While we’ve been dealing with the 24 hour news cycle filled with election news, new game announcements and every day happenings, members of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) have officially gone on strike against big name video companies effective Friday, October 21st.
If you remember the 2015 twitter campaign, #IAmOnBoard2015, then you know that SAG-AFTRA and prominent gaming companies have been in negotiations since the end of 2014. According to the SAG-AFTRA website, their management team has asked for the following considerations:
In their plan, they mapped out a secondary compensation plan based on units sold. For every 2 million units sold participating VAs (Voice Actors) would get a bonus with a cap out at 8 million units. This means that only very successful games, which have turned a considerable profit, would be considered.
With the vocal demands placed on VAs, it’s not surprising that many of them deal with vocal stress and vocal injuries which many cause them to either lose their voice or permanently damage their range. SAG-AFTRA wants this to be considered when asking VAs to perform over long stretches of time.
Stunt Coordinator on Performance Capture Volume
To date, not every gaming company provides a Stunt Coordinator for motion capture sessions. With motion captioning VAs are required to do their own stunts and sometimes those stunts can be dangerous. SAG-AFTRA has asked for a Stunt Coordinator to be present at all times in order to train and monitor VAs.
Many Voice Actors who sign up for gigs do so without any real detailed information regarding the role. SAG-AFTRA has asked that Voice Actors be given detailed information about the roles they get such as the name of the project and what the job entails. Many times VAs are asked to do things that they may find uncomfortable like using racial slurs or simulating sex sounds.
Despite these seemingly reasonable demands, an agreement was not reached. So as of Friday, SAG-AFTRA members have gone on strike against the following companies for games that went into production after February 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.
- WB Games, Inc.
You can read the strike notice here:
On Monday, October 24, 2016, SAG-AFTRA members are encouraged to picket the Electronic Arts studio in Playa Vista, California. If you would like to lend your support to their strike, use #PerformanceMatters on twitter.
Details of the EA picket event and other updates can be found here.
It should be noted that those video game publishers, for the most part, have agreed to these requests with the exception of secondary compensation and transparency. The main argument against secondary compensation, or residuals, is that it can be difficult to calculate these bonuses in the gaming industry. As we know, the gaming industry works vastly different than the TV or film industry. With regards to rejecting the transparency issue, that one is a little more difficult to argue against. Like any actor who needs to know what character they’re playing in a show or movie, so should Voice Actors.
I know that gamers play games for a numbers of reasons, but I am one of those people who will choose a game based on the Voice Actors who are in it. Without Jennifer Hale, there would be no Fem!Shep. Without Brandon Keener, there would be no Garrus Vakarian. Cullen would be a lifeless husk without Jonny Rees. Alistair would not be the same without Steve Valentine. Joel, Booker, Kai Leng and Talion would be nothing without Troy Baker. My experiences in the Uncharted series would be meaningless without Nolan North. These are the people who bring the anger, sadness, pain, happiness and love to some of my most memorable gaming moments. So while I am bummed that it had to come to this, I am also on board with their decision to strike.