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SAG, AFTRA game for protest

HOLLYWOOD — Adorned with pins reading “Without SAG and AFTRA, game over,” roughly 75 union activists tried on Wednesday morning to get the attention of the tens of thousands of vidgame pros gathering for the E3 confab in downtown L.A.

SAG and AFTRA broke off talks with a group of videogame companies Friday after the industry refused to give into union demands for residuals on top-selling games.

While publishers have offered a 35% increase in session fees and other incentives, unions said that would barely make up for inflation as the interactive session fee minimum has grown only about 10% in the last decade.

“Unlike game developers, we have no job security,” said AFTRA negotiating committee co-chair Chris Edgerly, seeking to counter industry complaints that actors shouldn’t share in profits since the developers who create games don’t receive any.

“What allows us to earn a living is residuals,” Edgerly explained, “like we get for animation and other similar work.”

SAG and AFTRA are seeking an extra session for 100,000 units a game sells over 400,000 units, a category that included only profitable top sellers.

But the game industry continues to call that residuals request a non-starter.

“The facts are that (the actors’) total hours of labor, vis a vis the total hours of labor that go into the typical videogame, is 1/2400th,” said Howard Fabrick, chief negotiator for the vidgame publishers. “On that basis, we’re not going to have them participating in a revenue stream.”

Sounds of silence

Leading union members in their attempt to get the attention of gamers — and to be heard over the noise of passing traffic and vidgame exhibitors — was SAG secretary-treasurer James Cromwell.

“Without actors the sound of games would be a deafening silence,” said Cromwell. “I’m afraid that is what the industry needs to hear.”

SAG and AFTRA have already received a members’ authorization to strike but will conduct a vote on the industry’s final offer before making a decision.

Inside the Los Angeles Convention Center, videogame companies showed off their hottest products. Most attendees were unaware of the protests outside, even though many of the most popular titles on display, like EA’s “The Godfather” and Square Enix’s “Kingdom Hearts 2,” use star voices that will no longer be available if a strike is called.

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