Benjamin Byron Davis has been in numerous television shows and even popped up in the second Ant-Man movie, but he's probably best-known for playing Dutch van der Linde in both Red Dead Redemption games. Davis would like it, if you please, to just call him an "actor" and not a "voice actor" for his work as Dutch, and he's not the only one pushing for the distinction.
"When somebody comes up to you and says: 'You're the voice of Dutch van der Linde, I love you so much', you don't want to say 'Listen, asshole, I am not the voice of him—I did full performance capture'," Davis tells our sister site VG247. Over this past week, VG247 has been running a series by deputy editor Kirk McKeand on video game acting. In the final installment, Davis and others explain why calling all video game performances "voice acting" is a disservice to dedicated voice actors and other performers alike.
"There really is a thing that is voice acting, and it is a real skill," says Davis, but it's a craft that doesn't always square with capturing a performer's face or full body. Likewise, since voice actors commonly record their lines separate from other cast members, Davis feels people often gloss over the capture work that game actors do together:
When you're just talking about my work on that project as voice acting, the other thing I am hearing is the dismissal of everyone else I was with when I created that character. That character doesn't exist in a vacuum. That character exists in the same way the other people around him react to him.
Roger Clark (Arthur Morgan) feels it's an "understandable misconception" when he's called a voice actor for his Red Dead work, but agrees with Davis that it's a distinction worth making. "I always try and politely point out that most of the work done in Red Dead Redemption 2 wasn't actually voice acting," Clark explains. "I've always said I have nothing against voice acting either. I'm proud to be a voice actor. I just think those two mediums are very, very different."
Other game actors, including Ashly Burch (Life is Strange, Horizon Zero Dawn) and Cissy Jones (Firewatch, Darksiders 3) also tell McKeand about voice acting's unique physical and mental demands. As Jones puts it, the specific practice of voice acting really comes down "what you can do with that little two-inch segment in the middle of your throat."
You can find all five installments of VG247's series on game acting, which covers topics ranging from celebrities encroaching on the field to the vital role of stunt performers, right here.