Following nearly two years of unsuccessful negotiations with top video game companies, voice actors, motion capture and stunt performers will go on strike this morning, beginning picketing outside the offices of EA in Los Angeles.
The current contract between video game studios and the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) was developed in 1994. Since then, video games have become the most profitable portion of the entertainment industry, and compensation for actors and performers has not kept up with industry standards, even while A-list Hollywood actors routinely now lend their voices, likenesses and performances to video games.
Their demands? The opportunity for secondary compensation where performers receive a bonus for top-selling games for every 2, 4, 6, and 8 million units sold/downloaded, as well as greater transparency-- actors and performers should know what project they're working on before they sign a contract.
In many ways, this parallels the demands of the Screenwriters Guild and also commercial actors' strikes in 2007 and 2000, respectively. As markets and media change, oftentimes contracts and compensation just don't keep up. Think about video games in 1994, when it was revolutionary to use actors like Mark Hammill, Malcolm McDowell, and John Rhys-Davies in your game. And now, today, where it's impossible to imagine games like Beyond: Two Souls, Until Dawn, Mass Effect, or even Call of Duty without some incredible, iconic performances by top actors. The industry has changed-- and become far more profitable and a part of our daily lives.
Even more important are those voice actors whose faces we don't recognize from film and tv whose work is just as essential to the experience of the game.
The union begins their strike by picketing outside of EA Games this morning in Los Angeles, one of eleven studios involved in the call to strike. The others are: Activision Publishing, Inc.; Blindlight, LLC; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Insomniac Games, Inc.; Interactive Associates, Inc.; Take 2 Interactive Software; VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.; and WB Games, Inc.
So what does this mean for you, dear video game players? As of yet-- nothing. We can hope the strike comes to a quick end. But if it doesn't, it will mean delays on upcoming video games from these studios, including Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Injustice 2, EA's 2017 and 2018 football games, Lego Marvel 2, and Lego Star Wars. A full list of games being struck are here, but there are some games currently in production that are not effected since they were in production before the deadline of February 17. This includes Mass Effect 4, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and a few other titles.
For more up to date information on the strike as it progresses, and to find out how to show solidarity and get involved, you can visit SAG-AFTRA's website and their interactive strike page.
Editor's Note: Big Shiny Robot supports organized labor and SAG-AFTRA's stake in this fight. We love our video games, and think that those who make them, including actors, performers, directors, writers, producers, artists, programmers, and all other aspects of game design work deserve fair compensation for their labor.