The Voice Actor Strike - Why I Support It

Give us more money or else I sic this dog on you.

Give us more money or else I sic this dog on you.

There is a growing debate over a potential voice actor strike which is being led by some voice over heavyweights like Wil Wheaton (Robin in DC Online), David Hayter (Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid), Jennifer Hale (Female Shepherd in Mass Effect), and Elias Toufexis (Deus Ex and Assassin's Creed).  That debate has been largely over whether or not voice actors deserve a bonus if a game is a blockbuster which by their definition is a game that sells over 2 Million copies.  There are other considerations at play like stunt pay for vocally taxing work, or at least limits on the hours they can subject their voice to that type of work.  Speaking as someone who has worked on a Haunted Trail for over a decade, screaming repeatedly really damages your voice and a long day of that would be disastrous.  Another consideration would be having things like a stunt coordinator on hand when doing acrobatic motion capture work to reduce injury risks.  Motion capture work is pretty new and not really covered under union rules negotiated before this became common so I bet some of the conditions are hairy and unregulated.  

For some context here is a bit from a post from Wil Wheaton - (you can read his entire article here)

 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, […]

In response to this potential strike there has been a vocal outcry from the game designers who work on these same games. They believe their months and years of game design should be rewarded more so than the efforts of voice actors who would work for hours or weeks in comparison.  While I agree they should also be paid well, this argument to me is a fallacy.  The actors have a union and therefore can collectively bargain for certain things and they can strike together to bring about change.  Game designers are not unionized so they do not have this power, but they should be more upset by their lack of a union and the disparity on basic industry standards around profit sharing or work conditions.  Some studios like Gearbox (Makers of Borderlands) have profit sharing and promote it on their jobs page.  There absolutely should be pressure on game studios to match that, and if game designers pull together to improve their conditions I would support their strike as well.  That desire also powers my love of funding game designers on Kickstarter so they can work outside of this system on their own terms.  I think the hashtag of "Performance Matters" much the same way "Black Lives Matter" makes people jump to alternatives and might not be serving them well in this public opinion battle (See #whitelivesmatter and #alllivesmatter as two off the point examples).  Designers would naturally think their work also matters, and that not paying voice actors more doesn't inherently mean performance doesn't matter.  This potential false equation moves the argument off track.  This is about equity in rewarding the work that goes into making something great, and making voice acting work safe and sustainable.  Both are goals I think we can all get behind.

In reality, I understand that if voice actors get a raise that is likely to come from the game construction budget and not the CEO payroll so in the short term it is very conceivable that the actors might be paid money that is going to be taken away from designers.  This upsets me too, but I hope this battle advances to represent those interests as well so that in the future great game designers are well rewarded for their efforts in tandem with great voice acting which really humanizes all that design. The two sides have a symbiotic relationship and I hope the infighting stops so that the targets are set on game studios fairly rewarding all the talent that makes a game great because you can't have one without the other.  

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