audience. Whether it’s a video game or a movie, I want to enjoy my time and commitment. Therefore, I am going into this game with an open mind, and I wish the actors the best of luck, not only for my sake but for the community as well.
Daily Arts writer Maxwell Lee can be reached at email@example.com.