Home Gaming Gaming voice actors could go on strike

Gaming voice actors could go on strike

3 min read

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 But apparently their payment structures are seriously outdated and in need of some renegotiation.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


  1. Victor "Vicky" Moolman

    September 23, 2015 at 08:33

    What is the pay scheme for the artists, writers and developers then, I get that the voice actors are important but they aren’t the most integral part of games. Most F2P online games have no voices in them at all, something like Aura Kingdom delivers great narrative without voice acting being a major part of the game. Heck, Minecraft uses a few grunts here and there and it is one of the largest games out there.

    If they want to get paid more they should probably try to get developers, artists and writers to join them in their fight for a raise otherwise it might end up looking really bad for them (voice actors).


  2. Guava_Eater

    September 23, 2015 at 08:53

    Am I the only one wondering exactly what constitutes “Vocally Stressful”? I mean during your audition for a role (especially a voice acting role) you as the person auditioning read the lines in a way that you think gives life to the character you’re portraying. The people holding the auditions then decide which actor best represents the role. (Acknowledging most of the actors may use different “voices” for the same character). In the end if they get hired to do a role for My Little Pony online sounding like a death metal rock band isn’t that the voice they “sold” to the producers? (Or sold the producers on?)


    • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

      September 23, 2015 at 09:03

      I believe that refers to extensive hours of recording, if it’s motion capture, they spend a few hours getting prepped for it, they then record maybe two hours of voice/motion capture and then have to get everything off again, so in a sense, that could be quite stressful, especially if you have to focus on your performance as well… That would also include the performance they then auditioned for….


      • Guava_Eater

        September 23, 2015 at 09:21

        Aye, a one handed juggler hired to juggle one handed complaining about the physically intensive task of juggling one handed… My union say I can only juggle for 2 hours a day max ’cause it’s stressful.

        This isn’t a dig at the bonus scheme, if the games do well the talent should get performance bonuses.


        • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

          September 23, 2015 at 09:44

          That’s true, look, if anyone signs up to get a bunch of balls strapped to them together with some mics, they should at least know what they’re getting into, but complaining about it afterwards, having seen how much money they’ve raked in is a little counterintuitive….


    • RinceThat

      September 23, 2015 at 10:38

      Ya, its the same as a Hollywood movie. If you watched the casting call for Ellie in the last of Us its a painful process. She ended up winning 2 BAFTA awards for her role as Ellie.

      Also, voice acting is harder than acting. Most come from Thespian backgrounds and are trained to THROW their voice hence how Troy Baker can do 6 characters and you would not be able to tell the difference.

      You cant just get Peter Dinklage to read lines over the phone. Sometimes it works if the actor plays himself like Kevin Spacey in COD.

      The art is very under appreciated because of the laymens view that videogames are for kids.

      I doubt Ashley Johnson can even get work with 2 BAFTAS under her belt. If she voiced a character for Hollywood in a PIXAR animation then she would be rolling in it.


  3. Greylingad[CNFRMD]

    September 23, 2015 at 09:13

    Taking performances like Joel from TLOU by Troy Baker, Trevor Philips from GTAV by Steven Ogg, nothing compares to the quality of those performances, even Kevin Spacey in Advanced Wartfare was bloody good, but it seems these bonuses are aimed at the top performers and not the regular fill ins, hopefully though, this is not the case and everyone, from devs all the way through to the tea lady can get a bump in sales related salary distribution….


    • RinceThat

      September 23, 2015 at 10:48

      Nice to see Steven Ogg got some recognition and ended up in Better Call Soul as well as The crazy dude from Far Cry 3.


  4. RinceThat

    September 23, 2015 at 09:14

    So we will get more Quite?

    Dam QUITE Stefanie Joosten WILL YOU MARRY ME?


    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      September 23, 2015 at 09:38

      She even looks like her. No, don’t go there pervs!


      • RinceThat

        September 23, 2015 at 09:42

        She is Dutch who speaks fluent Japanese and higher English. An Anime fan AND LOVES RED HEADS… scrap the last part.

        Kojima based Quiets likeness on her. Watch this space, she is going places.


        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          September 23, 2015 at 13:04

          So you’re willing to take the good with the bad? ;P


          • RinceThat

            September 23, 2015 at 13:18


  5. The Sten

    September 23, 2015 at 09:18

    If they dont like the terms of the job they signed up for then why dont they just go somewhere else?


    • RinceThat

      September 23, 2015 at 09:55

      I don’t blame them, they do not get any Royalties and Video games are not taken seriously in main stream acting, even tho we have been spoilt with some of the best acting that even beats Hollywood.

      Its time they took a stand.


    • Brady miaau

      September 23, 2015 at 10:03

      Well, it sounds sort of like the writers strike in hollywood a few years back. Those guys had some genuine grievances.

      Some strikes in SA as well: I remember the municipal staff in Madibeng (brits) went on strike, to force action on the corrupt financial controller. They got the person fired.

      And then the person was rehired later……..


  6. HvR

    September 23, 2015 at 09:33

    Heard the voice actor doing Gordon Freeman’s voice is holding out for 300% increase.


  7. RinceThat

    September 23, 2015 at 09:38

    Always the same AAA over saturated voice actors anyway. Time for younger talent to penetrate the market. Like Stefanie Joosten.

    As for kiefer sutherland? I cant imagine how much money he was paid to say “Good dog” 😛


  8. RinceThat

    September 23, 2015 at 09:49

    DAM THIS GIRL IS SEXY. Its Spring. Im horny.


    • Greylingad[CNFRMD]

      September 23, 2015 at 09:54

      I can’t read the subs and watch….simply because that first sentence is spot on!!


      • RinceThat

        September 23, 2015 at 09:57



  9. Deceased

    September 23, 2015 at 10:21

    I honestly believe the voice actors of Bioshock Infinite
    ( Troy Baker – Booker, Courtnee Draper – Elizabeth, Kiff VandenHeuvel – Comstock, etc. )
    should have gotten a large slice of the money pie ( and I really hope they did ), they MADE that experience ( sure the rest of the game is also INSANELY awesome – feel free to disagree – but they brought out the feeling in the game )

    “Booker, are you afraid of God? No… but I AM afraid of you”

    ~ Chills ~


    • RinceThat

      September 23, 2015 at 10:50

      I doubt they got much. Like Nico Bellic from GTAIV, he wanted to sue Rockstar for his crappy pay.


    • Kromas untamed

      September 23, 2015 at 11:14

      Troy was not good in Bioshock. Not good at all. His performance felt forced. Now in the Last of us he was just amazing.

      Also all Bioware games need to pay their voice actors especially well. Dragon Age and Mass Effect has some of the best voice acting out there.


  10. Kromas untamed

    September 23, 2015 at 11:10

    You had me at Jennifer Hale.

    Give them BONUSES dammit!


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