Updated Sep 1, 2023 - Technology

SAG-AFTRA calls for video game actors' strike authorization

Photo of Fran Drescher and other actors carrying picket signs

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher on the picket line in New York City last month. Photo: Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.

Voice actors for video games may be following TV and movie actors to the picket line.

Driving the news: SAG-AFTRA, the union that has a contract with leading gaming companies for actors who do voice or performance acting for video games, called for a strike Friday, citing lack of progress in renegotiating a contract that expired last November.

Details: The union is calling for a retroactive 11% wage increase, on-set medics for hazardous performance capture, and protections against the use of generative AI to replace working actors.

Be smart: While actors who contribute to video games seldom appear as themselves, on camera in a game, they regularly lend their voices to game characters. Many also have their facial and body movements captured to animate the roles they portray.

  • Actors have been sounding alarms about the potential for generative AI to clone their voices and speak lines for them, without them getting paid.

What they're saying: "Once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect," SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher said in a statement announcing the strike vote.

  • "Once again artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work.

The other side: "We all want a fair contract that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers in an industry that delivers world-class entertainment to billions of players around the world," Audrey Cooling, a rep for the game industry producers negotiating the agreement told Axios.

  • "We are negotiating in good faith and hope to reach a mutually beneficial deal as soon as possible."
  • The game companies who are negotiating with the actors include Activision, EA, Disney, Take-Two Interactive, WB Games and Insomniac.

The big picture: 2023 has been a year of strikes in U.S. entertainment. The Writers Guild of America went on strike for the first time in 15 years in May.

  • TV and movie actors repped by SAG-AFTRA went on strike in July.
  • The strikes have frozen the production of new TV shows and movies.

Flashback: Video game voice actors last went on strike for nearly a year, from 2016-2017.

The bottom line: The impact of an actors' strike in gaming is less clear than it is for other forms of entertainment.

  • While the unavailability of actors can suspend some aspects of production, it can't impede the design and construction of the game's gameplay and virtual worlds

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Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that the SAG-AFTRA vote is to authorize a strike, not to call a strike.

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