Monday, October 17, 2016

SAG - Interactive Voice Actors Still Plan to Strike

I know a load of gaming sites today are speculating on RockStar Game's teaser trailer drop and the change of their Twitter logo to red and black - indicating another Red Dead game? Here's the thing: RockStar sucks at telling us what we want to know. When they are good and ready, they will tell us the name of the product and if we're really lucky, we might be given a sentence of the story! Until then, I ignore any and all speculation. It's too much of a gamble to believe in another media's words should RockStar drop the news about a new title and premise entirely.

So no. Today's post will have nothing to do with Rockstar.

Instead, let's cover a story I posted two weeks ago that has managed to be revived seemingly out of nowhere today. SAG-AFTRA hasn't found a resolution with game developers at all, and plans to strike on October 21st if there are no agreements between the parties involved. The voice actor strike from last year is still alive, and could affect games that have been in production after February 17, 2015. Announced yesterday, the voice actors would strike against WB Interactive, Activision, EA, Take 2, Disney, and several others for better working conditions and pay. Voice actors, in general, get kind of a screw job on compensation. Unless you happen to land a national campaign with an advertising firm ("Got Milk?"), pay for a voice actor is typically on an hourly basis and generally less then what most theater performers make.

You could argue that because they are not on a stage performing in front of a live audience, they don't have to make more. But voice actors are performing. They have to in order to get the sounds of the animated characters to come to life. It's sometimes more difficult to act in a booth instead of in front of another person, as you have to imagine and react to the lines as if another person is there. Video games and anime actors can attest to the vocal conditions being more rigorous then traditional film. Yelling, shouting, gurgly death noises are part of the task - repetitive use of the vocal cords to obtain these sounds can cause damage over time.

The current state of voice acting contracts is limited. It shouldn't be a surprise that many game developers take advantage of it and overwork actors. Not to mention if the game sells well, the actors never see a cut of the profit. They are only paid for their time in the booth. Contract standards have not kept up with the times and do need to be reviewed.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP representing the gaming industry in this situation wrote a response late last night stating that the SAG's actions are presumptuous and will only hurt their members. The gaming industry currently employs roughly 25% of those in the union. They believe that the SAG's information is out of date regarding working conditions, and their contract negotiations have been asking for unreasonable requests. There are plans for both parties to meet throughout the week to avoid a strike. The legal team for the gaming industry is assuring gamers that most content will still be in production and released. The strike won't affect as many games as you might think, as a number of voice actors signed their contracts with a "no strike" clause that would override SAG's actions.


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