Today the Screen Actors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, which represents a great deal of people, from big budget movies stars to voiceover artist, has called for a wide scale strike of voice actors toward several prominent videogame developers. The call to strike is the result of many attempts to reorganize a decades old contract between the union and the video game industry, and attempt to better equip its patrons to work in the modern world.
It’s plain to see that videogames are in a very different place than they were in the past. Games take significantly more work than they have in the past, and the prospective payout is exponentially larger than it has ever been before. Furthermore, games deal with an even wider array of subject matter, from overly existential meditations about war or choice, to mental illness and depression. In many cases, it’s voice actors trying to sell you that stuff and give it whatever kind of weight it deserves.
SAG-AFTRA’s demands are fairly simple. They want a secondary compensation structure on any videogame, securing a “reasonable performance bonus for every 2 million copies, or downloads sold, or 2 million unique subscribers to online-only games, with a cap at 8 million units/subscribers.” Also, SAG-AFTRA is as after more transparency about the projects actors are working on, namely the name of the game and the actor’s role in it, to allow performers the ability to make more meaningful decisions about the roles they take.
“In this industry, which frequently uses performers and understands the intermittent and unpredictable nature of this type of work, fair compensation includes secondary payments when games hit a certain level of success with consumers, not simply higher upfront wages,” said SAG-AFTRA in an OCT 20th press release. “Secondary compensation is what allows professional performers to feed their families in between jobs.”
The final offer proposed by videogame publishers was an immediate 9 percent wage hike and an additional payment to performers based on the number sessions they are a part of. The offer was projected ti increase the payout to these performers by 23% for typical sessions. SAG-AFTRA, dismissed the offer outright, without bringing the offer to a vote, to the dismay of the videogame companies.
“We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer,” stated Scott J. Witlin of the Barnes and Thornburg law firm, chief negotiator for the companies. “We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused.
The companies and their negotiators insist that both the deal they proposed and the demands set forth by SAG-AFTRA are nearly identical. The clear difference being payment based on a game’s performance or based on a performer’s involvement. The companies prefer the latter, stating that the first case would ignore the important work of other people involved in a game that do not have a similar pay structure.
It is important to note that this isn’t a blanket strike leveled at the entire games industry, but is specifically targeting Activision Publishing Inc, Blindlight LLC, Corps of Discovery Films, Disney Character Voices Inc, Electronic Arts Productions Inc, Formosa Interactive LLC, Insomniac Games Inc, Interactive Associates Inc, Take 2 Interactive Software, VoiceWorks Productions Inc, and WB Games Inc. SAG-AFTRA asks that, if you are sympathetic to their cause, you not play games from these companies that went into production after Feb 17th 2015.
“No matter what these companies are peddling in their press releases, this negotiation is not about upfront compensation,” pleaded SAG-AFTRA. “It is about fairness and the ability of middle-class performers to survive in this industry. These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games – which are the only games this dispute is about – drive that profit.”