It’s been a very unique time in Hollywood lately, as the last several months have been highlighted not only by certain movies doing incredibly at the box office but also by the dual strikes that have been filling the streets of Los Angeles, protesting the work conditions of those within the entertainment industry. It started back in May when the Writers Guild went on strike and demanded both better pay and knowledge that AI wouldn’t be used to replace them, amongst other things. Then, SAG-AFTRA, the Screen Actors Guild, also joined the fight because the vast amount of their workers weren’t being paid fairly either.
What does this have to do with video games? At first, nothing. It was specifically noted early on that while actors on strike couldn’t do things like promote TV shows or movies, the video game industry was still “fair game” because voice actors weren’t “full actors” in the industry’s mind. Call it a “loophole,” if you will. However, things have now changed. In the wake of the Writers Guild getting a tentative agreement to end their strike, SAG-AFTRA has voted to strike against the video game industry!
As the tweet above notes, the strike ISN’T happening just yet. However, given how the last negotiations went before the SAG struck with TV/movie actors, they now have a serious bargaining chip to use to push through their demands.
For those not aware of why this is relevant, certain roles within video games, TV shows, and movies are absolutely vital but are criminally underappreciated and underpaid. For the video game industry, that role is the voice actor. Any game that is voiced has a key part of its personality tied to those portraying the characters, yet many of them are underpaid by large amounts. Just as important, with the rise of AI, there has been debate about whether AI can fully replace voice actors to save game developers and publishers money.
If you look at some of the companies listed in the tweet, there are some big-time developers on there, including ones who use voice acting quite a bit in their titles, like with Insomniac Games. So, to go and potentially put many of their games on hold because of a strike among the voice actors is a big deal.
This piggybacks off of another big move by another underappreciated group, VFX artists, who have decided to unionize to stop being overworked by companies like Disney.