Why David Hayter deserves better
After a two-week hiatus I’m finally back in front of the keyboard, and it seems that I haven’t missed a lot. As usual the summer has brought a drought to the video games industry however the only thing of significance that occurred these past two weeks (at least for me) was the release of Splinter Cell: Blacklist. It may be scraping the bottom of the barrel but this is something worth discussing, not the actual game itself (that would be within the domain of a professional reviewer) but there’s one particular detail about Splinter Cell: Blacklist that pertains to voice acting.
For those of you unaware, Splinter Cell is a franchise of stealth-based games made by Ubisoft; they’re also the most successful division of the “Tom Clancy” games. Most of you have probably seen the iconic tri-goggles worn by main character Sam Fisher. Fisher is one of the best-known characters in the video game industry, no small part because of the talents of voice actor Michael Ironside. Ironside’s performance of the forty-year-old spy is well-respected among players however for the sixth installment (Blacklist), Eric Johnson has taken over the role of Sam Fisher. The reason for this is because the performance of Fisher now requires full-body motion capture, which Ironside is obviously unable to do. While fans are unhappy with this news, at the very least Ironside is happy to pass the torch to another actor, and has even admitted that he’s impressed by Johnson’s acting ability. However there is a similar thing happening in another long-running stealth franchise, one that’s even more popular than Splinter Cell.
For over a decade, the Metal Gear Solid franchise and its lead character Snake, have shaped the video game industry and probably inspired the aforementioned Splinter Cell franchise. David Hayter’s voice work as Snake is one the most famous performances in the history of video games. Several months ago, Hideo Kojima (the mastermind behind the Metal Gear Solid Franchise) revealed that a new actor would be stepping into the role for Metal Gear Solid 5. Snake will not be played by David Hayter, but instead by Kiefer Sutherland. You read that correctly, Sutherland, best known for his work on the television show 24, will be taking over as Snake. While I can understand Kojima’s enthusiasm for working with Sutherland (I certainly can’t blame him for it), it doesn’t seem fair that Hayter is essentially getting pushed aside and out of a role that Hayter has stated to be the most important work of his career. It’s even worse that Hayter wasn’t even asked to return, and is (according to several of his own tweets) unhappy with Kojima’s decision.
For a moment allow me to ignore the wishful possibility that Kojima is just screwing with us all (the man has done it before mind you). This move is a major slap in the face to David Hayter. Consider Kojima’s reasoning behind this, he wants an actor who can subtly portray a man in his forties through facial expressions and body language on top of the voice work. Apparently the ten years of playing Snake isn’t enough for Kojima; he wants someone more talented. That right there is an insult to Hayter. For a man who co-wrote the first two X-men movies and Watchmen, to admit that a playing a character in a video game is worth more than writing three blockbuster films is a significant display of loyalty. From a creative standpoint, recasting Snake could make sense (the character is getting older), however it isn’t right for Hayter to be tossed aside like this.
What bothers me most is the principle underlying Kojima’s decision. Sutherland is an outstanding actor, however I dislike the implication that having a professional actor star in a video game further “legitimizes” the game. Kojima sounds so excited that a tv actor is going to be in his game, but that implies that people who do “just’ video game work aren’t enough, and I think that’s garbage. I know I’m stretching things a bit here, but even the mild implication that voice actors like Jennifer Hale, Nolan North and Fred Tatascoire aren’t as talented as television actors is ridiculous. However you look at it Kojima’s decision is an odd one, and it’ll be just as odd to have Snake voiced by someone other than David Hayter. That being said, at the very least Sutherland is an incredible actor and the role of Snake is being left in good hands. Thanks for everything David Hayter, you will be missed.Photo Credit: fanboygaming.com