Video games. They have been a part of my life since before I started my formal education. Before I was learning my ABCs, I was turning pong paddles and beating single-button joysticks into submission on my dad’s Atari 2600. Pole position, Tank Pong, Pinball, these were all part of my lexicon before A is for Apple, or B is for Book. When the NES came out in 1985, that was it. I was marked for life, destined to become what would someday be referred to as a “gamer” (Though, the term pre-dated video game popularity and was used previously for table RPG and Wargaming folks, something I also delve into. But that is another story for another time).
Yeah I was that kid. I was that kid that pretended to care about GI Joe or basketball just to fit in. As soon as I got home, however, it was TMNT II, Dragon Warrior, and Super Mario til whenever bedtime was. I was the kid that spent hours re-reading the Nintendo Power Strategy Guides for Ninja Gaiden II and Super Mario 3, as if somehow this would improve my in-game skill. EGM, Gamepro, and other publications from a bygone era were my constant as a child. I totally bought into the perceived awesomeness of the Power Glove and the actual awesomeness of the original spinach-green Gameboy. There were few things at that age, besides books and cartoons, that captured my too-hyper mind like gaming did.
So yeah, I loved me some video games.
It’s kind of apropos, I suppose, that my adult life too is steering itself toward the same industry – as a game tester first, and now a voice actor.
Voice acting, you say? Heck yes, you read that right. I’m not trying to downplay how cool I think being a tester can be,or trying to toot my own brasswind… but holy shit! Voice acting, it’s amazing. It’s seriously a dream come true. A little over a month ago, the first major game I did voice work on was released: Tomb Raider. It’s hard for me not to gush about this, and I think it makes sense, given my video game-laden childhood. While I’ll probably go into more detail about my Tomb Raider experience in a later post, let me just say that the first day of work on that project was a bucket of surreal, dipped in a tub of “I can’t believe this is happening.”
The question I’m trying to address here, I think, is: Is it possible to separate the geekery from the artistry? In other words, can someone who is a fan of a certain subculture/industry/genre leave the fandom at the door and concentrate on the work at hand?
This question was sparked by a podcast I just started listening to, entitled Voice Acting Mastery, by Crispin Freeman. In episode 44 of the podcast, he brings up the same subject, which forced me into self-examination. Crispin speaks about being a consumer vs. a creator, which is something I think about quite a bit, and eventually boils down the subject into a modified Konstantin Stanislavski quote:
“Love the art in yourself more than yourself in the art.”
That is, think as an artist, and not as a consumer. Focus on how your work can uplift this project and not on the benefits you may garner. I think it’s a very useful attitude to bring along as one tackles making their way in the industry. Lack of focus kills artistry, and in the end, it is a business. Whoever does the hiring is gonna pay the people that can deliver the goods.
Thinking back on my Tomb Raider experience, I wonder if I was able to accomplish this. I think that for the most part, I was successful. It just wasn’t so clearly formulated in my head. Also, too, there was just the fact that I didn’t want to suck. I suppose that it was my fandom that pushed me to meet the challenge of not sucking. As a fan, I appreciate a well done game, and when I was given my chance to contribute to creating that, I proceeded to work my ass off.
So, is it possible to separate the geekery from the artistry? Yes, it’s possible, but I’m not so sure you have to. You don’t have to stop being a fan when you walk through those doors and onto the soundstage. As long as one focuses on how your contribution can benefit the project as a whole, I think fandom can be a boon. It can be fuel that pushes you to work harder and allow you to contribute your utmost creatively.
Don’t stop, geek it, geek it.