Watch out Lara Croft (Tomb Raider). Elizabeth Hammer is the next beautiful, intelligent, and athletic heroine to win the hearts of gamers worldwide, played by Harvard graduate Heather Gordon.
Four years in the making, and finally Irrational Games’ “BioShock: Infinite” is now available.
“BioShock: Infinite” is the latest installment of the best-selling BioShock video game franchise.
The franchise has sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide.
While the previous games had taken place in the ficticious underwater city of Rapture, the new game takes place in the pre-World War I time period of 1912 in the United States.
Two characters are in focus: Booker Dewitt, an ex-Pinkerton detective, and the heroine he must rescue from the tower she’s lived in all her life, Elizabeth Hammer.
This game was twice-delayed, leaving some video game critics concerned that this new installment would one, never happen and/or two, would be terrible.
One of the biggest problems was getting the character of Elizabeth right.
They almost canceled the character for a variety of reasons, one being that the team at first wasn’t familiar with how to incorporate a character like this, and two that none of the ladies who auditioned to play her avatar had the stylization necessary to pull off the next Lara Croft.
Then they met, Heather Gordon.
She’s a Harvard graduate (MFA), booksmart like her character, having also received the scholastic scholarship award at the Miss California competition, state qualifier for the Miss America program, while she served as Miss Marin County.
Gordon is a talented actor as well, earning multiple film festival awards for her role in independent film “Seducing Charlie Barker” and most recently being honored with a BroadwayWorld Best Actor award for her role as Billie in “Born Yesterday.”
Gordon admits she didn’t know what she was auditioning for, when Irrational Games brought her in to try out. It was a brand new experience. She’d never had a role in a video game before. She figured, as I did, that it was purely animation. Unless you’re in the know as to how a video game is configured or how animated movies are made, I would argue that the mainstream wouldn’t think that a human was used to map out the movements of these cartoon characters.
As an actor walking on to the set of a video game taping, “It felt like a meld of both worlds: film and stage,” explains Gordon.
It took place in a room the size of a basketball court in Novato, California, about 25 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, at 2K Games’ motion capture studio.
There was no set. There were no props. There was only a green screen.
Gordon was dressed only in a skin tight black body suit with sensors all over it that engineers would read and use for Elizabeth’s avatar.
Every move she made over the past year of taping was captured on a computer. Guiding her every move via teleconference from Irrational Games’ headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts was director Shawn Robertson. He and BioShock: Infinite creator Ken Levine did their best to describe each scenario to Gordon. But a lot was left to Gordon’s imagination.
Yes, the descriptions of the scene in play were vivid. The big question mark was what happened before and what would happen afterwards? No one knew. They would tweak as they go. So the motion capture actress quickly learned that taping a video game scene is not like rehearsing for a play where you go through the arc of the show. Each scene is taped out of order. She would just have to keep up. Gordon, who would get the voiceover, by voice actress Courtnee Draper, the night before each taping, wouldn’t even know for example, exactly why Elizabeth was screaming, or what was happening. All she could do was trust what she knew of the character and try to act accordingly.
“I would improvise as I felt she would act or express herself,” says Gordon. “It was a great challenge, and I loved every minute of it.”
After this experience with Irrational Games, Gordon is hooked on gaming. Not necessarily the act of gaming, but acting in them.
Gordon’s next project is the voice of another big character in an upcoming game by Telltale Games. But no other details could be shared on that as of yet.