Every so often comes along a game franchise that means so much to so many. Life is Strange is definitely one of them, and I was lucky enough to sit down with voice actor and Twitch star Katy Bentz to talk about Life Is Strange, voice acting and the wonderful world of Twitch.
What got you into voice acting?
So, I kind of fell into voice acting. I feel like everybody has a different story of how they got involved in voice acting, and there’s never a true path, you know? There’s not a recipe to follow. I moved out to Los Angeles back in 2016, and I was auditioning and submitting for a bunch of different acting projects. I happened to self-submit for Before The Storm, and I didn’t know it at the time; then I got an audition to go in for this video game, and I was telling my best friends, who are super into video games at the time, I was like, guys! I just got an audition for a video game. Then I got a callback for it, then I got cast in it, and I was like, this is so cool. I got cast in a video game, that sounds cool! At that time, I didn’t really play many video games. I wasn’t a Twitch streamer yet, so it was all very new and fresh, and it seemed, as I said, really cool. I was still doing a lot of different on-camera acting and commercial acting. Then I was asked to reprise my role, it just snowballed from there. I’m really grateful to have a lot of projects happening right now in the voiceover world, and that’s where I want to be. There’s a lot of projects coming out soon, so I’m excited about it.
What attracted you to that role the more you found out about the character?
Oh, my gosh. Well, I found out more and more about her as I reprised her in True Colors. And she’s such a down-to-earth, really connecting character for a lot of people. I feel like a lot of people can connect to her in some way because there’s so many things about her; it’s not just this one thing. I think that’s what I found special about her. And she’s just so fun to play. I feel like she has parts of me, and then there are parts of her that I aspire to be. I’ve just finished doing the audiobook for The Life is Strange Steph’s Story audiobook. Oh my gosh, there’s so much more about her. I cannot wait for people to learn about her.
How much did you get to influence the direction they went in with Steph, or was it all laid out for you?
They would already have the script written. So it was, you know, pretty laid out for me. But the thing with the writers at Deck Nine is that as they work with an actor more and more, they tend to write for that actor, and they tend to write for the strengths of that actor because they know how well the actor is going to perform a certain character or a certain scene. They’re really talented, and so as I kept coming back for Steph, it was like, oh, this is so easy. I can slip right into this character. The words on the paper were so easy to bring to life. A lot of the time, as actors, we get scripts that are just like, what is this? This is nothing you would ever say in real life. It doesn’t flow right. But with Deck Nine, the writing felt natural and what somebody would say in real life. But of course, if there was something that didn’t make sense to me or I didn’t think Steph would say this, or this is feeling weird for me to say they were so open and ready to hear.
You’ve played the Life is Strange Games, among many others, but what’s it like hearing yourself when you get to the cutscenes you’ve recorded; like the first time we met Steph in that awesome D&D game?
It was cool; I was fangirling over it! When I played Before the Storm for the first time, I was like, this is so cool! I’m in a video game, and I’m playing this character who’s interacting with my character. It was just this medium that I had never experienced before, and I didn’t really know was a possibility as an actor. It is just so cool to hear your voice in a game. I love it!
So how did recording the voiceover for a game, which is branching in its narrative with choices compare to something more linear like theatre or film?
It’s interesting. Especially when I did True Colors because you’d come in and it would be a couple of different scripts, and the script itself was so hard to read because you had to get used to it. You had to figure it out because it would be like, if this happens, then this happens and if that happens that it doesn’t happen, then this happens and it’s just – oh my gosh! And so constantly the performance director was having to make sure, for example, that what we were recording now was what happens if A and B don’t happen. So, he would make sure to always put us where we needed to be in our brain because it was so confusing. I don’t know how he followed it! It was difficult! Definitely very different from linear film or commercials or anything like that.
Was it kind of weird to be kind of recording dialogue in a happy tone and then have to record the same scene but then in a completely different tone based on what that interaction was?
No, not really for me, I’m able to jump into different emotions pretty quickly and jump back out of them quickly. It it’s kind of funny though, you’re doing a happy scene, and all of a sudden, you have to switch to do something completely sad and people on set are like, how does that person do that, are they okay?
What’s your favourite Steph moment?
I always say this, and I feel like it’s a copout because I always say it, but it’s so true. It’s the rooftop scene. I don’t know. She’s just so vulnerable. And, you know, she’s speaking to herself, and she’s also speaking to Alex, and she’s wanting Alex to think about her. I think it’s a vulnerable moment and a pretty scene. I love that scene. It was fun to record as well.
How, how did you feel then, when you got that call to say, come back for True Colors?
I believe it was like October of 2018, and I got an email, and I woke up the next morning; I read my email, and it asked me to reprise the role of Steph. I screamed in my bed. I called my mom. I was like, Yes, yes, I’m so excited! And then I had to keep it quiet for like two and a half years. It was wild.
How did you manage that?
It was so hard because I would do driving streams because I was driving during the pandemic to go and record. I went to Colorado so many times. I lied to my entire community and said that I was going to Kansas just so it didn’t look weird that I kept going towards where Colorado was. If they knew I was going to Colorado 20 times a year, they would know what was going on. So, I just lied to them. I just pretended the possibility of Steph ever coming back in a game was not going to happen because people were coming to my channel all the time and would be like, we want Steph in a new game. And I was like, yeah, me too!
So now, if you do any driving streams where you say you’re driving to Kansas, we know there’s another game.
My gosh. They literally give me shit all the time! Like I hear Kansas twice a month, you know, like I hear all the time.
What were your fondest memories from working on Before The Storm and then True Colors?
Being in a voiceover booth for Before The Storm as that was the first time I ever did that. I think that that was definitely very fun for me. Meeting the fandom, I think was awesome for me as well, just meeting all the fans of this game and seeing just how powerful this game is for a lot of people was really, really cool and humbling. Then from True Colors, just being on the set and being able to do performance capture was one of the coolest things ever. I can’t wait until I can do performance capture again. That was just such a unique opportunity.
And how weird is it as a performer to do that kind of performance capture?
I mean, for me, it was just fun. It was a comfy suit. I liked it. The one thing you have to get used to is just your helmet. You’ve got this thing, you know, extending out of your face. If you turn around, you might smack somebody, or you might smack a door. I’ve done that a couple of times! You know, it’s just like, oh, we’ve got to redo that again, or we bump heads with each other. So, it’s just about spatial awareness.
Life is Strange, as a franchise, has some really hard-hitting themes, running throughout with mental health and identity. How important do you think it is that more games touch upon these real-life subjects?
I think it’s definitely very, very, very important. And I love that the franchise has developed this pathway of these types of games. I feel like you’re seeing more and more of that come out. I think video games are so much more hard-hitting, and they’re able to connect with people more because you’re playing the game. You’re literally within the world. We can watch a movie, and we can watch TV, and escape. If we’re talking in terms of escapism, video games are the number one thing to escape into because you literally are playing a character, you’re becoming this character, and you’re in the world around them. You’re connecting with their friends. The people that they connect with. And so it just makes the themes of the story much more real for people. It helps them like it’s insane to see how many people have been helped by the Life Is Strange franchise. I mean, I see it every single day. It’s incredible. Somebody feels represented and is able to see themselves in a game and is able to experience something, maybe they can’t experience their life, but they can experience it through this character and through these other characters in this world.
So, of course, Steph’s story wasn’t done with True Colors because of the DLC as well. How did you prepare for the Wavelength DLC and, more importantly, her survivor’s guilt?
I’m not a method actor. I just kind of dial in. It’s just about dialing into the emotion. I feel like that’s what really works for me. Like, whatever emotion I’m supposed to get into, like if I’m excited, just getting really frickin’ pumped and if I’m about to play a really sad moment, just sitting there and letting sadness fall over me.
So, are you driving to Kansas currently?
No! I wish I was. I wish I was. I wish I was driving to Kansas. I really do.
Do you think that Steph could quite easily now be the main character in the next instalment?
I don’t know. A part of me almost feels like they’re done, you know. She had her DLC. She’s got this amazing book. I could see her coming back as a cameo; I don’t know. I want her back at any point. I want her back so bad, and she’s come back so many times. I’m like, can she come back again?
Steph’s Story. The first prose novel in the franchise – what can you tell us about it and your experiences recording an audiobook?
This is Steph’s journey between Before The Storm and True Colors. We’re able, as readers, or listeners, to hear what she went through. It’s insane. I feel like people are going to read this book or listen to the audiobook and then play the game again, knowing just everything that’s going on in Steph’s mind. It’s like you’re reading a journal entry in one of the games, and you get to see what she’s gone through. She’s got a lot of sadness. She’s got a lot of trauma from Before The Storm that has been held up within her. It’s making it difficult for her to grow relationships and garner them. We get to see that journey when she dates Izzy, and it’s a really cool journey.
Being able to do the audiobook versus doing the game is very different. So, the writing is very, very different. That was something that I had to get used to because it’s a book, it’s a novel, It’s a completely different kind of writing. It still feels like Life Is Strange, but that was something that I had to get used to. Eventually, after a couple of pages, I fell right into it and made a home for it in my voice. And it felt very natural. It was exciting for me to read it like that. Then doing the audiobook itself, you’re just reading until you mess up. So it’s just very different, but I’m glad that I had that opportunity, and I hope I can do more audiobooks in the future.
As I’m reading the audiobook, like recording it, I’m just thinking in my head, oh my gosh, this is what she was thinking, you know, the entire time. It just gives us so much more.
What got you into live streaming on Twitch?
Before The Storm. Once the game came out, I was introduced to Twitch, and I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what was going on. And I just went live in my kitchen from my laptop and it just snowballed from there. I’ve been doing it for six years now.
And what is the life of a streamer like?
It is exhausting! I think a lot of people look at it, and now people realise that it’s a lot because a lot of streamers talk about how exhausting it is. But I think sometimes people just are like, oh, you sit there and play video games, or you just sit at a computer and talk to people on the Internet, and it’s like, oh my gosh, it’s so exhausting. And I do double streams. I’ll stream in the morning and at night some days. It’s great because I get to do my own schedule, I get to move things around, and I don’t have to answer to anybody. It’s just myself. Sometimes that can be a challenge because you have to figure out how to manage your time and be really good at it all by yourself because there’s nobody looking down on you. I love it. I have a wonderful community of people who have supported me for the last six years, and new people coming in every day. It just means the world to know all these people from all over the world are watching. It’s just a really unique job. I think about it all the time of how crazy this is. I would never have put myself in this position or seen myself doing this, but I’m so happy that I’m doing it.
How did you find it when you were starting out and in those early days of Twitch streaming, possibly to no one and setting it all up?
I was very lucky to have a boost from the fandom. I would be on Twitter, and tell people, and I already had 30 people in my stream, so I didn’t get to experience those struggles that many Twitch streamers do. A part of me feels guilty about it because people assume that everybody has had that experience! I was really lucky to have a small group of people come in and be there, ready to talk to me. I also watched a lot of YouTube when I was younger, so it was a world that I was familiar with, and younger Katy would have been like this is insane! This is what you wanted. I’m definitely really lucky to have had the Life Is Strange fandom to boost me. I had a friend at the time who helped me get going with different overlays and the tech side of it. I would have been lost, honestly! And I’m still lost when it comes to tech; I really am. It’s bad.
You do a lot of variety content in your streams, but when you do play a game, what would you say has been the best game or the most fun game for you to stream in the last year?
The most fun game that I’ve played in the last year? As I go to my Twitch channel to look at my games played. Let’s see. Ooh, The Quarry was really fun. That was a fun game; I think, playing those campy horror games is really fun because you’re choosing your adventure. Most of the chat knows what’s going on too so everybody gets really excited. They get really into these characters. We could all fight for different characters we like. Actually, The Quarry might have been the best one in my recent streams. It’s so good. It’s supposed to be like a horror movie. It’s perfect. I loved it.
So, what’s been your most memorable fan interaction since you started?
I’m just going to collectively say the letters that I received. I have received tons and tons of letters over the last six years and numerous people telling me that this game has helped them with their identity. It’s helped them come out, to their friends, to their family. It’s saved their lives. Like legit. Like I’m reading a letter, and somebody was like, I didn’t think I’d be here this year, you know, or somebody was like, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to be open about who I was with my sexuality. I’m sitting on my floor just reading these letters and crying because it’s so precious and so vulnerable that somebody wants to share that with me. It’s also just really amazing that I had any part at all in their journey, to know that I’ve had a hand in helping to impact somebody’s life. So I’ll collectively say all the letters I’ve received over the years.
What’s next? What are you working on now, or what’s next? What are you allowed to tell us?
So the book [is out now]. I have a game coming out called Annie and the AI. Hopefully, that’ll be coming out in the next couple of months. I don’t have an actual date for that yet. Then I’m working on two other video games that should be coming out this year as well. I will be working on one at the end of this month. I can’t say those ones yet! A lot of voiceover stuff which is insane. I love it.
Does it feel different now to do voice acting for video games now you’re more immersed in that culture? Or is it still as novel and as exciting as it was right at the start?
I think it’s just as cool as the first time I did it, honestly! It’s just even cooler that I can have more opportunities. I just want more. I’ve heard my voice in one other video game. So, I’m excited for these other games to come out so I can hear my voice in those as well and see how it looks and everything.
What advice would you give to people who perhaps want to get into voice acting or get into Twitch streaming?
I think either one is a lot of research. I tell everybody all the time, Google is your best friend, and it really is on any of those; whether it’s voice acting or Twitch, you can find really great how-to and step-by-step guides. With acting, you have to realise that you’re going to be rejected. I’ve been rejected so many times, there’s so many times I get an audition, and I never hear anything back, like 98-99% of the time. That’s just how it is. You have to be okay with that. You can’t be sensitive, or you’re going to drown. Going on these websites, these submission websites like Actor’s Access or Casting Network or Casting Frontier or Backstage. Also, get yourself into a bigger hub like Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York, Toronto, and Vancouver.
With Twitch, just start. Google, search it, find a YouTube video to help you set up the beginning stages of it and then stream, don’t wait until it’s perfect because it’s never going to be perfect. Mine’s not perfect. And just stream. Try to figure out a game that you like and play that game. I can’t, as I said earlier, speak too much on what it’s like to stream to literally nobody, but if you have friends that can pop into your stream and your family just to give you something, somebody to talk to you, that could also be really helpful. Just knowing that again, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take long, and there will be a lot of ups and downs. I’ve had so many ups and downs in my streaming career. Lots of persistence for both voice acting and Twitch!
Finally, if you were to recommend one book, one game and one movie that every geek should consume, what would they be and why?
I hate this kind of question because it makes you think! Okay, I don’t read very often. I read self-help books, and I can’t even think of one… Steph’s Story.
My brain’s trying to think about what movies I watched which were impactful. I know there are so many, but I can’t think of them right now. I’m just going to say, one of my all-time favourite movies, 500 Days of Summer. I think everybody should play Hellblade. That is a great game that makes you have to think about your mental health, they put you in such an uncomfortable position with all the audio, the ASMR stuff. It’s such a cool game. Everybody should play that game.
Wondering where you can find Katy online? You can go join her awesome Twitch community, follow her on Twitter or take a look at Link Tree for more and, of course, go play all the Life Is Strange games!
Steph’s Story is available now at all good bookstores and as an audiobook too!