Are Video Game Voice Actors Warranted to Go on Strike?

Since the 2007–08 Writers Guild of America strike, many other creative media outlets have been demanding more appreciation for their craft, which brings us to a conversation between video game publishers and their voice actors over the terms of contract. It has been a long issue that might finally make some headway. The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio, the union that representing actors, which include voice actors as well, are currently contemplating going on a strike, but will this effect games currently still in production?

“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,” the union writes. “That shakes out, potentially, to FOUR bonus payments for the most successful games: 2 million, 4 million, 6 million and 8 million copies.” Voice actors who have taken to social media to make their support of the coming strike vocal to the masses so far include Wil Wheaton (Broken Age), Phil LaMarr (Tales from the Borderlands: A Telltale Games Series and Mortal Kombat X), Jennifer Hale (Halo 5: Guardians), Ashly Burch (Life is Strange) and Steve Blum (Final Fantasy Type-0 HD). They are all using the hashtags #PerformanceMatters and #IAmOnBoard2015 to promote their support for the strike.

The video game voice actors had given their reasonable list of demands, which surprisingly haven’t already been in place since day one. These demands included the following: a hazard pay for vocally stressful recording sessions, stunt coordinators on performance capture, royalties based on game sales and transparency during auditions. “Every proposal we’ve made has been flatly, firmly, and summarily shot down,” said Steve Blum in an email. In response to his email, a group of greedy companies delivered a wise-cracking and rude list of counter-proposals that had producer-mandated changes in blue. Some of those “demands” of the listed proposals included a company’s ability to use “persons employed on staff” as voice actors “excluded from the scope of this Agreement,” “once an engagement is accepted, the performer shall appear at that session, on time, ready and willing to perform and attentive to the services for which they have been engaged,” if the voice actor breaks this part of the agreement, they will have to pay $2,500 in “Liquidated Damages.” SAG-AFTRA claims “this means [actors] could be fined for almost anything: checking an incoming text, posting to Twitter, even zoning out for a second.”

In an attack for the voice actors standing up for their rights and services, the producers are seeking the right to fine SAG-AFTRA franchised agents $100,000 for refusing to “refer represented performers for engagements at rates provided.” In layman’s terms it means if a clients agent doesn’t send them on a certain audition, they’ll be charged for not being sent to said audition. Or, if SAG-AFTRA revokes their franchise, they will only charge $50,000. Thus prompting the vote on whether or not to stand up and take strike, which they most likely will, but for that to happen at least 75 percent of union members would need to approve the call to action.

“It comes down to a question of power. The employers can dig in their heels indefinitely. A strong strike authorization vote is the best way to shift the power dynamic.” Said a representative of the Union. “We’ve been told that our performances do not matter. That anyone can do this work. And that the fans won’t care if we’re replaced by non-actors. We believe otherwise. So we have unified and are taking a stand to prove it. We believe in creating a quality product and are only asking for a reasonable, safe and fair working environment so we are able to continue providing it, “said Steve Blum, who firmly believes in the rights for video game voice actors.

It is a shame that companies forget so easily how it is they make their money. Earlier this year, Hideo Kojima, one of the most brilliant minds in gaming ( and a Vice President no less), was unfairly fired from his company. Konami also believed that his services could be done by anyone and wouldn’t affect Metal Gear Solid V. Employees all over the game industry are treated poorly and without the hard work of these voice actors, and the few who are daring enough to dawn the mocap suits, there would be no game company to begin with. If they believe that just anyone could do the job that these talented people are doing they are pipe dreaming and will soon enough realize the folly of their ways. This goes for any company not just in the entertainment industry, but throughout the nation .

Here’s hoping for justice for these actors and actresses sooner rather than later. I would gladly give up a few months even years of gaming if it means that our fellow man can have a fair and justice work environment.