Video Game Voice Actors Vote In Favor of Strike

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Video Game Voice Actors Vote In Favor of Strike

Negotiations are still underway, but the vast majority of voice actors in the screen actors guild support a strike.

Earlier in the month, we learned that a lot of video game voice actors were not happy with their working conditions, and were threatening to strike, and send us back to the silent protagonist days of Gordon Freeman and Link. Now, it looks like things are moving forward, with The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists announcing that it has taken a vote on the strike, with a whopping 96.52% percent of members approving the action.

While this doesn't necessarily indicate that a strike is imminent, it does mean that if negotiations between the voice actors and publishers such as Electronic Arts, Activision, Disney, and Warner Bros. break down, a strike can be called right away.

As we reported earlier, the threatened strike has to do with bonus payouts for successful games. "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." wrote SAG-AFTRA in a statement.

SAG-AFTRA is asking for it's actors to be rewarded a bonus after two million sales/downloads/online subscriptions of any particular game, and then for every two million thereafter up to eight million.

I hope this gets sorted soon before developers have to resort to drastic measures. Bungie may have to get Peter Dinklage back!

Source: GameSpot

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This reminds me of an episode of South Park where Canada decided to go on strike and pull all it's workers from America, and the only ones that suffered for it were Canada while America promptly proceeded to not give a damn for the whole episode until the Canadian leader just caved and the Canadians realized how much money they were pissing away by not working.

If there's any sense in this world, a very similar thing will happen if this strike actually happens. These voice actors will go on strike while the video game industry will not give a damn and hire cheaper fresh out of school voice actors instead or just go back to text boxes like some games are even doing right now. These people are only hurting themselves with this and they'll eventually realize that.

hahaha, there is some kind of undefinable humor behind using that Gordon freeman picture when talking about a voice actor strike.

writers strike 2: Electric Boogaloo

These terrible voice actors still think they deserve better pay than the developers who devote all of their time, and often their own savings, into the game. A VA will put in 4 hours? Sometimes up to 20. A developer can put in over 1000. At the end of the day VAs get paid more for less work. This strike is ridiculous and absolutely selfish. The people who made the game don't get these kinds of bonuses. Why are you trying to claim more money? The claim that execs get too much money is fine, but claiming a third party deserves that money is absurd.

immortalfrieza:
This reminds me of an episode of South Park where Canada decided to go on strike and pull all it's workers from America, and the only ones that suffered for it were Canada while America promptly proceeded to not give a damn for the whole episode until the Canadian leader just caved and the Canadians realized how much money they were pissing away by not working.

If there's any sense in this world, a very similar thing will happen if this strike actually happens. These voice actors will go on strike while the video game industry will not give a damn and hire cheaper fresh out of school voice actors instead or just go back to text boxes like some games are even doing right now. These people are only hurting themselves with this and they'll eventually realize that.

I fear that they will soon learn how insignificant they are in the grand scheme of things.

Unfortunate, but hopefully we'll get some new voice talent out of this. Maybe Troy Baker won't voice every character. Honestly, there are only a few voice actors and actresses that I even care about. The gameplay, writing, and art styles are more important. The emphasis should be on the characters, not on the alleged star power of a few voice actors.

I hate the guild, I'm pretty sure unionization is the reason we didn't get Tracey Rooney back for Chie >:(

Like the dude above said, a bunch of fresh out of school voice actors will gladly line up to get work, probably for cheaper too. So strike all you want.

I'll admit, I like my games with voices, but I couldn't tell you one VA from another. So long as the guy is mediocre, I'm good.

Elfgore:
Like the dude above said, a bunch of fresh out of school voice actors will gladly line up to get work, probably for cheaper too. So strike all you want.

I'll admit, I like my games with voices, but I couldn't tell you one VA from another. So long as the guy is mediocre, I'm good.

If my knowledge of how American unions work is correct, those young voice actors will be either forced into union or will find a lot of horse heads in their beds.

OT: Meh, most of the games I love don't need voice acting and would've been good without it. I mean, yeah, Persona 4 without voice acting is worse then Persona 4 with one, but I COULD live without it. If RPG story writers or fighting games character designers go on strike, though, then it's a problem.

Much as I've grown to love a number of specific voice actors for their performances, they are certainly never a necessity to enjoy any game. If they want to strike it may even be a good thing considering there could possibly be an influx of new voice talent.

I'm reluctant to support such a move myself when they are ultimately a very small portion of any game or its development.

If this means we hear less of Troy Baker or Laura Bailey, and hear some new voice actors for a change, then I'm all for a strike. It's absurd how they demand to be paid more while developers still get the shaft, when they do all the hard work.

EndlessSporadic:
These terrible voice actors still think they deserve better pay than the developers who devote all of their time, and often their own savings, into the game. A VA will put in 4 hours? Sometimes up to 20. A developer can put in over 1000. At the end of the day VAs get paid more for less work. This strike is ridiculous and absolutely selfish. The people who made the game don't get these kinds of bonuses. Why are you trying to claim more money? The claim that execs get too much money is fine, but claiming a third party deserves that money is absurd.

It's not like it's without merit, voice acting is more often talent than practice. The rarer something is, the more valuable it is, so it's not strange that a code monkey (who's basically a tool you throw at a problem) earns less than a VA.

I'm sure that's not justification enough in your eyes, nor am I'm trying to convince that it's fair, it's just an explanation of why.
Just remember that just because some have it worse, it's not an excuse to hold others back.

I remember going from Mass Effect to Shadowrun, where I found myself missing voice acting. I grew up with text games (Zork and the like) as well as playing all the epic RPG's of the late 90's, but I still find voice acting a great step forward for games.

WHOOO SILENT PROTAGONISTS!!! can't wait

I support them as the industry does treat them like lesser beings as if their performances are not impactful enough to the entire product. A good VA can make an otherwise mediocre game awesome whereas a shit VA, ones that we had at the beginning of it all and ones we might end up with if the scabs start crossing the picket lines, can make a great experience feel lackluster and even downright shitty. Sure some bad VA can make an otherwise dull game campy because of its awfulness but that is not the rule but rather the exception.

Yes there are other elements that go into making a game, but voice acting is a large part of it too and an important one at that.

I would also support a full on QA strike until publishers started utilizing them, consider them an extremely important part of development so we could stop getting 1/2 finished buggy messes and also so we as the consumer didn't have to be the QA for them. If QA went on strike, and publishers started putting out Arkham Knight piles of steaming shit, they'd realize very quickly that QA is indeed important and integral to the development process and they should put more weight on the QA reports of why x game is not ready for consumers.

Here is what people don't get. Laura Bailey, Jennifer Hale, Troy Baker, these big names who you hear in everything are supporting this. Why? Because they're greedy?
No. Because as major members of the union their solidarity matters and lends weight to their argument.
This is not, ultimately, for Jenn Hale in those big title roles. This is for Cam Clarke, or Claudia Christian, or all those npcs who say one or two lines, but play three different characters.
Voice acting is a difficult profession for many, MANY actors. Most VAs audition for as many of those small roles as possible in order to make ends meet between their next well paying gig, and there are tons of complications.
And the fact that this doesn't help the programmers should not matter. There is little, if any, representation for most Gaming Industry professions. That needs to change if they are to improve THEIR quality of life. Maybe if this works it will inspire the first artist's union in gaming. Maybe not. But do not direct your rage at the Actors, who are still a part of the machine, no matter how large or small. Direct it at the corporate structure that led to them demanding an improvement.
They have a method to fight back that others don't. Should they then not fight so that all may suffer equally?

fresh voice actors may be cheap but they are also, well, fresh. they will fumble their lines, and overall give a worse performance. imagine any game with characters you care about giving half assed line deliveries.

Imperioratorex Caprae:
I would also support a full on QA strike until publishers started utilizing them, consider them an extremely important part of development so we could stop getting 1/2 finished buggy messes and also so we as the consumer didn't have to be the QA for them. If QA went on strike, and publishers started putting out Arkham Knight piles of steaming shit, they'd realize very quickly that QA is indeed important and integral to the development process and they should put more weight on the QA reports of why x game is not ready for consumers.

Publishers know that already. You think that anyone thought that Assassin's Creed: Unity and Arkham Knight for PC were actually ready for release? Even a blind wombat wouldn't have been fooled. Publisher's just don't care, and they won't care until it hits their bottom line. QA workers are some of the lowest skilled, lowest paid workers in video game space. For everyone one of them that goes on strike, there's a dozen 18 to 25 somethings standing at the ready thinking this is their big shot at breaking into the industry. The problem isn't with QA, its with publishers choosing other considerations over what QA tells the devs.

As for VA in general, I don't feel like it makes a big difference in games personally. There's not an immense amount of difference to my ear between Patrick Stewart in Oblivion and a no-name VA in, say, Kotor, voicing a space gangster. Even great voice acting is brought down from most game's lack of range in character model's facial expressions and movement. VA is only a part in making a character come alive, and not the biggest part.

I'd be agreeable to VA's getting a royalty as part of a deal with ALL of the devs making the game getting a bonus. Something universal. There's nothing particularly special about VA's that makes them deserve a bonus over anybody else. 'Course, I'm not even sure if they're serious about pushing for the bonus; that's what the Escapist is focusing on as the big ticket item, but the resolution of any negotiation is a compromise. In a compromise, you reach a balance between your own demands and the demands of the other party. If you artificially inflate your demands by including a big ticket item that you can focus on but are unlikely to get, you can shift the balance of compromise to your side; if you put up a token fight for those bonuses, yet have no illusions of walking away from the table with those bonuses, then you may "compromise" by giving up on that specific demand in exchange for smaller concessions. Its an old negotiating tactic. It also gives a rallying point among your constituents, letting the union workers see that you're aiming high for their benefit and keeping their morale high enough to go through on a strike, even if you know you're not actually going to get exactly what you're fighting for.

To those saying that a strike would be an opportunity for young talent to show itself: maybe, but that talent would die on conclusion of the strike. If the strike doesn't kill the union, then they aren't going to accept the scabs that worked during the strike, and can make trouble for any publisher that doesn't exclusively hire a union worker (even if the clause that publishers must higher union workers doesn't end up making it into the new contracts, the union can still cause trouble for anyone that goes outside of them for talent).

They sure deserve more compensation then the people that actually made the game that work in gulag conditions and get jack shit, voice actors are more important to the game then developers and animators for sure.

Supahewok:

Publishers know that already. You think that anyone thought that Assassin's Creed: Unity and Arkham Knight for PC were actually ready for release? Even a blind wombat wouldn't have been fooled. Publisher's just don't care, and they won't care until it hits their bottom line. QA workers are some of the lowest skilled, lowest paid workers in video game space. For everyone one of them that goes on strike, there's a dozen 18 to 25 somethings standing at the ready thinking this is their big shot at breaking into the industry. The problem isn't with QA, its with publishers choosing other considerations over what QA tells the devs.

Knowing and accepting are two different things. Back about 15 years ago I worked in QA, and it was not like it is now. There were a lot of talented and skilled folks working alongside me and competent managers. Also the communications between devs and QA were much more straightforward, I actually had a few times where I was able to sit various devs down and discuss some of the bugs I'd found, how they were produced and what that meant to the game itself, did it break the game, make things untenable or was it something that was a low priority. The workplace has changed since I worked there and the friends who stayed on to become top level QA management have repeatedly told me that what we had when I started and when I finished is no longer there.

Sure as you said there are a bunch of people who have no clue what they're getting into but if the publishers lose their top tier QA people, the products will suffer even worse than they do now and that is not a position they want to be in. They will care when their games stop being blindly followed by even the least knowledgeable customer.

Medal of Honor sank completely because it was a mess of shit when EA rebooted it and has since not been developed again. It may take a few big named releases being reviled and the publisher name losing face in the market to wake them up but it is something that should be done and I for one would support it.

I don't subscribe to cynicism and not even the biggest names can handle a walkout of top tier talent in any of their areas, especially QA. Take for granted one aspect of your business and that is where your business will ultimately fail. The masses may be slow on the uptake but when they've been burned and burned hard, they do tend to not keep coming back.

Why are people framing this as "those greedy VA's, wanting more than programmers/QA testers/etc, they don't deserve that" and not "VA's get treated like shit and deserve more from publishers. Also, programmers/QA testers/etc get treated like shit and deserve more from publishers"?

VA's and the dev teams aren't opposed here.

This could very easily backfire on SAG-Aftra I imagine VA work is done on a large amount of upcoming games and publishers and studios will hire non-union and Fi-core actors plus use their own employees and once Halo 6 still sells like a chocolate covered cunnilingus machine (because nobody buy a game for the VO talent) then they'll just tell SAG to go fuck themselves.

Oh no, whatever will I do without those npc voices in my video games. How will I ever know the guards are assholes who hate me for my sweetrolls?

Ok, snark aside, I think I support the VA on this one actually. They worked, they helped contribute to the success, only fair they get a portion of the success. While I would say the actual workhorses of the game creators should get the lion's share of that sort of profit sharing process, I don't see why the VA can't also get a little of that too.

Granted, voice acting is really low on the priority of games in general, and their complete removal wouldn't be missed by many people, if at all if they were replaced with newbies. And granted any sort of dip into the executive's private hookers-and-blow funds to pay for this is likely to be a corner cut somewhere else in the game's developer.

Still, if the games succeeds, the whole team should have a bit of reward for that effort, voice actors included. Seems just another example of how the overall system needs fixing though, rather than just patches here and there to hold it together long enough to milk things to death before pachinko-ing out ala konami.

Jen Taylor sums up VA's big problem in a nutshell:
"Nathan Fillion said to me, 'If you don't do one of these games, fans are going to be upset, but they're still going to buy the game,'" Taylor recalls. "There's only so much footing that you have as a voice actor. I don't know if it's because you don't see us physically or what."

hate unions, so yeah im against these guys striking because all it does is hurt consumers not the companies themselves.

as to why I hate unions, well the majority are run by the lowest common denominator and as such are soulless morons, so lawyers:)

This should turn into an interesting exercise.

... Damn. I'm actually drawn to games in part by good VO work. Looks like a dry period for quality games on the horizon, at least for gamers like me. :(

sorry but your favorite va is on strike so we bring you some random bum off the street

Well if they get shafted with bad contracts then by all means put your foot down, people seem to forget this shit is better for everyone because it shows common folks do have a voice and they can push even the fattest ducks into a corner if need be.
But I don't have any specifics on how their contracts works so I really can't comment how just/unjust their actions are as everyone else loves to claim.

Well, I'd certainly enjoy having more games with little to no voice acting. Maybe then they can focus on more dialogue... or gameplay. Having said that, I wouldn't know VA work conditions, thinking about it I don't know how the industry works all that well outside of the publishing.

Soo... strike away? Good luck I suppose.

Nintendo executive 1 "games need voice actors?"
Nintendo executive 2 "I know right"

But seriously we already had so many games big budget barely break even (tomb raider reboot, hitman absolution) or financially bomb (Dead space 3) all this will do is increase costs and the amount of copies games have to sell and the publishers will have to cut back on expenses and what do you thing will be cut first graphics or voice acting?

MatParker116:
Jen Taylor sums up VA's big problem in a nutshell:
"Nathan Fillion said to me, 'If you don't do one of these games, fans are going to be upset, but they're still going to buy the game,'" Taylor recalls. "There's only so much footing that you have as a voice actor. I don't know if it's because you don't see us physically or what."

Well Jen and Nathan, it's because we're here for the games not you. You're a sweet and savory topping to the meal that is the game. Example, Nathan (whom I am a very big fan of) did VO work in Destiny. Destiny was still a steaming pile of broken promises. Should you be charged a fee because the game sucked? No? Then why do you think you deserve a bonus when it does well?

capatcha "work ethic" these things scare me sometimes... >.>

I find the residuals demand quite franky rediculous. Many VA say that they deserve them, because Actors in movies get them, which is a stupid argument. Actors in movies make or break the movie. They can make a good movie horrible and can make a horrible movie worth watching. And more importantly, they actually sell the movie. People go to a movie explicitly to watch an actor they like. Nobody buys a game for their VA.
In most games, a VA in a game makes at best no significant impact and at worst makes me roll my eyes at the cheesy VA and then continue with the game. Granted there are a few exceptions. The VA for the Stanley Parable or Bastion improved the game a lot in my opinion. But these are very few cases and in cases like these the VA's can negotiate better deals on their own.
But in general a single VA has just such a tiny, incomprehensible impact on the quality of the game that I just don't think that they deserve bonus payments for successfull games. They were not instrumental to that success, so why should they be rewarded for it?
That doesn't even begin to take into account that there are quite a few AAA games that are so expensive to make that they don't break even at 2 million copies sold. And Va's want a special bonus for contributing to a game, that didn't even break even?

That being said most of the other demands are pretty reseasonable. This one demand just isn't.

So another 2 DLCs of our Ghost not saying anything then? *sigh*

OT: Good luck to them. My limited understanding of the Video Game Industry is that the working conditions for most places are abismal. Anything that can help improve any part of that is good to me.

Let's hope this gets figured out before it gets to a strike. Replaying the Mass Effect series and these game would be garbage without the freat va's in the game. I don't want to go back to late 90's va work because the studio doesn't want to give incentive bonus.

I had anticipated them favoring a strike. I also see this same union effectively blacklisting any non-union voice actors once the strike -- assuming it truly happens -- concludes.

I'm all for better working conditions in the VO (hell, any) field. What I'm against is the VA's getting paid more because they're famous, as if the people who slave away on the game's foundation mean nothing. They, too, should be getting paid more.

1: Dinklage is most likely a member of SAG so he's probably not crossing a picket line.

2: "new talent" would probably not be able to get any work outside games if they crossed. We'd most likely go back to development team members providing voices.

3: This is different from the writers strike. There you had a fight over revenue sources that hadn't even formed into something quantifiable. Here everyone knows just how much the product is making.

How much VO adds to the value of a game is debatable, but at this point it's pretty much expected in major titles. Even if you've got a silent protagonist you still have people talking around him. We're not going back to the age if all text for AAA titles.

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