So I recently read an interesting article from Polygon (a site I'd recommend to anyone who hasn't yet taken notice):
I originally made a status linking to the article and followed it up with a comment to share my opinions on it. As I was writing it out, I realised there's a lot here to discuss - I've not been concise and probably not particularly articulate, I'm just writing my thoughts as they come to me.
Personally, I think I'd have to agree with Nathan Fillion and Jen Taylor, in regard that voice actors are never going to have the status power as to dictate terms in a contract to include a percentage share of game sale profits. I honestly think it's a good thing that voice actors aren't treated like celebrities, that we can see them as people that just work hard for an industry we love. I find celebrity worship rather disgusting and whilst I can appreciate their talents and creativity, I do find it sickening how much they can be paid for their trade - same thing with sports players - but I suppose that's just capitalism and the reality of our society.
Whilst voice actors certainly don't have as much power as an actor at the negotiation table, I think they can still make a name for themselves. I don't know anyone who is interested in the medium who doesn't know the names Nolan North and Jennifer Hale and I don't think it's a problem that people outside the industry might not. When someone says Snake, you think of David Hayter. When someone says Sam Fisher, you think of Michael Ironside (unless you're really young). I was watching a Youtube video recently of Elias Toufexis discussing his work in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and he pointed out that despite his stints into TV and film, he is probably best known for his work as the voice of Adam Jensen in Deus Ex: Human Revolution (although I quite enjoyed him on Alphas).
I do think perhaps voice actors as a whole could be better recognised though. I think the one thing MGS did for David Hayter's reputation as a voice actor that other games don't do enough is put their names in the starting segment of games similar to TV shows or even as characters are introduced.
Not only does it give the game a bit of a cinematic feeling to it but it helps reinforce the name of the characters in the game as well as make a connection between the character and the voice actor to the player. For the longest time, whenever I heard Cam Clarke's voice in video games, I thought that's "James Flinders" because he used it as his acting name for Liquid Snake and I made that mental connection between the voice, the game character and the voice actor.
There are a lot of well recognised voice actors within the working community of the industry but as consumers, there are probably a lot of people who recognise the voice but don't associate it with any name. For example, if I was to say Emily Rose, would you be able to tell me the gaming role she probably is most well known for? If you recognised the name and know who she is, was it because of her work in the Uncharted Series or was it because of her work in the TV series Haven? Do you know who Yuri Lowenthal is? How about Raphael Sbarge? Or Michael Bell? Troy Baker? These are voice actors who have worked just as long within the industry as Nolan North and Jennifer Hale and have probably been in just as many projects and even worked together numerous times. Do you know who the voice actors for Mass Effect's Garrus, Tali, Liara, Wrex are? I am willing to bet there are more people that know who the voice actors for "Joker" and The Illusive Man are purely because of their celebrity status.
I don't think voice actors need star power and I don't believe they should be held up to the point that they get paid large sums of money or game studios try to cater to them to have that triple A voice talent. I do think, however, they should be recognised for their work and the way MGS did it really helps a voice actor in getting that recognition. Perhaps actors need to get paid more but I can't really speak on the matter because I don't know the work and wages involved and the cost of games is ever increasing.
Then comes the question, why do they deserve the recognition over the countless other people involved in the game's development? What about the writers and the programmers and other developers? I think the medium does serve some writers and developers better than others. We know Ken Levine, we know Casey Hudson, we know Hideo Kojima, I myself am a big fan of Amy Hennig. These writers have their names well publicised and attached to the products they work on, their names are even in the starting credits at times but what about those other games we loved and enjoyed who's works were not publicized in anyway? I honestly don't know who the writers for Red Dead Redemption were.
Do we even want credit outside of the ending? Perhaps some of you think it is harmful to immersion to not only have a name shown to you mid-game but also to make a mental association that this voice you're hearing is of a real person outside this game. Should it be our prerogative to find out who worked on these games or should the industry help bring recognition to them more easily?
Anyway, I'd really like to hear the community's opinions and discussions on the article and on the points I hopefully raised. Perhaps you have your own ideas on how to go about recognising the work of people in games. Speak out and let your voice be heard!