Editorial: At Long Last, Gaming Has Its Celebrity Class
Imagine you're a worldwide celebrity.
Your performances have been enjoyed by millions from America to the U.K. to Japan and everywhere in between. The work is hard, repetitive, and strenuous. It doesn't pay as well as other jobs where people do the same things but you have the benefit of walking down the street without being mobbed by fans. Every now and then though someone you speak to says, “Have we met?” even though you haven't.
I imagine that's something like the experience that popular voice and motion capture actors for video games have. I also get the feeling that this relatively small number of recognizable stars only well known to the hardcore gaming community is going to grow along with their fame.
Last generation I honestly couldn't tell you the names of any of the people doing the voices for my favorite characters. Nobody really cared aside from ultimate devotees of the likes of David Hayter as Snake in Metal Gear Solid. For the most part though, voices weren't particularly good anyway. Motion capture wasn't as widespread either, but things have changed quite a bit.
Now, at least within the daily online gaming community, we suddenly have a list of actors who have become regulars in our news headlines. We talk about their great performances, we monitor their Twitter feeds, we check their LinkedIn profiles for upcoming game hints, we watch their interviews, and now we even get involved in their drama.
As you may recall there was a bit of a flap regarding Ellen Page and the character design for Ellie in The Last of Us. Of course Ellen Page was previously known only for her Hollywood credentials but the fact that she plays the main character Jodie Holmes in Quantic Dream's upcoming Beyond: Two Souls made the little drama all that more relevant. In the end Page pointed out on her Twitter feed that credit for the performance behind Ellie goes to Ashley Johnson and that was what was important. Anyone who played Naughty Dog's post apocalyptic gem will agree that Johnson's portrayal of Ellie was masterful.
Speaking of The Last of Us, Mr. Troy Baker's role as Joel has been lauded by critics and gamers alike. The fact that he also voiced Booker DeWitt in this year's other Game of the Year contender Bioshock Infinite pretty much cements him as another gaming A-lister along with the likes of Nolan North from Uncharted (and just about every other game). I know gamers would give me guff if I didn't also mention Stephen Merchant as Wheatley from Portal 2 and probably Emily Rose of Uncharted fame as well.
The fact of the matter is that unless you are a coder yourself, it's easier to be a fan of a great acting performance than any individual person on a development team. I think we can all agree that developer and publisher types have a hard time gaining celebrity status; they just aren't that type. The rest usually end up garnering as much hate as they do respect. Hideo Kojima has a lot of fans, but he doesn't seem particularly approachable to the average person. The less said about developer hosted events at E3 the better as far as I'm concerned.
I think that as gaming keeps moving into the mainstream and the talent keeps making it into the headlines, gaming will become comfortable having its own celebrity class. It's a good thing too, instead of fans being preoccupied with wanting to be like the stars -as is often the case with the movie industry- we can focus on just enjoying their art.
7/25/2013 10:27:55 PM David D. Nelson