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Video game voice actors go on strike

As of Friday, the The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is on strike. While the union does not represent all such voice actors, it does represent a large number of them. They passed out a strike notice to their membership, asking them “to withhold performing services and auditioning for work“ for a large number of video game companies. The list of struck companies includes Activision, EA Games, Disney, Insomniac and Take-Two Interactive — some of the biggest names in video games.

As Ars Technica reports, the union has been in negotiations with the companies for a year and a half, attempting to obtain a number of concessions. The union membership voted 96 percent in favour of the strike.

Lawyers representing the Interactive Video Game Companies issued a statement indicating that the group had made a revised offer including a nine percent wage hike. SAG-AFTRA asserts that two issues have not been resolved, and therefore lie at the heart of the strike action: the non-disclosure of the particular game which the actor will be working on (thereby preventing them from making “an educated decision about whether to take job”); and the refusal of the companies to grant a secondary form of compensation to actors working on titles that gross two million or more purchases.

Another issue regarding stunt pay for vocally stressful recording sessions had been resolved at the bargaining table before negotiations fell apart.

Over the last decade and a half, voice acting has become a greater part of video game production, as developers shift towards more immersive experiences. Most of the major blockbuster games since 2000 featured voice actors: huge sandbox productions like Grand Theft Auto feature hours of performances by actors.

There is no indication of how long the strike may last. The game companies announced through their lawyers that the majority of titles already in the middle of production would not be affected by the strike action.

There is one possible upside (not to make light of a serious labour negotiation): audiobooks have not been restricted by the SAG-AFTRA strike order. Keep your ears peeled for a big upswell in high quality audiobook performances if the strike drags out.

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