Video Game Voice Actors' Union (SAG-AFTRA) Strike
On October 21st, 2016, SAG-AFTRA, the union that supports video game voice and motion capture actors, went on strike against 11 American video game developers and publishers. Contract renegotiations, underway since February, 2015, had failed, and union members voted to authorize a strike by a margin of 96% in October of 2015. At stake are the issues of residuals or secondary payments for successful games, protections to mitigate against vocal stress and injury, and increased transparency from games companies about the titles actors would be contributing to before contracts are signed.
Official SAG-AFTRA Union Communication
- SAG-AFTRA: Negotiations Information
- A more detailed outline of the proposal can be found here: Proposal details
- Official SAG-AFTRA strike bulletin and 'Why we strike' pamphlet
- Announcement from the SAG-AFTRA website: Oct 16, 2016: SAG-AFTRA Interactive Strike Date Set for Friday
- Video outlining voice actor strain from SAG-AFTRA website: A whisper to a scream: Vocal health and strain prevention in voice acting
- SAG-AFTRA updates page: Interactive Strike Centre
Video Game Companies' Initial Proposal
- Feb 3, 2015: Interactive employers initial proposals
The strike has implications for the larger game development community, particularly the contentious issue of 'residuals', as it's framed by games companies, or 'secondary compensation', as it's framed by the union. The union is asking for bonus payments for its members when a game sells 2 million copies, or reaches 2 million unique subscribers. Developers, currently without a union, do not receive such payments for their work on a game, despite their longer-term involvement in its production. As such, if this demand is achieved it could set a precedent for developers to make similar requests.
A strong overview of these intersections across worker communities can be found here:
- Emanuel Maiberg on Motherboard: Feb 22, 2017: The video game industry is afraid of unions
Responses from the video game voice actors community
- Will Wheaton on WillWheaton[dot]Net: This is why I support a SAG-AFTRA strike authorization for video games — and it isn’t about money
- Youtube Video featuring voice actors stating their support for contract negotiations, May 4, 2016: SAG-AFTRA interactive negotiations 2016
- NPR interview with voice actor Jennifer Hale, October 22, 2016: Voice actors strike against video game companies
Commentary prior to strike vote in October 2015
- Mike Futter on GameInformer: Sept 22, 2015: Video game voice actors are taking a vote on whether to strike
- Eddie Makuch on Game Spot: Sept 23, 2015: Video game voice actors may go on strike
- Luke Plunkett on Kotaku: Sept 24, 2015: Video game voice actors are thinking about a strike
- Erik Kain on Forbes: Sept 24, 2015: Video game voice actors may go on strike, and that's a good thing
- Rob Fahey on Game Industry: Sept 25, 2015: All creative staff should support the actors
- Chris Reed on Cheat Sheet: Sept 25, 2015: If video game voice actors strike, here's what will happen
As of October 2016, games companies and union members had agreed to terms that included an immediate 9% pay increase for actors. The union, however, rejected this because the deal failed to address the other concerns, in particular, the issue of residuals or secondary compensation. As of October, 2016 workers were on strike.
Management was particularly frustrated with union representatives for not bringing the offer to members for a vote. There are reports of games companies launching a website, sagaftravideogames.com, to discredit union leadership and drive a wedge between members and the bargaining team. This website has since been taken down, but reports of it can be found at the links below:
- Andy Chalk and Tom Sykes on PC Gamer: October 30, 2016: Video game publishers launch website attacking voice actors union over strike
General commentary after SAG-AFTRA announces 'interactive strike' and strike begins in October, 2016
- Richard Verrier on LA Times: Oct 7, 2015: Game on for SAG-AFTRA members, who give leaders authority to call a strike over interactive contract
- Dave McNary on Variety: Oct 7, 2015: SAG-AFTRA video game voice actors authorize strike
- Chris Morris on Fortune: Oct 9, 2015: Why the video game industry is on the edge of its first major strike
- Chris Kerr on Gamasutra: Oct 17, 2016: Video game voice actors' union calls 'interactive strike' to combat unfair treatment
- Chris Berg on Game Raven: Oct 18, 2016: Talks of voice actor strike shine a light on the game industry's ugly labor practices
- Dave McNary on Variety: Oct 21, 2016: SAG-AFTRA Plans First Videogame Strike Picket for Monday
- David Robb on Deadline: Oct 21, 2016: SAG-AFTRA Strikes The Video Game Industry
- Emma Grey Ellis on Wired: Oct 21, 2016: Why video game actors just went on strike
- Mike Futter on Game Informer: Jan 6, 2016: The potential voice actor strike explained
- Kris Ligman on ZAM: May 2016: Videogame voice actors renew social media push for contract negotiations
- Emanuel Maiberg on Motherboard: Oct 9, 2016: Video game voice actors crunch too
- Emanuel Maiberg on Motherboard: Oct 24, 2016: The biggest video games don't tell voice actors what game they're working on
- Ian Williams on Waypoint: Dec 29, 2016: The ongoing voice actor's strike is more than just a little drama
Video games have long production schedules and as a result the impact of the strike on specific AAA titles is not expected to be felt immediately. Union representatives expect that the strike will be long. As of April 23, 2017 the strike has been ongoing for 183 days, and is now the longest strike in the history of the Screen Actors Guild.
A report from Playstation Lifestyle states that some games companies have agreed to the terms of secondary compensation or residuals, although it suggests that AAA are refusing to budge.
- Zarmena Khan on Playstation Lifestyle: May 23, 2017: Some game companies reportedly agreeing to SAG-AFTRA's terms following voice actors strike
Reports as of June 9th, 2017 suggest that both SAG-AFTRA and games companies are willing to return to the bargaining table after eight months of striking.
Dave McNary on Variety: June 9, 2017: SAG-AFTRA, video game companies open to talks after 8-month strike