Why don’t all dubbed Japanese games credit the English voice actors?

Lightning Returns is a recent game that credits its English voice cast.

Lightning Returns is a recent game that credits its English voice cast.

Japanese games are some of my favorites, time and time again.  Many of them feature kooky characters, creative storylines, and clunky yet interesting gameplay mechanics.  This year alone has brought Lightning Returns and Drakengard 3, two games I enjoyed immensely for their unique worlds and bold experimentation within their respective genres.  As such a big fan, I spend a lot of time with these games and come to understand some of the commonalities they share.  One such commonality that constantly confuses me is a simple question: why is the English voice cast so often left out of the credits in these games?

From what I’ve noticed, there are three potential outcomes for Japanese games translated into English.  First are the games like Persona 4, games that are entirely in English, yet still don’t bother to credit the English voice actors.  Second, there are games such as Drakengard 3 that do have both vocal tracks (in Drakengard 3’s case, the Japanese track is DLC) but only include the Japanese voice cast in the credits.  For both these types of games, the developer only credits the voice actors who aren’t even present in that version of the game, a mind-boggling fact that still shocks the hell out of me.

There are some games which actually do give proper credit to the English voice cast, such as the aforementioned Lightning Returns–all the credited VAs are replaced with their English counterparts.  From my experience, it does seem like this third case is the most common with Japanese games, just not by much.  I really don’t understand why so many translated games neglect to include the English voice cast.  What possible value is there in noting actors from other versions of the game when you could instead credit the actual voice actor for that version?  This is something that really irks me.

Sometimes, I really enjoy a particular voice performance and would love to look up more of that voice actor’s work.  If the credits don’t actually say who did that performance, it can be quite difficult to figure it out, depending on how skilled the voice actor is at changing his/her voice and how prolific the actor is in the industry.  Visit a forum for a newly-released game with no English voice credits and I guarantee you’ll find a topic or two where a bunch of people try to guess who the actors are.  It’s distressing to think that such guesswork has to be employed instead of just being able to read the damn credits.

Naoto: a fantastic voice performance that is still uncredited (or at least credit has been unconfirmed) to this day.

Naoto: a fantastic voice performance that is still uncredited (or at least credit has been unconfirmed) to this day.

A rather prominent example of this is the voice actor/actress for Naoto in both Persona 4 games (a different voice actress is used for the anime series and Arena).  To my knowledge, we still don’t actually know who voices this character, due to no credit for her voice actor.  Similarly, a large chunk of the voice cast in Drakengard 3 is unknown, aside from a few well-known actors who are easy to recognize (Tara Platt as Zero, Yuri Lowenthal as Dito, etc.).  Even characters who sound like prominent voice actors may not actually be those voice actors, due to a bit of vocal homogenization in this type of game.  How could we know for sure, after all, since these games don’t give proper credit to those actors?  It’s absolutely absurd.

In any other medium, this would be grounds for complete outrage.  Why isn’t this the case for these games!?  We just wave off the lack of a properly-credited English voice cast, not worrying that we may never know who voiced some of our favorite characters.  Is it because these games are so niche?  They really aren’t anymore, to be honest.  Dozens, if not hundreds, of games get brought over from Japan by companies like XSeed and NiS every year, many of which feature new voiceover and many of which fail to credit the new cast.  This is something we NEED to get angry about–but who is to blame?

The localization team is the group who changes the credits and works with the new voice cast.  It can’t be that they don’t have the resources or time to change the names to the correct ones.  They are already translating the entirety of the credits from kanji to Roman characters AND usually inserting the names of the localization team; how much more work could it be to just edit a few extra lines of text?  I can only think of one reason why these companies may leave out the English voice actors: the new voice actors just don’t have the authority to get their names into the credits.  This is really only educated guesswork on my part, but I can’t think of any other reason why so many of these games would disregard the actual voice actors.

You may not know this (I didn’t until just recently) but video game voice actors are commonly represented by the Screen Actors Guild.  SAG rules state that a member cannot work on any project that is not in agreement with the guild first and that members must be given standard working conditions and proper credit on the project.  Furthermore, looking at the SAG website reveals that quite a few hoops must be jumped through in order to work with SAG voice actors, including loads of paperwork and verification needed to move forward with the project.  Also, any non-SAG members also working on the project are required to be noted in separate paperwork.

This all sounds like a major pain in the neck.  If this is the reason why many smaller localization teams instead choose to work with non-SAG voice actors, I can understand why they do so.  In addition, I’m willing to bet that these SAG actors cost a good deal more money to hire, due to their standardized expectations of pay.  It’s likely that most games which neglect to credit their voice cast are using these non-SAG actors (or SAG actors using a pseudonym).  Since credit isn’t necessarily required to be given, many of these localization teams just don’t do so when it comes time to make the credits for a particular game.

Danganronpa: another game with no credited English cast. In fact, the Wikipedia entry is filled with footnotes of people having to ask the voice actors personally on Twitter if a role was theirs.

Danganronpa: another game with no credited English cast. In fact, the Wikipedia entry is filled with footnotes of people having to ask the voice actors personally on Twitter if a role was theirs.

I don’t agree with this.  Even if the voice actors are perfectly happy not being credited for their work, they should appear in the game’s credits.  What harm does it do to the final project?  It’s not like actors earn residuals for simply appearing in the game’s credits–it is merely an acknowledgment of their time and effort spent on the game, just like any other member of the team.  It takes a measly few seconds to change the name from the Japanese VA to the English VA.  There is no logical reason I can see that explains why these hardworking individuals don’t deserve to get credit–SAG status or not.

No matter the reasons, all games that record new English voiceover for an American/Europe release should credit the new voice actors.  This is a trend in gaming that needs to change NOW.  It feels very slimy on the part of the companies who omit the English voice actors and completely ignores the point of what credits are supposed to do: credit the damn people who worked on the game.  While it’s true that these companies aren’t legally doing anything wrong by not crediting those who aren’t a part of SAG projects, it is still a despicable and shady practice.  As fans of a game, we shouldn’t have to be left wondering who actually voiced a particular character.

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