Legacy of Gaming: Nolan North
Deadpool, Nathan Drake, Desmond Miles and The Penguin, what would these characters be if it wasn’t for their incredible personas. Their charm, wit and emotion make them perfect villains and protagonists in the games we love. When we witness a brilliant performance in a film or a play, that performance often defines that experience. We hand out awards and celebrate the realism that these actors gave to the presentation. Is this the same for games? We rarely see the actual voice actor in person throughout the game, and apart from a name in the credits, it’s often hard to distinguish who is vocalising which character. One man who is distinguishable and is a strong advocate of voice acting in video games is Nolan North. Now there’s a man who delivers brilliant emotional performances time and time again.
North begun his career as a journalist before pursuing a role as a comedic stand up and an actor. After landing a role in TV series, “Port Charles” as Dr. Ramsey, North stayed in the series for six years before it’s cancellation in 2003. It was at this that Nolan moved from physical acting to voice acting in the game industry. At present time, North has starred in almost 500 roles in video games and as such, it is impossible to mention them all. Throughout his roles as the leading protagonist his most prominent is surely that of Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. Drake is the Indiana Jones of the gaming world. His cheek, wit and recklessness make him instantly recognisable, as is the voice behind those traits. North has played many characters with a similar voice to that of Drake, Desmond Miles springs to mind, hell, even if you don’t play anything other than Guild Wars 2 you’ll still hear his voice a thousand times as the generic human male.
Though this voice is recognisable as Nolan North, and he does it well, Nolan also has that voice actor trademark ability to alter his voice to suit a character. This lends so much to that character’s persona. Mentionable instances of this side of North’s talents are the Penguin in numerous games, Dr. Edward Richtofen in Call of Duty Black Ops, the Turrets in Portal 1 and 2 as well as (to a lesser extent) Deadpool in numerous titles. This ability of North is one of the primary reasons that he is so well suited to games. In a game, someone is able to portray a character so well that they may not physically be suited to. As a standard man of average height North would not be able to play the Penguin in a live action shoot, but in a game his voice lends perfectly to a brilliantly insane character.
This brings us nicely into the Legacy of Nolan North. As a voice actor, I think it has to be said that he is the most prolific. Known in the industry as, “the nearest thing the games industry has to a bona fide leading man,” Nolan North has given himself to the world of gaming for over 10 years and in 500 titles. Proliferation doesn’t make a voice actor though; it’s the work that North has done that has given him his merits. His work in Uncharted, Deadpool and countless other games, bring characters to life in ways that other voice actors just haven’t been able to do. Nolan North is an avid supporter of video games and as a result, his jobs aren’t just jobs to him, he puts all of himself in every single role he holds. Bland voice acting can really hold a game down; players see a video game characters shell and not the personality inside. Many people hold the opinion that Nolan North should leave himself out of gaming for a while to help space out the voice acting market, but to you Mr North, I think you’re a very personalised and highly talented individual, don’t leave gaming until you’re ready.
I will end by taking the involvement of Nolan North outside of just his personal projects and more into the industry of gaming as a whole. When Nolan North was cast in J.J Abrams, “Star Trek”, Abrams spoke to North about his role in Uncharted. North spoke about this meeting:
“He’s a huge fan of gaming and he was telling me how people just don’t understand [the medium] yet, but they’re going to catch up. They don’t understand how amazing this technology is and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but if it keeps making the money it makes you’re going to see more and more people converted. I mean, Gary Oldman, one of the greatest actors on the planet, did Call of Duty. He wouldn’t have done it 10 years ago. It’s a new age dawning, and I’m just really proud to be part of it.”
Nolan North has shown, and continues to show the world that the gaming industry is a place for a-list success. A place that voids typecasting and a place where emotion and reality are valued almost as highly as in film. He has helped to grow our beloved industry and for that Nolan, we thank you.
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