Voice actors may be going on strike to settle a contract dispute with video game publishers.
SAG-AFTRA is the union which represents voice actors in games. Since the last voice-over contract ended in 2014, there’s been discussion over what is going to change in the next version.
Chief among the union’s issues is that of royalties for its actors. As it stands now, performers stand to earn no bonuses regardless of how successful a blockbuster may go on to be. Under their new proposal, actors would stand to earn a bonus after two million sales/downloads/online subscriptions, and for every two million thereafter up to eight million. According to the union, this would protect indie developers, while allowing actors a small piece of a big game’s financial success.
According to SAG-AFTRA’s FAQ: “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.”
Check out our interview with the awesome Laura Bailey for some insight into the career of a voice actor.
Also up for debate is whether performers would receive stunt pay for performances which are vocally stressful. Employers want to keep the right to fine actors who show up late or are otherwise inattentive to the job, and to find agents who don’t send their clients out to smaller auditions, such as for ambient voices. SAG-AFTRA would like to keep publishers and developer from hiring their own employees to do voice work without having those people join the union.
A large number of prominent video game performers have already voiced their support for the strike, including Mass Effect‘s Jennifer Hale, Borderlands‘ Ashly Burch, Metal Gear Solid‘s (and Futurama‘s) Phil LaMarr, and Wil Wheaton, currently providing voice for Firefly Online. They and others have been using Twitter to spread the word, using the hashtags #PerformanceMatters and #iAmOnBoard2015.
Gordon Freeman declined to comment, despite us reaching out to him three times.
So I’ll put this out to Escapist readers: are you guys on board with the strike? Think this will be good for the industry – or lead to an era of low-quality V-O work as publishers hire the non-unionised?