Genshin Impact currently has 28 playable characters, but whether you’re playing without spending a penny or dropping cash regularly for those Primogems, everyone will be well-acquainted with Paimon.
From day one, players have had a lot of opinions over your Traveler’s fairy companion who is essentially the mascot of Genshin Impact. A fair number find her presence annoying, from her high-pitched babyish tone to her over-talkative nature, as well as a certain pushiness in contrast to the more neutral blank slate of your mostly mute protagonist. That is exactly how she’s supposed to be, when discussing this with Paimon’s voice actor, Corina Boettger.
Acting as early as when they were eight years old (incidentally including a voice promo for a video game at a convention), Boettger has featured in small roles in film and TV, though they only transitioned to voice-acting in recent years including anime Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars and visual novel AI: The Somnium Files. As Genshin Impact’s momentous popularity continues, including the upcoming ‘All That Glitters’ event coinciding with Lunar New Year, we had the opportunity to chat with Boettger, who turns out to be just as talkative as Paimon.
TSA: When did you first get the role of Paimon and did you have any idea how big Genshin Impact was going to be?
Boettger: I believe I auditioned the first time back in August 2019, and then I got the callback in September, then booked the role and started working in October of 2019. It’s always a pretty quick process!
I was honestly surprised [with its popularity], because unless you’re part of a second iteration of anything like that, when you get a part of a game you really don’t know how big it’s going to be until it happens. At the beginning of 2020, I was looking on their Twitter and I was like, ‘Oh, they have like 6,000 followers, that’s really good. And then right before the game came out, they had hundreds of thousands of people following them, and I was like, ‘Holy crap, this is going to be bigger than I thought it was going to be!’
TSA: There was also some buzz building up in the beta stages too. Were you following that at the time?
Boettger: I was, and I even secretly signed up for the beta under my own gamertag, so I started playing it myself. It also meant I could actually understand what was going on [laughs], which is normal for like 90% of video games – you’re alone in a booth, and you only see your lines. Luckily, I work with a director who reads the other lines, that way it’s like I’m playing off of somebody, but not every director does that.
I started seeing the reception online and miHoYo did too, and that kind of changed how we did some voiceover at that point, because I specifically remember them thinking that Paimon might be too mean. They were like, ‘Tone down the sassiness’, and I was like, ‘Oh, but I like that’. Then the beta came out and everybody kept on saying how much they liked when Paimon was sassy, and so they were like ‘Okay, be as sassy as you want.’ [laughs]
TSA: Just how difficult is it for you to put on the Paimon voice?
Boettger: It’s not that hard for me. I’m naturally a high-pitched person and so Paimon is just [in Paimon voice] switching into my higher register, that’s all! [laughs] Basically, you want to get to a point in voice acting where a character’s voice is always easy for you. If you’re doing something that’s really hard for you, you could possibly damage your vocal cords. Your vocal cords don’t fix themselves 100% once they’re damaged, so once they’re damaged, your vocal register is changed forever.
When I originally auditioned for Paimon, I actually had her set closer to my natural tone. Once I booked the character, that was when I sat there with miHoYo for a good 30-40 minutes and they were like, ‘Okay, we want it higher – go higher – can you go higher?’, and it kept getting higher until we’re at the highest point of my register, and then they were like ‘Now just add breathiness, we want a whole bunch of breathiness to make it more ethereal, to have that ethereal feeling for Paimon.’ So yeah, that was definitely a direction.
TSA: You mentioned the community responded well to Paimon’s sassiness at the start, so it’s interesting that reactions from the wider audience were more divisive, with many finding her very annoying. Does that feedback have any effect on you?
Boettger: No, because Paimon is supposed to be annoying. Anytime they’re like, ‘I don’t like Paimon, they’re annoying’, I’m like, ‘Good, I did my job!’ [laughs] Paimon was always meant to be over-talkative, over-explaining, over-exaggerated and in English, [miHoYo] were like, ‘We really do want Paimon to speak in third person’. Again, I don’t necessarily know why, but that’s what they wanted from the beginning. They even talked to me about how in other languages it’s harder to have Paimon speak in third person all the time because other languages have different rules about their language, but in English, we can actually do that all the time!
Maybe it’s just because I’m a lot like Paimon in the sense that I talk a lot, and I’ve been called annoying by a lot of people because I talk too much, and I’ve also over-explained things and stuff like that, so I relate to Paimon in that way. I’ve always liked characters that do that because as a person who is neurodivergent, sometimes spelling it out for me is what I need! [laughs]
TSA: A cutesy talkative companion is also just a common trope character in these kind of games too, much like Navi in Ocarina of Time. So were you already familiar with this character type yourself?
Boettger: It’s funny that you say that because Navi was another character that everybody always said, ‘Oh, that character is annoying’, and I was always like why? I absolutely adored Navi as a kid. That was at a time when voiceover roles were not in video games at all, so the fact that they had the little bits of voiceover that they even did, which was basically just Navi, blew my mind. I always wanted to be Navi, and now basically I am!
TSA: How do you deal with the fan reactions? Is it best to just embrace those who love Paimon and just ignore the haters?
Boettger: Bottom line is there’s always going to be haters in every game or fandom, no matter what, but they don’t sign my paychecks. [laughs] You can not like a character all you want and that’s totally fine. I’ve had plenty of people that said, “I don’t like Paimon but I like you as a person,” and as a voice actor and I respect that – you’ve every right to not like the character, but you’re smart enough to associate that I’m still a human being and I exist.
There is also a difference between flat-out hating and actual criticism, and criticism is also fine, but the bottom line is that anybody who criticises is, well, they’re not the client. The client is miHoYo, and as long as I do what miHoYo wants, I’m doing my job correctly.
TSA: It’s interesting that it took a couple months after launch before the voice actors were officially revealed. How difficult was it waiting for that?
Boettger: That was really frustrating, especially because certain people were also claiming to be Paimon’s voice actor, or they would start doing impressions without making it very clear to their fandom that they are not the voice. Mind you, Karen Strassman is an amazing actor who never once claimed to be Paimon in Genshin Impact but she apparently voices a character called Paimon in an entirely different show, so I got a lot of people actively fighting me, saying ‘You’re not the voice of Paimon, Karen Strassman is’. She’s a titan in the industry, so thank you for thinking that I am her, but also she’s an alto – she can’t even reach the decibels that I have!
I also stream on Twitch, and have been streaming a lot of Genshin Impact lately as well, but I didn’t start playing the game until I was announced, so that way I could stream my first reaction to the game and say I was in the game. Jackie Lastra, who plays Xiangling, was already streaming the game before she could announce. She was like, ‘I basically just stayed away from my character so that way I wouldn’t accidentally say anything’. And I was like, that’s fun for you – my character exists in everything!
TSA: Speaking of other Paimons, there’s fans who are making links with a mythical demon king called Paimon who’s one of Lucifer’s servants and what that could mean for the character. Do you pay attention to these different fan theories yourself?
Boettger: I stay away from fan theories as much as possible, because the bottom line is that I don’t even know what’s going to happen. NDAs are so strict in video games, and you as a voice actor are on a need-to-know basis. So I get questions like, ‘Where does Paimon come from?’ and I’m like, as far as I know, Paimon was fished out of the ocean, so that’s it. I would love to participate in talking about those fan theories, but I can’t because I’m under NDA, I don’t want to give off the impression that I’m actually giving thought to a fan theory because it’s true.
When I stream, I’ve had people ask me a question and I’ll say, ‘I know nothing about that’, and then they will literally respond with, ‘Then it is true! I saw it in your smile’. I’m autistic. There is nothing happening on my face that is showing you anything, and I know that because I’m autistic!
TSA: But you still like engaging with fans though?
Boettger: I really like streaming because it’s a good way of getting in contact with the fans, and I also like talking about the behind the scenes. When I play through the game, that’s when I remember that certain things happened because the scene will trigger that memory in my brain all of a sudden for me.
Usually, it’s a lot of pronunciation things because I’ve been told by miHoYo that I’m the best at pronouncing the Chinese words, but my problem is apparently the English words. My director has been letting it be known very loud and clearly that I don’t pronounce words correctly, but I believe he doesn’t pronounce words correctly! We worked on AI: The Somnium Files together so we’re actually really good friends. He gives me a hard time when I can’t pronounce stuff like dandelion, but I am pronouncing it right. He says it’s ‘dan-da-lion’ – he’s wrong, it’s ‘dan-di-lion’. I will die on that hill!
[Ed – You’re obviously right, and he is very wrong.]
TSA: Funnily enough, there also seem to be inconsistencies with the ways different characters pronounce the Chinese names in the game, especially Liyue.
Boettger: Here’s my thing: we’re all native English-speaking people trying to say certain words that have phonic intonations that don’t exist in English. miHoYo is on the line on every single recording to make sure we try to do as close as we can to how it should be pronounced, but then my director, who’s from Boston, also said, ‘Depending on where you’re from in Boston, you pronounce Boston really differently.’ And that’s totally true. In Louisiana, there’s people who pronounce New Orelans differently, even though it’s the same city. I’m from Seattle originally and we have a lot of places named after Native Americans. I mean, Seattle was named after Chief Seattle, but we also have a place called Snohomish, and watching certain people pronounce it differently, it’s just different people come from different backgrounds and they might pronounce things differently and that’s kind of where we’ve decided to take it.
TSA: Since you’re playing quite a lot of Genshin Impact yourself, what’s your party pick?
Boettger: I main Mona – Mona’s the best! I am lucky enough when I’m streaming that people were kind enough to donate money so that I could get Mona because that was my main goal. The only characters I’m missing are Klee and Venti, only because they happened before I was able to play and say which character I was. So I’m hoping that they’ll come back because Klee is disgustingly broken! That’s the character that my director mains as and it’s hilarious to just have him come into my world with Klee and just wreck everything with that tiny little girl. My main line-up right now though is Mona, Xinyan, Fischl and Qiqui.
We’d like to thank Corina for taking the time to chat with us. For more on Genshin Impact, check out our launch day review.