The Writer Within IX

LEVEL 9: Voicing Reviews


When I review a game, I review it based on the product in hand. I don’t bring any background information into it, I do my best to avoid all information on a game when I know beforehand I will be reviewing it. If I’m not reviewing, I try to avoid information on it as to keep myself surprised and completely blind going into an experience. I hate spoilers.

When it comes to the people making the game, I’ll give them praise if I find something particular that they’ve nailed or if they’ve crafted something unique. I’ll also call them out on anything they’ve done that is wrong or problematic. That’s about it. I don’t care about their social standings, personal beliefs, or anything unrelated to what I have in my hands. If I did, and if they were truly vile people, I wouldn’t have their product at all in the first place.

In a series of tweets from Kotaku writer Heather Alexander, an interesting thing was pointed out… Well, a couple of things.

The voice actors Capcom has opted to go with are non-union, and it’s explained that due to the position the writer is in, they cannot get out of writing this review as they did with Before The Storm due to this. It is then requested that readers of this upcoming review keep this information in mind when they read it and that it’ll also be brought up during the actual review. If my understanding is correct, I disagree with this mindset and I’ll explain why.

Before we get into that, let me make my stance on unions clear and my thoughts on covering these topics. I’m actually in the middle when it comes to unions based on my experiences, but I don’t think they are wrong and they do help people that companies would otherwise love to take advantage of. When it comes to topics like unions, sexual harassment, money embezzlement, etc. I think these are subjects that need to be covered and perpetrators of evil need to be exposed.

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I do not think a review is the place for it though.

When anyone is preparing to buy anything and look for a review on the product that they’ll be getting, in this case, video games, and in voice acting in particular, it’s as simple as if the actor/actress did a good job or not. You’d really have to stretch things to be able to mention whether or not the actors are union or not. The only situation I can see where mentioning it may make some sense or have some purpose, is if one actor replaced another in a sequel for comparison sake but, even then, union wouldn’t really matter as much as it is a developer choice. If the developer really wanted that actor or actress, they’d wait till the strike ends. So, as an example for this game, if I was reviewing Resident Evil 2 Remake, I’d tell you if Leon’s voice actor is authentic, if he comes across as realistic, and/or if he fumbles his lines. The only time I, personality, would ever bring into a review another voice actor for comparison sake is if they changed the voice actor of a character who can be identified by the actor. For example, if Platinum Games changed Bayonetta’s voice actress.

This goes for reading a review too. Telling me in a review that a character’s voice is great, but it would have been better if the original actor reprised their role but couldn’t because of a union strike, well, that does a disservice to the actor that was able to provide vocals. We cannot review games on what could have been or because of outside influences that may or may not have affected the game, we can only review what the player is experiencing.

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It feels, at times, we as journalist and writers want to tackle so many things and make the world a better place that we want to shoehorn these important talking points into every conversation but, sometimes, it’s alright to say that it doesn’t fit or to best save it for something else. Also, I don’t think a company’s preferences or decisions should affect the game’s score if it’s not in the game. For example, I’m not going to talk the Sound section of a review because voice actors are/aren’t union. Now, I’m not saying that’s what Heather is/has/or going to do. She doesn’t come across that way at all, just using an example.

That’s my take on this particular situation, I’m not saying she’s right or wrong, just offering a counterpoint.

Another topic that was addressed, was avoiding a game because of the non-union actors being used. I’m conflicted on that one. I can understand about being so passionate about something that you are willing to not allow yourself to partake in something you’ll enjoy but, at the same time, I think of more than just one aspect of a situation. Should the writers, programs, animators, and artists suffer because of one particular situation? Maybe it’s the writer in me but I’m a sucker the story and if I get involved with a game or series, I have to see it through.

I’d love to know and hear what everyone else thinks on this so, please, comment down below and let me know.

Have your say!

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