Home Gaming Video game voice actors set to go on strike

Video game voice actors set to go on strike

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VoiceOne of the first games that I can remember playing that utilised digitised voice samples was Gauntlet; the co-operative arcade hack and slasher. “Warrior Needs Food!” I remember the game shouting at me. According to Wikipedia, the first game to use computerised human speech was something called Space Spartans. Since then though, voice in video games has progressed from being a neat bit of synthesis, to something that’s become a fundamental part of many video games.

It’s vital. The right sort of voice acting helps drive a story, and develop the characters in games – while poor voice acting makes the whole experience resonate less. Voice acting is demanding work too – requiring hours and hours of recording the same damned lines over and over again. Finding the right voice actor (who’s not Nolan North or Troy Baker) for a game role is hard enough as it is. From later this week, it may be even harder.

Much like they did last year, the Screen Actors Guild?American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voice actors union is contemplating going on strike.

“Despite years of concerted effort and negotiating sessions, video game employers have steadfastly refused to reach a fair deal during our contract negotiations,” the member message says.

“The videogame employers we are striking continue to operate under the terms of an agreement structured more than twenty years ago for an Industry that was only beginning to utilize professional performances,” the union says in its official strike notice. “Since then, games have evolved to provide increasingly immersive and cinematic experiences that compete with television and theatrical motion pictures for consumer dollars. It is time for this now mature industry to pay and treat professional performers according to the standards and precedents that our union has established and defended for generations.”

Here’s something I’m throwing in just for fun

The companies being targeted here include:

Activision Publishing, Inc.??
Blindlight, LLC
Corps of Discovery Films
Disney Character Voices, Inc.
Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.?
Formosa Interactive, LLC
?Insomniac Games, Inc. ?
Interactive Associates, Inc.
Take 2Interactive Software? ?
VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.?
?WB Games, Inc.

These are the issues they’re looking to have resolved:

  • Contingent Compensation: Videogames have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry where the top titles earn more than even the highest-grossing blockbuster movies, yet the Interactive Media Agreement, uniquely among our contracts, does not provide for a residual or any other form of back-end compensation. We are demanding a simple back-end payment that would be capped and apply only to successful games.
  • Vocal Stress: Videogame voice actors are routinely required to simulate painful deaths, creature voices, grunts, barks and other stressful vocalizations that can strain and damage their voices, sometimes permanently. To minimize the risk and strain on performers’ voices, we are demanding that vocally stressful sessions be limited to two hours but paid at the four hour session rate.
  • Transparency: Videogame employers routinely engage performers without identifying the role or even the game that the performer is being engaged to work on and refuse to provide basic information about the nature of the performance that will be expected of them. This deprives the performer of the ability to make a meaningful decision about whether to accept a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation if they do. We are demanding that employers provide performers or their agents with basic information at the time of engagement, including the game, the role and essential information about the nature of the performance.
  • Stunt Coordinators: Videogame employers frequently fail to have a stunt coordinator present when stunt work or other dangerous activity takes place. We want to clarify that the Interactive Media Agreement requires that stunt coordinators be present whenever stunt or other dangerous work is performed.

That all seems pretty reasonable to me. Should the strike go ahead, it’ll kick off this Friday. While it shouldn’t affect any of the games already due this year, it could delay a few of the ones you’re hoping to play early next year.

Last Updated: October 18, 2016

21 Comments

  1. Dutch Matrix

    October 18, 2016 at 11:09

    I can tell you one thing: I do a pretty decent Warcraft Orc imitation. And that is hell on my voice/throat if I try to do it for more that a few minutes.
    Now imagine having to do lines and lines of grunts, screams, dialogue and all that?
    I am with these voice actors. Pay them their worth. Just not the guy that does the voice of Geralt. Ugh.

    Reply

    • For the Emperor!

      October 18, 2016 at 11:17

      Lol, Geralt. That guy has it easy – no emotion whatsoever. At least, not in the parts I saw of the game. Still need to try and finish the trilogy!

      Reply

    • BakedBagel

      October 18, 2016 at 12:13

      Thankfully Geralt has his reasons for no emotion and it fits in beautifully

      Reply

  2. For the Emperor!

    October 18, 2016 at 11:10

    Stunt Coordinators? For voice? They do stunts? Really? Well, ok then…the rest all seem more than reasonable.

    Reply

    • Dutch Matrix

      October 18, 2016 at 11:12

      That also kinda surprised me. Maybe they referring to voice actors that also do motion capture?

      Reply

      • For the Emperor!

        October 18, 2016 at 11:16

        Aaah, that kinda makes sense!

        Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      October 18, 2016 at 11:34

      Voice actors VERY often alsodo motion capture.

      Reply

  3. Original Heretic

    October 18, 2016 at 11:17

    Still a job I’d love to do.

    I can see where they’re coming from as well. I’ve done voice over work and voice acting and after hours in the studio, damn, your voice does start going.
    And when you have to push your vocal chords to do things that you wouldn’t normally do, it’s seriously rough.

    Reply

    • For the Emperor!

      October 18, 2016 at 11:19

      Saw a video of Freddie Prince Jr doing *uses Google to get name* Iron Bull character. He pulled faces and it REALLY did not sound like him at all to me. Vega in ME3 you could recognise his voice.

      Reply

      • Archdruid Kromas

        October 18, 2016 at 11:20

        Yeah but I also heard that actors doing voice get paid way more than voice actors. Not sure how true but if it is then it is sad.

        Also he did quite well as Vega in the movie.

        Reply

        • Original Heretic

          October 18, 2016 at 11:22

          Yeah, your recognized actors get paid WAAAAY more than voice actors. The big name pulls people in.

          Reply

      • Original Heretic

        October 18, 2016 at 11:23

        Yeah, you end up doing all sorts of weird shit to get a different voice out sometimes.

        I’ve done loads of stage work and there are some characters I’ve done where, with the costume and makeup included, people didn’t even know it was me. The last show I did, my own grandmother didn’t recognise me!

        Reply

      • Admiral Chief

        October 18, 2016 at 11:31

        FPJ does Kanan Jarrus’ voice as well!

        Reply

        • For the Emperor!

          October 18, 2016 at 11:55

          Who is that? *Googles* Aaah! Need to start watching season 3 it seems!

          Reply

  4. Archdruid Kromas

    October 18, 2016 at 11:19

    Funny that Activision is on there as I heard Blizzard pays their voice actors well. Then again most of their voice actors are(were) also their studio heads. 😛

    Reply

  5. aj_nator

    October 18, 2016 at 11:23

    Get your strike starter pack now:
    Matches for burning down things!
    Rocks to throw at things!
    Background music to sing to!

    Wait, they don’t they don’t strike the way we do? Aw, man!

    Reply

  6. 40 Insane Frogs

    October 18, 2016 at 11:28

    Translation: Nolan North is striking – the one-man voicebox will bring gaming to its dirty knees.

    Reply

  7. Dane

    October 18, 2016 at 12:21

    #DecibelsMustFall

    Reply

  8. Audacity (or-das-it-eeee-eee)

    October 18, 2016 at 13:17

    I demand honey and brandy at the beginning of every session

    Reply

  9. Audacity (or-das-it-eeee-eee)

    October 18, 2016 at 13:17

    These are actually very reasonable

    Reply

  10. Ghost In The Rift

    October 18, 2016 at 20:38

    Hi I’m Commander Shepard and…i’m not getting paid enough for this.

    Reply

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