Video Game Actors Ready to Strike Over AI Concerns, Wage Demands

The interactive media division of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) voted to authorize a strike if current negotiations with video game publishers do not lead to a favorable new contract for voice actors, along with motion capture game performers.

While only about 27% of eligible voters participated, over 98% of those 34,687 who did cast ballots in favor of a strike, SAG-AFTRA shared Monday. 

Talks between SAG-AFTRA’s video game representatives and signatory game studios begin today and will continue on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

News of a potential strike in the game industry comes a day after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced that it has reached a tentative agreement with major film and television studios—but this deal still requires WGA West and East approval via a vote to be ratified.

SAG-AFTRA union members in the video game sector are facing similar challenges to those of film and television industry actors and writers in the SAG-AFTRA and WGA unions, respectively. They have all raised concerns about the potential exploitative use of artificial intelligence in their work, while pay minimums have not kept pace with inflation and/or have not evolved to keep up with changing industry models.

In a news update, SAG-AFTRA wrote that its signatory video game companies—firms that have agreed to hire union workers and adhere to union rules—have “refused to offer acceptable terms” on the aforementioned issues.

Major game publishers like Activision, Electronic Arts (EA), Insomniac Games, Epic Games, Take 2 Productions, and WB Games are among those on the list of game companies that are a part of the ongoing negotiations. 

“It’s time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in the post. 

“The result of this vote shows our membership understands the existential nature of these negotiations, and that the time is now for these companies—which are making billions of dollars and paying their CEOs lavishly—to give our performers an agreement that keeps performing in video games as a viable career,” Drescher added.

Voice actor Ben Prendergast, who plays Fuse in EA’s Apex Legends and Tyr in Sony’s God of War: Ragnarok, told Decrypt in a message that the game industry’s strike authorization was “inevitable.”

“The Interactive agreement doesn’t follow the theatrical agreement in terms of residuals, so it’s slightly trickier, but in essence bigger revenues are at play—so I suspect the strike might take its own amount of simmering time before agreement is reached,” Prendergast said.

“But it does seem like finally the producers have realized that pushing around individual actors might work,” he added, “but the strategy falls apart when you try to push all of them.”

Other game voice actors like Assassin’s Creed and Diablo IV performer Victoria Atkin have also supported a SAG-AFTRA Interactive strike, writing on Twitter that studios need to “pay our #videogame heroes.”

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