Gaming voice actors could go on strike

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Voice actor strike

Voice actors are increasingly recognized as integral to gaming experiences. They give credibility and gravitas to roles that would otherwise be forgettable, and their performances can make or break an entire game. But apparently their payment structures are seriously outdated and in need of some renegotiation. That negotiation process might include some strike action.

The discussions have been running since the beginning of this year, but according to the SAG-AFTRA site two of the key areas of debate are around bonus payments and stunt pay (thanks Game Informer):

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.

[…] We believe actors should get stunt pay for vocally stressful recording sessions the same way they get stunt pay for physically demanding roles. That’s why we’re proposing to limit “vocally stressful” recording sessions to two hours at the same union minimums.

I’m sort of surprised that these kinds of structures aren’t already in place. As discussed in the FAWs on the SAG-AFTRA site, there is a precedent for this across the media landscape, with performers getting secondary payments for feature films, animation, episodic TV and even commercials (although I have no idea how that would work with “blockbuster” commercials).

There is ample precedent for secondary payments across the media landscape. You get secondary payments when you perform in feature films, animation, episodic TV, commercials and the like. But that wasn’t always the case. Performers who came before you had the courage to fight for the residual payments you enjoy today, and, because they stood together, they won them.

The top games make money. This industry has grown, boomed and morphed into something bigger and lucrative than any other segment of the entertainment industry, and it continues to do so. The truth is, back end bonuses are not uncommon in the video game industry. Last year, Activision’s COO took home a bonus of $3,970,862. EA paid their executive chairman a bonus of $1.5 million. We applaud their success, and we believe our talent and contributions are worth a bonus payment, too.

Those are some rather nice bonuses for top executives, and yes, I agree that performers should get the same. Of course, that also makes me wonder about how roles will be spread across voice actors, too. If Nolan North and Troy Baker get every male role in every game, other voice actors might not see the benefits as much. Still, the number of voice actors coming out in support of this on twitter is quite impressive, with top names like Wil Wheaton, Jennifer Hale, Ashley Burch and Phil LaMarr all tweeting about it using the hashtags #PerformanceMatters and #IAmOnBoard2015.

Here’s hoping that the publishers can come to the table and recognize the value of the voice actors. I’d had to see them forced to go on strike to be taken seriously – not only are strike actions a pain, but they would also lead to game delays and even more tension between the two parties. Hopefully the threat of a strike is enough, although I would love to see some of those top talents toi-toiing.

Last Updated: September 23, 2015

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. You can read more of my words over at www.borngeek.co.za, or just follow me on all the social networks to get the true range of my sarcasm and wit.

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