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During The Game Awards Thursday night, Nolan North drew ire for what some interpreted as an anti-union/anti-strike speech during his acceptance of the “Best Performance” award.
In his speech, North references the striker’s usage of “#PerformanceMatters,” and how important he views the developers and programmers work over his own. It’s a bit of a messy speech, but the real point he’s conveying is an acknowledgement that the people who pour their hearts and souls into making a game like Uncharted 4 are worth far more overall than his singular performance.
It’s easy to interpret this in a way that echoes what a lot of parties have said with regards to the SAG-AFTRA strike: why are voice actors so special they deserve more money? Shouldn’t the game developers and designers be getting more money? You don’t see them striking, do you?
There’s one big problem in following this line of thought, however: Nolan North is currently on strike with the SAG-AFTRA Union.
Early in November, North was interviewed by Kotaku UK, specifically to get a read on his thoughts about the then-nascent strike. The interview immediately starts with this passage:
From the get-go, North wanted to be clear about two things: he stands with his union and knows he has had different experience to other actors, so speaks only for himself and no-one else taking part in the strike.
The rest of the interview supports these claims, showing North talking about how he had never faced the issues other voice actors face, how he has acknowledged his position of privilege, and his realization of just how important it is that workers are properly compensated for their work. The article even ends with, “Nolan North stands with his union, and is joining in with the strike.” Wouldn’t it be a bit odd if, less than one month later, he completely flipped his stance?
The type of misinterpretation we’re dealing with is, unfortunately, very common. During situations such as strikes, where things people desire are being potentially blockaded by another party, many will grasp at any reason to justify their frustration. Unfortunately, the reason most have been finding, and the reason that causes the misinterpretation of this speech in the first place, is all a misunderstanding.
For some reason, arguments against the strike always seem to fall into that single fallacious notion, repeated ad nauseum across the internet: “Why should the voice actors be special? Does that mean that game developers and programmers should get big bonuses too?” What is frustrating about this notion is that it operates under the pretense that “More money = Greed,” rather than “More money = Fair compensation;” people in and around video game fields often forget, ignore, or plainly don’t know, that unions exist to represent employees, and to fight for their fair treatment.
Ultimately all of these points are just additive, since early Friday, voice actor Roger Craig Smith once again echoed these sentiments.
— Roger Craig Smith (@RogerCraigSmith) December 2, 2016
All in all, this type of situation is disappointing. It demonstrates something incredibly frustrating about journalism, which is writers ignoring research to spread their misinterpretations as fact. Hopefully unions can one day be portrayed as the helpful necessity they are, rather than a greedy scapegoat.