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Video Game voice actors consider striking...


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It seems the actor's union are considering striking against working in videogames due to poor conditions and pay. I've never really considered this to be honest. I always figured it was an easy job for most of them, so this comes as a surprise. But maybe, with all the horror stories we get from working in the industry, it shouldn't surprise us to know that doing voice acting is just as shitty as working in any other part of videogames.

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It's no less compulsory than any other job Pete. I don't see what's so laughable really, same as any other job if the conditions aren't good enough and they can use striking to improve them then good on them.

Obvs I was being a bit tongue in cheek, but, well you choose your work don't you, there is an element of market forces at play, if voice over work becomes toxic, then conditions and pay will have to be improved to entice talent, its contract work.. . . Its not like some poor fucker that works in retail and has to put up with shitty pay and conditions every working day.

The complaints are pretty comical though; complaining that your voice gets used as a voice actor (or any actor for that matter) is a bit like saying your arms get tired as a plasterer. I mean you don't get singers threatening to go on strike because they have to sing every night for 50 days do you? It kind of goes with the job.

In any event, I really hope they call themselves the Videogames Actors Guild

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This strike seems ridiculous.

Why is there such a small pool of voice actors? Every single game seems to have at least one of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Nolan North, Yuri Lowenthal or Jennifer Hale. They're all very talented but their voices are so recognisable that it takes me out of the game.

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On a side note I've noticed a lot of Japanese games seem to get anime actors in, which I suppose works because of the amount of cross over but I think the likes of the Silent Hill HD collection redubbing (where they replaced the auditioned actors voices with anime people) show that games would probably benefit a lot if they had more people who actually work in the field of acting.

People keep making comments about North and Hale being in most games which leads me to believe that maybe video game voice acting is an area that is currently under-developed or just generally short of talent, especially when we are now seeing studios pushing actual actors hard as a method of marketing. I think the likes of motion capture becoming more common in development is playing a part in it, why find a game voice actor when you can take a real actor, especially as more and more we are seeing actors become familiar with the likes of computer generated effects and blue screen, motion capture is just a step up from that.

It reminds me of this theory I once read about how in the future we could use technology to make people obsolete in the creative process, hypothetically instead of using actual living actors we can use technology to create replicas of older actors, in other words kind of like a super advanced version of the vocaloids we have now.

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It reminds me of this theory I once read about how in the future we could use technology to make people obsolete in the creative process, hypothetically instead of using actual living actors we can use technology to create replicas of older actors, in other words kind of like a super advanced version of the vocaloids we have now.

It ain't a theory, it's the dream of some in Hollywood, James Cameron has been angling to get it sorted for ages, it's called a synthespian. Examples already exist of dead actors being recreated via CGI if they happened to die before a film was finished.

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This strike seems ridiculous.

Why is there such a small pool of voice actors? Every single game seems to have at least one of Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Nolan North, Yuri Lowenthal or Jennifer Hale. They're all very talented but their voices are so recognisable that it takes me out of the game.

It's the same as in live action only instead of recognisable faces, game devs and publishers want recognisable voices and If voice work is your bread and butter then you can't afford to turn roles down.Nolan North has a lot of range, but as he's said himself after Uncharted he was being contacted by publishers who were specifically looking for the "Nathan Drake" voice. Specifically, I think of Prince of Persia (2008):

Ben Mattes said the selection of Nolan North was "entirely intentional." North's portrayal of a Indiana Jones-esque character in Uncharted landed him the role of the Prince. "When we were designing the character of The Prince and trying to identify his personality, the two characters we returned to most often were Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Both, of course, played by Harrison Ford. Nolan North showed in his characterization of Nathan Drake an uncanny resemblance to Indiana Jones both in terms of tone and delivery. We thought it particularly appropriate given the heavy influence of these characters in the writing of The Prince that the voice actor we use be one who manages to capture the essence of the influencing characters deeply."

For what it's worth he's stated that this role is the one he'd like to re-record if he was given the option.

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Sounds the same as the rest of Hollywood then, one of the rare examples of commie behaviour in a highly capitalist society, unionised labour calling the shots and dictating working conditions, instead of the employer.

Edit - the Americans are hardly left leaning in any of their mainstream politics, a bit like having to choose between Tony Blair or David Cameron over here, neither is a socialist in thinking, which a union certainly is. Socialism and communism aren't far apart in some people's minds. I'm not saying unions are a bad thing, as some people obviously seem to have interpreted the above statement.

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Voice actors bring life to some great characters in video games, but the devs don't get paid nearly as much as voice actors and I'm sure they do vastly more to contribute to the game overall.

Absolutely true. However I don't see why that should stop voice actors attempting to get better or fairer terms etc. There should be a union for the games biz to tackle all sorts of problems with the industry. Not least the forced overtime. Unfortunately no fucker seems interested in creating and ultimately paying subs for one.

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It must be frustrating for dedicated voice actors to watch star struck devs/publishers spunking money on celebrity voice actors. Sometimes you get a good performance worth the while, I really enjoyed Peter Stormare hamming it up in Until Dawn recently, but most of the time they sound like Krusty firing off lines in a rush to get home in that one episode of the Simpsons.

I wonder how much Nolan North got paid compared to Peter Dinklage's original fee to re-do his bored performance in Destiny.*

*Remember when it came out and some people were trying to justify it as a good performance and that it was him trying to really capture the spirit of an A.I. and not just Tyrion Lannister listlessly reciting lines of a page while wondering when the next fag break was. Of course it didn't help that the script for vanilla Destiny made Troll 2 look like Glengarry Glen Ross.

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In fairness to the Dinklebot, I recently played through Destiny (for the first time) and thought the script was awful and his performance poor. Then this week I played Destiny with the Nolanbot for the first time, and it sounds just as off a performance, albeit weirdly emotionally forced rather than completely dry.

And if Nolan North can't extract a decent performance out of your script, that suggests your script (and probably direction) are an utter pile of dingo balls.

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Wil Wheaton wrote on his blog about why he supports the strike. The formatting sucks so it might be easier to read it on his blog.

I’m getting yelled at by people on Twitter because I support my union (SAG-AFTRA)’s efforts to negotiate a better contract for voice performers like myself who perform in video games.

The most frequent complaint goes something like this: “actors work for maybe a few days at most on a game, and they want residual payments?! Programmers and others who work on those same games spend literally years of their lives on them, and they don’t get residuals! Actors are greedy jerks!”

I can’t speak to the fairness or unfairness of residuals or lack of residuals for programmers, artists, composers, and others who game developers and publishers, because that’s not my job, and I don’t know what, precisely, their contracts are. I certainly don’t believe that there is some sort of feud or lack of shared interest between us (the actors) and them, and I fully support all the people who work on games — especially the huge blockbuster games that pull in profits that are in line with the biggest blockbuster movies — getting the very best contract, with the best compensation and best working conditions that they possibly can.

But I did not give my union authorization to call a strike on my behalf because of this issue. I voted to authorize a strike because our employers in the games industry refuse to negotiate with us at all about some very, very important issues surrounding our working conditions.

Let me share some excerpts from an email I got from SAG-AFTRA recently (emphasis mine):

You may have heard that billion-dollar companies like Activision, Warner Bros., Disney and Rockstar Games are against sharing any of their record-setting profits with the performers who help make their games awesome. But…


Our employers have rejected every proposal that we’ve put on the table? That includes the community’s proposals to reduce vocally stressful sessions to two hours
, […]

This, right here, is reason enough to strike, as far as I am concerned. I fully realize that for anyone who doesn’t work as a voice actor it sounds insane to care about vocally stressful sessions. I realize that when you hear that actors want to reduce those sessions to two hours or less, it can easily create an impression that actors are lazy and entitled, and don’t want to work as hard as other people do.

(Edit to clarify: Some folks seem to think I’m arguing that voice actors should never have to work more than two hours a day. That’s not what I’m arguing for, at all. I’m arguing that sessions which are vocally stressful should be limited to two hours. Other sessions, with regular dialog and scenes, are typically six to eight hours, and I’m not arguing to change that.)

Listen, if you truly feel that way, I hope you’ll do something to give you some perspective on what this actually means. I really want to help everyone understand what we do when we use our voices to bring video game characters to life, and why the expectations (I believe they are demands) from our employers are unreasonable.

Okay? Let’s get started. Since you probably don’t have a video game script at hand, we’re going to simulate it. I want you to grab your favorite book, and I want you to read, out loud, twenty pages from it. Really put your heart and soul into the dialog, and bring it to life. I need to feel emotion, and I need to be invested in the characters. Now, go do it again, but justslightly different this time, because we’re going to need options. Okay, you’re doing great. You’ve been at it for about two hours now (if you average around six minutes a page, like I do), so take a ten minute break. Drink some hot tea with lemon and honey in it, and then go read it one last time.

So you’re about three hours into it — that’s it! Just three hours! Five hours less than an average (union-negotiated) workday! Your sinuses are feeling a little raw, because you’ve pushed a lot of sound and moisture out of your body. You probably feel some emotional fatigue, because you’ve been putting a lot of emotion into your work. But you’re a professional, so you don’t complain. In fact, you’re grateful for the job, because if you’re lucky you’ll get to do this maybe twice a month. And, honestly, this is still better than coal mining, right? Right.

Okay. Still with me? Good. You can eat lunch now, if you want. You probably go for something with a lot of salt in it, because it soothes your vocal chords. I’m a big fan of the chicken soup, though sometimes I’ll have a burrito, because #burritowatch.

Lunch is over. You’ve been at work for about 4 and a half or five hours at this point. You’re going to go read another ten pages from your book, but I’m only going to ask you to do it once, because you’re probably in the zone by now and you are nailing most things on the first take.

It’s time for the call outs, and then you’re done for the day. Maybe you’re done for the whole job! Awesome. Here’s what you’re going to do: you’re going to make a spreadsheet, with 40 rows on it. In each row, you’re going to put a line of dialog that you’re going to do three times in a row before you move on to the next line. This spreadsheet will have a few columns, with the dialog in the first column, and some direction in the second column. There’s a third column, usually, but that’s got information in it that’s not relevant to our job as actors, so ignore it.

I’ve made you a sample of a few lines from a military game I made up, to help you get started:


You’re going to do each of those three times, sometimes four times. You’re also going to do this for three more hours. Don’t worry, you can take a couple of short breaks — and you’ll need them — to drink some more of that tea you’re getting sick of.

If you’ve done this as I asked, it’s now six or seven hours after you started. Don’t talk at all for the rest of the day, and don’t make any plans to go audition for any other voice work for the rest of the week, because your voice is wrecked. Don’t go to any kind of day job that requires you to talk with anyone, either, because you’re not going to be able to do that. Oh, and over years and years of this, it’s going to build up into serious and permanent damage … and then you’re not going to be able to work with your voice anymore.

The fact that our employers won’t even talk with us about this growing problem, that affects the ability of all voice performers to take care of themselves, is reason enough to go on strike until they will.

But there’s more. Our employers also refuse:

[…] to hire stunt safety coordinators to protect actors’ well-being in the PCap volume, to share with us and/or our representatives the actual name of the games we work on, and to outline the nature of the work we’ll be doing?

Working in Motion Capture is amazing, and that technology has allowed some of the most incredible works of videogame art in history to be created. The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto V, Heavy Rain, Uncharted 4, are just a few of the titles that have been brought to life by talented performers using their voices and their movements to create a realism that was unheard of fifteen years ago. It can be dangerous work, especially when there are fights involved, so when we work in live action film or television, there is always a trained, qualified, professional stunt coordinator on set to ensure that nothing goes wrong and nobody gets hurt. The performers who work in those scenes should be afforded the same protection we get when we’re on a traditional film or television set.

And I totally get the desire for studios to protect their upcoming releases by using codenames for various projects when we audition, but asking — in this case expecting — us to go into something with absolutely zero knowledge about the project, or what we’ll be expected to do if we are cast, is completely unreasonable. Maybe someone has a moral objection to the content of a game, and they’d like to know what it is before they commit to it. Maybe they get to see three pages of the script (usually just single lines with no context) and they wouldn’t take the job if they found out the part was just one scene, followed by sixty pages of call outs, being delivered by several different characters. Or maybe they just aren’t into the project when they find out what it is. The point is, expecting actors — or anyone — to commit to a job without knowing exactly what it entails just defies common sense. We have got to be able to figure out a compromise that fairly and equitably addresses everyone’s concerns. You know, a negotiation.

But it gets worse, because these people, who have refused to address a single proposal from SAG-AFTRA, have some ideas of their own that they apparently expect us to just accept without question:

Our employers want to be able to fine you $2,500 if you show up late or are not “attentive to the services for which [you] have been engaged.” This means you could be fined for almost anything: checking an incoming text, posting to your Twitter feed, even zoning out for a second. If a producer feels you are being “inattentive,” they want the option to fine you $2,500.

Our employers want to be able to fine the union $50,000-$100,000 if your franchised agent doesn’t send you out on certain auditions (like Atmospheric Voices or One Hour One Voice sessions)?

I’m sorry. What? The studios want to fine SAG-AFTRA up to $100,000 if our agents don’t send us out on an audition? Because these same people who refuse to discuss any of our proposals for this upcoming contract believe … what, exactly? That they own us all and they can force our agents to do whatever they want them to do? This makes literally no sense at all.

If your agent chooses not to submit you for certain auditions, our employers want to put into our contract language forcing SAG-AFTRA to revoke your agent’s union franchise. This would mean that your agency would not be able to send you out on any union jobs, including those in animation, TV/film, commercials, etc.

So this is ludicrous. I can not think of a single instance in the history of the entertainment industry where a studio of any sort has asked for and gotten something like this. If my agent doesn’t submit me for something, for whatever reason, that’s between my agent and me. Maybe I don’t want to work for a certain studio, so my agent doesn’t submit me for their projects. Maybe I don’t want to work with a certain director, or another performer or whatever I feel like because I’m a sentient human being who makes his own decisions. These employers (at video game companies and video game studios) want to have the option of preventing our agents from submitting us for any work at all, and that’s outrageous. Our relationship with our agents is, frankly, none of any studio’s business. (Edit 9/24/15 5:54pm): I just remembered that SAG doesn’t have a franchise agreement with agents at the moment, and hasn’t for some time. So there is no franchise to revoke (as I understand it, now).


We are at a crossroads, and we have a choice to make.

This is the crux of it, really. It really, really, really and honestly and truly isn’t about money. Sure, payment and compensation is certainly part of it, but it’s not all of it, and it isn’t even the biggest part of it. We really are fighting for the future of our ability to work in this business.

If we stand united, we have a chance to make real gains in this contract and to avoid these onerous rules and fines. SAG-AFTRA is one union now. We have power we’ve never had before, and it needs to be deployed now.

If we don’t stand together, we won’t even be able to maintain the status quo.

That’s why your Negotiating Committee, Executive Committee and National Board have all voted unanimously to support this action. Now, it’s in your hands. We hope you’ll join us and vote YES for a strike authorization.

Voting YES for a strike authorization does NOT mean we are on strike, it does NOT mean that we have to strike or that we will strike. It simply means that you authorize your Negotiating Committee and elected representatives to call for a strike against video game companies as a last resort, in order to make sure that your safety and well-being are protected, and that your future is free from any unnecessary fines and penalties. A strike authorization gives your Negotiating Committee real power at the bargaining table.

I love the work that I do. I’m grateful for the work that I have, and I’ve been lucky to work with some incredibly talented people on both sides of the recording studio glass. This isn’t about making enemies of the other creative people in the business, be they directors, studio engineers, artists, programmers, sound designers, writers, etc. This is about a handful of extremely wealthy, extremely powerful people trying to take away our ability to make a living, to take care of our voices, and to be safe on the set.

We in the voice acting community — along with the programmers and engineers, of course — have helped video games grow into a multi-billion dollar industry. Video games rival movies not because we push buttons and get loot, but because video games tell amazing stories that touch our lives in ways that movies can not.

I sincerely hope that a strike won’t be necessary. I sincerely hope that our employers will come to the negotiating table and talk with us in good faith, to reach an agreement that’s fair.

But if they won’t, I’ll go on strike unless and until they will, because I believe that #PerformanceMatters.

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How dare they!

Who said it was a bad thing? Americans would view it as a leftist solution, rather like how socialised medicine is viewed, which they don't seem to want either. It's just interesting that Hollywood is one of the few businesses where it still flourishs, while unions have been losing the war against employers in most other industries.

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