Some of the industry’s top talent may be withholding their services in protest very soon.
Voice acting is tough work, and we rarely stop to think about it when we’re playing our video games. For every monster you hear with a snarling, raspy voice there’s a normal dude trying to make a buck. Likewise, think back to all of those shooters, horror games, and voiced RPGs. Think of all the crying, dying, screaming, and shouting. Every one of those scenes was likely recorded over several takes, with the voice actor having to recreate dramatic moments by screaming or shrieking time after time.
That can be dangerous for people who make their living off of their vocal cords. Vocal cord damage can be severe, and last for months. The U.S. based screen actors union SAG-AFTRA has been working for years to negotiate better working conditions for its members, many of whom voice characters in the most popular games in the world. Things have reached a boiling point, and a strike may be looming.
Who, what, when, where?
SAG-AFTRA released a statement yesterday saying that if agreeable terms were not met by the end of negotiations taking place today thru Wednesday, that a strike would commence on Friday, October 21. This would affect several major companies such as EA, Activision, Disney, Take 2, Insomniac, and more. The union has several demands. Chief among them are better pay, more lenient scheduling that allows for vocal recovery, and residual payment.
Though I doubt all of those “needs” will be satisfied, I do hope that mutually beneficial terms are met. The law firm representing the video game companies issued a statement expressing disappointment that such drastic threats have been made. “We have negotiated in good faith for the past 18 months with SAG-AFTRA union leaders, and are making progress toward a new contract. We are deeply disappointed to learn today of the union’s threatened strike and its unilateral violation of the mutually agreed upon ‘news black-out’ on negotiation discussions.”
Will this affect us?
There is plenty of voice talent out there, and even if SAG-AFTRA does go on strike there are plenty of other actors who would love a chance to make their break into the business. Additionally, the strike would only affect games that began development after February 2015. Even so, that could potentially affect huge titles like Destiny 2, Insomniac’s Spider Man, and EA’s new Star Wars game directed by Amy Hennig.
What’s your take on the impending strike? Is SAG-AFTRA shooting itself in the foot and losing its members work? There’s nothing to stop the gaming companies from going out and finding voice actors who aren’t part of the union. Alternatively, do you think the strike is an important step in the right direction for the industry as a whole? Could this be part of a movement to recognize everyone who works on games as individuals who deserve better working conditions? Let us know what you think in the comments below.