Troy Baker Turned Down ‘Borderlands 3’ Because Gearbox ‘Wouldn’t Go Union’

Borderlands 3 is missing one of the series' star voices, and it seems like it’s because of a dispute over how developer Gearbox handles unions.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a35nge/troy-baker-turned-down-borderlands-3-because-gearbox-wouldnt-go-union

This kind of thing is how so many Gearbox employees wind up in the VO booth for their games. Their “New Media” director plays Tyreen. Props to Troy Baker for holding the line.

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This sucks and makes me feel quite icky.

Yeah, I know this sounds pretty bad, but OTOH, they got the lovely tones of Chris fucking Hardwick, so, who can say really?

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I don’t understand this.

How is the reason that they didn’t hire him “he’s in the union” when they have several other people also in the union working for them? I don’t get it. From no perspective does Gearbox’s take on this this make sense.

It seems like one of three things is missing:

  1. Baker said “all union or I’m not doing it”
  2. He wanted more money than Gearbox wanted to pay him
  3. Internal Gearbox politicking that PR is trying to make go away.
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It sounds like this one is the case, if you look at the VG247 article.

As for other SAG-AFTRA actors doing voice work on the game, I checked the SAG rules and the relevant one states:

No member shall render any services or make an agreement to perform services for any employer who has not executed a basic minimum agreement with the Union, which is in full force and effect, in any jurisdiction in which there is a SAG-AFTRA national collective bargaining agreement in place. This provision applies worldwide.

So I guess it hangs on what the agreement that SAG has with Gearbox entails. It could be that Baker wanted more union actors that the agreement requires.

I guess he could also have a personal beef with Randy Pitchford and the union thing is just a cover, but I feel like if that were the case he would be vaguer about it instead of saying that Gearbox wouldn’t go union.

Now Polygon has an article up with a response from a Gearbox spokesperson to the effect that Texas law prohibited them from hiring only Union actors. I’m not familiar enough with Texas’ Right to Work law to say whether that’s an accurate representation, but that’s Gearbox’ official line anyway.

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It’s amazing how like… When the first trailer for BL3 dropped I was so excited, I was gonna buy it day one, I was that person.

Then this, then the allegations from Claptrap’s VA, then the DLC that mocked those allegations, then the way they absolutely destroyed that one Youtuber for daring to just report on the game, and just. I’m never playing BL3. I just can’t. It’s too Yikes. And I was the sure thing for this game!! Sigh.

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Ugh, just when I think Gearbox couldn’t have handled this game worse they find a new way.

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Isn’t this pretty much the same reason Capcom didn’t bring back the original voice actors for Resident Evil 2 this year?

Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning that Randy Pitchford and his company are trying to screw over Bobby “I COMPOSED FUCKING DOOM” Prince out of his royalties in Duke Nukem 3D because the fuckery never ends with this horny magician.

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Gearbox was never good, and I won’t act like I didn’t play Opposing Firce or enjoy Borderlands 1 a bit when they came out but like, just about everything they’re involved in goes to shit and Randy Pitchfird is such a dogshit human, I don’t get how they even still exist.

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That update is so fucking precious. It’s blatantly trying to obfuscate the issue and save face by making sure to name-drop the Texas union-labor law even though it is completely immaterial to the discussion at hand. The story isn’t centered around Baker not being offered the role, it is about Baker actively choosing not to take the role as it would be undermining the unions efforts and leverage in future negotiations. Baker taking that stand in support of the union is the noteworthy part of the story, Borderlands looking like garbage is just a byproduct of it.

Gearbox trying to draw attention away from that point just makes them seem scared that the status quo might be changing. They know that if more stories like this get out there of Voice Actors or other well regarded industry people start taking exception to this practice it won’t just affect the product, but also the fans general disposition towards the product. It’s a simple proposition: If you want to deliver a strong product supported by SAG-AFTRA, get your shit together, establish unions and pay the fuck up.

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Hey at least he got to turn it down. Namco didn’t even contact him for Tales of Vesperia.

This shit is super confusing.

Gearbox is correct about the letter of Texas’ “Right to Work” (are those quotes scary enough?) laws forbidding union membership as a requirement to be hired or keep a job. So on the face of it, it seems like they can’t make their productions union shops.

But also more than half the states in the US have right-to-work laws, including some like Georgia and North Carolina where tons of movie and TV production take place. I don’t get it.

Anyway, I’m enjoying another round of games journalists making broad proclamations based on ten minutes of Googling labor laws (I call this The Telltale Story Method) instead of actually talking to labor lawyers who might actually understand this stuff.

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What I don’t get about Gearbox’s response is that they’re already using union talent such as Ray Chase, who replaced Troy Baker as Rhys.

It seems that Troy wanted Gearbox to sign an union exclusive contract, or at least make this game union exclusive, which the PR statement says is against Texas law.

Based on other participants being members of the same union, it seems that their contract offer meets union minimum requirements, but isn’t exclusive.

Am I missing something here?

That seems like a pretty accurate summary of the facts as presented.

The curveball is that, to my understanding, union members can get in a lot of trouble for doing non-union work (some of Ashely Burch’s most famous roles were done under a pseudonym for this reason) and SAG’s contracts are all or nothing. If one person is doing the job under a union contract, the whole shop has to be union.

If it was anyone but Gearbox, I would assume this was a standard dispute over rights negotiated long before digital storefronts were a thing, but I’m not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Kotaku has SAG-AFTRA’s response to Gearbox’ claim about right-to-work as an update to their original post.

Basically: “We’re not idiots, so obviously our agreements take right-to-work laws into account.”