Interview: Gideon Emery Talks Final Fantasy, Tekken, Cancelled Dead Rush Game

Posted on by Ryan

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Gideon Emery has made quite a name for himself in the voice acting world over the past decade. He’s built a very impressive resume in that period of time working in some of the biggest series’ in video game history such as Tekken, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Elder Scrolls, and Final Fantasy. We recently got to sit down with Emery and discuss his voice acting career in video games.

GC: How did you get into Voice Acting?
GE: When I arrived in Los Angeles, I had a voice demo with a bunch of characters and accents from my years doing commercials and promo. That sold an agent on my animation ability, I recorded a proper demo and started auditioning for games. Soon I booked my first game, several voices in Everquest 2. It’s been an incredible roller coaster ride since then.

GC: I first got introduced to your voice acting in Final Fantasy XII where you did the voice of Balthier. What was that experience like?
GE: It was thrilling to book a major role. There was great art to work from and a lot of cut scenes in Japanese for us to re-voice. His personality was there, and I was fortunate too that the director, Jack Fletcher, wanted to me to use my own accent, which enabled me to inject a lot of myself in the role. It was a gift.

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GC: How different is it doing a video game compared to a movie or a tv show?
GE: Movies or TV give you script anywhere from weeks to a month ahead of filming. Most video games only give you script on the day of recording. So you don’t have any time to prepare. You have to make a lot of decisions in the moment. For on-camera jobs, you have the benefit of acting opposite another actor and you have clothes and props to help paint your character. In games, you work alone, imagining how the other actor’s lines might be said. You have to let your voice do more of the work, especially since you’re usually doing it cold, as in not to picture.

GC: Whenever you do voices for more than one character in a game such as Elder Scrolls Online and God of War: Ghosts of Sparta, are you ever worried that they will sound too much the same?
GE: Always. It’s something I have learned to ask, of my characters will ever interact. I’ve had directors ask for something identical, then use lines for different characters in the same scene. It’s rare, but it has happened. Usually, however, they’ll assign roles that are quite different in physicality or class, so I can pitch them somewhere differently, or even better, use a different accent.

GC: Since you’ve done the voice of Steve Fox in the Tekken Series, I have to ask; How big of a challenge is it to do fighting scenes? It seems like you have to get into an angry mindset to do them.
GE: It’s all acting, whether it’s voice or on-camera. You’re imagining yourself in a scene as a character and trying to bring some truth to a moment within the parameters of the project. Fantasy games can be more flamboyant or theatrical, while your action games tend to be very real and contemporary. So fights can have degrees of real anger in them, just as in real life. Then higher the stakes and the greater the danger, the more angry a character might get. Thanks to my theatrical training – 4 years at drama school – I can access emotions rapidly. The greater challenge is sustaining shouted and yelled dialogue and efforts for long stretches of time and multiple takes. It can really take its toll on your voice.

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GC: Since Street Fighter x Tekken and Tekken Tag Tournament both came out in 2012, did you know that you would be doing the voice work with barely any gap between release dates?
GE: No, but I believe Tag Tournament may have used dialogue from previous games. At least in my case.

GC: I read that you did the voice of a character named Jake in a cancelled game in 2005 called Dead Rush. Do you remember any details about the character?
GE: It was the lead character in a game and I was thrilled to book it. Don;t recall much. I had one recording session, then heard nothing. Later I learned the game was shelved as it wasn’t developing to the level or speed that they wanted. What I do remember was being very disappointed, as it would have been my first true lead.

GC: When you did the voice of Fergus Reid you were also motion captured. What is that like?
GE: Motion or performance capture is quite an animal. It’s more like theatre in a way, as you are performing in the round, so to speak. There are no traditional cameras and therefore no master shots and close-ups and so on. The cameras are these glowing rings mounted around the stage and all they need is one great take from the actors (at the same time). Afterwards, they can choose the camera angles and how to edit the scene, as it’s all just data in a volume of space. It’s quite something. It means you can move faster than tv or film, as there are no traditional sets or having to wait for reverse camera angles or makeup and wardrobe. On the other hand, you have to deliver a believable performance, while wearing a hot and sweaty bodysuit, covered in little balls or markers, with multiple radio and battery packs stuck to you and a helmet with a camera attached to film your face. You have to have incredible spatial awareness, be very good at learning dialogue and delivering every take, as they don’t “pick up” or rely on close-ups to fix a bad take, as they might in film. I would say it’s the ultimate performance medium. You need a filmic vocal delivery, together with a greater sense of body language, movement and facial expression that’s more akin to stage. It’s a rewarding experience when it all comes together.

GC: You also did the voices of the soldiers in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. What was is like being able to participate in what could very well the the last game in that franchise?
GE: I honestly wasn’t aware that it might be the last game. It certainly has been around for a long while. I’m always thrilled to play a part, however small, in an established and well loved franchise.

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GC: Is it true that you will be doing the voice of Ignis in Final Fantasy XV?
GE: I don’t know.

GC: Which video game role would you say was the most difficult to do?
GE: Perhaps the most challenging was finding the heart of Fenris for Dragon Age 2. A character who carries a lot of baggage, who can be moody and emotional, yet is someone you trust and want by your side. He was also a character that players could romance, with a player character who could be either male or female. That required a separate set of responses and performance from me, depending on gender. I loved the fact Bioware offered this groundbreaking option to the payer and I worked hard to bring an honesty and vulnerability to both deliveries in those situations. It was an acting challenge but an honor to take on. I’m glad that people responded positively to the game and the role.

GC: Is there a video game character who you feel is a lot like you personality wise?
GE: I have said in other interviews that Balthier is a little like me, or that I’m a little like him. But that’s perhaps me wishing I was that suave. I’m probably closest to Gideon in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Not just because he looks and sounds like me, but we’re similar in our behavior; by the book, but if you push me, I can get a little agitated and fight for what’s right.

GC: Are there any upcoming projects or appearances that our readers will be able to see you in in the near future?
GE: These days, everything I work on requires me to sign an NDA. All I can say is that there are 2 or 3 characters I’ve played that I’ll be revisiting in the new year. You’ll have to wait and see who makes his return…