Monday, October 24, 2016

Game Voice Actors Want Better Transparency

As contract negotiations continue between SAG-AFTRA and a multitude of gaming companies, more stories are cropping up from voice actors regarding the working conditions. Did you know that some voice actors are not told what they are working on? That's the claim by Keythe Farley, who has been in the voice acting business since the 1990's on Nickelodeon. Gamers, you may know him as Thane from the Mass Effect series and the voice director for all of the God of War games. He's also the voice of the big-bad Kellogg from Fallout 4. Given his years in the industry and the top companies he's worked for, he's got a solid reputation to back up his claim.

How does a developer benefit by leaving a voice actor in the dark? Money and ensuring game content isn't leaked to the public. The former is more true then the latter. You would think that voice actors, talking for a living, would be more apt to gab about their project, but they're not. If you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) you'd be surprised how little people are willing to talk, less they be sued. People can keep a secret if their livelihood is on the line.

What do developers gain by keeping voice actors out of the loop on the project? The actor's agents can negotiate for better pay if they know the game is a sequel to a successful title. If it's a new IP from a known publisher, there is still a chance at higher pay if you are a well known actor, but it's going to be lower then working on the sequel to Call of Duty. CoD is guaranteed sales where as a new IP is not. Actors may take the lower pay for a new IP, knowing that it's a job and the developer may not see a return. But if it's CoD, they are going to ask for more money. The developer can afford the paychecks.

It also works against the actor not knowing the subject matter as it could impede their performance. They have to go off the words of the voice director and make assumptions about the action around them. Some voice actors don't get the luxury of digging into the full script and really connecting to their character. They have to hope for the best and that they gave the director what was needed.

It's more drama to add to the pile that is this strike.


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