Video Game Voice Actor Strike Continues, as Union Pickets Batman Publisher This Week
SAG-AFTRA is asking its members to picket Warner Bros. on November 3.
Some video game voice actors have been on strike since October 21, after the union that represents them, SAG-AFTRA, and the video game industry could not come to terms.
After picketing Electronic Arts' Los Angeles office last month, SAG-AFTRA has now announced it will do the same this week for Warner Bros. at its office in Burbank, California. The picket will take place at Warner Bros. Studios from 10-30 AM to 12:30 PM PT on Thursday, November 3.
More than 300 SAG-AFTRA members and allied union members picketed EA last week, in a move that the union said was "successful" by its own measurements.
The strike also applies to Activision, Insomniac Games, Take-Two, and Disney Character Voices, among others. SAG-AFTRA has also published lists of games that its members should strike and another list of non-struck games. The list of games to strike includes the upcoming Crash Bandicoot remaster and new entries in EA's sports franchise, among many others. As for the non-struck games, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Destiny, and Dishonored 2 are on the list. Interestingly, something called Call of Duty: Stronghold & Lethal Combat and Warner Bros. games codenamed "Metallica," "Sabbath," and "Kraken" are mentioned.
Bear in mind that many of the names featured on the lists are codenames. Also, without knowing any dates, it's possible these games already came out.
As for the negotiations, SAG-AFTRA says that its package of proposals is "not loaded with any crazy demands." Several prominent voice actors have spoken out in support of the strike, including Roger Craig Smith (Batman, Assassin's Creed), Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Guild Wars), and actor Wil Wheaton. According to Deadline, only about 25 percent of video games use union voice actors. This is the first strike in the history of video game performers.
The gaming industry refuses to offer residual payment bonuses and other profit-sharing opportunities, according to the union. Specifically, SAG-AFTRA asked that its performers receive an additional "full-scale payment" for every 500,000 units sold, for a maximum of four secondary payments if a game sells 2 million copies, Deadline reported. Additionally, the union claims that the industry has denied a proposal that would reduce the recording time for "vocally stressful" sessions to two hours to help prevent an actor from damaging their voice. For its part, the industry came back to the bargaining table with an offer for helping to ease the stress of voice recording.
"The [video game companies] offered to split a 4-hour recording session into two, two-hour portions with the second session to be performed within five days of the first session to ease the stress on performers, but this and other offers were rejected by SAG-AFTRA," the industry's lawyer said. "This is an area that the parties have agreed to continue to collaboratively investigate during the term of the next contract. Exploring ways to further improve working conditions is something both sides should be committed to."
According to the video game publishers, it offered a 9 percent wage hike as part of the negotiations. Additionally, it offered additional compensation of up to $950 per game based on the number of voice acting sessions an actor did on a particular game.
With the wage hike, this package could apparently lead to a 23 percent increase in pay for some actors, the publishers said. As it stands, video game voice actors represented by SAG-AFTRA are paid at least $100/hour, plus benefits, though working hours are not "normal" by the conventional standard.
According to SAG-AFTRA, the union would also like to see the gaming industry loosen up on some of its secrecy rules. As it stands, an actor sometimes does not even know the game he or she is auditioning for, which it argues is not fair.
We'll report back with more details on the state of the strike in the days and weeks ahead.