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The negotiation team for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has rejected the latest proposal from negotiators acting on behalf of video game employers ahead of strike action set to take place from today, October 21st. Negotiators described this as a final offer, and the deal included an immediate 9% wage hike, as well as compensation up to $950 based on the number of sessions a performer works on a game. Both concessions came with the caveat that the offer must be ratified by SAG-AFTRA members by December 1st.

Barnes and Thornburg LLP are acting as chief negotiators on behalf of the companies, and their representative Scott J. Witlin had this to say about the talks, in a story reported by PR Newswire:

We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer. We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused. We improved our offer to demonstrate our willingness to reach a fair, mutually-beneficial agreement after 18 months of negotiations. The union has demanded a contingency fee based upon number of games sold or subscribers. Instead of that, we are offering to immediately reward the hard work of performers through this accelerated raise and Additional Compensation package.

Witlin’s comments touch on the main sticking point for members of the group representing voice and other video game acting talent. According to comments made by SAG-AFTRA to members after the news of the rejected offer was released, the areas where the two sides are furthest apart are secondary compensation and transparency. SAG-AFTRA has made it clear previously that they want video game employers to have the option to offer an upfront performance bonus or strike a deal for ongoing compensation based on units sold. The union argues that this presents smaller companies the option to engage top-level talent when budgets may otherwise prevent it.

When the union refers to transparency, they are talking about the fact that a games company does not have to disclose the name of the game an actor will be working on to their agent when offering a contract. They are obliged to disclose any potentially objectionable material, but SAG-AFTRA and its members feel they should be able to make an informed choice on the roles they accept. It is reported that other issues raised previously such as a provision for stunt coordinators and other points relating to the safety and well-being of performers were close to being agreed.

The strike only affects games that went into production after February 17th, 2015, and is focused on the companies reported in our previous article when the strike date was set. These are as follows:

  • 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. 

The strike covers all areas of video game performance including: voice acting, motion capture, stunts and performing on trailers for any ‘struck’ games, among others, but does not relate to any other media such as television or radio broadcasts.

Neither side seems keen for the industrial action to take place, but SAG-AFTRA has said that they see this as a necessary move “to let employers know SAG-AFTRA members will stand fast to their principles and not be exploited.” Scott J.Witlin’s last comment on the matter was similarly regretful in tone; “Many of the Companies and people on our committee are the best evangelists for the use of SAG-AFTRA members in this industry. We hope SAG-AFTRA does not precipitously rush into a strike that will immediately and directly take money out of their members’ pockets.”

General Strike action began as of 12:01AM, PT, today but there is a more united action taking place too. Between the hours of 10:30AM and 12:30PM on Monday, 24th October, members of SAG-AFTRA are encouraged to join a picket line outside Electronic Arts (EA) offices at 5510 Lincoln Blvd, Playa Vista, CA 90094.

If you’re just catching the news of the strike and would like to know everything as it happened, be sure to check our previous articles on the announcement, the vote, and the strike date. Let us know whether you’ll be voicing your support for #performancematters, or otherwise, in the comments below.

Dom O'Leary

Staff Writer

I'm a dyed in the wool gamer of the now irrelevant (I'm told) generation-X. If I'm not gaming, you'll find me writing about games, writing my wonderful fiction (opinions may differ), playing guitar, or eating... sleep is a distant memory.

  • BurntToShreds

    So they want to know what the game is before they accept the role. That’s just great; companies will have even more leaks of their projects announced and we’ll have no surprises left anymore.

    I’d like to feel sympathy for voice actors and other talent participating in this strike, but if their demands lead to larger costs being foisted on consumers in the form of more ludicrous and aggressive post-launch monetization attempts (more scammy microtransactions, etc.) and even more leaks than Apple’s supply chain, then I can’t abide by it.

  • They don’t get this kind of treatment in films (the % based on how well it does) as a requirement. This just feels like they are trying to bully the “little guys”.

  • bdp

    Guess we can finally get some new talent going now.

  • ParasiteX

    Can’t we just go back to the cheezy old days when the devs themselves voiced in-game chars? That way we wont have to listen to these over-entitled “performers” whine.

    When will someone take a stand to improve conditions for the game devs who spend countless hours, not to mention intense crunch hours to make the games as great as they are today?

  • Nmaillet777

    Yes they do. We get residuals based on how many times it plays after its initial broadcast. So with videogames a small % of earnings is reasonable and comparable. Obviously the union went in high and will most likely reach to a compromise. If not then were going to see a lot of really shitty voice/performance capturing in the near future. Itll be like the good old days.

  • Nmaillet777

    Its really not unreasonable from an actors perspective. The videogame industry just needs to get with the times and abide by the same fair rules as television/film/radio/broadcasting/commercials…

  • Nmaillet777

    Every movie/tv show/pilot/music video is like this. Its standard practice to know what the project is before going into the first audition or call back.

  • ParasiteX

    Here is the problem though. You’re trying to compare games to film… Voice acting and other performances is just fancy window dressing for games. The main focus is primarily gameplay, graphic and sound design. Acting performance has little impact on that. You could make an entire game with rich story and not a single voice acted word. And it would would still be amazing if the game design is great.
    You could have the best acting performance ever in a game. But if the game design sucks.. then the game as a whole sucks.

    If anyone deserves better pay, royalties and all that shit. Then it’s the game devs. They are the ones who put in the most effort into making a game great..

  • Nmaillet777

    That would be totally 100% true 10 years ago, but now we’re living in an age where you can attach a star to a videogame to drum up interest and sales. Performances matter to the overall package (the last of us, MGSV, etc). If you’re using their likeness to sell or promote a game you need to properly pay the actors. I don’t think they deserve the same royalties as they do in film, it’s silly to think it’s ok to rip off someone because they’re just “window dressing”. Sports games will be affected by this too, since many professional athletes are in the union.

    Devs themselves don’t deserve extra royalties because theyre already getting paid for the job they’re doing. With that logic the 2nd AC on the avengers should get residuals because he pulled 100 hour weeks as well as the other 1,000 people in production/post.

  • Mr Snow

    Nobody is buying a game because of the talent attached to it. Game franchises are sold on their merits as games. And actors whose likenesses are used in games are compensated for that, or it’s part of an existing contract, ie: Daniel Craig’s likeness being used in James Bond games (his likeness is part of his whole Bond contract)

    In fact, NFL players’ contracts specifically mentions the signing player gives control of their likeness to the NFLPA. So, no, at least in the case of the NFL / Madden games, those players won’t be affected by this in any way as their likenesses are owned by the NFLPA, not themselves.

    The developers have the real skill here, something they probably went to college to learn, and software engineering / design is not a low demand low salary skill. Shit on your devs to pay the “talent” and start watching the quality of games deteriorate. Then nobody buys.

    By your own logic, the talent doesn’t deserve any royalties because they are already being paid for the job they’re doing.

    Nothing you say makes sense or is really founded on fact. People go see movies for the star power in it for sure. Most movies live and die on that opening weekend box office. If people went to go see a movie and didn’t like it, that’s it, studio has your money, too bad.

    But it isn’t much of a stretch of the memory to call to mind a couple of big budget titles with atrocious launches that saw massive calls for refunds (Batman Arkham Knight, No Man’s Sky), and in one case (Arkham Knight) saw it pulled from digital shelves.

    It was programmers responsible for that game being a steaming pile. The voice talent attached didn’t torpedo it, but the bad programming / port job sure did.

  • Mr Snow

    Movies and TV shows aren’t in development for 2-5 years. They don’t user proprietary software code. A blabbermouth talking about what’s gonna happen in Game of Thrones doesn’t potentially give a competitor an edge.

  • Making games is a collaborative process. We could sit here all day and argue over the extent of the contributions from artists, musicians, programmers, and voiceactors. Most of them probably deserve better treatment than they’re getting. If some members of the team getting a raw deal is cause to water down the plight of other members of the team trying to get a better deal, then we just go around in circles and nothing ever gets better for anyone. Change has to start somewhere.

  • Typical

    Seriously, I don’t go around saying “man! I can’t wait for the next game nolan north talks through!”

  • Typical

    You mean the good old days when games were innovative and not a COD clone or sequel? I’m in! Keep striking.

  • Nmaillet777

    You mean back when every game was a movie tie in or platformer! Im in too!

  • Nmaillet777

    What are you talking about? TV shows are in development for years

  • Nmaillet777

    So youre saying actors dont have skill. Ok suuuuuuure bud.

  • Mr Snow

    The turnaround time for an episode of a show is often 3-5 months. In the case of South Park it’s like 2-3 days.

    A show being on for 9 seasons is not the same as a show taking 9 years to make.

  • Mr Snow

    No, but what I’m saying is nobody buys a game because of the cast.

  • Nmaillet777

    True, but if the acting is garbage it will effect the game’s image and sales tremendously. Look at TLOU. Its a better than average game with phenomenal acting, those two together make it one of the best videogames ever made (and a successful product). Now that games are taking a more cinematic and mature approach to storytelling they’re going to need to grow up a bit and hire professional actors to make that possible. SAG is 110% in the right here. YDG?

  • Dom O’Leary

    Thanks for all the comments, guys. We may not all agree, but it’s certainly an important issue. In the interest of bringing you a balanced report of where both sides currently stand, we reached out to SAG-AFTRA and Barnes and Thornburg LLP for further comment. We’ll be bringing you their responses later on today. I’ll post a link here for anyone who is interested after the article goes live.

  • Dom O’Leary
  • Typical

    Clearly you’re a console peasant.

    And here’s a free tip: Some of us skip dialog and annoying “acting,” so I’m sure the consoles could track when that’s done and they could dock you accordingly.

  • Typical

    I don’t know, TLOU was shit, that acting couldn’t keep me playing that tedious, unrealistic chore through, though I guess consoles cater to lowered expectations, so maybe there’s a balance there.

  • Mr Snow

    And why don’t you look at Castlevania Symphony of the Night, or Resident Evil.

    Two games with notoriously bad acting. One is often ranked best Castlevania game ever, the other spawned a franchise that really never improved its acting but still sells.

    BECAUSE the quality of the acting is significantly less important than the quality of the gameplay.