Video games rely on voiceover artists to bring characters to life, drive the plot, and provide color to the worlds around them in the form of squad chatter, overheard conversations, and more. Unfortunately, a long-simmering dispute between several major publishers and SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union, has boiled over into an all-out strike effective today. So why did this happen, and how will it end?
On SAG-AFTRA’s end, there’s a few answers to this question. The biggest problem, by far, is working conditions. Wil Wheaton, back in 2015, voted to strike and discussed working conditions as a crucial reason why. Voice actors are asked to go seven or eight hours in a session, and, well, imagine talking, yelling, screaming, whispering for eight hours straight. According to SAG-AFTRA, publishers have refused to reduce session times, or take more safety precautions during motion capture sessions.
There are other issues as well. Publishers are so secretive, actors can’t figure out what their jobs will actually be, which is, as the union points out, unprecedented in any other industry that employs actors. It’s also a problem in that actors can be shown three pages of dialogue when they’re really committing to sixty. Secondly, video game publishers are refusing a bonus structure where actors are compensated with a bonus for every two million copies up to eight million copies sold. This is fairly standard language in other SAG-AFTRA contracts, although also the source of the most bitterness in discussions of the strike.