Celebrities began to have a noticeable presence in video games during the early 2000s. Night Trap, starring Dana Plato (an American actress), was the first time an established celebrity worked on a video game. Celebrities continued starring in video games, but mainly through voice acting. The most notable example is Samuel L. Jackson voicing Officer Tenpenny in GTA: San Andreas. Then, the 2010s experienced a shift from celebrity voice acting to video games using both the actor’s voice, face, and acting talent. This spawned titles such as Beyond Two Souls and Until Dawn. Daria investigates the impact of celebrities becoming more commonplace in video games.
Beyond: Two Souls
With the rise of video game technology, which includes (but is not limited to) facial and voice recognition, so happened the rise of celebrities in video games. Released in 2013, Beyond: Two Souls was a pioneer in many senses, including celebrities featuring in video games. Beyond: Two Souls starred Elliot Page and Willem Dafoe (who also recently voice acted in the game 12 Minutes). The game centred around storytelling and decision-making. Contemporary reviews praised the game for ‘crossing the blurry line between movies and games’.
the game continues to be talked about six years later
Until Dawn is an interactive video game about a bunch of teenagers who must survive ‘until dawn’. Until Dawn was revolutionary since it employed an all-star cast. The celebrities included were (but not limited to): Rami Malek (Mr Robot/ Bohemian Rhapsody), Meaghan Martin (Camp Rock/Mean Girls 2), and Peter Stormare (Prison Break).
Until Dawn was largely successful. The game continues to be talked about six years later, with high critical acclaim and selling 1.38 million units in the first 6 months. To accurately caption the actor’s likeness and emotions, the developers used particle effects and volumetric lighting. Until Dawn truly showcased the capabilities of the PS4 and motion capture.
But video games haven’t exclusively featured actors. Fortnite and The Sims 4 have recruited musicians to increase sales and game awareness. Fortnite has streamed musical performances from stars such as Ariana Grande, and The Sims 4 incorporated musical festivals starring Bebe Rexha and Glass Animals.
Far Cry 6
The most recent use of celebrities in video games was Giancarlo Esposito in Far Cry 6. Esposito is most known for his role as Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad. The acclaim that he received for his villain persona meant that he was the perfect fit for the game’s antagonist, Antón Castillo.
Esposito’s face was plastered all over the game’s marketing. He is the thumbnail for the official reveal trailer, which has now amassed over 13 million views. Comments are dominated by references to his role as Gustavo Fring, with comments such as ‘Far Cry 6: Los pollos hermanos’ and ‘There’s definitely gonna be at least one Breaking Bad reference/Easter egg in this game’. Esposito’s charisma and stellar acting skills became the main selling point of the game, as Ubisoft attracted a massive audience to the franchise: Breaking Bad fans. Esposito was the cover of the game and the forefront of Far Cry 6 interviews and reveals.
the use of celebrities is starting to blur the difference between movies and video games
However, this has made me question: does the use of celebrities hide the shortcomings of a game? Despite Far Cry 6 taking approximately 19 hours (on average) to complete, Esposito appears in only 48 minutes. The game also received mixed player reviews, with a 4.6 user score on Metacritic. While even negative reviews praised the cast, they highlighted uninteresting gameplay.
The use of celebrities is starting to blur the difference between movies and video games, as more video games are seen as cinematic experiences rather than interactive adventures. The impact of celebrities has been mostly positive, yet there is a fine line between making a video game starring a celebrity and making the celebrity the only appeal of the game.
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