Actor Idris Elba’s journey into the world of video games has deepened his appreciation for the medium, thanks to his latest role as Solomon Reed in the thrilling expansion of Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
When asked about the increasing involvement of actors in video games, Elba sees it as a reflection of the changing times. “Games and actors have always had a connection, but we’re now witnessing more renowned film actors stepping into the realm of gaming,” he notes.
In recent years, the gaming industry has witnessed A-list actors and celebrities lending their voices and appearances to characters, including Kit Harington, Rami Malek, and even comedian Conan O’Brien. Elba remarks, “Today, games often feature cinematic cut scenes that rival movies in entertainment value. While you can skip them, most players find themselves engrossed, even if their fingers ache from the last round.”
Elba, drawing from his acting experience, emphasizes that the craft remains the same whether in games, commercials, or traditional acting. He acknowledges, however, that collaboration in gaming is more intricate due to the involvement of animators and larger teams.
Looking ahead, Elba envisions a future where film and video games seamlessly merge, especially with the advent of virtual reality. “We’re almost there with virtual reality. You can immerse yourself in a virtual world within a movie or a game and freely explore,” he predicts.
The expansion, developed by CD Projekt RED, follows the story of Phantom Liberty, set after the main Cyberpunk 2077 game. It challenges players, alongside intelligence agent Solomon Reed, to rescue the president after their shuttle is shot down in Night City’s deadliest district. The expansion introduces new stories, characters, and abilities to enhance gameplay.
Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty marks Elba’s primary character role in a gaming franchise, and despite the daunting nature of the project, he embraced the challenge. “It was different and multifaceted,” he says, reflecting on the complex process that combined CGI, motion capture, and voice acting. The journey began before the pandemic and took three years to complete. Elba is proud of the contribution he made to the game.
Elba, a seasoned actor, found the technological advancements in filming for video games intriguing. He compared it to his experience working with motion capture specialist Andy Serkis on Disney’s The Jungle Book. “It’s like being a puppet master without strings. You’re using your entire body to create something you can’t physically see, and someone else brings it to life,” he shares. The experience gave him a newfound appreciation for the art form.
Elba believes that the gaming industry, with its vast potential, can be a powerful tool for addressing global issues and fostering cross-cultural understanding. As a UN Goodwill Ambassador for IFAD, he advocates for the industry to utilize its capabilities for education and cultural exchange.
Despite typically avoiding watching his own performances, Elba eagerly anticipates playing Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, as he’s an avid gamer himself. “I’ve been a gamer for most of my life. I had an Amstrad back in the day and nearly every other console,” he reveals. “I may not watch my own performances, but I’ll definitely play this game. I’ve poured years of work into it.”