The Lonely, Tiring, & Intriguing Process of Voicing Selene in Returnal

return It was Housemarque’s breakout title not only because of its airtight shooter, but also because of its storytelling. It was an unexpectedly strong and mysterious story that leaned almost exclusively on the only main character in it, Selene. Games with such notable storylines often have a larger list to fall back on. Jane Perry, the voice behind the many sane and twisted versions of Selene, explained how she was able to explore the character using her imagination, Housemarque’s direction, a handy numbering system, and a bit of wine, too.

Having imagination is key in many game performances, as donning a ridiculous costume and camera rig in a warehouse won’t directly translate to any game. But return it goes beyond the need for imagination, as Selene does not interact with either of the other two speaking characters in the game. To act is to react and when there is no one to react to, all the pressure falls on one person.

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Perry talked about how other actors’ lines often provide vital context, but since that wasn’t an option here, he had to rely heavily on narrative director Greg Louden and voice director Damien Goodwin. She said that she relied on them more than any other game she’s ever made, which is mainly because Selene’s mental state changes drastically between audio logs. She is lucid and determined in some audio logs and in complete chaos in others. It’s a lot to keep track of, but the team was able to more easily convey her status using a numbering system.

“In that game, I was very dependent on my acting director and Housemarque to fill in the gaps,” Perry explained. “They had a label for Selene’s mood. So they would say, ‘This is Selene 10 and she’s pretty consistent and sane’ and ‘This is Selene 10,000.’ She has lost it. And so they would let me know what frame of mind she would have to put me in while she delivered my lines. I depended more on them than in any other game.”

Raising Selene 10,000 was no easy task. Perry said that swinging between those extremes was starting to get to her as she tried to get into Selene’s headspace, which isn’t good for a character who babbles incomprehensibly after seeing her corpse for the umpteenth time.

“I started to feel a bit affected by that trip when I was recording it,” she said. “It’s like going into a downward spiral, in a way. And she goes deeper and deeper and deeper into her own psychology. And every time she comes back, she comes back in a different state of mind. It was quite a journey trying to picture in my mind where she was emotionally and mentally and trying to keep those notes. And there were times when she made me really tired and emotionally drained from the whole thing. She had a lot of wine.”

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But it was not an exclusively exhausting experience. Perry admitted it was exhausting, but it was also a fascinating and interesting ride that he “really loved”. Some of this stemmed from the actual story of the game, as well as Selene. She is a compelling leading lady, but with very few big, bold features. She is not particularly charming nor does she use pranks to endear herself to the player, however, she is fascinating and a fitting avatar for the player. Perry explained why she thinks this is the case and how the shared experience between Selene and the player does much of the heavy lifting.

“I think what’s fascinating about her is that she’s driven by something unknown, so it’s almost like you’re embarking on a journey with her into the unknown,” Perry said. “And I think it’s a real invitation into this incredible environment that they’ve created with return and since it is psychological, it is as if it opens doors in your mind. There is a relationship with oneself and a relationship with the family, as her mother is in her and her son is also in her. And I think these are all things that we can relate to.”

The lonely, exhausting and intriguing process of voicing Selene in Returnal

But like the descent to the sixth biome, it goes deeper. Perry said that she believes that loss is also a crucial part of Selene and how we can bond with that experience, particularly around Selene’s mother and son.

“And there are times when it gets lost,” he continued. “There are very human things that happen that we can all relate to: the feeling of being lost, the feeling of fighting for something, the feeling of trying to understand something, or being retrospective and constantly going back to that moment in your life. life when you did something you might regret or things didn’t work out or a relationship you’re constantly dealing with. So I think when they created this character and wrote Selene, they were really in tune with the things that human beings deal with on a day-to-day basis, whether they’re consciously or subconsciously. Maybe it’s the subconscious that’s so compelling because we don’t fully understand and she doesn’t fully understand.”

The lonely, exhausting and intriguing process of voicing Selene in Returnal

Many of these challenges are told through metaphors that players must interpret for themselves. everything is part of returnThe appeal of making the player do the work of understanding the narrative. Everyone will come to a different conclusion about the game and determine which parts are real and which parts are elaborate allegories. Perry was hesitant to give his full explanation of the game, as he believes the game’s strength lies in each person’s personal interpretation, but ended up giving some of his thoughts on the overall narrative.

“I guess my interpretation is that some of it is literal,” he said, “There is loss in her life. There is a trauma in your life. There is trauma as a mother and trauma as a daughter. The trauma is what she is trying to heal from. And that’s kind of Jungian in the sense that she meets the dark side of her and she’s constantly dealing with these monsters and demons and she’s in a real battle with these things. She’s fighting her own shadow and fighting her own psychology and trying to make sense of what’s going on and she’s got this very scientific mind so she’s methodically trying to figure things out but some things in life, you can’t understand them. out that way. Sometimes a different approach is needed. So I think she has things that happen consciously and things that happen unconsciously.”

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She elaborated, saying that subconscious elements could even rule the entire game.

“And there’s this idea in life where it’s our subconscious minds that really run the show, so sometimes we have to work really hard to figure out what the hell is going on and why you’re doing all this crazy stuff in life,” he said. . “It’s because we have certain beliefs and certain things have happened to us that we have to accept. His journey and struggle is both literal and metaphorical.”

return it’s a beautiful achievement that invites such analysis, which is still amazing for a studio that previously told the most basic one-sentence stories that only served as paper-thin justifications for the arcade game. Perry’s involvement in that process is admirable, given the weight the role brought to her and the apt way she brought Selene to life. It was a challenging process, but she said it was engrossing, which is fitting for a game known for its satisfying difficulty and engaging gameplay.

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