Violent video games real-life strike ends for voice actors

Voice Actor Strike Tentatively Ends, Agreement Reached with Game Companies

After almost a year striking, unionised video game voice actors just tentatively agreed to end their boycott against 11 games companies, a new Screen Actors' Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) press release said today.

The strike's biggest sticking point, regarding "secondary compensation" (aka royalties or residuals), appears to favor game publishers, not actors. This bonus, which must be doled out by the game's release, is determined by how many sessions were provided and begins at $75 for one session and $2,100 for ten. The updated contracts include bonuses for voice sessions, and new transparency provisions. "We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members' key concerns", SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement.

According to Deadline, only about 25 percent of video games use union voice actors.

The union called the strike on October 21 a year ago, after talks broke down for a new contract that would replace the previous contract known as the Interactive Media Agreement, which expired in late 2014.

SAG-AFTRA's statement confirmed that the two sides have tentatively agreed to a "new bonus structure" that will pay games' union-member voice actors additional cash if the game they worked on sees commerical release.

Finally, the deal will contain a commitment on the employers to "continue working" with SAG-AFTRA to address health issues on the job such as vocal stress, and keeps out proposals such as provisions that would have "fined performers for being late or distracted at session, another that would have required agents to submit performers for low-paying "atmospheric voice" sessions or face fines, and a possible revocation of their union franchise, and another that would have allowed employers to use their permanent staff to do covered work outside of the collective bargaining agreement". Video game voice acting can put a tremendous strain on performers' vocal cords, with actors asked to record battle cries, death scenes and other taxing lines. It will also require that union members be told whether their role will touch on content "of a sexual or violent nature" or require racial slurs, profanity, "unusual terminology", or stunts.

Perhaps more importantly, it revived important questions about whether or not game industry workers should receive bonus payments based on how well the games they work on sell. The new contract will run for three years from the date of ratification by SAG-AFTRA which should take place in the coming weeks. This was the first strike in the history of video game performers. "And the existence of additional payments beyond your session fee is in the video game world for good, both in our high-budget and independent promulgated agreements", said Farley.

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