Voice actors union SAG-AFTRA may initiate a strike if enough of its members vote to do so by 5th October.
SAG-AFTRA isn't small potatoes either, as several of video games' biggest voice actors are members. People like Jennifer Hale, Wil Wheaton and Ashly Burch are all members who have voted in favour of the strike which would prevent them from doing any voice acting until an agreement among various major publishers can be reached.
So what do they want? As outlined on the SAG-AFTRA's official site, the union is insisting those who employ its members offer them royalties, stunt pay for "vocally stressful" recording sessions, have a stunt coordinator on hand for physically demanding motion capture sessions, and offer greater transparency in their business dealings.
"If a video game is wildly successful, actors should share in its financial success," the union stated. "There is ample precedent for residual income for actors, yet they've historically been extremely difficult to achieve in this contract."
SAG-AFTRA proposed a payment scheme in which actors would receive bonuses if the projects they work on sell upwards of 2m copies. These would be bumped up higher at increments of 2m with a maximum cap of 8m.
"We looked at the 100 top-selling games of the past two years and found that of the games with sales numbers that would trigger a secondary payment under this proposal - the 'blockbusters' - the penetration of union performers is nearly 100 percent," SAG-AFTRA pointed out. "That's why we positioned our 'ask' at 2 million copies - it's where most games start to turn a profit, and it's where all the union talent is found."
Regarding transparency, SAG-AFTRA explained that actors are often not told what projects they're auditioning for or how their work will be implemented into the greater whole. "We propose that the actual title of the project should be made available to at least our representatives before we are asked to audition," the union stated. "You wouldn't work on a TV show, commercial or film without knowing what part you're playing and how it fits into the story, yet we are asked over and over again to do just that in interactive media.
"Our proposal also asks for the following information whenever reasonably possible: How many sessions are you expecting to book? What rating are you planning to get? Why? Is there offensive content? Will the sessions be vocally stressful? Transparency is key. We deserve to clearly know what we're getting into before we commit to a role in a game."
Furthermore, there are rather troubling precedents already in place that SAG-AFTRA wants revoked. On its "What We Stand to Lose" page, the union noted that voice actors could be fined $2500 for not being "attentive to the services for which [you] have been engaged." In other words, slacking off for a brief moment to check your phone could result in a $2500 fine if your employer decides to go this route.
SAG-AFTRA has been meeting with various major publishers since 2nd February trying to sort this out, but no agreement has been reached, hence members being asked to vote on this.
- Jennifer Hale (Mass Effects' "FemShep", Bulletstorm's Trishka)
- Wil Wheaton (Broken Age's lumberjack, Fallout: New Vegas's X-8 Robobrain)
- Ashly Burch (Life is Strange's Chloe, Borderlands 2's Tina Tina)
- David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid's Snake from 1998-2010, République)
- Sarah Elmaleh (Gone Home's Katie, Galak-Z's Beam)
- Elias Toufexis (Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Adam Jensen, Assassin's Creed's Federico Auditore da Firenze)
- Tara Strong (Harley in Batman: Arkham City, Paz in Metal Gear Solid)
- Steve Blum (Vanquish's Robert Burns , God of War's Ares)
- Phil Lamarr (Vamp from Metal Gear Solid games, Tales from the Borderlands' Cassius)
- Quinton Flynn (Raiden in various Metal Gear Solid games)