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In celebration of Pride Month 2024


Voicing Queerness:

authentic casting and queer storytelling in games


Throughout, ‘queer’ and ‘queerness’ are used as umbrella terms to encompass various facets of LGBTQIA+ identity and their associations. There are, of course, many intricacies and intersectionalities inherent to one’s identity and this discussion, but for ease, we often chose to speak in terms of queerness. Thank you, and please enjoy!

In this conversation are Sarah Griffin and Elizabeth Plant.

Sarah (they/them) is an award winning actor, comic, clown, voice artist and theatremaker. As an Autistic trans artist, their creative practice focuses on exploring identity, specifically questions of queerness and Disability. They are a repeat offender for Six to Start and Zombies, Run!  and can be found as Katy in Torchwood: Coffee for Big Finish, Ada in Eliza: A Robot Story for Crowd Network, Shrue in The Silt Verses for Rusty Quill, and Noah in Ethics Town for Faustian Nonsense.



Elizabeth (she/her) is Glowmade’s community manager, as well as a professional voice actor and writer-director for videogame and audio-drama. She’s a fierce advocate for authenticity in casting and representation, particularly when it comes to queer identity and Disability. Her BA dissertation unravelled the use of voice in videogames as a means to break down emotional barriers between fiction and reality, and nothing excites her more than the chance to talk so deeply about storytelling.




So I work in a very specific sub-sect of gaming. I work with a lot of gamified audio-drama, so a lot of the work I’ve done is with Six to Start, and their parent company, OliveX – who made Dustland Runner. So, basically, a lot of what I do – rather than standard dialogue within traditional AAA or indie gaming – is closer to an audio drama, but it’s still interactive.

Off top of my head, I played Sketchy in Dustland – who is nonbinary. Exit, Pursued By A Bear, I played Puck.

Nice, nice!

And genuinely I don’t think you can get queerer than Puck. What is he? They? It, exactly?

He’s the Gender Goblin! Just as Shakespeare intended, I think.

Well, also the Sexuality Goblin, if we’re being honest with ourselves.

Wreck Runner, I got to play a nonbinary character also. Written to be nonbinary but also just, like… a Shitty Little Guy? Like, any specific offshoot of nonbinary where a character’s also just a little bit shitty, they call me in.

Amazing, you love to see it! [Laughs]

Because I have always  described my gender as: neither male nor female, but Bugs Bunny in drag.

What does authenticity mean to you?


My gut reaction is to say ‘honesty.’ But that feels a bit like cheating; it’s trading you one unknown for another unknown – you know, what is  honesty?

I think being a nonbinary person – a queer person, a pansexual person – who is asked to play characters that share parts of my identity allows me to inhabit those characters in ways that are not necessarily expected. So I’m not being asked to ‘play’ nonbinary-ness in these characters, I just am. And that allows me to make choices for those people that are realistic within my world.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. There’s a line in Wreck Runner  where my character realises that there are a set of small robots – voiced by Beth Eyre, who’s another fantastic queer voice over artist! – who’re responding to Eats differently than they are to anybody else. And Eats realises why and goes: “[Gasp, high pitched voice]  They think I’m their mama!”


And I feel like the fact that I am nonbinary, where I understand that I don’t have to actively perform to people that that’s who I am, means that I can go: “Oh, female indicator. I can still embrace this as a part of myself, without having to then explain or underplay it.” I don’t have to force myself not to have anything ‘feminine’ in my voice just because the character isn’t typically feminine. It’s so much easier to cut through trying to build something that says a specific thing when you already are that specific thing.

Beautifully put. After that, just to go back to where we started, I’d also argue that a gut reaction isn’t cheaping it. I think there’s a reason that it’s a gut reaction, and it’s informed by so much of your experience. As you just elaborated on, it’s the honesty of the lived experience that you bring to someone like Eats. It’s some sort of a… “I think therefore I am… I queer therefore I be, y’know?”

Right?! The way that Eddie Izzard said it was: “People ask me about my clothes, and I say, ‘They’re not women’s dresses, they’re my dresses.’” And that’s what it feels like. To sometimes be asked: “Are you sure you’re making queer choices?” And I’m like: “Yes, I’m a queer!”


What do you wish would be done more when it comes to creating queer stories in games?


So this is a thing that I genuinely believe I have been incredibly lucky about, and I’m gonna drop some names here for the people who’ve made that possible.

Please do! Drop every name you know.

I’ve worked repeatedly with Matt Wieteska, with Ella Watts, and I’ve worked on scripts developed by Alasdair Stuart – either as a main writer or a narrative lead. All three of them have fully invested in the idea that queer people are just people that exist in the world, and therefore any world contains queer people. They are then just people in that world.

None of the work that I have done for any of those people is explicitly exploring queerness, it’s not there to say, “This is a queer narrative so people can learn something about queerness.” What they’re saying is: “This is a world that is complete. And in this complete world exist the queers.”

That’s what I want. I want what’s happening in Star Trek, where – yeah, we have a trans villain! Is the transness the reason for their villainy? No, actually! They just happen to be trans! I want those stories where we exist and have full lives and every aspect of our life is represented and honoured, rather than we are only able to be talked about for this one thing, and we have to constantly be performing as one thing. No, we don’t exist as one thing, and our lives are full.

I loved that you used ‘completeness.’ I think so much of the queer journey is about finding completeness, and accepting the mismatched parts of yourself – as others or society perceive them – and in doing so become complete. Everyone’s a journey, is a map of the ways they’re moving through the world, but there is a completeness to be found with growing and piecing together more and more of who you are.

Yes, absolutely!

So, this has got me thinking about Sketchy. And Sketchy’s a character that you are led by throughout the game, your go-to contact. Alasdair, in writing them, talked to me a lot about the development of the script and asked me: “What do you want? We’re gonna be with these characters for a while, what do you want to see?”

And I said, “A heel-turn.” I want them to do something flippin’ evil. Because it’s full, it’s complete; nobody is one thing and one thing only. And so in the arc that you go on with Sketchy, you get them absolutely being your silly best mate – let’s crack a few beers! – and then you get incredible, gentle nurturing softness from them, and then you get… vicious  bloodlust and anger.

Alasdair allowed such a breadth of humanity from that character, that I genuinely believe it deepens the experience for a player, because you are a whole human person that is meeting a whole human person. And that is  meaningful. That’s transformative. I know it’s a game, but it’s also a form of intimacy that we’re not always allowed socially – let alone in entertainment.

No, no, you’re right. There is  so much intimacy in games, moreso than any other art form, because of that placing yourself as the driving force through the story. Very much also with the development of characters, you are a direct witness to it as opposed to a passive observer, like if you were watching a play or movie.

I feel that voices make up a huge part of that, because that extremely human identifier of speech is – I believe – the guide to your imagination. The words that we say, and the way that our emotions can shape a player’s, are so intimate. A good voice performance can really stick with you and move you. It’s honestly really exciting that you got to play a character like that, with Sketchy as that literal guide, and – as you say – being so full and complete a person.

Absolutely. Even from a physiological standpoint, you don’t know the difference between talking to a person and listening to a character talk. It affects your body the same way, and that’s the first place that we respond to something. Which is different to just reading text, because there’s so much of the interpretation that is done by the reader. Voices literally vibrate the bones in your skull; you receive them through the body before you do as a brain message.

Oh, man, that’s so interesting. I’d never thought of it in those terms before, but you’re so right. The theory of it all is so fascinating to me, too.

I’m pretty sure it was Susan Savett, who’s a Fundamental Psychologist, that said: “Videogames are theatre for the soul.” And that quote’s stuck with me so hard, ever since I first read it while writing my thesis. It resonates so strongly for me, more and more as I encounter and do more performances for video games, because there is  such a soulful connection to be made with players just by the slightest inflection, and I just think it’s… brilliant to be part of, and to talk about.

What on a casting call motivates you to audition for a game?


Uhh… Money?

Yeah. True. Valid.

[Laughs] I’ll actually answer the inverse question: there are things that will prevent  me more than things that will inspire me to try my hand. I am an actor, I want to work; my go-to answer is: “Yes, and?” But the things that make me go, “Ooh, but…!!” will be things like the language around the description of the character.

When I read that somebody ‘presents as a woman,’ I’ll be like… okay, that language is already distancing you from the way that trans people talk about themselves. So if you’re writing about a trans person with language that doesn’t feel natural to the way they talk, my first question is: who on the writing team is trans? Who on the directing team is trans? Is anybody? Do y’all know what you’re talking about?

Where is your information coming from? Yeah.

And therefore, what story am I gonna be asked to tell?

Now, in me saying that, that doesn’t mean that I won’t engage with that project; it just means that I will engage in a different way, and I will ask a lot more questions. For instance, I’ve had casting breakdowns that talk about a character before and after transition, and when I get to reading I realise, “Oh, you’re expecting me to show up as a trans woman.” I don’t play trans women. That’s not my area, that’s not my lived experience. I’ll play trans men, I’ll play nonbinary, I’ll play cis women – but I don’t play trans women. While I am trans, I don’t have that experience.

Now, I never presume ill intent. And if people wanna learn more, and want to tell better stories, I’m more than happy to facilitate that and put you in touch with queer actors who do fit the kind of character you need. Just be more mindful of your parameters and who can best fulfil them.


What should writers & directors strive to do when representing queerness, or working with queer actors?


I love queering the question, so I’ll reframe that slightly. I feel that implies that whoever I’m working with isn’t already queer.

Yeah, you’re right. By all means, challenge it! It was somewhat intentional, but honestly please do deconstruct it.

So, I want to be working with queers. I won’t say period, but that is  what matters to me. I love working with queer creatives precisely because they bring that breadth of experience before I even walk in. And so I would say that the number one thing that I want from a production is that I’m not the only queer there.

But, if we will presume that I am not in that situation – and I am the only queer person – I’d say that the main thing for writers and directors to do would be: listen to queer creatives when we are speaking to our lived experience. If a queer creative has come into a room, one that’s not a queer room, and has said: “This is my experience,” or, “This is what would ring truer to me” … If they offer up anything, they are doing so in a space of extreme vulnerability.

It is something that is incredibly hard to hold up your hand and do, to be the rock in the middle of a stream. To be the perceived impediment. And that is an act of generosity, to be that impediment. They are trying to look out for your story. They are trying to make this work, to make this authentic and respectful.

I would urge any creative team that is not queer, but working with a queer artist, to understand that. That we are artists who are working with, not against.

What are your thoughts on inauthentic casting?


I think a huge part of the problem with inauthentic casting is not necessarily the work that is created afterwards, although there are problems with that. It’s about existence within the industry.

When you aren’t supporting artists who share the identities of the stories, you are actively cutting those artists off from the ability to continue in their careers. Which means you have fewer of those people around, which means that it’s harder to find authentic voices, and it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I know, for me, the instincts that I have as a performer are not instincts that fall very firmly within either traditional feminine or masculine casting. But if you look at the ten kinds of voices that people think  men or women tend to have, then I might have six of one and four of the other. Which means that my casting becomes limited. I have played a lot of women. A vast majority of the work I’ve done as a stage actor, I’ve played women. The vast majority of work I’ve done as a voice actor, I have played nonbinary. I guess because voice is an industry that doesn’t have the same history to fight against that film or theatre does.

Mm. There’s a lot to do with the fluidity of appearance. Where voices can evoke all manner of things, and with voices you can be doing non-human characters almost seamlessly, with theatre – for instance – a lot of it can come down to appearance. How people present, the physicality and movement; things that are more objective from a visual processing point of view.

Recent example: Francesca Amewudah-Rivers as Juliet got some people up in arms.  Just a talented actress that happens to be Black, but that can’t possibly fit with any ‘authentic’ depiction of Romeo and Juliet!!!  Totally immersion-breaking, apparently, despite… women not even being allowed  onstage for its first few hundred years of being performed?

Exactly. I would also argue that voice does weirder stuff. That it’s just harder to bring an audience into a theatrical space of X reality than it is to bring them into an audio space of X reality. And so you’re allowed to take bigger swings, and bigger swings apparently  include the existence of queer lives!

Imagine that!

The number one question is: who gets the work that sustains the creatives? Then you move again into that question of ‘what is authenticity?’

I think it was Camryn Manheim, who was playing in a crime procedural when I was a teen, and she was a fat lady. And the character that she was playing was a fat lady. And she had a bowl of candy on her desk, because the production team had gone: “Oh, fat lady. Food. Yeah, we’ll put that there.”

And she went: “Okay, if you’re gonna do this, do it right. If I’m a fat lady, and I have food, I don’t actually live in a world where people are okay with me eating. Because I’m fat. That is policed. If I have food, I’m gonna keep it in my desk. I’m gonna hide it. You’re asking me to live in a reality that doesn’t exist.”

Only she would know that, because only she has lived in that policed reality. In exactly the same way, we are able to make decisions that somebody who isn’t queer might not necessarily clock as a queer choice. We know what it is to live in a world that reacts to our identity. We understand the pressures that that puts on us. Our ability to make authentic choices isn’t just in being able to create an outline of a character that will read  as our identity – it’s about understanding our reactions and our responses to a world that genuinely is a different world  for us.


Do you have a favourite moment from working on a queer game?


The thing that is important to me about being a queer artist is being a part of establishing the history of people like me. Being a part of telling a story, of the voice, of supporting other artists.

I did some narration that was for a young queer writer, that was a high fantasy story about two asexual teenagers who were in a romantic relationship. Both of them were Disabled, and one of them was trans. And they were hacking magic, in order to create an ability to survive for their community.

I finished the narration – and it was a self-directed session, so it went like… I did my bit, turned off my mic, dropped to the floor and wept. Because it felt so… good  to be able to be the person that listened to this young queer writer and said, “Your story matters.” And the picture that they had of the world was one I believed in. It was one of found community, shared resources, being given an unworkable set of options and breaking them into something that could support humanity. And I believe that.

One more, because it’s equally close to me, is a line again from Alasdair Stuart. Now, I won’t work with Alasdair at the drop of a hat; I will work with Alasdair at the suggestion that maybe there is a hat he owns that is heavy. I would walk through fire to stand in front of a mic for that man, because he tells the stories that I want my voice to be telling.

He was writing for Sketchy, and Sketchy was talking to somebody that they had been part of creating a rescue mission for. And the line was: “Survival is a team sport.”

And that… changed my brain.  It changed my world. Just to look at that, and think: “There we go. That is the summation of what I believe it is to be human. The only way to get through this is together. The only way forward is together.”

Lastly, is there anything you want to say to your fellow queer voice actors this Pride Month?


Aren’t we fucking amazing? God, I love us!

Seeing what we are capable of making out in the world, and how we are capable of showing up for each other? I am such a firm believer in found community. Seeing things like the cast of Baldur’s Gate 3 throwing up videos on TikTok, like: “Hey, in case it wasn’t clear… Trans Fucking Rights!” And doing stuff in character voice that is just so blatantly queer and queer affirming, because they’ve been given the platform and they’re using it.

And, my god, aren’t we beautiful? Look at us out in the world, making that for each other! Not only just being the incredible collection of human beings and artists that we are, but using the position that has given us to uplift and protect and affirm each other is magnificent.

I am so proud  of the amount of queers that I have seen saying, “By the way, during Pride? Free Palestine!” To say: this is my struggle, this is my history, these are my politics; here’s how it interrelates to other struggles. Here is my humanity, and how I will touch the rest of humanity with it. Is that not a fantastic way to be a human being in this world?