On October 21 interactive video game voice actors and stunt performers had enough. After more than nineteen months of unsuccessful negotiations, the actors’ and performers’ union, SAG-AFTRA, called a strike. Later today, SAG-AFTRA members will be gathering outside of WB Interactive Entertainment in Burbank, CA to increase pressure on major video game makers to negotiate a fair contract for the people who bring some of today’s blockbuster video games to life.
Union members will be picketing from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm (PST) today (that’s 1:30 – 3:30 out here in the East) and are calling for online solidarity using the hashtag, #PerformanceMatters. The union is asking for supporters to tweet and post to social media during their picket times.
WB Interactive Entertainment is not the only company involved in the strike. SAG-AFTRA has targeted some of the biggest video game companies who have been the biggest problems at the negotiations table including Activision Publishing Inc (e.g. Call of Duty 4, Skylanders 2015 R); Disney Character Voices, Inc. (e.g. Lion Guard Watch Disney Junior Game, Learn To Read With Doc Mcstuffins); and, Electronic Arts Production (e.g. American Football ’17 & ’18, FIFA 17). You can see a full list of the targeted companies and games HERE.
SAG-AFTRA’s contract was first negotiated in 1994, does not reflect the enormous changes in the industry over the past two decades, according to the union. The four core issues at stake, according to the union’s official strike notice are:
- Contingent Compensation: Videogames have grown into a multi-billion dollar industry where the top titles earn more than even the highest-grossing blockbuster movies, yet the Interactive Media Agreement, uniquely among our contracts, does not provide for a residual or any other form of back-end compensation. We are demanding a simple back-end payment that would be capped and apply only to successful games.
- Vocal Stress: Videogame voice actors are routinely required to simulate painful deaths, creature voices, grunts, barks and other stressful vocalizations that can strain and damage their voices, sometimes permanently. To minimize the risk and strain on performers’ voices, we are demanding that vocally stressful sessions be limited to two hours but paid at the four hour session rate.
- Transparency: Videogame employers routinely engage performers without identifying the role or even the game that the performer is being engaged to work on and refuse to provide basic information about the nature of the performance that will be expected of them. This deprives the performer of the ability to make a meaningful decision about whether to accept a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation if they do. We are demanding that employers provide performers or their agents with basic information at the time of engagement, including the game, the role and essential information about the nature of the performance.
- Stunt Coordinators: Videogame employers frequently fail to have a stunt coordinator present when stunt work or other dangerous activity takes place. We want to clarify that the Interactive Media Agreement requires that stunt coordinators be present whenever stunt or other dangerous work is performed
The union’s outdated contract has left voice actors without the protections necessary to work in the modern video game industry. “SAG-AFTRA has gone to the negotiations table with serious concerns affecting voiceover and stunt performers,” said SAG-AFTRA Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez. “It’s time for video game employers to take our proposals seriously and negotiate a modern contract based on actor safety, industry precedent and best practices.”
The SAG-AFTRA strike draws attention to a group of workers who are integral to the production of today’s highly interactive video games, but remain on the margins of the industry’s booming profits. The strike is beginning to put faces and names to some of industries most successful games. Here’s some of those workers explaining why they are on the picket lines.