*UPDATE 12/21/16*: As of December 9, the strike response website has been taken down and moved to videogamestrikenews.com. The information is still on the new site, but the misleading domain has been returned to SAG-AFTRA.
As of 11/2, the SAG-AFTRA video game voice actors strike continues. Union members have ceased all work on video games or any related materials, including trailers, demos, streams, and promotional press.
SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) is a 160,000 member labor union that represents the interests of not only voice actors, but also radio hosts, television journalists, recording artists, stunt performers, and countless other professions related to the entertainment industry.
The video game voice actors strike began on October 21st after the union and a coalition of video game companies failed to reach a mutually agreeable contract governing future work.
The issues cited by SAG-AFTRA include insufficient pay, safety concerns due to the long hours spent in the recording booth, and a lack of transparency regarding the roles for which actors are hired. Our previous coverage lists these issues in detail.
At this time, there have been no public updates from SAG-AFTRA regarding the progress of negotiations or a potential end to the strike.
Video Game Companies Create an Informational Website
The other side of the story is the group of video game companies who are engaged in negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, and are the ones most affected by the strike.
- Activision Productions, Inc.
- Blindlight, LLC
- Disney Character Voices, Inc.
- Electronic Arts Products, Inc.
- Formosa Interactive, LLC
- Insomniac Games, Inc.
- Take 2 Productions, Inc.
- VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.
- WB Games, Inc.
These represent most of the biggest and well-known developers in the industry, and are the companies that SAG-AFTRA considers the most egregious offenders in their list of complaints.
A few days ago, the coalition launched an informational website detailing the reasons for the strike, from their point of view. The site includes the companies’ final offer to SAG-AFTRA before the strike began, as well as several of the proposals and counter-proposals leading up to it.
Most interesting is the comparison chart created by the companies. This places the proposals and counter-proposals into plain English, although some amount of spin should be expected. After all, this site was created by the video game companies for the purpose of stating their case.
In essence, it seems that the following issues are still under dispute.
- Split Sessions: SAG-AFTRA would like for “vocally challenging” recording sessions that are 4 hours in length to be split into two separate 2-hour sessions. The video game companies disagree.
- New Off-Camera Rate: In larger recording sessions with 3 or more voice actors, SAG-AFTRA would like for actors to be hired at a daily rate rather than hourly. Presumably this is intended to give voiceover artists more time for rest and recovery in between takes. The video game companies disagree.
- Name for Bonus Pay: SAG-AFTRA would like bonuses to be called “Contingent Compensation”. The video game companies prefer the term “Additional Compensation”. The reasons for this are not clear, although it may be related to SAG-AFTRA’s attempt to secure “performance milestones” for voice actors, in which they are paid a bonus based on the number of copies a game sells. This type of bonus is common to game developers, but has never been extended to voice actors.
In good news, the two sides do agree on several points, according to the companies’ information website. In particular, the companies have agreed to give actors more information on the roles for which they are hired. Currently, voice actors may have no knowledge of the specific role before signing a contract. The companies have agreed to tell performers the genre of game, whether the character will use profanity or potentially offensive language, and whether the role will require motion capture work.
Perhaps most importantly, the companies have agreed to disclose to voice actors whether the role is being reprised, and the code name for the project. By combining this information with video games industry news from any number of enthusiast websites, it is likely that the actors could deduce the role they are being offered.
The video game companies’ information website is available at http://sagaftravideogames.com. Despite the URL, the site is built and maintained by the companies against whom SAG-AFTRA has struck, and not SAG-AFTRA itself.
We’ll continue to post developments in the strike, particularly if SAG-AFTRA should respond with information of their own.
Our greatest hope, shared by most gamers, is that the strike is resolved quickly and equitably, so that everyone can get back to the business of making games.