In the final months of 2015, members of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) voted to approve a strike. The issue at hand: labor practices and compensation in videogame voice acting, about which SAG-AFTRA representatives said they have made little headway in negotiating with game companies.
Though a strike was approved, it hasn’t gone into effect yet. Yesterday, a Youtube account — purportedly representing SAG-AFTRA or its members — uploaded this video, in which a number of voice actors including Steve Blum (X-Men; above) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Silent Hill) encourage viewers to support new contract negotiations, once again using the hashtag #PerformanceMatters.
In the most optimistic case, this may indicate that new negotiations with game companies are going forward and may peacefully result in fairer contracts for voice actors and motion capture performers, without the need for a strike. In a more pessimistic scenario, this may mean a strike is closer than we realized.
As with almost any labor strike situation, the issues at hand are manifold. Vocal stress and insufficient safety precautions during full-body performance capture, for instance, are two concerns that voice actors have raised repeatedly. Also at issue are residuals, which even some SAG-AFTRA members are reportedly skeptical will remain on the table for long. And this is all supposing the major game companies are keen to negotiate at all at this stage.
Game Informer has a pretty good breakdown of the entire debacle, the majority of it written when discussions of a possible strike first surfaced last year. I’d also recommend this essay from actor Wil Wheaton, a SAG-AFTRA member who voted in favor of the strike last September.
ZAM has contacted SAG-AFTRA’s offices asking for clarity on the situation. Unfortunately, at time of publication, that call has not been returned. We’ll update you as this continues to develop.
UPDATE (5/9/2016): A union representative responded today with the following: “SAG-AFTRA declines to comment as we are in negotiations under a mutually agreed upon news blackout.”