Video Game Voice Actors Go on Strike Against Game Industry

The SAG-AFTRA union of voice actors has made good on its promise to strike against video game companies after negotiations between the union and some of the biggest publishers in gaming, including Activision, Electronic Arts and Take-Two, had failed.

The strike took effect today at midnight PT and will affect every game that went into production after February 17, 2015. Some of its members intend to picket EA’s Los Angeles office at 10:30AM PT this coming Monday, October 24.

The union claims that many publishers in the gaming industry are not offering them good rates, and demand residual payment bonuses and royalties for their voice acting work. SAG-AFTRA demanded that its performers receive higher pay increments for the sale of every 500,000 units for a maximum of four secondary payments once the sales hit 2 million. The union also proposed that “vocally stressful” voice sessions be limited to two hours to prevent physical injury.

“This group of video game employers knowingly feeds off other industries that pay these same performers fairly to make a living. This represents a ‘freeloader model of compensation’ that we believe cannot and should not continue,” said the union in a statement.

“In this industry, which frequently uses performers and understands the intermittent and unpredictable nature of this type of work, fair compensation includes secondary payments when games hit a certain level of success with consumers, not simply higher upfront wages,” it added. “Secondary compensation is what allows professional performers to feed their families in between jobs.”

“No matter what these companies are peddling in their press releases, this negotiation is not only about upfront compensation. It is about fairness and the ability of middle-class performers to survive in this industry. These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games–which are the only games this dispute is about–drive that profit.

“We have proposed a fair payment structure that enables the sustainability of a professional performer community. These employers have unreasonably refused that. The time has come to end the freeloader model of compensation and that is why our members are united behind this cause.”

A counterproposal by video game publishers offered a 9% wage increase and compensation for up to $950 per game based on how many voice acting sessions a voice actor committed to a project. The industry also proposed that voice actors who show up late for work or refuse to participate after signing contracts be fined $1,000 or more. Right now, voice actors represented by the union receive $100/hr payments including benefits.

SAG-AFTRA only represents 25% of working voice actors in the video game industry, and the majority of upcoming games that are already in production will not be affected by the strike due to existing provisions. Several major publishers, including Bethesda, Ubisoft, Sony, and Square Enix, are unaffected by the strike.

Here are the affected publishers:

  • Activision
  • Blindlight
  • Corps of Discovery Films
  • Disney Character Voices
  • Electronic Arts
  • Formosa Interactive
  • Insomniac Games
  • Interactive Associates
  • Take-Two
  • VoiceWorks Production
  • WB Games

As it stands, it’s hard to say how effective the strike will be towards the rest of the industry, given that video game companies can simply choose to hire out freelance actors unaffiliated with the union.