After spending over a year trying to come to an agreement on better working conditions for voice acting in games, the SAG-AFTRA union of voice actors officially is going on strike as of October 21st. You can read why the strike is in effect below.
SAG-AFTRA tried for more than 19 months to negotiate a new deal with employers in the video game industry. Meanwhile, performers have been governed by the more than two-decade old contract still in place. That has left voice actors without the protections necessary to work in the modern video game industry. “SAG-AFTRA has gone to the negotiations table with serious concerns affecting voiceover and stunt performers,” said SAG-AFTRA Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez. “It’s time for video game employers to take our concerns seriously and negotiate a modern contract based on actor safety, industry precedent and best practices.” “SAG-AFTRA doesn’t want to strike, who does? But we cannot stand by and watch our members suffer serious injury and put their careers at risk in the current environment,” said Keythe Farley, a voice actor, casting director, and voice director who chairs SAG-AFTRA’s Interactive Committee. “The time is now for a new contract for our members.”
This strike will be effecting and pushed toward the following developers & publishers.
Effective October 21, 2016, SAG-AFTRA is striking the following video game employers with regard to all games that went into production after Feb. 17, 2015:
• Activision Publishing Inc. • Blindlight, LLC • Corps of Discovery Films • Disney Character Voices, Inc. • Electronic Arts Productions, Inc. • Formosa Interactive, LLC • Insomniac Games, Inc. • Interactive Associates, Inc. • Take 2 Interactive Software • VoiceWorks Productions, Inc. and • WB Games, Inc.
If you want a more personal explanation on this situation and issue, I highly recommend you visit the Game Actors for All website, as Steve Blum (famous for his Wolverine Voice and many other iconic roles) states why this issue is so important based on his own personally experiences voicing over 400 video games.
You can also visit the Why We Strike site, which I will link here. I personally see this issue as something important, as the voices behind many iconic gaming characters and icons is one of the reasons we remember them so much. It would be very strange to see Charles not voice Mario and friends or Nolan North voice Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series.
Some issues that the union wants to be solve will be listed below.
Secondary Compensation: Unlike many other SAG-AFTRA contracts, there is currently NOT a secondary compensation structure on any video games. We’re asking for a reasonable performance bonus for every 2 million copies, or downloads sold, or 2 million unique subscribers to online-only games, with a cap at 8 million units/subscribers.
That shakes out, potentially, to FOUR session payments per principal performer for the most successful games: 2 million, 4 million, 6 million and 8 million copies.
Producers Hide Important Information: Transparency is lacking in the video game industry. Actors need to know more about the projects that they are working on. SAG-AFTRA has proposed that the actual title of the project and the role being hired for should be made available before signing a contract. Video game employers routinely engage performers without identifying the role or even the game that the performer is being engaged to work on. Moreover, they refuse to provide basic information about the nature of the performance that will be expected of them.
This deprives the performer of the ability to make a meaningful decision about whether to accept a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation, if they do. Precedent is on our side here. You wouldn’t work on a TV show, commercial or film without knowing what part you’re playing and how it fits into the story, yet we are asked over and over again to do just that in interactive media.
Employers Are Not Taking You Seriously: The employers have said no to most of SAG-AFTRA’s proposals and haven’t taken these negotiations seriously. For instance, in response to our concerns about vocal safety, they offered to put more tea and water in the booths for the actors — something they already do and this doesn’t resolve the issue or protect the actors. l
Now is the Time To Act: The SAG-AFTRA Interactive Contract was originally written in 1994. Now, over 20 years later, the video game industry has evolved to the point where successful video games generate more revenue than the biggest blockbuster, yet, the same contract that was negotiated in 1994 hasn’t changed to reflect the industry today.
SAG-AFTRA is committed to bringing the Interactive contract into the 21st Century with the protections and compensation that our members deserve. We wish our partners across the table felt the same way, but they seem more interested in “winning” this round of negotiations than cooperating with our members to create a contract based on precedent and best practices.
To close things off, I want to share a tweet from a major voice actress in not only gaming but children’s media and entertainment as a whole. When asking a negotiator for more rights and safty conditions in voice acting, she was told ‘No one really cares about the voices’. Tara Strong is known for voicing hundreds of characters like Harley Quinn, Batgirl, Timmy Turner and many more. Being told that is a insult to the quality of her work.