While many people play computer games, there’s generally little thought for the voices behind our war-torn characters, until now. This Is Entertainment, in a totally original and never-before-seen stunt, has sought out one of these unsung heroes to ask them a few questions and find out some juicy game secrets.
The man in question is none other than Mark Meer, better known as the noble/dastardly Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 and the imaginatively titled concluding episode: Mass Effect 3.
This Is Entertainment managed to catch up with him between saving the galaxy and having some herbal tea :
This Is Entertainment: How does it feel to be one of the most identifiable computer game characters of this generation?
Mark Meer: First of all, thank-you for opening with a flattering question. I feel lucky and honoured. As a long-time collector, I’m pretty thrilled that I get my own action figure later this summer. Of course, it will really be a Mark Vanderloo action figure… he’s the guy who Shepard’s appearance is based on. It’s also quite an honour to get to play the male version of a character Jennifer Hale is voicing – she’s one of the best in the business.
TIE: Have you played the games yourself? If so, what did you think of them?
MM: I have, and they’re great. I’ve usually seen some animatics and concept art during the recording process, but to see it all put together in gameplay always makes me pretty proud to be a part of it. As a player, the one problem for me personally is that I’m privy to many of elements of the plot, including the many alternate ways that any given situation could go. Here’s two equally geeky frames of reference: it’s a bit like playing through a Dungeons & Dragons module that you were Dungeon Master of a few months ago. Or like being Dr. Manhattan…except with pants. On the other hand, with something like the Dragon Age games, I can enjoy watching the plot unfold as it would normally, and then have fun slaying myself as a Werewolf or Darkspawn or what have you.
TIE: Mass Effect works on a varied morality system, if you were Shepard for real, would you be the noble hero, or the man who did whatever it takes to get the job done?
MM: Well when gaming, I tend to play ruthless on the first round, and noble on the second. It feels like I’m redeeming myself for all the poor bastards I screwed over on the first playthrough. Since there are few opportunities for a second chance at real life, I’d probably do my best to try to be noble.
TIE: There are countless dialogue choices throughout the two games, is there any line in particular which you’d class as your favourite?
MM: I could trot out “I have to go”, since I say it enough. Renegade Shepard has plenty of awesomely snide/badass comments… it’s hard to choose. As a side note, I had a blast doing all the Vorcha in ME2. Screaming and screeching at the top of your lungs in the soundbooth is always fun.
TIE: How did you begin to build the character of Shepard at the beginning of making ME1? Did you have a lot of room to experiment or were BioWare very clear on what they wanted word for word?
MM: To approach Shepard as a character is a bit tricky, because many of the lines you record will have to serve for both the Renegade and Paragon versions. And ultimately, the player is the one who’s deciding what Shepard’s personality and background are. First and foremost, Bioware wanted Shepard to be a marine – whether ruthless or noble, that’s who Shepard is at his/her core. Occasionally, we’d change bits of dialogue on the fly to make it flow better or sound more natural, and when Mac (Walters – Head Writer) was sitting in on sessions, he could approve those on the spot, rather than us having to pause in recording and phone Bioware for clearance.
TIE: What’s your favourite part of voice acting?
MM: I suppose it’s different to other sorts of performing since there’s the chance to play an incredibly wide variety of parts, including ones that you might not be cast in if the project were, say, a film or television show. Plus, you get to show up in your pyjamas and drink soothing herbal teas while you work.
TIE: What was your reaction to the controversies which were raised over the first game’s adult content? Were you surprised?
MM: Baffled, really. Most of what was being said was outright fabrication, so what was really puzzling was how these people who had never played the game were speaking with such authority on its content. But ultimately, most everyone realized it had been blown completely out of proportion and that some fairly tasteful partial nudity did not equal “virtual orgasmic rape” or whatever the hell they were trying to call it. As I recall, most of the “pundits” involved sheepishly recanted within a week.
TIE: Other than Shepard, who’s your favourite character in the series? And why?
MM: It’s hard to choose. I’ll have to go with my top three – Wrex, Tali, and Mordin. I guess I just like aliens…
TIE: According to me sources (i.e. Mr Google) you’re a keen gamer. Are there any titles you are particularly enjoying playing at the moment? Or looking forward to?
MM: Currently playing Red Dead Redemption, eagerly awaiting Fallout: New Vegas, Dead Rising 2, and DC Universe Online. Naturally, I’ll be eager to see the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect 3 as well.
TIE: Outside voice acting work you do improv shows, how are those going at the moment?
MM: Very well indeed. I just got back from the Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival and the General Fools Improv Fest in Regina in time for Edmonton’s own Improvaganza. A lot of comedy has been made up on the spot and a lot of beer has been consumed. While I was in L.A., some friends of mine and I did a special super-hero themed show at the Eisner Award-winning Brave New World Comics in Newhall. The show’s called “The Harold of Galactus”. If you know both improv and comic books, you’ll find that name hilarious. Otherwise, you’ll just be confused and angry.
TIE: Mass Effect 3 is due late next year and we’ve heard it’s going to be more ‘light-hearted’. For fear of danger to your family from the BioWare overseers, is there anything else you can safely tell us about the game?
MM: Two words. Chimpanzee sidekick.
James Michael Parry