Celebrities. They attract eyes and ears "” attention, if you will"“ to games that would otherwise go unnoticed by the general public. At least, that's the belief, factual or not.
There's a persistent understanding "” not one proven by facts or by statistics, but by assumptions made by people in marketing departments "” that big name actors equate to the success of a game that would slip under the radar were it not for the name of Patrick Stewart (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow) or some other big name actor at the back of the box, in press releases, and in the previews and reviews of the game.
I posit that Mass Effect developer BioWare appears to have fallen into the very belief that snagging Freddie Prinze Jr., an actor no longer relevant or under the scrutiny of the public eye, for the role of James Vega, will draw attention to the latest in their epic space opera series, Mass Effect 3. Perhaps my cynicism is getting the better of me and that the reason they picked him "” over a seasoned voice actor "” for the role was because of his acting talent, but I doubt I'm wrong.
The reason I believe BioWare is starstruck is because in addition to announcing Freddie Prinze Jr. as a voice actor, they have also cast Jessica Chobot, an internet celebrity, for the role of yet another of the game's standout characters. With no offense to Chobot, I can surely say that while she is as good a presenter as they come, she does not have an extensive history of voice acting. My cynicism would lead me to suggest that she was picked by BioWare simply for her fame amongst gamers and is arguably an attempt, by the company, to court the demographic to whom she appeals.
At this rate, Bioware could well cast the likes of YouTube celebrities Ray William Johnson and iJustine in Dragon Age 3 because of the perception of popularity and the glamour it would presumably bestow upon the title.
This article isn't by any means a criticism of Chobot, or even Freddie Prinze Jr., both of whom may well prove decent in their roles. After all, the much more popular Martin Sheen proved more than capable as a voice actor in his role as the Illusive Man, and Tricia Helfer as EDI more than delivered in Mass Effect 2.
Rather, this is an indictment of Bioware and videogame developers at large who choose celebrity over talent for the sake of marketing. Sometimes, it works out"”as in the case of casting Michael Ironside as Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell series. However, there are times when it simply doesn't work no matter how good the caliber of the actor. Liam Neeson's bored delivery in Fallout 3 comes to mind.