Author: Robert Mullarkey
Computing graduate who works in an office. Still finds enough time to watch a lot of anime and play a lot of video games
Troy Baker MCM Scotland 2018
Scheduled at 1pm today; along with several other journalists and members of the press, I was to interview Troy Baker and Nolan North. Expecting a rather laid back affair discussing the voice work of both actors and their latest joint adventure in the world of lets play style youtube videos, I sat down expecting a round of questioning from myself and the other participants. We were in for something rather different.
We were informed that Nolan North would not be able to attend due to unexpected queue size of his autograph session, so we would speak with Troy for now. At first I thought Troy would come in, make small talk and we'd wait for Nolan to finish up signings. Again my expectations proved wrong.
When Troy arrived he wasted no time at all delving into an impassioned speech about the nature of the games industry and the nature of games journalism. This was brought upon by the sudden and tragic news of the closure of Telltale Games yesterday. Troy having worked with them on several projects, most notably Rhys in Tales from the Borderlands, expressed his love, admiration and respect for the studio and their accomplishments. Further emphasising how saddened he was by news. He mentioned how they were a company that had a very creative work flow taking on multiple projects with huge franchises and big name talent attached to them. He further commented on what it says about the industry that the work they do doesn't get sales.
On the back of this he also expressed how he is proud of other people in the games industry coming in and helping out their own in troubling times like these. Citing Cory Barlog and Santa Monica studios as one of the champions of this practice of helping out those in the industry who suddenly lose their jobs in relation to Telltales closure. From this you can tell how deeply this news had affected him and how he had to get this off his chest. Troy continued to make mention of friends he had at that studio are now jobless, projects they had discussed now having to be cancelled. From this Troy expressed his relief that games development is an industry that takes care of its own people. Which is a farcry from how the movie industry works. Stating that one of the reasons for this is that developers are fans of each others work and social media allows people spread across it to keep in touch and do amazing things for each other sometimes.
Troy took a short pause to state why he brings up these points about games industry is that we(the press people in the room) have a responsibility to be the mouth piece and to be critical of things in the industry. He elaborated further in stating by being critical its not to be harsh or mean but to provide criticism both positive and negative. He stated when you write reviews and are a critic. Be a critic. Don't go out of your way to skew how you approach a game review in a way that will get more clicks and views. On the back of that he stated the problem with the industry using meta critic is the example of executives using it as a tool to determine if further projects are cancelled or people are fired based solely on a game getting less than 1 point that the publisher was hoping for. He further stated that in America right now the press is under attack which is a strange thing to watch from the sidelines.
He went on further to discussing the nature of criticism, stating the entire development process of creating a game from nothing is amazing and a miracle. At this time an audience member chimed in with the problem witb game criticism on a general scale is that the people criticising games don't know about the effort it takes to make a game and judge it solely on the product presented to them. At which point Troy agreed and stated that a company not sending review codes is a red flag, as embargo are in place if they use the excuse of leaks. He went on to state that games journalists have an obligation to play the game in order to write about it. Tying into an anecdote from earlier. Troy again expressed his dissatisfaction at telltales closure stating that they'll be no season 2 of tales from the borderlands and how happy he was signing autpgraphs today whenever someone said their name was Rhys.
After this he stated how much he cares for this industry and really respects the work journalists and critics do. He then discussed the issue that I and several other reviewers face. Staring at a blank page with a blinking cursor and trying to write "an intelligent piece about how something made you feel or what you feel it did from the industry" this statement alone pretty much sums up what a review should be. These words really spoke to me. When I review things I try to state what I liked, the intention behind something and what it adds new to the table. To hear Troy fully understand being a critic with just a short statement really shows his passion and knowledge for criticism and reviewing. He further elaborated that those who just shout out that something is dumb should attempt to justify it by writing it down in a complete way that is quantifiable by them fully experiencing what they are criticising.
At this point an audience member asked his thoughts on Jim Sterling. Troy got into a discussion about Jim mainly calling out things in the industry rather than giving praise. Further elaborating on him being someone who will stick it to the man and someone who has created a persona in order to do so. Stated he's met and talked with him a few times but doesn't believe he's met the real Jim Sterling. He's met the man behind the pulpit. A persona he owns that works well for him. He proceeded further to state we don't need another Jim Sterling we need more people like us in the audience. And proceded to ask one of the journalists their name and who they write for. The journalist was from a cosplay magazine. Troy stated that people like her is what we need.
Troy then went on to tell an anecdote relating to the last of us 2 being leaked. Tied into this he talked about his respect for Neil Druckman(naughty dog's vice president) as he likes to obsess over the smallest detail so made sure the trailer was perfect and then it got leaked. He also talked about an incident where a project got leaked as someone took a picture on set. He further tied it back into how difficult games are to make. Discussing crunch times and deadlines and stated that development time can take up to 3 years and all thst had work and time can be ruined by someone leaking it just for clicks.
With this point he tied it back into the nature of reviewing and criticism. A system that is decades old and ingrained in us to either like something or not. Reitterating for us to take our time when criticising. To give it a fair review. An audience member chimed in that as a society we like bad news and reviews. If we hear something got a good score or review we won't read it. But if it got a bad review, we want to know why. This led into a discussion were we stated how easy it is to write negatives compared to positives and how serious a positive review will be taken. The notion of the "paid review" was also brought up.
The last point Troy brought up is that game development was simpler back in the previous generation days when there was no marketing, need for franchising and huge costs for large scale development teams. He stated the reason he and Nolan started retro replay is because these games are hard and thats the fun. Figuring it out.
Before finishing Troy was quickly asked what he thinks about people cosplaying the characters he voiced. His answer "it's amazing" he further elaborated thst it feels like the thing ihe was involved in feels alive still as art he's involved in has created art.
While not the interview I was expecting. It blew away my expectations. To have what was pretty much a 20 minute lecture/discussion of this nature was truly special. The take-away here is that Troy Baker is a kind, caring and intelligent man who truly cares about the industry he's apart of. I'd like to thank MCM and Troy Baker personally for this experience
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