12 years ago I had an audition for a video game – all I knew about it was that it was “a really good job for a voice actor to get.”
I had been working professionally for a only a few years – so I was really excited for this opportunity- turns out that game was The Sims.
I was driving a blue and white bouncy (those shocks were real bad) El Camino with flames on the back window in those days, and the drive down to Maxis was long and hot. I arrived not really knowing what the heck I was going to do- and when I was told, I was pretty blown away… and a little nervous.
Claire Curtin guided me that day, and her direction– watch the animation and improvise the scene like a kid– make up words!– was music to my ears.
“Oh! Like in drama school?”
This moment inspired my love for Simlish.
I left that tiny booth feeling excited and electrified, and really thrilled about the possibility of this challenge.
Unfortunately I didn’t hear a thing for months- and I thought I had lost my chance. All those jerky monologues started playing in my head, so I just kinda thought it was done.
Almost 3 months later I got the call that I had, in fact, booked this crazy job!
I was over the moon- but I still had no idea of the magnitude of this game, and how much it would be a part of my life; all the wonderful people I would come to know.
I was the only child voice in Sims 2, and that alone was a huge challenge in patience with myself and resilience – most Voice Over sessions I’ve had are 4 hours, tops. The Sims- we do 6 hours now- but I used to work for 8 hours! While I enjoyed the language, my brain would start to go cuckoo like clockwork at around 4:30 pm. I would start saying really bad words that I didn’t even realize I was saying, or have to think about certain sounds I was repeating too much. The exhaustion from a Sims session is like none other; I always slept very well those nights.
I was also very lucky and thankful to be a part of MySims, a super cute game with really adorable characters. On a technical note, I had to work on keeping my pitch low, but my energy high so I didn’t sound outta control with the voice pitcher ingame… this was a pretty big challenge for me, because it seems (in general) that the more excited I get about things, the higher my voice loves to go… but I learned a lot with great direction from Marielle Jakobsons and really precious animations to play with. Julie Nathanson was my MySims partner, and we poured the giggle sauce on real heavy! So much fun!!
When I found out I had made the cut to move on to The Sims 3... I was so thankful- I knew this was a job never to be taken for granted. Another thing I am so grateful for is that I got a partner in crime- Georgina Kidder.
To share those long hours in the booth with someone who I had immediate chemistry with was a huge gift, not only as an actor but for my life. We played with our Simlish a lot together, and made up silly songs or whispered about goofy stuff between takes. Bill Cameron, our brilliant director, and Xopher Davidson, our amazing engineer, are luckily just as goofy as us- so it was always a lot of fun. I don’t know how many hours of my life I have spent in that booth speaking this crazy lingo, but I sure did love it.
Last September, Robi Kauker, Audio Director at EA, asked me if I would be interested in voice directing for The Sims 3 Expansion Packs. Of course I had to give it a whirl. I had great teachers- especially Skot Brown, whose many years as an editor taught me so much about being on the other side of the window- paying attention to a lot of nuances and timing, and learning a lot about gameplay. My favorite thing about directing was meeting all the other actors- Bill Salyers, Becky Boxer, Khary Payton, Deborah Eliezer, Elisa Gabrielli, and William “Wasma” Woff. I adored hearing everyone’s Simlish, the words they loved to use and all the bloopers that inevitably love to pop out. It was a great challenge in listening and being very present- I totally understand the challenges of the after lunch nap feelings and how we totally lose our minds creating something that doesn’t make sense to a lot of people!
My time in The Sims- being mostly in my 30’s- many of those hard events we deal with as real grown adults took place…. I lost my Dad, my Grandma, my favorite dog… but I also lived in NYC, traveled a lot, had so many other rad voice jobs, made incredible friends and lifelong connections. The Sims made a lot of my dreams come true- it afforded me many moments of happiness and gratefulness. I will miss those marathon sessions and all the antics that went along with them. Some of my other Voice Actor friends don’t really understand the appeal of The Sims- it’s not for everyone. I’ll always remember it as being a very special time in my life.
I will also say this: in many ways it reminds me of when I used to do a lot of theater- having to be on my toes and really stay in the moment and out of my head- but the connection I have with the cast and the people I worked with at EA and Maxis- I will always treasure that the most.