Actors put a face on video games

El actor Giancarlo Esposito, durante su trabajo de captura de movimientos, y su recreación digital en 'Far Cry 6'.
Actor Giancarlo Esposito, during his motion capture work, and his digital recreation in ‘Far Cry 6’.

To Giancarlo Esposito (Copenhagen, 63 years) likes to play villains. Theatrical and secondary animal in series and movies, were his roles as the villains Gus Fring in Breaking Bad and Moff Gideon in The Mandalorian which catapulted him to world fame. His last interpretation is also that of an infamous, General Castillo, but he does not carry it out in a movie or a series, but in a video game, Far Cry 6 (Ubisoft). Thus, he becomes the last of a long list of interpreters who have put their work at the service of the interactive world.

“It’s very different working on a video game,” says Esposito across the screen, with a huge smile far removed from the coldness of his iconic Gus Fring. “I am grateful for having trained on stage because this work has been very theatrical. Motion capture work is something very specific, you have to act with your whole body, with that helmet full of cameras that you have. It captures all the movements of your face, of the elbows, shoulders, each one of your fingers, and for all this the theater helped me, to realize that acting is something very physical, very concrete “, he confesses about the differences with her usual roles.

In the sixth game in the hit first-person shooter series, she plays Anton Castillo, antagonist of the game and leader of the fictional Caribbean country of Yara, where its protagonist will start a revolution against the tyrant. “He is a man who would give everything for his country,” says Esposito maliciously. “A man who deep down wants the best for his people. We are in a time where technology allows us to have characters like this, where it allows actors to interpret in games ”. The truth is that, although the technological leap favors increasingly spectacular interpretations, the marriage between cinema and video games comes from afar.

Already in the eighties and nineties of the last century the FMV boom was experienced ( Full-Motion Video) as a milestone of this union: these were games shot as an interactive movie, such as the one from X-Files that in 1988 interpreted David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson and that was a kind of extra episode of the series. But it would be in this century when motion capture made possible the translation of an interpretation to the digital world. For example, in 2004 it was Jean Reno who put not only his voice but also his image to a game, the Onimusha 3 , but we talk about ago 16 years, and that collaboration seen today exemplifies ( and drag) the technical limitations of the time.

I appreciate having trained on stage because this work has been very theatrical

During the past decade the number of stars who switched to video games grew dramatically. There were several top-tier actors who put only their voices, such as Susan Sarandon in Dishonored (2012), Mark Hamill in the Batman saga Arkham Asylum (2009 onwards) or Peter Dinklage on Destiny (2014); but as technology advanced, others lent their movements and interpretations in addition to their voices, such as Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014) or Sigourney Weaver in Alien Isolation (2014). In 2019 the visionary Hideo Kojima, father of the saga Metal Gear , revolutionized the interactive world with Death Stranding , an indescribable and great game that bases much of its appeal on the characters played by Norman Reedus, Mads Mikkelsen, Lea Seydoux or Margaret Qualley, who for months worked tirelessly on a game with a budget of Hollywood blockbuster. In 2020 Cyberpunk 2077 repeated the play, turning Keanu Reeves into one of its main characters.

The last to hit the market (it did last August) that has resorted to famous actors is the independent Twelve Minutes , a game with a single location (an apartment), and that plays a time loop of 16 minutes in which a married couple must prevent a murderer from coming to their house to finish them off. The trio of characters is played by none other than James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley and Willem Dafoe.

Twelve Minutes , by the way, is not the first video game in which Willem Dafoe participates. Already in 2013 he intervened in a game that exemplifies one of the dangers of transferring to digital the aspect of real people. It was about Beyond: Two Souls (Quantic Dream), who co-starred with Ellen Page (who in 2020 declared himself a transgender man and changed his name to Elliot.) Well then: Page reported in that 2013 that, although it appeared in a consensual way in Beyond , another game from that year used his image without his consent: the very successful The Last of Us , whose protagonist, Ellie, looked much more like Page then than the actress who actually played her, Ashley Johnson. The company that created The Last of Us , Naughty Dog, then claimed that the resemblance was undeniable, but It was just due to a coincidence.

Las recreaciones digitales de Mads Mikkelsen y Margaret Qualley, en el juego 'Death Stranding'.

The digital recreations of Mads Mikkelsen and Margaret Qualley, in the game ‘Death Stranding’.

For Esposito, this path from the screen to the console will be more and more traveled by the day. “I am convinced that in the future more and more actors will switch to video games. When they see how fun and captivating it is, and when they see the result that is obtained, they will discover that it is a whole field to explore “, explains Esposito, who points out his particular cotton test:” When my representative saw clips of my character in the game, he swore that he thought he was watching a video of mine, and not my digital recreation, “he explains . “The reality is that this transfer is becoming more real every day, the technology is getting better and better. We are at the beginning of a series of big changes that will allow many actors to act in this digital world. ”

Esposito highlights the importance of video games not only as entertainment but also as an artifact critical to understanding the world. This Far Cry 6 , for example, in addition to having a morality system that rewards or penalizes our character for his actions (which they already had in previous installments of the franchise) adds a political dimension. “I think it is necessary. We live in a world where people must empower themselves, they must ask themselves if they are happy with how their lives and their communities are managed ”, he explains.

“This particular game can help accompany the moment we are in. I’m not talking about a revolution, but I’m talking about a point where people stop and say: wait, what are we doing? We are destroying the Earth, getting worse, and the game I think is a good analogy for that. A product that will allow you to investigate your own moral values, but also your political connections, what can you do to make this world a better place? ”. Issues that previously committed actors struggled to bring to the big screen. And now they can move to another screen: that of the game consoles.

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