A leading voice acting studio in the UK has reached an agreement with Equity, the trade union for performing arts and entertainment workers, to support voice actors working in the games industry.
Specifically, the first of its kind agreement sets out minimum fees and conditions of engagement for voice actors. The hope is that other studios will follow suit.
OMUK, the UK-based studio responsible for the agreement, has credits in the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn, Demon's Souls, horror games The Medium and Blair Witch, and the Telltale Game of Thrones series.
The multi-billion pound UK video game industry is one of the biggest employers of performance talent in the country, but until now no agreement was in place to protect workers.
The agreement, which runs until April 2023, includes commitments to provide voice actors with specific information ahead of, or at the time of, the audition or offer. That includes potentially sensitive content (for instance if it's sexual, racist, or violent in nature); if it includes profanities; accents required; plus details on the project including publisher/developer, budget classification, hours and dates of recording.
Voice actors must also be told about potential vocal stress, with a minimum of five-minute rest times per hour mandated.
In terms of fees, game projects will be classified as 'standard' (budget of over £5m), 'indie' (£0.5m to £5m) and 'micro' (under £0.5m), with minimum fees set according to each budget (£300 per hour for standard, £200 per hour for indie, £175 per hour for micro).
Other terms of the agreement include overtime, late fees for overdue payments, and inclusion in game credits.
"I am deeply grateful for the dedication of the voice actors who took the initiative and did the legwork that kickstarted the necessary consultation between industry producers, Equity and the agents," said Mark Estdale, voice director and managing director of OMUK.
"Without their work this agreement would not exist. This agreement is significant for all those working within and for the games industry. Like the TV, Stage and Film agreements it gives clarity regarding pay and best practice. Without taking this step, the games industry would remain the 'Wild West' of media even though it's now probably the biggest employer of talent."
"Despite the games industry having become one of the largest parts of the entertainment sector, it did not have a standard contract for the engagement of artists until Equity and OMUK agreed this ground-breaking contract," said Tim Gale, recorded media organiser at Equity.
"This ground-breaking agreement, drawn up as the result of months of consultations with UK-based actors, agents, and studios alike, reflects best practice and a mutual desire to achieve excellence in a safe and supportive working environment," said Laurence Bouvard, voice actor and chair of Equity's Screen & New Media Committee.
"This document has long been urgently needed to navigate the opportunities provided to performers in the rapidly expanding games industry, and we are grateful to everyone who has worked hard with us to make it happen. We have no doubt that other studios will soon follow Mark's lead in signing up to this agreement, helping to further raise the profile of the already thriving UK games industry on the global stage."