Voice Actor Strike Continues, as 450 Attend Picket at Ratchet & Clank Office

"2-4-6-8 come on now, negotiate!"


[UPDATE] The video game industry's legal counsel, Scott Witlin, released a statement today in response to the ongoing pickets. Witlin is the chief negotiation for the video game publishers facing the strike. SAG-AFTRA recently called him out for "spouting debunked talking points instead of helping his clients reach a fair deal with SAG-AFTRA." Here is Witlin's statement:

"After a month without being permitted to vote on the Companies' Comprehensive and Enhanced Final Offer, it is not surprising that members want to see the strike come to a conclusion. Nothing would please the Companies more than to have the talented SAG-AFTRA members back at work. It is inexplicable that SAG-AFTRA will not permit a democratic vote on a contract that currently offers its members an immediate 9% wage increase and Additional Compensation of up to $950 per game. How will the members feel when they lose that offer because SAG-AFTRA did not permit a timely ratification?

"Further the agreement is not 'decades old.' The most recent agreement was renegotiated in 2011 and the concepts that we have put on the table is a ground breaking new form of compensation for performers. What SAG-AFTRA is asking for is replicating a decades old structure that does not fit this modern industry."

The original story is below.

As the video game voice actor strike continues into its second month, there does not appear to be an end in sight. The latest action came on Thursday, November 17, when approximately 450 SAG-AFTRA members and allies picketed Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive developer Insomniac Games at its HQ in Burbank, California.

This was the union's fourth picket since the strike against 11 video game companies began on October 21. Previous pickets were held at EA, Warner Bros, and Voiceworks Productions; all combined, around 700 people have attended the pickets in an attempt to have their voices heard.

In a statement, SAG-AFTRA said it believes its picket of Insomniac Games--the largest to date--should help raise awareness for the cause.

"Each picket has brought out more members than the last," SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. "SAG-AFTRA members and our allies support this action and are continually raising the pressure on the video game companies to come back to the bargaining table with fair proposals so we can reach a deal."

The picket at Insomniac Games was streamed via Facebook Live, while the hashtag #PerformanceMatters became a trending topic on Twitter in Los Angeles. People at the picket chanted, "2-4-6-8 come on now, negotiate!"

There may not be more physical pickets this year, but SAG-AFTRA said it is planning a number of "virtual actions" to help people get an idea for what they called "the video game corporations' unfair treatment of SAG-AFTRA performers."

"The holiday season is a great time for SAG-AFTRA to get its message out because this is when gamers are thinking about new titles, and their favorite characters in those games," SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee chair Keythe Farley said in a statement. "We're asking gamers, when you pick up your favorite titles this holiday season, tell the video game corporations how much the voices you hear and the performances you see add to your gaming experience."

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Also in SAG-AFTRA's statement, the union called out the video game industry's attorney, who they said is "spouting debunked talking points instead of helping his clients reach a fair deal with SAG-AFTRA."

Check out GameSpot's previous coverage of the voice actor strike to learn more about what's going on and what each side wants.

Overwatch voice actor Crispin Freeman, who voices Winston, spoke to GameSpot recently about the strike and why voice actors matter.

"We negotiated with them for 19 months in good faith," Freeman said. "It's the longest negotiation SAG-AFTRA has ever done. It was the last thing we wanted to do, but they left us with no choice."

You can read the full interview here; we'll report back with more details on the strike in the days and weeks ahead.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for Zloth2

"2-4-6-8 come on now, negotiate!"

<sigh> Really? Can unions no longer come up with a slogan that doesn't start with 2-4-6-8 or hey-hey-ho-ho? Maybe we need another writer's strike.

Avatar image for Foxhound71

Man, how does one go about becoming a VO for games? It seems like with this strike now would be the time to pursue that particular dream.

Avatar image for lostn

They're only going to screw themselves over. Since SAG-AFTRA unioned actors only account for 25% of VA roles, there are plenty of other actors around to fill the void.

If they don't want to work, it's only going to be harder for them to make ends meet. Supposedly they don't make enough money unless they get revenue sharing. If their solution to that is to give up working, making even less money, that's just counter productive.

A strike only works if you have clout over your employers. Since there are other voice actors who can fill their role, it's not going to achieve anything.

If public transport striked, or if all the police offers went on strike, that would actually be effective. Voice actors from one union are replaceable with VAs from another, or non-unioned VAs.

Good luck SAG.

Avatar image for Khasym

@lostn: Don't speak too soon. First off, a lot of these people are into VA in OTHER fields as well. Millennials might remember Freeman as the voice of Winston, but I know that tone as Alucard from the Hellsing series of anime. I still remember Tara Strong as Raven from Teen Titans, or Colleen Clinkenbeard as Yuuko from XxxHolic. They have other jobs, and those pay a damn sight better.

Second, while I doubt any game is ever SOLD on their VA work, I'm tired of the big budget industry crying about how broke it is, when it bemoans multi-million unit sales as FAILURES, and then trots off to tell their investors how much money they actually made. To me, this is just one more reason to tighten my OWN spending habits with games, and be a lot more picky.

Lastly, while there are other VA's to fill the roles that the SAG aren't taking, that doesn't necessarily mean those actors will be suitable replacements. Tara Strong, Nolan North, Crispin Freeman and many others, bring a LOT of life and vibrancy to the work. It isn't something easily taught as much as it is developed in the industry. That's going to result in a LOT of trial-by-fire kind of work for the replacements. Look no further than Dishonored 2. It's a respectable game in it's own right, but more than a few reviewers have used the dull nature of the performances, especially given the Hollywood treatment that game got voicewise, as a serious downgrade.

Avatar image for Tiwill44

Aren't voice actors relatively easy to come by though? I mean if these guys don't want to do VO anymore, I'm pretty sure they're just gonna lose their jobs.

Either way, there has never been a video game that I played where I went "Wow! This voice actor is awful!" or "Wow! This voice actor is spectacular!", so personally I don't care much about what'll happen with this.

Avatar image for Zloth2

@Tiwill44: You probably won't notice voice acting if it's good because it will sound right and natural. The bad ones, though... ouch. How about this one where the no-emotion actor meets the massively over-done in Two Worlds 2: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=253929665

Avatar image for Tiwill44

@Zloth2: I don't have the full context on that scene, but it seems to be a conversation between a calm and somewhat cocky protagonist and an agitated restless spirit. I mean, there's no way that scene wasn't going to sound silly.

If I had been enjoying that game up until that scene, I wouldn't suddenly dislike the game. Maybe I just have some kind of tolerance for poor voice acting..

Avatar image for e3man01

@Tiwill44: Sorry but how long have you been gaming? If you were gaming in the '90's you'd know this has come a very LONG way. While, you personally, haven't ever groaned or applauded a VO performance, this was a common complaint in all games that the actors sounded like complete crap. TRUST me, none of us should want it to go back to the olden days.

Avatar image for Tiwill44

@e3man01: That was because of sound quality, not VO performance. The voice acting in Spyro, for example, was completely fine to me. Even when some voices sound rough, I usually find that it adds to the charm of the game. Really I can't think of an instance where "bad" voice acting made me enjoy a game less.

Avatar image for metallunar

@Tiwill44: Yeah I don't think it was sound quality "Jill Sandwich" anyone?

Avatar image for Wraith3

Do they do character voices while they march?

Avatar image for hendersb

So let me get this straight. We have voice actors who are striking to keep recording sessions below two hours so they don't hurt their voices. But to get their way, they are standing outside with megaphones all day long screaming at the top of their lungs?

id software should take a microphone out there to the strike zone and record all the sounds for the next Doom--for free.

Avatar image for metallunar

@hendersb: Changing your voice to sound different put a lot of stress on your windpipes, it's nothing like having normal conversation or cheering out loud for your favorite team.

Avatar image for Archangel3371

I sure hope that they get this resolved quickly. For me quality games need quality voice actors.

Avatar image for myrddin

@Archangel3371: Quite true, I'll be very bummed if we cannot have Jennifer Hale and Nolan North appear in games in the near future.

Avatar image for metallunar

@Archangel3371: I can't believe a lot of people here don't believe that good voice actors help in the quality of video games.

Avatar image for lostn

@Archangel3371: You must only play AAA games. There are plenty games with no voice acting at all, and are not worse off for it.

Avatar image for Archangel3371

@lostn: Yeah I mostly play AAA games but I do play the odd indie game here and there and I've also been an avid gamer for 40 years however I think that quality voice acting does indeed enhance a game. Not saying that I haven't played great games before without it because I have but for me it enhances them, if even just a little bit.

Avatar image for Archangel3371

@7tizz: It adds to the overall experience of the game. A quality game is the sum of its parts.

Avatar image for lateralus85

@Archangel3371: Whats so hard to understand that good voice acting is important? why is this even an argument for some "gamers" lol

Avatar image for someoneelse

@lateralus85: well its entirely opinion based, thats why. Much like how i disagree with you. Some games dont even use voice acting. Some games just have cool gibberish sounds (banjo kazooie). I just cant see a different in A. (Renowned voice guy) saying heya, and B. Cheap guy saying heya 6 times til its good enough. Lets not act like this is a hard job. You say something til it sounds ok.

Then theres complaints they have to say the n word and other slurs. Really? Youre complaining about getting a pass to use words that society doesnt let us say (aside from in hiding) and getting paid for it?

Im all for getting yours and getting a bigger piece of the pie so i part of me "supports" them. But the rational guy in me who sees people who have good lives whining(not a hrd job) while theres a lot that work harder for worse, and im certain could manage to talk into a recorder

Avatar image for straightcur

There may not be more physical pickets this year, but SAG-AFTRA said it is planning a number of "virtual actions"

3 hrs on the picket line. They've already put in more hours than their average working week. Life is hard LOL

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

@straightcur: Well games are going digital, it's only natural! Strike DLC.

Avatar image for joshrmeyer

Simple solution: Use subtitles like they use to use with some squiggly sound.

Avatar image for iandizion713

Heck yeah, protest them greedy companies.

Avatar image for YohanDeEmercer

I can do voices, hire me, I'm cheaper

Avatar image for sargentpsgamer

The companies don't care, they already said they will utilize other unions and groups to do the work..... These people are just going to lose their jobs. It isn't like the screenwriters Guild going on strike because no voice actors HAVE to be in this union.

Avatar image for darthrevenx

in 30 years we'll all look back on this time and laugh.....

Hey Joe, remember when voice actors got all crazy and made all sorts of insane demands??

Yeah, Steve that was a crazy time wasn't it??

*in unison* yeah man LOLZ

on the other hand everything could end before then and it'd be a Mad Max or Fallout type world......in which case....

Hey raider Bob look at what I got off this junked hard drive....

whataway got there Raider Dan???

I gots something about IDK voice actors getting all upptiy?? demanding more pay??? just take what you want man....

Naww raider Dan, back then people didn't do that....

but Raider Bob that's so boring.....

I know Raider Dan, I know.......


I joke but this isn't good.....

Avatar image for straightcur

There are very few voice actors that are worth anything. And they get work and pay easily. There's a reason most gamers play with subtitles turned on...

Avatar image for Zloth2

@straightcur: Yeah, there is a reason: English isn't their first language and they find it easier to read than to hear.

Avatar image for Deadlyblack

Only voice actors I'll feel bad for are the VAs for Dragon Ball, both the anime and the games, Japanese and English.

So much throat killing yelling.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k


Avatar image for darthrevenx

@Thanatos2k: LMFAO



Avatar image for Thanatos2k

@darthrevenx: Dude, KHAAAAN is not the proper response to TETSUOOOOOOOOOOOOO. There is exactly one proper response.

And Khan isn't even voice acting! It's just regular acting!

Learn your history!

Avatar image for darthrevenx

@Thanatos2k: meh, both were yelling......and created the same effect......

also look at the link, that's one of the funniest smaller segments Robot Chicken did.....

get your ass to Mars brlp, get your ass to Mars brlp, get your ass to Mars brlp.........

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

Wow so the union strikes could actually lead to them losing the sweet deal they were offered... this is why I hate union strikes they accomplish nothing...

Avatar image for straightcur

@gamingdevil800: Once you give the union a strike mandate, you lose all rights. They dont need to present any offers to the membership for votes. The small extremist element of the union now controls everything and there's nothing you can do about it.

Avatar image for howthegodzkill

Not much of a voice actors strike if everyone's still talking...

Avatar image for xolivierx

I personally don't care who does the voices, as long as they fit the character and the game. In fact, they could just hire anybody with a suitable voice.

I personally prefer subtitles over voice acting. It's not as if I purchase games based on who does the fracking voices. It's just gravy on top. Games are not what they used to be.

Avatar image for Ayato_Kamina_1

@xolivierx: Voice acting is a strange. The VAs who are fantastic... i absolutely believe they should be paid well and well treated. But at the same time there's a bunch of voice actors who are just garbage and i don't understand how they keep getting work.

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