You probably know me as a speaker and broadcaster but did you know I’m the the voice of a global video game?
The new FIFA 11 came out today. I think it’s the best football video game in the world. But I’m biased; I’ve been involved in the EA Sports FIFA games since 2006.
Every year I spend a day in Soho in a sound studio, putting down two thousand new messages in my role as stadium announcer on the games.
If you play any of the FIFA games, alongside the commentators you’ll hear me in the background announcing the team line-ups, the substitutions, the scorers and the added minutes. In fact, everything I announce in real life at West Ham United. There is the facility to turn up the announcer if you want to have a really good listen. I sometimes wish that was possible at the Boleyn Ground.
Each time I also record ten ‘hidden’ messages, which are played at random points.
For example on FIFA 08 I congratulated my wife, Jeanette Kruger, on finishing the London Marathon.
My good friends Dave Cheeseman and Nicola Underdown were delighted to find their marriage being announced on FIFA 09.
I also like to give my nieces and nephews a mention. Christopher, Julian, Kate and Joe have all had birthdays or been lost children who should contact the nearest steward.
My youngest niece was also welcomed to her first ever game, before she was even born. At the time of the recording she was just a bump, going under the working title of Lulu Lemon. By the time she was born, my sister had decided to drop the Lemon bit, quite wisely in my view. But in the game she will always be Lulu Lemon. Once a recording is done, it’s done. When you are doing two thousand messages in a day, there’s little time to go back and change it.
Every car I have ever owned is given a mention over the stadium PA in the games. Listen out for my first car from student days, a blue Mini 1000. I seem to remember the announcement is about its lights being left on. Then there’s my old white Ford Cortina which is illegally parked. There’s a yellow Opel Kadett, a claret Ford Sierra, a blue BMW and a blue Ford Focus, all committing various offences outside stadiums across the world. They’re cars I’ve driven over the years. I should think they’re mostly in the big scrap yard in the sky now, but I like to think they live on through the medium of video gaming.
I read out all the number plates as well. I haven’t put my current car on, in case some deranged gamer comes round my house. Maybe my announcement put them off during a vital moment. That’s the thing with the random messages; they can play at any point in the game. It all adds to the authenticity.
There are a few announcements on there especially for West Ham fans. I don’t mention the club by name, because these messages play out in virtual stadiums across the world. However there’s no reason, I thought, why our safety announcement shouldn’t receive a wider airing. Gamers have the option to play matches with any teams in any ground, but it’s always my voice on the PA. So Mr Moon has been arriving and leaving stadiums across the globe since FIFA 10. There’s also a welcome for ‘everyone at Knees Up Mother Brown’ on the last two games, a thank-you for the support on the forums I received during the difficult days of the first half of the 2008/09 season.
If you listen carefully there are lots of Canadian youngsters who also get a mention. Electronic Arts is based in Vancouver and the team on the FIFA games get a kick out of hearing their off-spring announced.
So how did I get this dream job? Like most of the good things in my life, there’s a West Ham connection. After the success of FIFA 06 the EA guys decided to bring out a special edition, called FIFA 06 -The Road to the World Cup. They were facing increasing competition from rivals like Pro-Evolution Soccer, so to keep ahead of the game they added some extras.
Video game consoles were getting more sophisticated. The newly launched X Box 360 had increased capacity that would allow more layers of audio. As well as the commentators, EA decided to add a stadium announcer and enhanced crowd sounds. I was lucky. The commentators were Andy Gray and Martin Tyler, represented by an agent called Matthew Fisher, who just happened to be a West Ham season ticket holder. When the guys in Vancouver asked him to find an announcer for the new game, he gave me a call. I’ve been the voice of the games ever since.
This summer I was speaking at a three day football event at the NEC in Birmingham. After facilitating at a few sessions with big name speakers like Graham Taylor, Peter Taylor, Ian Holloway and one of the Alan Smiths, I found I was signing just as many autographs as they were. They couldn’t all be West Ham fans and most of the kids were far too young to remember me presenting football on Channel 5.
They were gamers. I realised this on day one when two boys asked me what Mr Moon means on FIFA 10. I said it was a safety message at West Ham, and if I told them exactly what it meant, I would have to kill them. At which point they ran off crying.
For the rest of the three days I happily posed for photos and signed autographs for football fans, who’d only ever heard me in the confines of a video game.
It was all a bit strange and reminded me of a time a few years back, when I’d left West Ham after a match, by the player’s entrance. A small boy who’d been patiently waiting held up his autograph book and said, ‘scuse me mate, are you anyone?’
I replied that sadly I wasn’t anyone, but he might have heard my voice on the PA and I’d happily sign for him.
‘No, you’re all right,’ he said, and put his book away.
A few years later it seems I have now cracked the child market. Being the stadium announcer on a video game, it seems is far more prestigious than doing it in real life!
Jeremy Nicholas – London, UK 1st October 2010