Voice actors set to strike against video game giants

Posted on October 17, 2016

SAG-AFTRA is set to strike from Friday 21st of October if a new deal with some of the biggest names in the video game industry isn’t reached.

The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists joint union have been in negotiations with key players in the video game industry (see list below) since February 2015. It’s hard to determine the exact terms of the negotiation due to the seemingly high levels of secrecy, but their demands seem to centre around two main ideas:

  1. SAG-AFTRA asserts that “interactive performers” should be eligible to contingent compensation. This means is that if a video game sells a certain amount of units (e.g. 2 million), performers who worked on that title should be entitled to a bonus, similarly to what an executive would receive after posting successful financial results for their company. This type of compensation is fairly commonplace in many creative industries, but seemingly not in the video games industry to date.
  2. SAG-AFTRA says that performers should receive stunt pay for “vocally stressful” recording sessions, and regulations around how long these sessions are allowed to last should be put in place. This one seems a little strange, as one might believe that it is in the best interests of video game companies to ensure that their voice talent is well-looked after for quality reasons. Indeed, the companies claim that there has only been one report of a workplace injury by interactive performers to date. However,the fact that this is even raised in negotiations at all does make you wonder what might be going on behind the scenes during the development of these games.

It doesn’t help their case that the statement released by Barnes & Thornburg, the law firm representing the companies, raised more questions than it answered.  Scott J. Witlin, a partner at the firm is quoted in response to potential impacts to titles currently in production:

“It is important to note that the Video Game Companies’ upcoming games are already in production and the majority will be unaffected by any SAG-AFTRA strike due to the nature of the ‘no strike provisions’ of the collective bargaining agreement.”

So the reason we don’t have to worry about current games in production is because the performers involved have already signed their right to strike away? Yes, very reassuring.

To be fair, the information around the negotiation has been so tightly controlled to date, that for all we know the demands could  meet somewhere in the middle. The real question will be whether the  negotiating parties can see that themselves before Friday.

The following is a direct statement from the SAG-AFTRA website:

“All video games, including work such as DLC and trailers under the Interactive Contract, that went into production after February 17, 2015 for the following employers: 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.; and WB Games, Inc.”

As you can see, some pretty big names are involved so we’ll be waiting with bated breath the rest of the week to see how this one turns out.