SAG-AFTRA Video Game Voice Actors Authorize Strike

SAG-AFTRA Video Game Voice Actors Authorize
Variety

SAG-AFTRA video game voice actors have authorized the union’s national board to call a strike with 96.5% of those voting backing a work stoppage.

SAG-AFTRA plans to ask companies to return to the bargaining table. Previous talks in February and June failed to produce an agreement on a successor deal.

Reps for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have refused to comment.

“It is important to note that the referendum result does not mean that members are on strike, rather, it gives the National Board the authority to declare a strike,” the union said. “A 75% ‘yes’ vote was required to give the National Board that authority. With this result in hand, the Negotiating Committee will seek to return to the bargaining table and continue to press for a fair resolution on behalf of performers working in video games.”

The contract covers work performed for Activision, Electronic Arts, Disney, Warner Bros. and other employers of video game voice actors.

The strike authorization has been supported by several notable voice actors including Elias Toufexis (“Deus Ex’s” Adam Jensen), D.C. Douglas (“Resident Evil’s” Wesker) and Jennifer Hale (“Mass Effect’s” Femshep). The movement also has Twitter hashtags: #PerformanceMatters and #iAmOnBoard2015.

One of the key proposals seeks bonuses for voice actors on games that sell over 2 million units with subsequent payments when sales reach 4 million, 6 million and 8 million.

“There is ample precedent for secondary payments across the media landscape,” SAG-AFTRA said last month. “You get secondary payments when you perform in feature films, animation, episodic TV, commercials and the like. But that wasn’t always the case. Performers who came before you had the courage to fight for the residual payments you enjoy today, and, because they stood together, they won them.”

The union contended that such bonuses are not uncommon in the video game industry, noting that Activision’s chief operating officer received a bonus last year of $3,970,862 and Electronic Arts paid their executive chairman a bonus of $1.5 million.

“The top games make money,” SAG-AFTRA said. “This industry has grown, boomed and morphed into something bigger and lucrative than any other segment of the entertainment industry, and it continues to do so.”

SAG-AFTRA is also seeking language covering what it called “vocally stressful” recordings, stunt coordinators on performance capture and transparency during auditions.

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  1. Lani Minella says:

    I’ve worked on both sides of the glass since 1992 on over 500 games. I’ve read a LOT of misinformation the union is using to bolster their support for a strike. FALSE info= Nobody ever fines a talent $2500 for being inattentive during a session. Nobody ever fines an agent $50K-$100K for not submitting their talent for one hour voice jobs or for “atmospheric” roles. This whole idea of residuals is a FOOLS ERRAND. Most games today are downloaded for FREE. Micro-transactions within the game is what makes the publisher money. There’s NO WAY to track or pay talent for that and even the developers don’t get a bonus most of the time. I’ve directed many games and if a talent or a director is too clueless to leave anything loud or vocally strenuous to the end of the session, one should question their professionalism.
    Most sessions don’t go on many hours. Especially when the talent and the director know what they’re doing. Don’t have to give 3 takes of every line. Be real people! The only thing a strike will accomplish is to make signatories decide to go non union and use Financial Core or non union status talent.

    • Nika says:

      I see your point but did you see who some of the main backers were? Actors from Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Resident Evil. Those are the kinds of games we’re talking about here… Platformers, not free to play. Most Free to play games don’t even have much voice acting anyway… But that’s a different territory. For how successful all of those games were amongst many others, the voice actors DEFINITELY deserve a bonus for their outstanding work and talent! Movie actors get it; so should video game actors. I can promise you most of Mass Effect’s fans and good ratings are due to Jennifer Hale’s AMAZING performance. You can look it up…articles about how awesome she was are everywhere. Why doesn’t she deserve a bonus for that?

      • lotusmaglite says:

        For someone so intimate with the industry, you don’t seem to have a firm grasp on what is happening. Nobody said people are getting fined $2500 for being inattentive during a session, or $50-100K for not sending out the talent they represent to auditions. Probably because those things are proposals by the committee representing the game companies in negotiations with SAG-AFTRA, not policies the unions claimed have been enacted.

        That’s not misinformation. Implying the union claimed these things happened is misinformation.

      • Lani Minella says:

        Many big games are free to download from World of Warcraft, Resident Evil, Star Trek Online, Grand Theft Auto, etc. Some have been ported to to different platforms but still as I mentioned, most of the actual sales and profits are made from micro-transactions and no publisher is going to release profit stats NOR can you effectively dole out bonuses fairly to actors. I was Eve in Mass Effect 3. Didn’t even audition for it. Jennifer Hale got lucky and got a good script and a big part. Not saying anything negative about her performance, but what SO MANY people do NOT realize is that it’s a script that makes or breaks an actor’s performance in a TV show, Movie, cartoon, game etc. Script writers and animators should get a lot of credit too.

        Games do NOT have residuals because they don’t get logged in when they get “aired” like movies and TV shows. Therefore you cannot track sales of games themselves, especially when many are free to download. Again, how would you divide up profits to those people who come in for an hour or two and act while the rest of the dev team slaved for months or years and they don’t get bonuses? Do you think more money should go to a Player character in a game because you thought they acted better, even though they might have also been given a meatier script? What about others who might have done several different parts, maybe more demanding, needing more diverse talent? It’s just NOT POSSIBLE to determine who gets what % as far as voice actors. Especially when their role in the popularity of the game versus how long they took to do their part, is minuscule compared to what the devs put into it. I wish all the best!

    • Brandon Bell says:

      And you dear Lani are a troll. You have never been a legitimate voice actor and you have no clue what you are talking about. On top of which if an officer or officers of the corporations get millions in bonuses, the actor deserves at least hundreds. Unless people like you believe in slavery.

      • Lani Minella says:

        Thank you Michael.
        Brandon, I have probably worked on more “legitimate” titles and projects than most. And I’m also a director, casting director and have a great reputation. I have worked with the biggest and smallest names in the industry and I don’t need to point out my other qualifications to you but since I know the game industry, and have been an original game designer, creative director and producer too, I know about how money is dispersed. Micro transactions within free to play games which most are now, are where the money is made. THERE IS NO WAY TO TRACK THOSE and no common sense way to figure out which actors would get what percent of profits even if someone tried. The developers themselves who slave away at making the game don’t usually get bonuses. But voice actors feeling they are entitled to a piece of the pie for recording 1-4 hours, seems a bit much, especially when they get paid a decent amount and celebs get paid a LOT more than SCALE!
        I’ve worked on over 500 titles, and a few monsters have taken the voice out of me, but I get it back. Most games don’t have a lot of strenuous parts, and any audition notice usually says “This role could possibly tax your voice. Do not audition if this is an issue.” So an actor has the choice before being cast to audition or not. Also, pro actors and directors know to save any deaths or attacks or hits until the end and we normally don’t do hundreds of them.
        The last thing I’ll mention is how many actors are Financial Core status which means we pay dues but cannot vote. Thus those voting for the strike may not represent the real throngs of actors who cannot vote, and I’ve been told it’s up to the Boards to make all final decisions anyway.
        I wish everyone all the best!

      • Mike Manley says:

        Not a legitimate voice actor, huh? A casual look at her resume says otherwise.

        Also, your personal definition of slavery must be very different from everybody else’s to think that getting less than a ridiculously exorbitant amount for voluntarily talking into a microphone is slavery. I’m sure any of the folks who picked cotton against their will for absolutely nothing would just love to hear your stance on the matter.

  2. video says:

    not good for game players

    • Keith Doe says:

      Uhh… Did you look at the list?!
      Super Smash Bros. Brawl (One of the most popular fighting games)
      Mortal Kombat 9 (A pretty popular fighting game)
      Soul Caliber 3, 4, 5 (Popular fighting game)
      Diablo 1, 2 ,3 (Popular dungeon crawler)
      World of Warcraft (One of the most played MMOs)
      ….
      Wait *Looks it up*

      She voiced Lucas from smash?! That’s my favo- er
      Anyway, how can you say she didn’t work on any legit games. From a casual glance I saw many games that are up there as listed above.

  3. Mike Manley says:

    Unlike most everyone else, I really don’t think voice-acting is all that important to video games and is just a luxury to make games seem more cinematic. Regardless, even if SAG-AFTRA does declare a strike, developers can just outsource to more reasonable territories like Texas or Vancouver or somewhere else with a good VA pool. Just because your precious LA players aren’t in the video game… game doesn’t mean the end of the world.

  4. We can say with conviction and growth in the video games world of voice growth and support. That, that, that’s not all folks!

  5. Joey says:

    Well…let the next golden age of unspoken dialogue in video games begin

  6. Voice acting is vastly important. Just look at the Batman Arkham Games, that’s at least 25% of the effort put in to making the game.

  7. Facade says:

    Even if they succeed in raising the average pay rate for this line of work, they’d probably still lose in the end, because wouldn’t the result would be that there’d be literally no reason to hire them over professional / Hollywood actors and actresses?

    • JB Blanc says:

      For your information, video game actors ARE professional actors and to label them otherwise is a gross misnomer. Many of these actors have had film, theater and television careers spanning decades. It’s also important to state that at the same time as our proposals were put forward, the Producers put forward there own, which were deeply regressive and punitive. Can Variety please look into those too?

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