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Plugged In

Meet Troy Baker, gaming’s leading man

Plugged In

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(Credit: Sony/Troy Baker)

You may not know Troy Baker's face, but if you've played the year’s biggest video games, you certainly know his voice.

Baker has been an up and coming video game voice actor for a few years now, but in 2013, he has exploded in a way no one could have imagined, voicing the main character in two critically-acclaimed hits. That’s a bit like an actor scoring major roles in multiple Oscar-nominated films in the same year.

Bioshock Infinite? You know him as the conflicted hero Booker DeWitt. The Last of Us? He's the voice of tough-as-nails survivor Joel. Over 7 million copies of these two games have been sold in the past few months.

That’s made even more impressive when you realize that he doesn’t have a formal acting background. Not long ago, he was doing car commercials.

Still, playing two major roles in the same year, while certainly flattering, has its challenges.

"There's a perception that if you're in a lot of games, you're just the voice of everything," Baker told Yahoo! Games. "The problem with video games is everybody wants a character they can hang the franchise on. Everyone wants a Nathan Drake. Everyone wants a Marcus Fenix. Everyone wants a Master Chief. They want someone you can get behind, immerse yourself and completely believe in. So if you have Troy Baker as this guy and this guy and this guy, it blurs things. No one wants to think they're playing Master Chief in Gears of War. The onus is on us to really differentiate those characters between games."

[Related: The Last of Us sets PS3 sales record]

But when you're offered a great role, you take it. Baker had previous signed on to play Booker in Bioshock Infinite before getting the chance to work on The Last of Us. Once he had been pitched by Naughty Dog about the game, though, he knew he had to have the part.

"I knew this meant something," he says. "I knew it was going to resonate with people. But as we went on, I realized this was more than just a popcorn blockbuster game, but we were really saying something - and it was going to have an impact on gamers and the industry."

Baker’s impact extends beyond just these two games. In addition to BioShock and The Last of Us, he’s done voice work for other big 2013 releases like God of War: Ascension, Injustice: Gods Among Us and upcoming action romp Saints Row IV.

Later this year, he’ll join an incredibly exclusive club by voicing The Joker in the heavily-anticipated Batman: Arkham Origins.

"It's such an honor to be part of something you're going to geek out over later," he says. And make no mistake, Baker is geeking out big time over The Joker role.

"I remember rushing home from school every day and at 4:30 I was watching the [Batman] animated series," he says. "That Danny Elfman score was engrained in my DNA as a kid, so I fell in love with those specific interpretations of those characters. Kevin Conroy was my Batman and Mark Hamill was my Joker."

[Related: Perfect scores abound for 'breathtaking' BioShock Infinite]

When he went to a blind read for the role, he quickly realized what the part was and says he almost had a panic attack. In fact, when he was offered the job, he initially turned it down until executives at Warner Bros. Interactive urged him to reconsider.

In addition to game characters, Baker lends his pipes to the cartoon world. He voices Hawkeye in “Avengers Assemble” and “The Ultimate Spider-Man.” And if he's not doing that, he's belting out songs as lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the indie-rock band, Tripp Fontaine.

But in his downtime, Baker considers himself a gamer. He owns both an Xbox 360 (on which he's currently playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II with friends) and a PlayStation 3, where he's on his second playthrough of The Last of Us.

"Normally, I'm the biggest judge," he says. "I'll go 'argh they chose that one' but for some reason with this game, I completely believe Joel. I'm watching this play out as Joel and I'm hearing Ellie and not Ashley Johnson [who voices the character]."

Despite Baker's concerns about having too many high profile roles, he's hardly slowing down. He’ll appear alongside Kiefer Sutherland in the blockbuster-to-be Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He’ll play Snow Villiers in the upcoming RPG Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. He's also voicing and doing motion capture for Delsin Rowe, the hero of Infamous: Second Son, expected to be one of the early breakout hits of the PlayStation 4.

As an added bonus, the role of Delsin's brother Reggie is being played by actor Travis Willingham, Baker's best friend -- something Baker says has made the role more personal.

"It's probably one of the characters that's closest to me that I've ever done," he says.

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