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Members of The Screen Actors Guild American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have authorized their board the ability to go on strike against the gaming industry.

After a period of voting between September 16th to October 5th, the overwhelming majority of SAG-AFTRA members have voted yes to a strike, with a whopping 96.5% of the vote in favor. SAG-AFTRA needed a minimum of 75% to make this authorization.

The SAG-AFTRA union has been in negotiations with the gaming industry since January, with  a list of demands for voice actors who are currently employed in the gaming industry. These Interactive Negotiations, as they are called, have met twice with video game publishers to discuss new contract deals and demands. These demands include residual pay  (if a video game reaches sales of $2 million, with options for more pay if it reaches other milestones), concerns over vocal stress, and the demand for more transparency between roles. All of these demands by SAG-AFTRA have been made public for some time

Publishers within the gaming industry have also made several proposals to SAG-AFTRA back in February, which included the ability to sign non-union voice actors as background and “atmospheric voices,”  a revision of several rules found in the original contract and a set of new rules that SAG-AFTRA union actors would generally follow, or be fined for, such as refusing to  attend certain auditions for atmospheric voices or one-hour voice sessions.

SAG-AFTRA has charged the publishers proposals as being unfair; for example, a $2,500 fine can be posed on a voice actor if their employer believes they are not “attentive to the services for which [you] have been engaged.” which SAG-AFTRA argues is unfair. SAG-AFTRA has also argued for the use of stunt coordinators for performance-capture projects in video games, an area gaming publishers believe is not covered under the current contract negotiations.

The two sides have met twice thus far, in February and June, but no progress was made in the negotiations. 

For the past month, a twitter hashtag campaign has gone out to raise awareness for the vote, with many high-profile voice actors getting involved in the campaign, such as Tara Strong, Steven Blum, and David Hayter. Other famous voice actors such as Elias Toufexis, Jennifer Hale and D.C Douglas have also sided with the yes vote. 

The vote does not mean a strike will occur, it does, however, mean that SAG-AFTRA can now strike with the full backing of their their national board. SAG-AFTRA has stated that they shall reach out to publishers in an attempt to return to negotiations.

What do you think about this whole affair? Please leave your comments below

Robert Grosso

Staff Writer

A game playing, college teaching, erudite-minded scholar who happens to write some articles every so often. Have worked as a journalist, critic, educator and blogger for over five years now, with articles published (as user editorials) on Game Revolution and Giant Bomb as well as a contributor for the websites Angry Bananas and Blistered Thumbs. Now making TechRaptor my home.

  • Let’s see the people who break their backs (metaphorically) get better pay and working conditions, and not have their bonuses (if any) tied to Metacritic scores first. *THEN* maybe SAG-AFTRA can whine and moan about not getting enough jewel-encrusted backscratchers.

  • BurntToShreds

    If negotiations succeed and Voice Actors get the compensation they believe is their due, who’s going to foot the bill? AAA game publishers probably won’t want to free up money from their bloated marketing budgets, so the only logical conclusion I see is more DLC and microtransactions being shoved down people’s throats.

  • lunaticFortune

    The old guard have gone decades before “decent” voice work was considered essential. We can tighten the belt.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    If they were willing to organize that might just happen. Thus far despite decades of abuse those in the gaming industry have thus far refused even an attempt at unionizing. That’s their failure. EA Spouse should have been enough.

    Don’t blame people that are willing to do the work to organize for the failure of others to organize or that companies will absolutely do whatever they can get away with.

    >These demands include residual pay (if a video game reaches sales of $2 million, with options for more pay if it reaches other milestones), concerns over vocal stress, and the demand for more transparency between roles.

    Doesn’t exactly sound like jewel-encrusted backscratchers.

  • Roadbeer

    Is anyone really going to care that Wil Wheaton didn’t do VO work on some low tier forgettable character?

    It’s not like on screen. Unless is a really recognizable voice, I never really think to check who did the VO work.

    Bring on the scrubs, nobody’s going to care. Hell, I think I played games for 15 years before there ever was a voice in a video game.

  • bdp

    The problem is if they try to unionize the publisher would just fire them and hire a new group since programmers are in large quantity.

  • アコール

    “The vote does not mean a strike will occur, it does, however, mean that SAG-AFTRA can now strike with the full backing of their their national board. SAG-AFTRA has stated that they shall reach out to publishers in an attempt to return to negotiations.”

    Thinly veiled threats. Even SAG-AFTRA knows how retarded they are and how badly they will lose if they go on strike. Publishers will just end up hiring Ficore actors or non union actors and just leave the rest jobless. That’s why they are currently waving this “permission to strike list” in front of publishers(who are not budging, because their demands are downright retarded), but deep down these guys have no fucking balls.

    I hope devs don’t fucking budge. Fuck these greedy fucks.

  • Roadbeer

    The hilarity of it, IMO. They think they have a captive audience.
    When a software developer is in Austin, or LA or whatever, the VO talent is thinking “Well, it’s not like TV where they’re just going to move production to Canada, they’re trapped”
    Not realizing that they’re not really in front of the camera, and nobody is going to say “Wow, that guy who does Optimus Prime really nailed it in that 20 second cut screen”, because nobody cares who the voice is, as long as the story is good.

    It’s not like VAs are being paid for their looks.

  • Michele

    Let’s try not to blame the wrong group here.
    I doubt this will benefit us in the short term, but if that is going to damage us in the long term with worse price, dlc and microtransaction that would be publishers fault, not the category that fight to improve its own situation.

    However I agree that some of the voice actor demands should be shared by developes that in most case are more entitled to ask for that (due to the amount of continuative work they provide compared to the voice actors). Instead of saying that a demand should be denied because another part is more or less entitled to it, it’s better to join forces on the common goal, that is to gives more benefit to the people (both developer and voice actors) that actually works on the product instead of the one that publish it.

  • AndrewZ

    The fundamental issue is how much leverage the union has really got. As other comments have noted, most gamers don’t really care who is doing the voice work as long as it’s reasonably competent. The publishers know that they can find non-union talent if necessary. But the publishers would also prefer to keep using actors who are already known to be good at the job, especially those who have some degree of name recognition. So the most likely outcome is a compromise that allows both sides to claim victory but which doesn’t really change very much.

  • Crizzyeyes

    What bdp said; you can’t unionize a job that is largely glamorized to young nerds and budding programmers. There’s just too many naive, eager people waiting to take the empty spot. Fortunately I became quite aware of the abusiveness before I left university and took a job in enterprise software.

  • Doc Hammer

    And so, the silent protagonist made a surprising, but quite welcome return. RIP prima donna voice actors.

  • Dr. Headcrab

    The problem with this logic is that it resolves NOTHING. The fact remains that for EVERYONE involved in game dev with the exception of the few people fortunate enough to be sitting at the top (and even sometimes they get screwed), conditions are absolutely deplorable. Expecting voice actors to simply ‘step back and wait their turn’ for improvements that AREN’T EVER COMING unless someone bothers stepping up to the plate to fight back is just naive, dont-rock-the-boat nonsense.

    Throwing up our arms and saying ‘Nope, it just can’t be helped’ is a surefire way to make sure that game-dev remains the hellhole it is. Perhaps instead of condemning voice actors for requesting some very basic accommodations which would be extended to any OTHER acting job on planet earth, we should be urging them to move away from some of the more controversial requests being made about using only ‘union’ voice actors and such things. That way, instead of being some antagonistic ‘US vs. THEM’ battle between Voice Actors and programmers/designers/artistss, we might actually start seeing SOMEONE thinking of ways to improve conditions for everyone else using this moment as a turning point.

    But I doubt it… it’s much easier just to hate on the voice actors. They don’t really even matter, right? Nobody cares who did the voices of all those really important characters in all those games! They’re meaningless! Let’s all go back to silent text-boxes! Sorry, but if that’s the “future” of gaming… I’ll be cutting my losses. I care about the quality of voice-over work. I also care about the writing. I also care about the guys who do conceptual art and asset design. I care about the programmers. Fuck, I care about the guy who comes in to change out the water-tank in the water-cooler in the break room.

    The SAG-AFTRA demands range from quite reasonable to very extreme. Coincidentally, that’s typically how unions work. They create a range of demands, and negotiate their way towards a compromise. I hope we see them find the middle-ground, work out a reasonable compromise for everyone, and put this thing to rest so I can stop reading all the rage-fizzled piss being sprayed about by people who only care because the Hated Enemy Wil Wheaton ( exceptional douchebag though he’s prone to being) dared to comment on the matter.

  • Dr. Headcrab

    Perhaps it will inspire said publishers to actually start giving a shit about the quality of their product, that it might SELL ENOUGH UNITS to actually JUSTIFY their bloated, self-destructive marketing budgets?

  • ParasiteX

    Instead of #Performancematters.. How about #GameplayMatters.. As last i checked, that’s generally what most gamers value.. And the developers who toil for years, put hell of a lot more effort into making sure the game has solid gameplay. Than the tiny amount of time VAs spend recording voices.

  • Robert Grosso

    Well said, I agree.

  • Mr Snow

    I hope the industry doesn’t kowtow to the bullying tactics of another union group that represents the over-privileged people in the industry.

    There’s plenty of amateur voice talent out there that with work and equipment can sound every bit as good as the “professionals” and for a fraction of the price.

  • Mr Snow

    The last two writer’s strikes in film / television had a side effect of creating a huge amount of unscripted reality programming. That people still eat up to this day.

    TV Execs found out they really didn’t need writers to make money.

    I can’t imagine that this goes down any different for the VAG’s. (Voice Actor’s Guild right? Wonderful acronym, right up there with FAG.)

    They price themselves out, the industry starts rethinking how much acting is really needed in games.

    I mean, ffs, Metal Gear Solid V… Kiefer Sutherland delivered a great performance, when he actually delivered one. It’s painfully apparent that the reason Big Boss talks so little is because they couldn’t afford Kiefer for that long.

  • Mr Snow

    Those demands include only hiring SAG actors for motion capture “acting” sessions. The SAG sees the word “actor” and thinks it needs to be one of them. Motion acting is most often done by programmers, because they know what they need to do and how they can handle it with their systems. Occasionally it is done by voice actors, such as in the last of us, but even then only for cutscenes. There’s plenty of other motion capture for other things.

    The SAG are making unreasonable demands in an industry they barely understand.

    If they don’t want it to become an “us vs them” mentality how about including “them” in their demands? Programmers do more work than voice actors ever do, and their skill is what sells games.

    Last I checked, people cared more about a fun game than good voice acting. And all I’m gonna say to that is “Symphony of the Night.”

  • Mr Snow

    Everything I’ve seen from their list of demands is more reward than compensation.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    The problem you’re not identifying is that for any movement – especially a reform movement – to work it requires some degree of solidarity. Sadly those in white collar sectors can’t seem to grasp that as a general rule.

    However, if you are willing to make the effort then yes at some point people will get fired but the ball starts to roll and there becomes media attention and with time and effort there will be that tipping point.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    Well yes, if you’re trying to protect your constituency you’re going to want to have your people hired and bolster your own position. It would be foolhardy for them to do otherwise.

    You indicated a solitary instance, one that is hardly egregious, as reasoning enough to dismiss their position. Yet their positions on royalties are emininently reasonable.

    You don’t include others you don’t represent. That’s not how unions work. You’re legally not allowed to cover those classes you don’t represent. If programmers want to vote to become part of SAG-AFTRA they should, by all means, do so.

    Yes because DX:The Fall was so much better than DX:HR. Sorry to be so snarky but you’re failing to see the forest for the trees. Solid voice acting is imperative for immersion and gaming is an insanely rich industry that can well afford giving those that make them greater residual rights.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    And it is that rampant greed that meant that we have a ton of terrible shows. You’re making it sound as if that was the only outcome – it wasn’t. What you’re saying is executive greed is ok but the rank and file that do the work deserve nothing but table scraps. Short-sighted thinking at best.

  • Mr Snow

    That is not what I’m saying, and voice actors are not the rank and file. They’re treated much better than those.

  • destroy_all_monsters

    Again, your anger is towards those that aren’t the managerial and executive classes and is towards a group that is harder to replace and does actual work instead of soaking up money they effectively had no part in earning.

    Instead of wanting to pull other workers up you want to drag other workers down. If you think this will have the desired effect I humbly suggest you start looking up labor relations and the history of unionization because your point of view hurts everyone that isn’t at the executive level.

  • Mr Snow

    They are absolutely not harder to replace.

    And I’m not anti union. I’m very well aware that unions are why we have overtime and a 40 hour week, and weekends.

    I’m also aware how dangerous unions can be to labor, and how aggressive they can be to people in their industry but not part of their group.