During one of the many inane conversations that’s had on the Played-Out Podcast, I came across a strange realisation: there aren’t a lot of main characters in videogames that are voiced by Scottish people.

As a proud Scotsman in the videogame industry myself it was something that had never crossed my mind, and the more I thought about it the weirder it began to seem. Surely, there had to be a few somewhere, even in the vast mountain that is the Indie genre? but no, outside of Scrooge McDuck there’s none. Of course, there are plenty of English and American characters, like your Lara Crofts and Nathan Drakes, but there’s no characters with a Scottish accent that aren’t either supporting cast or comic relief.

For example, in the 2013 Tomb Raider game there’s the captain of the doomed expeditionary ship Lara starts her adventure on, Angus Grimaldi. Sure, enough he’s a loud, crass chap that’s full of expletives that goes on about how he’s from Glasgow and how tough he is. Which is not to say that there aren’t Scottish people like that, but it’s kind of a broad character brush to use. It would be the same as bringing in an American character that shoots everything, wears a US flag shirt and shovels down fast-food like it’s going out of fashion.

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The same could be said of the Demoman from TF2, a loud obnoxious chap that literally has a bottle of alcohol as a weapon and he’s missing an eye that he lost in a fight. Granted this character in TF2 is not to be taken seriously, but it’s the stereotyping that just continues to add fuel to the fire of Scottish characters being the comic relief of video games.

We have had more serious roles like Zoltan the Dwarven sidekick in Witcher 2, Captain Price in Call of Duty; or even Engineer Ken Donnelly from Mass Effect 2. But again, these are support characters. They’re there to sound tough and convey the whole gruff, no nonsense persona or as I like to call it the “B-Side of the Accent Album”. They play up the accent to the nth degree to act as the straight man to your character so that you stop jumping around on the furniture or shooting up a wall to sit and take things seriously for a few minutes before you go back to hassling the local NPC’s.

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“But Matt!” I hear you cry, “Scrooge McDuck is a Scottish main character!”, and yes he is and yes he does break the norm of videogames by being in the role of the main character but again he unfortunately falls into the waiting arms of the stereotype box. Scrooge is thrifty, over the top, comical and is mainly used for laughs at the expense of his character. He’s another character that does more harm than good in getting people to take the accent seriously in a videogame role without it just seeming silly. And I think therein lies the problem, the Scottish national character is one of either two extremes when you get right down to it.

We’re either the silly lovable oafs that have a symbiotic relationship with alcohol and can be used for cheap laughs, or we’re incredibly serious characters that are perpetually angry and always on the verge of starting a fight. There’s no middle ground where you can say, yes this role is a good casting choice for a Scottish person. Instead it’s always: “Yeah we got a Dwarf, make him Scottish – that always works!”

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So, what is it that leads developers to these casting decisions, is it just the way we sound?

Does the Scottish accent just unfortunately come across as one of those things that hits the ear wrong for main characters, or is it that most players would prefer their main characters to be voiced by an English person or an American because we sound “too silly”. Would they rather someone that doesn’t roll their ‘R’s’ a little too much or remind them of Groundskeeper Willie when they open their mouths. Or could it be that there just isn’t enough Scottish voice actors around to make enough of a dent in the industry so they aren’t cast as characters that force them to do an accent other than their own.

As far as I know, the only two main Scottish Voice Actors are Kevin McKidd and Graham McTavish but a quick look at their career history and you will find only a handful of roles that involve a Scottish character; and even then, it was one of the stereotypes mentioned above.

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The problem with being a Scotsman in the videogame industry is that I think we’re forever going to be taken as a joke, our accents make us sound silly and quite rightly so, when you hear it the Scottish accent is certainly a weird one. But it’s also instantly recognisable, it adds weight to statements, from “There’s been a murder” to “Charge into battle!”, we have the kind of accent that grabs your attention, holds you close to our faces and yells “See you pal, you’re going to pay attention to me!”. While most English and American accented characters tend to blend together, there’s definitely a few Scottish characters that, albeit supporting cast, people will point out in games and say were their favourites. Our accent stands out from the crowd and for now it’s mostly for the wrong reasons, but hopefully one day it will change.

So come on videogame developers, why not break the mould and stop playing it safe, grab a Scott for the lead in your next videogame because you might be surprised how well we do when we’re given our chance to shine. No more villains or comic relief, why not give a Scott the reins for a little while and maybe then we can start adding a bit of variety to our games.

About The Author

Contributor

A self-described child of the 90s, Matt is obsessed with everything nerdy in that era from Transformers to G.I Joe. Found inside a bargain bin of Doctor Who DVD's, he was quickly adopted by the Indie Haven team and tasked with writing humorous articles.

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