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The Last Worker is set to arrive on the 30th of March on PlayStation 5, PSVR 2, Steam and Nintendo Switch. In anticipation of the game’s release we got to sit down with one of the stars of the game Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The Death of Stalin) and discuss his character in the game.
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We spoke about working on roles like this, executing the incredible vision of director Jörg Tittel and much more. Here is the full interview below and if you would like to learn more about The Last Worker then you can read our full preview here.
I originally had some questions written down before coming, but since playing the game I have scrapped those.
‘That’s great, that’s because it’s not like a normal game really is it?’
No, it’s fascinating.
‘How far did you get [in the preview]?’
I met your character, properly, then continued with a few more tasks until I got to the point where things started to grow a bit more suspicious.
‘Phwoarrr, you’ve got a whole giant narrative adventure to go. There is still so much more stuff to come.’
Exactly. In my brief time playing the game, something I found really interesting is that your character Skew has a scouse accent.
‘Yeah, it is brilliant isn’t it? There is no real reason why, but it just so happens that’s one of the few scouse characters I can think of in any videogame ever. What it does is accents are often audio shorthand, we bring our own expectations, tropes and cliches to things. It says to me [Skews accent] that no one has programmed this. This is not meant to be.
Whoever wrote this algorithm something has gone wrong. As you go through the game, you will discover, it feels like he has been the equivalent of whatever a robot being dropped on the head is. Clearly something has gone a bit wrong, or he’s been jailbroken, maybe even specifically hacked.
He is subversive, he also lapses back to his original programming, Alexa style assistant. But then, Kurt punches him in the face I think, I don’t want to give too much away, and he goes back to the version we know. It means though, that it seems like he has feelings, he is loyal, but he gets jealous, he’s funny, he is certainly very adult.’
In this sort of isolated world, Skew must be Kurts only friend right?
‘They have got each other, but I wouldn’t say they’re best mates. I think there is quite an antagonistic relationship. Certainly Kurt is a very loyal worker for a very long time. He is only still there because he is the best of them, but it is slowly dawning on him that maybe things are not alright there.’
You have done a lot of voice work over the years, including games, but you’re clearly incredibly passionate about this particular project. Why are you so engrossed by this role?
‘I love stories, I think stories are great and rarely does a story come along like this one. The very discussions we have had about these characters and what they’re doing, are discussions I will have at dinner tables with my mates, or are on the front page of newspapers. What is technology? Will it make us all redundant? Should these tech companies have this much power? Where has humanity gone? What’s the future have in store?
But there is hope in this game, if it was depressing we wouldn’t want to make it, you’ve got to fight through, and there is a bit of hope. There is no point in reflecting an awful catastrophic future back at people in fiction. We all know that, I watch the news and I have a negative instinct in many ways. So if you fight through in this game there is some relief, but it’s not easy.’
Have you played much of The Last Worker yourself?
‘No, no, no I find games really addictive, I have to actually watch out for games. I can get lost in them forever. I don’t want to tell too many stories about how I lost myself in games. One of the many, many stories about my addictive nature when it comes to games, was the first game on the Mac OS platform. It was a game called Marathon. It was a great game, but probably from before you were born.
I had a really good mate, I used to spend a lot of time with and we are still friends now, but we both started playing it [Marathon] and then bit by bit our conversations deteriorated or distilled, until I would just call them up at 3 in the morning, not spoken for a few months, and I go “level 35, two dogs and Hitlers behind a pillar, how do I get there?”, “there is a swinging platform, where is the key hidden?” and that was all our conversations became for about a year. It got to the end and I thought maybe I should stop playing so much.
Someone once bought me a Game Boy for my birthday, and it came with Tetris, which is obviously one of the most famous games ever, or at least it was at the time, and there was this hidden level. If you held the cursor down and pressed start, there was this secret level that only the programmers, and the big fans knew about.
Everything was faster and higher, it started at the most difficult version, and to clear it you needed to be like Neo at the end of the Matrix. To beat the machine starting at that level, you had to really be fast. But, I could do that, yet it wasn’t healthy that I could do it.
I became obsessed with it, one time I remember sitting on the toilet thinking how I couldn’t stand up until I cleared the level. You lose time, but I did it, stood up and I had been sitting there so long my legs had gone numb and stopped working, so I just fell straight onto my nose. So I do need to watch myself with games.
This [The Last Worker] is a narrative, it’s a story, those are click and repeat.’
You’ve done lots of voice work in the past, like we said earlier, how was this different to previous voice roles?
‘I love doing voices, I love doing games. Very, very rarely do you get to do what happened in this where Jörg [the director of the game] let us of the leash and allowed for us to improvise, so there was a lot of improvising and he was really the creative prism that decided what was best to use. But he did something else as well, which is very rare, and I think you can tell when you play the game, in regards to Skew’s relationship with Kurt, because we recorded [the lines] together.
Now it was during the pandemic, so we were isolated, were in lockdown. Frankly being a catastrophus like I am, I had this in common with most of the world. I thought it was the end as we know it, but here we were recording a game about one of the last people alive, but for us it wasn’t about the game we were just fooling ourselves by making these recordings. Yet, Jörg made sure we were connected with each other.
I have done some big animated television shows and movies even which required a comic banter between characters, yet I never met the other characters, I would record my lines by myself, but here Jörg connected us.
I was where I was in lockdown, or maybe abroad filming, as for some reason actors were deemed essential workers, yet I would have my head inside a portable sound booth and Darri (the voice of Kurt) would be in Iceland or wherever, and Jörg would be back in London and we would be connected just through our voices.
Most of it was recorded and I am home, in lockdown, thinking the world will nev be the same again, it needs a revolution, is there going to be one? I am recording this, you know indulging this mad dream of this man [Jörg], who thinks he can tell a story about the end of the world, and the order of things or the way the world is run needs to be overthrown. What were we doing? What was this project we were on? Yet, here we are 3 years later and it is a real game.
It was a huge help during the pandemic, you wanted human connection. Darri, Jörg and I, wanted to make eachother laugh, but we were also trying to express these feelings we were having this sense of creeping doom, and was there anything we could do about it? So, what we did was the only thing we knew how to do and that was to be creative.
Kurt, The Last Worker, has some other options that appear to him further on than you got to and it’s about whether or not to try and actually make a difference. Or do things differently.’
We were talking earlier about games like Tetris, but now games are being used much more as a narrative focused medium. How do you feel about games as the platform for storytelling?
‘Well this is a movie, but a movie you are in, it just has all the fun things that games offer. For me, something either works or it doesn’t, the same can be said of a song, you know? It is either going to catch on, or it doesn’t work and sometimes you can’t put a finger on why. In a good game though, it works brilliantly.
I really like technology, so I was at Sundance a few years ago. I am in Masters of the Sun, the Black Eyed Peas game. So I got to go to Sundance with them and they had a lab which had all the latest VR, AR and stuff and we got to go in to try it out. It was a real privilege.
We got to try out this extraordinary tech, but all they had to illustrate it were programmes specifically written to illustrate tech. So I thought to myself “what are you going to do with it?” The Black Eyed Peas ended up doing something really creative with it, but no one else really had. So do strong narrative video games work? Yeah. I think this really works. I think it also has resonance, it has got relevance, but if it only had that it wouldn’t get out of the starting blocks, it needs to still be great to play.
You have got people who know how to design games that work. It is a bit like the scene in Big with Tom Hanks. When he is on the board of this giant toy shop and they have this huge product coming out and he sits there on the board and says how he doesn’t understand the product, so he asks what it does?
I remember they changed the playground, when my kids were little, in the park where we live and they took away the traditional roundabout, slide and climbing frame, they put these weird shapes in, and everyone was wondering what you do with them. The kids don’t want to climb on it, it felt like someone designed it who had never seen a child before.
So the game has to be fun to play. It has to be enjoyable and there has to be a sense of discovery in it. I really hope that this has that. Jörg is one of the most creative kinds of unfettered, unfiltered people I have ever come across. He just has ideas firing off in every direction.
We met because we were going to do a movie of his graphic novel: Ricky Rouse Has a Gun. I can’t even describe what it is about, it’s another wild idea, but it became an award winning graphic novel. It would have been, hopefully, a good film but the pandemic came.
So to have the idea of The Last Worker in a fulfilment centre and given the opportunity to become part of some kind of revolution. To then make that into a game, it seems to me like King Cnut. Not only would you make it? Could you make it? That’s challenging enough, but would anybody sell it? Would the giant tech companies that it is attacking sell it? Well the answer is only with someone like him at the helm.
To then use the same skills you would associate with first-person shooters, because they really are the same coordination skills, and targeting, and aiming, spatial awareness and all that stuff. That’s what you need to run through all those awful landscapes, where you are shooting, killing people, all that kind of mock war the people do. Yet, to use it to do something that is much more in our world and has a political base, but still giving you that hit of dopamine. It is rather brilliant I think.’