Game publishers may find it difficult to create and sell games in the near future due to a possible voice actor strike that is currently being debated. The strike was initially proposed by SAGAFTRA (The Screen Actors Guild? American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) On September 23rd, 2015. SAG-AFTRA is a media artist union that was first formed during the Great Depression in order to protect artists from the economic deprivation and to ensure that all the members of the union were treated fairly. Currently, SAG-AFTRA houses over 160,000 members. According to SAG-AFTRA, with the rising popularity of video games, game voice actors are being treated poorly and are being underpaid even though they are a part of videogames that are a success.
For example, Grand Theft Auto V, released on September 17, 2013, made a revenue of $815.7 million on its first day of release. The game later on surpassed 1 billion dollars in revenue after the third day of its release. Because of this achievement, Grand Theft Auto V had actually beaten 6 world records with these sales. In an article written by Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday: “GTA totally deserves to be recognized as an icon of modern culture, and we’re thrilled to be able to feature the game in the record books. Gaming is no longer a niche hobby, as GTA 5 has proved, and how exciting that it’s taken on the might of Hollywood and won!” SAG-AFTRA is requesting four different conditions from publishers and developers. The first condition they set is performance bonuses. To elaborate, voice actors request that they receive a performance bonus for every 2 million copies sold or online subscriptions made.
The second condition they request is vocal stress benefits. In movies when you have actors perform stunts or physically demanding actions they receive a stunt payment. What the voice actors are requesting is that when voice actors are request to strain their voice, such as screaming or sore forth, that they be given that stunt payment as well.
The third condition is to have a stunt coordinator present during motion capturing. Besides using their voice, motion capturing is when they capture the voice actor’s body and their movement and put into the programming for the video game. So during the game the game model will move exactly like how the actor moved. Their reason behind asking for a stunt coordinator is that some strenuous movements can lead to injury, but with the coordinator present it lessens the possibility of injury. According to SAG-AFTRA: “Stunt coordinators also help train actors how to fight, do stunts and combat and perform motion capture properly so they look more realistic in the game.”
The fourth condition is transparency. What the union is looking for is for the voice actors to know the; who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s and why’s. According to voice actors, currently they are on a need to know basis on the product they’re working with and they lack any real knowledge of the actual product.
On the publishers and developers side, they are generally remaining quiet about the subject, due to an agreed media blackout besides the union’s own remarks. According to The Union, publishers and developers have refused to acknowledge their conditions because of the fact that “only 20% of the game contains voice actor’s participation” and that it “is not the reason people buy the video games.”
Voting for this strike to happen ended on October 6th. On October 7th, 2015, according to the results of the vote, SAG-AFTRA reported on their website that 96.52% favored going on strike. 75% of the members had to vote yes for the option of a strike. Now the national board of the union has the option to declare a strike or not. If they do go on strike, then voice actors will not go back to work until the situation is resolved.
The current dilemma, as it is now, is unpredictable and can go both ways. Will the strike happen? If it does will it end in a dismal fashion where the strike doesn’t work, voice actors don’t get what they want, and everything returns as it once was? Currently: it is up in the air. Hopefully this situation resolves in a manner where both sides are satisfied. If you wish to learn more about the media union SAG-AFTRA, you can visit their website at sagaftra.org. There you can learn more about their history, their current affiliations with media and what they do to help protect the interests of their members. If you are entering the entertainment industry, you should check this site and organization out.