A LIFELONG ‘QUEST’
Ashly Burch plays a game tester on the Apple TV+ comedy ‘Mythic Quest’ — but she’s also one of the gaming world’s most beloved voice actors
TO NONgamers, the most famous person on Mythic Quest, a workplace comedy set at a gaming company, is probably its creator and star, Rob McElhenney. But to gamers, it’s Ashly Burch. While her role as Rachel on the sitcom, where she’s also a writer, is a supporting one, in the gaming industry, Burch is a bona fide star. For years, she’s voiced Aloy in the hugely popular Horizon series, whose latest iteration, Horizon: Forbidden West, has made several Best of 2022 lists. Her career is a culmination of a long-standing passion for gaming, one that’s paying off as the industry goes mainstream.
When you got the gig on
Mythic Quest, were you able to draw on your background in the gaming industry?
Yeah. My experience in the writers room was [as] the resident nerd. I never thought being an indoor kid was going to benefit me to the extent that it has, but there was a lot of experience I was able to bring. You broke out with a YouTube show, Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’, where you played games and offered commentary. Does that help you connect with Rachel?
I think there’s an authenticity people can feel. The testers are closest to the game. So having that affection for games in general [is beneficial]. I never had to worry about, like, “How do I hold the controller? How do I move the character?”
You’ve also voiced Tiny Tina in Borderlands and Mel in The Last of Us Part II. Do you feel attached to them?
It’s impossible not to get attached. At least for me, you have to put some of yourself in the character. It’s not like a Horcrux [an object in Harry Potter that contains a piece of one’s soul] — you’re not putting it there and never getting it back. But you assign certain things about yourself to that person. It’s very bizarre psychologically. Do you find that fans feel some ownership over the characters, too?
It is inevitably a communal experience. I remember talking to Rob about when It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [which McElhenney also co-created] came out. And there’s just this thing — it’s yours until it isn’t. You’re creating this for an audience. Over your time in the industry, what do you feel have been the biggest positive shifts in gaming culture?
Absolutely that there have been more women and people of color in games, and making games. When I started recording Horizon, there was not a huge breadth of female protagonists. And now we have so many franchises that are headed by women, by people of color. I think more can be done to improve that, but the first female game character I can remember relating to was Meryl in Metal Gear Solid, and she still spends 80 percent of the game being damseled or possessed or kidnapped. To have characters like Aloy or Ellie or Abby [of The Last of Us], all of these women that are heading these games that are messy, complex, strong, strange, and interesting — it means a lot to me. And it makes me really happy that women that are coming up now get to have those experiences with those characters. How do you feel about general audiences embracing gaming now?
I love it. That whole debate that went on for so long of “Are games art?” I’m like, ”Obviously, yes.” And telling people that I voice-act, and they go, “Like Mario? Like, ‘It’s-a-me?’ ” So it’s a nice thing that finally people are like, “Oh, these are good. They’re kind of like movies.” Yeah, they’ve been good for a long time. They’ve been important for a long time. So it makes me happy.