My Favourite Game

The voice of Joel and Delsin speaks out on Un­charted, game writ­ing, and blis­ter­ing his fin­gers while play­ing Cen­tipede

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Ac­tor Troy Baker on Cen­tipede­b­lis­tered fin­gers and Un­charted

Troy Baker is fast be­com­ing one of the most recog­nis­able ac­tors in games, with a list of roles that in­cludes Joel from The Last Of Us, In­fa­mous: Sec­ond Son’s Delsin Rowe, and now Nathan Drake’s older brother, Sam, in Un­charted 4. De­spite his suc­cess, Baker didn’t plan to have a ca­reer in games. He has worked in film, TV and anime, and once had his sights set on rock’n’roll star­dom.

Have you al­ways been into games? It’s a lit­tle bit of a fairy­tale story, be­cause six or seven years ago when I first moved to LA and played Un­charted, there’s not one bit of me that thought I would be in the game, much less play­ing the older brother to Nate Drake. I don’t know if you’re a fan of Dead­wood, but there’s a won­der­ful line in it that says the best way to hear God laugh is to an­nounce your plans. And this is not at all where I thought life was go­ing to take me. To begin with, I knew with­out a shadow of a doubt that I was go­ing to be on the cover of Rolling Stone [laughs]. Do you find act­ing in games makes it eas­ier to in­habit a char­ac­ter than in film or TV, or is there no dif­fer­ence? I think the per­for­mances should be the same; it’s the pre­sen­ta­tion that changes. I can age 20 years in a game and be not only this car­ing fa­ther but also a bru­tal, dev­as­tat­ing man. That re­ally comes down to how it’s a team ef­fort. And I want it to stay that way, be­cause there are dozens, if not hun­dreds, of hands that ev­ery char­ac­ter and ev­ery frame of that story will pass through be­fore it comes to [the player]. It’s never go­ing to be, ‘Star­ring Troy Baker.’ That’s just not where games are. Be­cause I’m noth­ing, ab­so­lutely noth­ing, with­out the scores of peo­ple who are be­hind me.

What do you think about the gen­eral qual­ity of writ­ing in games? I think there’s a con­nec­tion that hasn’t been made with it. There’s a de­sired ef­fect, and there’s a lot of em­u­lat­ing, but not a lot of in­no­vat­ing that hap­pens – es­pe­cially within story. Peo­ple watch, say, Black Mir­ror and they think, ‘Oh, we’ve got to have a scene where a guy fucks a pig,’ be­cause it hit them in the gut. They want to con­vey that feel­ing, but they don’t break it down to why it hit them in the gut. So what you end up get­ting is a de­riv­a­tive of what they orig­i­nally felt [watch­ing it]. Ev­ery de­vel­oper wants to have the best level designer and the best back­ground artist, but then a lot of times when it comes to telling the story or craft­ing it, they go, “Well, you know how to tell a story…” and hand it off to some­one in­ter­nally, who could be com­pletely ca­pa­ble, but isn’t nec­es­sar­ily given the tools they need to achieve the de­sired re­sult. I can’t tell you the hours that Neil [Druck­mann] put into be­ing the best writer he could be. He took act­ing, writ­ing and di­rect­ing classes. He did the due dili­gence, and poured his heart into that game. So that’s why I love The Last Of Us, be­cause it cost every­body some­thing. And they gave it will­ingly; they were just blood­let­ting by the end.

How did you dis­cover games? I re­mem­ber the first time my dad brought home an In­tel­livi­sion, and play­ing Pong in my living room. I re­mem­ber the first time I ever saw Pac-Man be­ing wheeled into the su­per­mar­ket and go­ing, “What is that?” I re­mem­ber play­ing Cen­tipede and get­ting blis­ters on my fin­ger… But what’s in­ter­est­ing to me, more than the tech­nol­ogy change, more than de­vel­op­ers and pub­lish­ers like THQ ris­ing up one minute and then shut­ting their doors the next, [is that] I’ve seen gamers evolve. I’ve seen a cul­ture and a com­mu­nity of peo­ple come to­gether to form this con­tin­gent of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, this con­tin­gent of so­ci­ety.

Which game would you pick as your favourite? The na­ture of this ques­tion is why I love play­ing games, be­cause you can’t choose. There’s a lot. I love Zuma. It’s a stupid iPad game, but I can turn my brain off and the only nemesis I have is my­self, be­cause I just want to see how high a score I can get. And then there’s Shadow Of The Colos­sus, which was so ground­break­ing in the way that it told its story, the way that it played and how beau­ti­ful it looked. But I’m go­ing to have to go with – and sorry, I know you’re go­ing to have fun with this – The Last Of Us. I’ve played through it three times, and there’s still stuff I’m dis­cov­er­ing. I want to go through ev­ery room and build­ing and ex­plore, be­cause ev­ery part of it tells a story. I could spend the rest of my life ex­plor­ing that game.

“That’s why I love The Last Of Us, be­cause it cost every­body some­thing. They gave it will­ingly”

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