Last week, over on my blog, I wrote a piece detailing the flaws of the industry, the people involved in it, and those who engage in the creative output it produces. I called this magnificent opus “Fuck Videogames.”
Bugger me if it didn’t ruffle a lot of feathers. A lot of people on both sides of the fence have taken my little rant very seriously. Some people see it as a passionate call-to-arms, a checklist of everything wrong with the games industry today. Other people seem to think I’m a charlatan. Well good news! Everybody’s right!
Let me make this clear: “Fuck Videogames” was not written to grab attention or to re-launch the blog or to piss people off. It wasn’t an attempt to troll the industry. It wasn’t a temper tantrum about being unable to get onto the Diablo III servers (I’m not buying Diablo III until the price drops below the $20 mark, which means I’m probably not buying Diablo III at all), and it wasn’t how my brain chose to process the lack of a fourth TimeSplitters game.
The truth is far less exciting than I’m sure you’re hoping: I’m pissed off with the general condition of the industry, its coverage, and its consumer base. I decided to vent that frustration.
I used a lot of “fucks.” Apparently this left a lot of people upset or frustrated in some way (hello, NeoGAF!). It seems some people are unable to cope with a point, salient or otherwise, if it’s wrapped in 150-or-so “fucks.” God help these people if they ever discover old George Carlin tapes, Penny Arcade, or Yo, Is This Racist?
If you’re a gamer and you got pissed off with me saying “fuck” over and over again, stop and look at your goddamn videogame library for, I don’t know, seven seconds. Spend just two minutes listening to the people you play Call of Duty with. Arguing that my point is invalid because I used the word “fuck” to express it is like complaining about a candy bar because you didn’t like the wrapper.
Another rather brilliant argument is one I’ve seen in a couple of places. “Oh, he’s making some good points, sure, but is he offering any solutions? I don’t think so. What a loser!” Let’s ignore for a minute the notion that you’ve apparently decided that it’s up to some guy on Tumblr who you already feel uses the word “fuck” far too often to take it upon himself to fix an entire fucking industry, and skip to the part where—and I can’t stress this enough—“Fuck Videogames” is not an article.
It’s not. It’s not an op-ed, it’s not an essay, and it barely even qualifies as a blog post. I did not spend any time sitting in a meadow contemplating the woes and worries, trials and tribulations, problems and pitfalls of this whole videogame thing. I didn’t want to. If I were going to offer solutions the post would have been called “Here’s How to Fix This Industry.”
As it was the post was literally me browsing to Tumblr, clicking “new text post,” and typing “fuck” over and over again until my fingers were raw. Arguing “he’s not offering any solutions!” is tantamount to listening to Eminem’s “Mosh,” hearing the critique of George W. Bush’s White House amidst all the profanity, and then smugly responding that it’s bullshit because there’s not one alternative suggestion throughout the entire five minutes and seventeen seconds of song. If you’re going to hate “Mosh,” by the way, hate it because it’s bad.
One point I made that has been something of a discussion point is my mention of just how little voice actors get paid for their work in video games. I have a few voice actors in my circle of friends, many of whom have done vast amounts of work in some of your favorite games, and most of whom are struggling to make ends meet. These aren’t newcomers to the field; some of these guys are established names. Some are part of your childhood and you probably don’t even know it.
We talk about the industry often, and one of the things I am constantly shocked by is just how little voice actors are paid. The average for a single session seems to be somewhere around $400 and recording dialogue for a principal character can usually be done in around three sessions.
Gigs that only pay $200-300 for a single session are not uncommon either. Chances are that game you’re working your way through right now features several voices by a number of actors who are wondering how they’re going to make rent at the end of the month. Some of them may even have a second job to help cover the bills.
“But Ben, you dolt,” I hear you cry. “Even assuming a single session is four hours, that means these voice actors are earning $50 an hour! That’s more than I earn for an hours’ worth of giving blowjobs to horses.”
That may be so, but here’s the kicker: you’re probably working away at that fine equine cock for a 40-hour week. A voice actor, even a talented voice actor, even a well-known voice actor, may only book a small handful of gigs a month. That’s if they’re lucky. So as terrible as your job deep-throating Seabiscuit may be, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re earning more money doing that than you would be if you were pretending to be someone else at a microphone.
Sucks, doesn’t it? And the worst part is that the developers – or it might be the publishers, I’ve never really been clear on that point – get away with it and get away with not offering residuals to voice actors because they tell SAG that videogames don’t make money. Silly considering the industry is worth $65 billion. $65 billion! You really think they can’t spare any of that money to help a bunch of voice actors buy their groceries?
Voice actors aren’t the only people who get fiscally boned by game development. The financial backbone of this entire industry is crooked, from the talent working on the game itself to the prices being charged for the finished product. Frankly, I don’t know why we’ve put up with it for so long, but I imagine nobody will bother to do anything about it.
But I’m still playing games. I love games, which is why the state of the industry pains me so much. Videogames are a part of my DNA, and it hurts – it genuinely aches inside – to see the industry in the state it’s in.