So there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Borderlands 3 even well before it ever hit retail shelves. one of the many instances of fan outrage and confusion concerned one of the most well-known voice actors in video games, Troy Baker. You see, back in April of this year, it was announced that the legendary voice actor would not be returning to the newest mainline game in the franchise. Fans were stunned and concerned that his titular character Rhys, who was beloved by many when he featured heavily in Tales From the Borderlands from Telltale, and it led to a lot of people asking a lot of questions. And it turns out, that there’s just one more reason for fans and gamers in general to be upset at Gearbox, based on statements from Baker.
This was of course just one of many confusing and outrageous things concerning Gearbox and Borderlands 3 in the last few months. Gearbox and Randy Pitchford have sort of been a punching bag for the last few months over various choices made with the development of their latest AAA release. Some of the outrage was more justified than other instances, like Pitchford allegedly pushing employee bonuses into other projects or assaulting another voice actor, but this latest instance certainly isn’t a good look.
Initially, it appeared as though Baker had refused to return to voicing Rhys, based on statements from Pitchford as told to him from other sources.
And then fans had to reconcile this with other statements from the actor himself. For example, this seemingly contradicting statement from Baker in an interview with OnlySP.
“I said I would love to come back,” he said. “[Gearbox Software] said I’m not coming back. Their timeline tells an interesting story. I think it’s interesting that Randy Pitchford tweeted out that I turned it down, and then he said he heard that I turned it down. I would fact check before I tweeted out to the internet.”
Troy Baker spoke candidly about the decision during Supanova Melbourne saying, “I really want Gearbox to know – if they are going to bring back characters from Telltale’s Borderlands, it should be the people who originated the characters. They shouldn’t just recast willy-nilly, because as a fan that matters to me.”
So it would seem like he was very willing, but there was a major wrench in the works. Speaking further on the matter though, Baker had a lot more to say. Specifically he spoke about the refusal on the part of Gearbox to honor certain obligations laid out in a union contract that Baker was bound by. And since the company refused, he declined the role.
Speaking further in an interview with VG247, “No, it was simply a matter of they wouldn’t go union,” he replied. “And I can’t do a non-union gig. And without getting too deep into the weeds of that, we had long conversations about this. We always knew going into it, that this was going to be the thing. They were going to take these characters, and put them from the Tales from the Borderlands series from Telltale, into Borderlands proper. I’ve been waiting for this call. They were like, ‘Do you want to do this?’ And I said, ‘Yes’. They never, because they would never move from that position. I’m not mad. It’s invariably a completely different character, but it still stings.”
Union contracts are a difficult thing, as there are always different laws and bylaws at play, and with each industry there’s also unspoken rules that the union workers often abide by. It seems like this is a mix of all that and some personal feeling of obligation on the part of Baker. He obviously wanted to return, but political elements and a decision by Gearbox not to honor those conditions got in the way.
Gearbox just cannot catch a break this week. First they’re included as defendants in a lawsuit over copyright infringement, and now this. It is definitely not a good look for the game company if they refused to honor a union-backed contract in the current political climate of the games industry. Voice actors already went on strike once before, and with renewed pushes for better labor practices, refusing to cooperate with the will of workers is not going to go over well.