Video game voice actors just declared a massive strike

Mass Effect 2EAJennifer Hale, of ‘Mass Effect’ as well as many other prominent video games, supports the strike.

After almost two years of negotiations, SAG-AFTRA (
Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) has declared a strike against the video game industry.
The organisation, which is the leading labour union for video game voice actors, declared the strike in a statement released on Friday.

SAG-AFTRA is asking for, among other things, royalty pay and better safety concerns for actors. Unlike film actors, video game voice actors aren’t always getting more money if a game sells especially well.

Meanwhile, the process of recording voiceovers for video games can be physically strenuous. Recording sessions can be long and demanding on a voice actor’s vocal chords, especially if screaming is involved. Plenty of games incorporate performance capture into the process as well, meaning voice actors sometimes have to physically act out their scenes rather than stand in a recording booth.

The strike is not all-encompassing. According to Polygon, SAG-AFTRA represents about 25% of video game voice actors.

SAG-AFTRA is also only protesting against a select group of major video game companies, including Electronic Arts and Disney. Union members are not to work with these companies on any games that started production after February 17, 2015.

Some of the more prominent voice actors to publicly support the strike are Jennifer Hale (a prolific actress who was the female protagonist in “Mass Effect,” as well as many other games) and David Hayter (who was Solid Snake in the “Metal Gear Solid” series).

Representatives of the video game publishers, on the other hand, have responded negatively to the strike. They have called it self-defeating, pointing to SAG-AFTRA’s already small membership as being in danger of decreasing.

As far as how much of an impact this has on the games industry and consumers, only time will tell. It’s a reality of labour that there will always be voice actors who are willing to work with the offending game companies during the strike, so it might be unlikely that development will be significantly hindered for any game right now.

Widespread consumer backlash might incentivise game companies to accept new contract terms with SAG-AFTRA, but video game voice actors aren’t as widely recognised by the average consumer as film actors. It’s possible players might not even notice anything is different.

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