Video Game Voice Actors May Go On Strike

Aiddon_v1legacy

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And now the industry is suddenly seeing what happens when you want to push all these "cinematic" and "story-based" games, you get a bunch of people who feel like they're being screwed out of bigger pay checks. For instance, how many people can name Booker Dewitt and Joel from The Last of Us, but not name their voice actor (i.e. Troy Baker, who also had to commit a LOT of time with motion capture for the latter, time he could have spent on other projects that merely required he sit in a booth and do his craft). It does feel that at times incredibly talented VAs like Crispin "I have a voice so damn smooth it'll make you pregnant" Freeman, Steven Blum, Phil Lamarr, Jennifer Hale, D.C. Douglas, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Richard Epcar (who once threw out his voice during a particularly stressful session for Spec-Ops: The Line), Matthew Mercer, Tara Strong, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and tons of others are indeed being exploited by the industry. Companies bring up how important and widespread gaming is, and then give them a basic pay check.

And the thing is this. Who were the ones who brought up all this stuff about how much voice acting, production values, characters, writing, and everything else that is story-based is important to gaming? THE DESIGNERS. They don't get to complain about VAs perhaps demanding a bigger piece of the pie or at least some more recognition for their efforts when the companies are the ones who were bragging about it and helped create this environment in the first place.

Admittedly unions have issues; Spike Spencer, best known as Shinji Ikari from Evangelion, HATES unions despite being SAG eligible and finds that they're still problematic and can even PREVENT actors from properly supporting themselves. It's why actors like D.C. Douglas, Wendee Lee, and Cristina Valenzuela have Financial Core status that allows them to work on non-union projects or why Steven Blum has had no less than three aliases during his days where he was more prolific in anime dubbing. If a studio goes non-union it's probably for a very good reason, as seen with Atlus though they still give credit such as with their behind-the-scenes videos with the cast of Persona 4.

All in all, this is going to be a problem for gaming. They need to negotiate and take actors' grievances seriously. Some people say there are ten other actors that can fill a role, well guess what, there are also ten other roles an actor can take (especially if you're Steven Blum or Wendee Lee who have OBSCENE ranges). Devs are the ones who helped open this can of worms so they're going to have to work with it. At the very least I hope this means devs learn how to manage themselves better and not waste their money and time on pointless BS just to show off.
 

-Dragmire-

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Most of this I can see as fine but forcing people to join a union always rubs me the wrong way.
 

Gennadios

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I wouldn't mind if hey stay on strike indefinitely. I'm happy with my Indie roguelikes, and it's not like the death of VOs would cause the soulless hacks in AAA to actually add depth to their games instead of hiding behind the chest high wall of "cinematic design."
 

Gearhart

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EndlessSporadic said:
Both sides have some terrible expectations.
Snippy-snip

We applaud their success, and we believe our talent and contributions are worth a bonus payment, too.
That is selfishness. Your actors were paid quite well for their services and are not entitled to more money if the game does well. The specific amount is written in your contract, and if you refuse that amount there are 10 other voice actors or actresses to take your place. If you want to play it that way, I think actors should be fined if the game performs poorly. You see? You are giving too much unnecessary credit to the actors. The game does not succeed because of their efforts just as it doesn't always fail because of them.

Also up for debate is whether performers would receive stunt pay for performances which are vocally stressful.
This should be expected. Any position that may cause physical harm to the employee that prevents them from doing similar work in the future should require more compensation to account for the risk. Studios should be doing this regardless, and not doing so shows a clear lack of regard for their talent and/or employees.

SAG-AFTRA would like to keep publishers and developer from hiring their own employees to do voice work without having those people join the union.
Once again this is pure selfishness. Some third party union should not be allowed to decide who companies are allowed to hire. That is borderline discrimination and is not legal in almost every state.

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More often than not unions are a great thing, but this union is complete garbage and absolutely unnecessary. They are only attempting to grab money for the sake of grabbing money, not as a means of providing favorable working conditions for employees (which they already have).[/quote]

Yes... however I find it much easier to sympathise with this particular display of selfishness when compared to million dollar bonuses for executives. Especially when voice actors are not salaried.

I'd love to see a pre agreed distribution of post sales 'prize money' as per the old Royal Navy method of dividing up the share of a captured ship between the whole crew. That's prettymuch what they're asking for anyway.
 

BarkBarker

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Some of what they request is ludicrous, yet a part of me is kind of happy a stupid mentality to game development gets another bullet wound, maybe it'll stop kicking and we can stop guzzling all this money on top level actors purely for their recognition to get that movie aesthetic right.
 

Scars Unseen

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Zontar said:
Zacharious-khan said:
erttheking said:
Well that's kind of on the developers. If they don't want to pay actors, they're well within their right to do that.

Really if you pay someone to do a job, pay them a fair sum for the job.
I don't think that applies in performance arts
Voice acting more so in fact, since outside of big name actors being hired simply for name recognition voice acting doesn't pay particularly well compared to its live action counterparts. Even in Japan, where it's a bigger deal then here, it holds true. Voice acting doesn't pay much and those who do it have day jobs.
You say even in Japan, but really, it actually makes more sense in Japan than it does elsewhere. Because voice acting is a bigger deal there, supply is plentiful. Top notch quality is fairly common, and good quality is pretty much ubiquitous. Add to that that anime is ridiculously low budget compared to western media. A 12 episode season of anime may cost about the same as a single episode of one of the better American television shows. And even then, voice actors get paid more than most artists. Japanese voice actors don't get paid that well, but it makes sense in context.

As for the topic.... On the one hand, I'm all for people trying to push for better pay, especially if the process results in a greater concentration of talent. On the other hand, voice actors really are the least important component of game development. I'd rather play a game without voice acting than one without textures.
 

Zontar

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Scars Unseen said:
A 12 episode season of anime may cost about the same as a single episode of one of the better American television shows.
There's a price difference, but it isn't THAT big. An episode of anime costs on average between half and a quarter of it's Western counter parts. A 12 episode season will cost about 7 million US to produce, or about 3 or 4 episodes of Family Guy or The Simpsons.

In any event Japanese voice acting seems almost like television broadcasting of shows on this side of the Pacific: where after a certain number of episodes done they seem to have 'made it' since there seems to be an arbitrary cut off between novices and professionals that seems to be the actor equivalent of the syndication cut off.
 

Silverbeard

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PatrickJS said:
Also up for debate is whether performers would receive stunt pay for performances which are vocally stressful.
Hazard pay for vocally stressful performances? Bloody hell.
I'm a clinical microbiologist and I handle BSL-3 organisms daily. I need to spend 3-4 hours a day in a biohaz suit with a powered breathing mask while dealing with things like B. anthracis (anthrax) and Y. pestis (bubonic plague). They don't pay me any extra for that. Risk of death by internal hemorrhaging and liquefied organs is just part of the job. I don't think a strained voice justifies a bigger payout, voice actors.
 

mysecondlife

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As amazing as Troy Baker and Laura Bailey are, they have never sold videogames to me. But neither have the executives of publishing company (in fact, a lot of them have done the opposite).

So I guess I side with voice actors by default if I had to choose between the two.


So yeah, strike away and/or whatever.
 

SupahEwok

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Are voice actors in movies and animated shows paid royalties? 'Cuz I gotta say, they're a much more important and focused part of the production of those than in games, and if they don't have royalties for those, I don't see why they should have them for games, why the part they play is mainly minor and inconsistent across genres.

Precisely what constitutes a "hazardous" role? I see the point on how its possible to damage their vocal cords, but everybody's voice is different and has different limits, so I don't think you can establish an objective standard. The union is just trying to squeeze for more money by introducing yet another point to fight over in future contract negotiations.
 

Jake Martinez

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Steve the Pocket said:
I'd like to point out that every other person who puts work into a given video game is working for hire, and is indeed lucky to even still be working at the studio after the game ships. I've never understood why actors are always considered the only people who deserve royalties. Well, them and anyone they might have licensed music from, but that's because the music industry is a big powerful juggernaut that could probably buy the freaking presidency if they felt like it.
Yes, this is the biggest annoyance to me about this entire thing. They want to make royalties standard in the contract for VA's, and they point to people like CEO's as evidence of "Oh look at how much money they get in bonuses!" but you know that's wrong because they should be looking at all the programers and designers and artists who basically get nothing.

Their entire benchmark is off. First off, it's not like voice acting in a video game is nearly as important to every video game as it is to say, every animated feature. I might listen to 3 minutes of cut scene for every 2 hours of game I play in a lot of cases. Maybe they should give every employee a cut of the game and then give the VA's a cut of that relative to how much time they put in compared to everyone else. I doubt they'd want to take that deal.

Lastly, the idea that they want to prohibit a company from using their own employees to do VA work... that's just wrong. So like, if you want one of your employees to do a cameo in a game, then they need to join (and pay dues to) this union? That's just ridiculous. If your union is such a great thing, then let people join it of their own free will. Moves like this are what annoy people in general about unions. Maybe if Unions had to actually work to attract members, they'd do a better job of representing those same members...

Don't get me wrong here, I actually consider myself pro-union in principle (I come from a UAW family), but I find a lot of the things they are asking for just asinine and some of it bordering on the worst practices that I've seen first hand in other industries.
 

Jake Martinez

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mysecondlife said:
As amazing as Troy Baker and Laura Bailey are, they have never sold videogames to me. But neither have the executives of publishing company (in fact, a lot of them have done the opposite).

So I guess I side with voice actors by default if I had to choose between the two.
That's exactly why they point the finger at the CEO that way - it's to make it seem like you need to make a choice between the two of them, instead of realizing that all the OTHER employees are screwed way harder than these VA's are. I guarantee you that even a scenario designer or modeler, let alone a programmer, puts in way more hours than a VA does and their work is much more integral to the overall game experience than someone delivering a cutscene.
 

Fox12

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Somehow I knew Laura Bailey would be mentioned here, I don't know why. I lover her voice work. This does remind me of her talking about the working conditions in Japan while recording Silent Hill 2, though, which were rather concerning. That said...

"SAG-AFTRA would like to keep publishers and developer from hiring their own employees to do voice work without having those people join the union."

This kills it for me. I hate unions, and the restrictions they place on work. They hamper the creation of art, and I can't tolerate them. It's like when George Lucas got fined by the directors guild for putting the credits at the end of The Empire Strikes Back in order to preserve the opening of the film. Then he left, and they wouldn't let him hire Spielberg. Or how Persona 4 was unable to retain the original voice for Chie. They're far too intrusive.
 

FalloutJack

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Zacharious-khan said:
I'm so torn on this. Its not like Video game voice acting is... good. and It would be nice to just have text boxes again.
Some are, some aren't. I happen to like the work done in Persona games of late. I don't think this'll turn perma-bad, but it's still kind of bad.
 

mysecondlife

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Jake Martinez said:
mysecondlife said:
As amazing as Troy Baker and Laura Bailey are, they have never sold videogames to me. But neither have the executives of publishing company (in fact, a lot of them have done the opposite).

So I guess I side with voice actors by default if I had to choose between the two.
That's exactly why they point the finger at the CEO that way - it's to make it seem like you need to make a choice between the two of them, instead of realizing that all the OTHER employees are screwed way harder than these VA's are. I guarantee you that even a scenario designer or modeler, let alone a programmer, puts in way more hours than a VA does and their work is much more integral to the overall game experience than someone delivering a cutscene.
Oh I'm aware they're not the only cogs in the machine if that's the point you're making. VA's are not the ones who has to fear for their job stability when games don't sell more than 5 million copies.
 

bladestorm91

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Honestly? I would just start using speech synthesis software and not deal with stuff like this. Speech synthesis is slowly getting better, not natural yet mind you, but good enough to recognize most words spoken.
 

Strazdas

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May 28, 2011
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So basically voice actors now wants pay and royalties for the job? Should electricians get royalties too because they installed electricity for the developer?

SAG-AFTRA would like to keep publishers and developer from hiring their own employees to do voice work without having those people join the union.
This is pure evil and everything wrong with the unions.

erttheking said:
Really if you pay someone to do a job, pay them a fair sum for the job.
they did, but that someone now wants royalties added on top of that.
 

Jake Martinez

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bladestorm91 said:
Honestly? I would just start using speech synthesis software and not deal with stuff like this. Speech synthesis is slowly getting better, not natural yet mind you, but good enough to recognize most words spoken.
What? That's crazy talk...



Oh wait.
 

Coruptin

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PatrickJS said:
SAG-AFTRA would like to keep publishers and developer from hiring their own employees to do voice work without having those people join the union.
Wouldn't be a union without shit like this would it
 

Jake Martinez

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Coruptin said:
PatrickJS said:
SAG-AFTRA would like to keep publishers and developer from hiring their own employees to do voice work without having those people join the union.
Wouldn't be a union without shit like this would it
I think I read a story the other day about a school teacher in the LA unified district that is suing right now because she is forced to join the public schools teachers union and pay them dues even though she doesn't want them organizing contracts or representing her on her behalf.

It seems insane to me that if you want to be able to represent yourself and deal directly with your employer, that you are not allowed to do this and not only that, but you have to pay money for the privilege of giving up your right to negotiate the value of your own labor.

This is the thing that really kills me. I have no problem with unions or people wanting to unionize, I have problems with them attempting to monopolize labor and claiming it's for the "greater good". If your union is really that great, then why wouldn't people want to join it? If anything, it makes it less likely that the union leadership will be receptive to creating policy and direction that is attractive to it's members if they don't have to compete for the support of those same members.