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SAG-AFTRA may strike over AI terms in video game contract

Says it's "50-50, or more likely than that" going to take action.

The SAG-AFTRA logo in black on a white background
Image credit: SAG-AFTRA

Members of actors' union SAG-AFTRA are likely to go on strike against game companies due to broken down negotiations on AI.

Speaking during a Q&A session at SXSW in Austin, Texas, over the weekend, SAG-AFTRA national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said the probability a strike will go ahead in the next four to six weeks is "50-50, or more likely than that" (via Variety).

SAG-AFTRA voted overwhelmingly in favour of a video game strike in September 2023. While no strike action was taken by the union, it was unable to negotiate an update to the Interactive Media Agreement which covers union members' work in games. At the time, AI was one of the key issues being discussed and it has remained just as important.

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The union is considering strike action due to the lack of protection members have against AI, according to Crabtree-Ireland. "We want to make sure the implementation [of AI] is human-centred and focused on augmentation [of production], not replacement of people," he said. "Consent and compensation" for members whose work is used by AI engines is also one of the union's aims, he added.

"We don't want to go on strike, but we're not going to make deals with these companies that don't protect our members from abusive and exploitative uses of AI," Crabtree-Ireland concluded.

In January, SAG-AFTRA introduced an agreement with AI voice technology company Replica Studios, which allows game developers to access union members' work through Replica under a "fair, ethical agreement to safely create and licence a digital replica of their voice". The agreement was criticised by several voice actors, despite it being approved by affected members.

If SAG-AFTRA does take strike action, Activision, Blindlight, Disney Character Voices International, EA, Formosa Interactive, Insomniac Games, Take 2 Productions, VoiceWorks Productions, and Warner Bros. Games will be affected.

Many voice actors have spoken with Eurogamer about their concerns with AI and its impact on their work, including Solid Snake actor David Hayter and Commander Shepard actor Jennifer Hale. While The Last of Us' Troy Baker was more positive about AI during last year's BAFTA Game Awards, plenty of others such as Returnal's Jane Perry remained sceptical about its use.

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