Members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG–AFTRA) voted last fall, giving the union a strong mandate (96.5%) to pursue a work stoppage if deemed necessary by their bargaining committee. With video game companies refusing to meet the union’s demands, SAG-AFTRA members walked off the job on on Friday.
The existing contract between union-members and the industry was largely negotiated before video games became a multi-billion dollar entertainment behemoth. Now voice actors are asking for many of the benefits they get for doing the same work for television shows and movies – including transparency about what games actors are being hired to work on, residuals for games that sell over two-million copies, as well as protection and compensation for “vocally stressful” recordings.
North of the border, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) are acting in solidarity with their American counterparts and refusing to provide voice talent to any of the targeted video game companies until an agreement is reached.
Unlike the movie and television industries, far fewer members of the video game industry are unionized. That means that video game companies will still be able to hire non-unionized talent, and they will also be able to point to other non-unionized employees and try and make the case that the union’s demands are unfair.
Of course, this should be used as a wake-up call and opportunity for everyone involved in video game productions (artists, animators, level designers, testers, sound-designers, etc.) to come together and organize themselves so that they can enjoy the same benefits as voice actors.