Troy Baker, best known as the voice behind The Last Of Us Part II’s Joel Miller, made trouble for himself overnight when he announced his support for a new NFT venture around monetizing artists’ voice work. “You can hate. Or you can create. What’ll it be?” he standoffish-ly tweeted. It didn’t take fans long to decide.
Update: 1/31/21, 9:41 a.m. ET: Baker had decided to stop creating and start hating. Two weeks after his initial announcement, the voice actor revealed on Twitter today that he’s reversing course and abandoning any involvement in VoiceVerseNFT.
Baker had previously expanded on his original NFT push, and apologized for the tone of the announcement, in a long and nuanced conversation on the Play, Watch, Listen podcast he co-hosts with Mike Bithell, Austin Wintory, and Alanah Pearce.
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“I’m partnering with VoiceverseNFT to explore ways where together we might bring new tools to new creators to make new things, and allow everyone a chance to own & invest in the IP’s they create,” Baker–who’s voiced dozens of video game characters from Final Fantasy XIII’s Snow to Fortnite’s Agent Jones–wrote overnight. “We all have a story to tell.”
And the internet had a new tweet to ratio.
“You’ve still got the choice to either back out of this now, rather than being deeply, truly humiliated when you think about it in a couple years,” responded YouTube gaming essayist, Jacob Geller.
Baker tried to walk back the tone of his tweet in a follow-up thread, but didn’t make any mention of whether he was actually backing out of the project. “The ‘hate/create’ part might have been a bit antagonistic,” he wrote.
So what even is this new blockchain-based scheme Baker backed? Voiceverse bills itself as “a 2nd generation NFT built with AI and high-functioning utility that provides you an ownership to a unique voice in the Metaverse.” The idea is that an artist creates a recording, someone buys it, and that someone can then use it for “in-game chats, zoom calls, YouTube & Tiktok,” and more. A seven-part plan begins with artists adding their voices to the project this month, and ends sometime in the future with plans to “partner up with all of your favorite crypto games and communities to have your Voice NFTs truly become the voice of the Metaverse!” Clearly something worth destroying the environment for.
Why is this any different from the existing NFT-as-a-glorified-JPEG scam that everyone has spent the last year collectively groaning about? “Voice NFTs provide intrinsic utility in addition to a fantastic community,” claims the project. “You can’t right click either of these.” These simple explanations raise even more questions than they answer though. At this point, it’s extremely unclear just how much of a person’s voice you gain access to, thanks to the ambiguous wording on Voiceverse’s site.
And then there’s the question of pay. The original artists will get royalties based on the rising or falling value of their NFT, but it doesn’t go into more specifics. Regardless, I can 100 percent bet you that Baker is not giving away any of his own meaningful voice work to be exploited and manipulated however the no-doubt-soon-to-flame-out Voice NFT metaverse sees fit.
Some other celebrities who have come out in favor of one crypto racket or another have quickly pivoted in the face of the backlash. Home Improvement co-star Richard Karn recently revealed he’d be dropping NFTs based on the hit-90s sitcom and then quickly bailed after thinking “long and hard” about it.
Will Baker do the same? It’s hard to say. The voice of BioShock Infinite’s Booker DeWitt has a habit of doubling down on dumb stuff. In 2016 he tried to get The Washington Post to remove its negative Uncharted 4 review from Metacritic. And when former Kotaku editor Jason Schreier tweeted that games should be shorter, Baker responded with a 100-word excerpt from a Theodore Roosevelt speech about how critics are idiots. Maybe now someone can turn that speech into one of Baker’s Voice NFTs.