Video Game Voice Actors May Go on Strike

A major union that represents actors is asking its members to vote on whether or not they should go on strike to resolve a dispute.

A prominent union that represents video game actors is considering a strike as means to resolve ongoing contract disputes between actors and publishers. The union, SAG-AFTRA, is asking its members to vote on whether or not to strike. A number of high-profile video game voice actors, including Wil Wheaton and Jennifer Hale, have spoken out in support through messages on social media.

In February this year, SAG-AFTRA's Interactive Committee met with publishers to renegotiate with partners such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Disney, and Warner Bros. The union reports that there was "some polite and spirited back-and-forth," but the parties were not able to come to an agreement. They met again in June, but things didn't go better, which means the union now believes it is "at a crossroads."

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On its website (via GameInformer), SAG-AFTRA explains that the template for the original agreement, negotiated and signed in the mid-1990s, is still in place today "despite radical changes in what we are required to do on set and in the recording studio." SAG-AFTRA is looking to make a number of changes, chief among them is a better bonus payment plan.

"You might call them residuals, secondary payments, royalties, pay bumps or whatever suits your fancy," the union explained. "It is simply the idea that, if a video game is wildly successful, actors should share in its financial success. There is ample precedent for residual income for actors, yet they've historically been extremely difficult to achieve in this contract. The formula we propose is as follows:

"We're asking for a reasonable performance bonus for every 2 million copies, or downloads sold, or 2 million unique subscribers to online-only games, with a cap at 8 million units/ subscribers. That shakes out, potentially, to FOUR bonus payments for the most successful games: 2 million, 4 million, 6 million and 8 million copies."

Another part of SAG-AFTRA's proposed package concerns "Vocal Stress." Specifically, the union is proposing to limit "vocally stressful" recording sessions to two hours. The group also wants to see stunt coordinators be required on set to assist performance capture actors. What's more, the proposal calls for greater overall transparency in the auditioning process. The union points out that, oftentimes, the actual name of a project is kept secret, and this is not an ideal situation for actors.

"You wouldn't work on a TV show, commercial, or film without knowing what part you're playing and how it fits into the story, yet we are asked over and over again to do just that in interactive media," it said. "Our proposal also asks for the following information whenever reasonably possible: How many sessions are you expecting to book? What rating are you planning to get? Why? Is there offensive content? Will the sessions be vocally stressful? Transparency is key. We deserve to clearly know what we’re getting into before we commit to a role in a game."

Overall, SAG-AFTRA says its package of proposals is "not loaded with any crazy demands,"

The strike will go forward if 75 percent of voters vote "yes" to authorize it. Voting closes on October 5. Actors such as Roger Craig Smith (Batman, Assassin's Creed), Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect, Guild Wars), and Wil Wheaton have spoken out in support of authorizing a strike.

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