If you’ve ever watched a game trailer in Europe, you’ve almost certainly heard Richard Wells’ voice. He is, in his own words, “the guy who says ‘PEGI 18’ on all of your video games,” which is to say he’s the smooth baritone that lets you know a game’s age rating right before its trailer plays; the British equivalent of that ESRB guy who says “product not yet rated” before E3 trailers. He’s ubiquitous but—until he became a TikTok sensation—anonymous, and it turns out he only made €200 (£170) for his work.
“I’ve been a professional voice actor for 40 years,” explains Wells at the beginning of his first video on TikTok, “I’ve made at least 10,000 recordings, and spoken millions of words, but ironically, I’m best known for just two.” Those two are, of course, “PEGI 18,” which have been at the front of almost every game trailer I can remember for years upon years. Alas, that didn’t translate to incalculable riches: In a follow-up video, Wells thanked fans for his newfound virality and answered probably the most common question he gets: “Do I get paid every time I say it? Well, I wish. I actually did get paid €200 back in September 2009, and that’s all the money I’ve ever made [from it].”
But Wells is pretty chipper about it anyway. “The result is I’ve got, y’know, two million friends, which is great,” said Wells, enlisting everyone who liked his original video into a faction he’s calling the “PEGIs.” The thought of 2 million friends is enough to give me a panic attack, but Wells seems chuffed that his work has had such an impact on so many people over the years.
This actually isn’t the first time Wells has broken cover. He released a video on his YouTube channel all the way back in 2020 about his role as the “PEGI 18” guy, but it was only his recent TikTok videos that catapulted him to internet stardom.
Wells took the time to answer a viewer question or two, as well. In particular, he touched on how he feels about the advent of AI voice acting. “For the moment, AI is pretty great, [but] it’s pretty scary also… it’s okay for, maybe, hack jobs, but [not] anything that needs intent, emotion, emphasis… I have no intention of selling my voice to an AI package, because if you want me, then you’ll get me.” So at least our PEGIs will remain artisanally human-grown for the foreseeable future.
The most recent video on Well’s TikTok consists of him showing off the original studio recordings of each PEGI rating—a kind of videogame trailer equivalent of unearthing the Dead Sea Scrolls—and it’s, well, just as understated as you expect. A man in a booth running through some lines, unaware he was about to etch himself indelibly on our collective psyche for years, maybe decades to come. That’s gotta be worth more than €200, surely?