Back in October 2016 the SAG-AFTRA voice actors went on strike, on September 23rd the two parties officially reached an agreement. Those who do voice acting for video games were plagued with several unsavory business practices. For one, there was no transparency as to what role they were recording for, this made negotiation next to impossible. They endured vocal cord shredding sessions of high action scripts that required yelling, screaming and in a general a lot of exertion. There were several other safety and payment issues, almost all of which I wanted to see resolved.
Games Are NOT Movies
What kept the strike in a constant state of limbo was royalties. The argument from the voice actors was “we’re the reason the games sell, we should get royalties like we do for movies.” Yes, big triple ‘A’ games make a lot of money like that of a big budget movie, however, video games are not movies and I would argue they are far more labor intensive. When a movie wraps, it’s done. There’s no DLC to launch, no user forums to moderate, no testing a movie when there’s a hardware update. Yes, good VO work can help sell a game, but so does good programming, animation and art. Hell, without QA you can’t pass submission guidelines for Xbox One and PS4. On principal, A LOT of people would be ahead of VO actors in the line to get royalties. The response to this logic from many SAG members was “well don’t deny us because YOU people aren’t organizing and asking for your share.” To which I would say by the time everyone who deserved royalties got them, the amount of money wouldn’t be worth fighting for.
The Game Industry Can Be Better
With the exception of royalties, the voice actors were being incredibly reasonable and the game industry should look at this as a stain on their record. Withholding information on what roles the actors were doing to deny them negotiating ability is pretty damn disgusting. Especially because the bulk of the problem came from triple “A” studios who are more than capable of paying voice actors their due. Granted, the game industry was quick to make the practical concessions, the fact that it had to come to a strike over these common sense practices is unacceptable. I play games for fun, there’s nothing fun about knowing that the games I enjoy screw over those who help make them possible, and I KNOW for a fact this is just the tip of the iceberg when comes to shitty business practices in video games.
I’m crossing my fingers both parties involved will learn to understand each other better. Games are still considered a young form of media compared to music and movies. There is no better time then now to establish solid relationships and conduct business with a sense of decency.