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15 Famous Actors Who Voiced Video Game Characters

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It’s not uncommon to come across a familiar voice while playing a video game—but it's sometimes hard to tell if that’s because you’re listening to a celebrity or if you’re just delusional after six straight hours of Grand Theft Auto. But a number of actors have actually lent their voices to video games; here are a few of them.

1. Elijah Wood


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Elijah Wood provided the voice for his most famous role, Frodo, in multiple video game versions of The Lord of the Rings. In addition to Frodo, he voiced Mumble in the animated film Happy Feet and its accompanying video game alongside many of his castmates.

Wood’s interest in video games makes sense—he’s a gamer himself, and his older brother produces video games. He also enjoys the unique acting challenge that they provide. “You find that the characters are in situations that are not real common and you have to...vocally make the character seem like he’s going through some pretty intense situations,” he said.

The actor also voiced a purple dragon in The Legend of Spyro trilogy. He was in good company: Other celebrities who lent their voices to the games include David Spade, Mae Whitman, Wayne Brady, Christina Ricci, and #2 and #6 on our list...

2. Gary Oldman


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In addition to Harry Potter, Gary Oldman can call himself a mentor to Frodo. Or at least to Elijah Wood’s character in the Spyro trilogy. Oldman voiced the dragon Ignitus, who appeared in all three Spyro games. He also voiced both Sergeant Viktor Reznov and Daniel Clarke in the Call of Duty games World at War and Black Ops, and has lent his voice to a number of other games as well.

In 2012, Oldman went on Conan and talked about his video game voice acting, explaining the difficulty of recording loud “battle chatter.” After hearing him shout a few of these commands, it’s easy to understand his claim that “after about three minutes of it, you have to step outside and walk around, take a Tylenol.”

3. Dennis Hopper


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Hopper recorded for a few video games, probably the most famous of which is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which also featured the voices of Burt Reynolds and Gary Busey. Hopper’s character, Steve Scott, is a producer-director of pornographic films. Scott is apparently an anger-prone spoof of Steven Spielberg, who screams lines like, “Cut!! Who is this idiot? You! You! Why are you in my space?” If you don’t want to play through Vice City in order to hear Hopper, you can listen to his not-safe-for-work voice acting on YouTube.

4. Christopher Walken


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Walken is probably the least surprising name on this list. He’s known for his seemingly random career choices, from Fatboy Slim music videos to cheesy musicals to the movie The Country Bears, so video game voiceovers aren’t a stretch. But it’s definitely still worth noting that Walken provided his voice for True Crime: Streets of LA, the same game that features Snoop Dogg ... voiced by Snoop Dogg.

As for whether Walken is a gamer himself, it’s unlikely, considering he doesn't own a computer or cell phone. Regardless, you can get a fairly accurate Walken gaming experience on the parody YouTube videos, Christopher Walkenthroughs.

5. Ellen Page


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In Beyond Two Souls, Page plays protagonist Jodie Holmes. The game was creating using motion capture, a process that requires placing almost a hundred little beads on an actor’s face to capture each movement during a scene. The script for the game was 2000 pages long and the crew shot 30 to 40 pages each day.

Page has been a versatile performer throughout her career, but she saw a difference between film acting and game acting: “You’re creating something that could go in so many different directions," she explained to Hero Complex. "You’re acting out elements of a story with an emotional intensity that a lot of people might never see. Every single person who plays this game will have their unique journey.”

6. Mark Hamill


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Mark Hamill has given many, many video game characters their voices—and that's not a surprise, considering his huge career in voice acting. His most famous role (of the non-Skywalker variety) is the Joker, which he voiced in various incarnations of the Batman cartoon and video game series for almost twenty years, from 1992 to 2011.

His final voice work as the Joker can be found in the award-winning video game, Batman: Arkham City. He retired from the role via Twitter the same year as the game's release, but the retirement may not last. During Hamill’s most recent Comic Con appearance, he said he wants to leave the role on a high note, but to “never say never.” It will be hard to let go of the role considering he has become an expert on the character and the trademark laugh. He explained, “His laugh should be like a musical instrument. It should illustrate his mood.” 

7. Samuel L. Jackson


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This one is a no-brainer. Is there anything Samuel L. Jackson can’t do? Though Jackson refers to himself as “not at all” good at gaming, he has fond memories of Pong. He might be acting modest though. Jackson has hosted the Spike TV Video Game Awards four times and has said he enjoys first-person shooter games.

Jackson’s first video game role was as Officer Tenpenny in San Andreas, a character that came in number 87 on IGN Entertainment’s 2010 list of the “Top 100 Videogame Villains.” Jackson’s voice helped place Officer Tenpenny on the list; as the article stated, “his baritone absolutely drips with evil.”

8. George Takei


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George Takei is an activist, former Star Trek star, and king of the Internet. So, a career in video game voiceovers is the perfect fit for him. The Star Trek games are a given for Takei, who starred in the original 1966-69 series as well as six of the films, but the fan favorite also notes similarities between his acting projects and voiceover work, notably on Red Alert 3. “There are echoes of Heroes here and some echoes of Star Trek here [with] time travel,” he said of the game.

As for whether he takes a personal interest in gaming, Takei has a new YouTube channel, which he has said will take on the topic of video games.

9. Liam Neeson


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Neeson hasn’t done many video games, but he was attracted to the “compelling story” of Fallout 3. The creators of the game were hoping that Neeson would take the role from as early as the development stages, writing the character with his voice in mind. Executive producer Todd Howard was happy with the decision, noting that Neeson “provides a dramatic tone for the entire game.”

Neeson has had many action roles over the years, but he actually cited doing “radio plays for the BBC in London and Ireland” as the most helpful precedent to his video game voiceover work: “There’s a shift of focus you do have to make and trying to convey something through your voice and through the rhythm of the words that you wouldn’t have to worry about so much if the camera was on you.”

10. John Goodman


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Though it’s hard to imagine Goodman voicing any character besides Monsters Inc.'s Sulley, he has recorded for a few video games as well. He started video game voiceovers early with the 1996 computer game Pyst, a parody of the best-selling PC game at the time, Myst; he voiced the “King of the Island of Pyst.”

More recently, Goodman voiced Dan Hagar in Rage, the first character that the protagonist meets. But the producers behind the game didn’t choose Goodman because of his prior voiceover work. Rather, the initial sketch of Hagar reminded the game's creators of Goodman’s character in The Big Lebowski, Walter Sobchak, so they asked the star to voice the role.

11. 50 Cent


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Rapper 50 Cent doesn’t just do voiceover work for video games: He produced two games starring himself as the protagonist, and was involved in the creation of the games. Though he let the designers take control, he explained, “I made a few slight changes based on the things that influenced me.”

50 Cent’s video game work makes sense as he’s a gamer himself, and he doesn’t only enjoy shooter games like the ones he produced. He told CNN, “When I went to perform at the Spike TV Video Game Awards, I got a chance to see how they had the older games now on Wii. So I went and got the Wii system so I can play Mario Brothers.

12. Sean Bean

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Though he didn’t record anything for The Lord of the Rings games, Sean Bean started a video game voiceover career in 2006. In Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Bean played the son of #14 on our list. Bean only has one video game on his resumé, but that might not be the case for long. When asked whether he would consider working on an Oblivion sequel, he responded, “It was a good, stylish, and successful piece of work and if a sequel came by, I’d definitely be up for that.”

13. Kiefer Sutherland

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Considering his action-packed work on the television show 24, it isn’t a surprise that Sutherland’s voice is the perfect fit for video games. His latest voice project is the character Snake for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V, which will be released in 2014. In addition to lending his voice to the game, Sutherland also wore facial capture technology to help developers create the character. He has admitted that he’s not a gamer, but still said, “It’s an honor to be able to play this character. This character has an unbelievable legacy, but there’s a real personal quality to the character that I’ve connected to.”

14. Patrick Stewart


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Between George Takei and Patrick Stewart, the Star Trek alums blow the other A-listers out of the water when it comes to video game voice acting. Stewart’s voice seems tailor-made for voiceover work, so it’s no wonder that his career in video games has remained steady since the early nineties. His versatility doesn’t hurt either: After numerous Star Trek and X-Men video games, he went on to record the opening sequence for Lego Universe.

Stewart isn’t a gamer himself, but not because he frowns upon the concept. He told Frontline, “I have an addictive temperament. I have a stack of games, [but] I’ve never taken the covers off them because I feel that if I do, I’m finished.

15. Seth Green


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Green’s voice already provides him with steady work on Family Guy and Robot Chicken, so his foray into video games makes sense. Plus, Green and his wife, Clare Grant, are both gamers, which explains his involvement in the Mass Effect trilogy. In a recent red carpet interview, he gushed, “I thought it was a really revolutionary game when they pitched it to me. And I was excited to be a part of it as it became such a cultural phenomenon. And then every person that I know who has loved playing that game is genuinely affected by it, passionate about it, so that makes it kind of a fun experience for us to share.”

Of course, Green is a well-known comedic actor, so the folks behind Mass Effect were kind enough to release some outtakes from the Austin Powers star.

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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.

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