Jennifer Hale on voice acting and the characters she wants to play

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Jennifer Hale has voiced characters in a huge number of games, including Metal Gear Solid, Planescape: Torment, Diablo III, and BioShock Infinite, though I know her best as Shepard in Mass Effect. Most recently, Hale shows up in The Long Dark, a survival game currently on Early Access in which she voices a playable character (watch my video, in which I play as Hale's character, below).

I recently had the opportunity to email Hale a few questions about her role in The Long Dark, her acting experience, and the kinds of game characters she hopes for more of.

PC Gamer: How did you approach your character in The Long Dark?

Jennifer Hale: I sat down with [Raphael Van Lierop, Founder and Creative Director] and [David Chan, Audio Director] to go over where she fits into the world of The Long Dark and how she functioned in the world before the change. She's a person who's used to demanding situations, but still taken a bit aback by the situation she finds herself in.

Do you have any specific method for getting into a character?

For me, it all comes from the writing and the vision of the team. From there I look for the common humanity in any given situation and how the person I'm playing moves through the world, how they get what they want, which qualities are their go-tos and which are unfamiliar.

You've talked before about the rigid adherence to the script that was required for Mass Effect. Was there any ad libbing here? Do you have a preference?

We are dealing with a different technical setup so there's more room to play around a bit. I like the collaborative nature of that and the potential that polishing things in the moment brings.

Do you have a favorite type of character or subject matter?

Anything with a cool dev team, anything outside of what people are expecting from me.

Have you ever voiced an animal or an inanimate object? What was that like?

Yes and I love it. It's a blast. Silly is good.

You've done a lot of work in film and television, too. How is that different from voicing games?

In terms of the acting it's much easier to me, you have actual humans there to feed off of in a scene and actual sets to walk around. The pace of production is quite a bit slower, as you're shooting in an actual environment. I often say voice acting in games is 'acting on steroids.' You have to create so much in your imagination, the environment, the other person, where you are on the timeline from line to line, things like that.

How has video game voice acting changed in the past few years?

I've seen a fantastic evolution as the visuals have progressed, we as actors are able to bring the acting style along to one that's more film-like, less pronounced. It feels more honest to me and I'm loving where it's headed.

What kinds of characters do you wish there were more of in video games?

Average people doing extraordinary things, women playing an even greater variety of roles, though that's changing. Some body types that are more normal and less fantasy/perfection based. Games have a tremendous amount of potential to make the world better and I look forward to how they do that.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.