Voice actors not receiving bonuses on the backend of games sales has been a long-running discussion within the industry and, according to the performers’ union (SAG-AFTRA), a strike may be necessary to finally bring the issue to a close.
Contracts vary, of course, but usually voice actors in video games get paid a one-time fee to do their job. By comparison, actors in movies typically receive a cut of the back end if their movie does well. You might recall that a writers strike occurred a few years back, as the folks who created the content felt they deserved similar back-end payment.
Now it looks like a similar fate may befall the video games industry in regards to the folks who voice and motion capture the characters we all control, or at least watch, on screen.
Gameinformer is reporting that SAG-AFTRA is currently discussing a potential strike, which could bring the production of quite a few video games to a grinding halt as the involved parties finally resolve the matter.
It’s easy to forget while cruising through levels in Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or The Last of Us that all of those performances are being voiced and sometimes physically acted out by professionals. In short, those folks are looking to get better pay for their contributions.
While additional matters involving voice actor contracts are up for debate, the biggest focus is being put on bonuses received after a game ships. Many folks who work on these games receive bonuses if, for instance, a game sells well or receives a certain score on Metacritic. I find that last one to be a particularly gross metrics to tie someone’s pay to, but I suppose we’ll handle these issues one at a time and today’s focus is getting voice actors paid a more fair wage for their work. After all, talented voice actors like (Nolan North and Jennifer Hale, for instance) are becoming a bigger draw for industry fans, and their performances are often directly tied to those sale figures and review scores everyone else gets bonuses for.
The original report is proposing a pay bump not occur until a game sales two million copies in order to keep from throwing the industry too far out of whack. That figure means a game is a “hit,” which is when folks who worked on the thing should probably get a little extra financial compensation for their contributions. The two million mark also protects indie developers, though, who probably can’t afford to pay more than a flat fee for folks who work on their games.
The proposed changes go into even greater detail to protect members of the union, including the addition of stunt coordinators for games that require motion capture, as well as a sort of stunt bonus for folks willing to put their pipes through particularly dangerous workouts. It may sound silly to the average person, but a voice actors, well, voice is their livelihood. If they sign a contract that has them screaming their lungs out and they end up damaging their voice, which can cost them in the long run.
At this point, the discussion may finally be coming to a head. It appears publishers aren’t quite willing to budge, so the union is about to take a vote to determine if they should go on strike. If the needed 75 percent of participants vote in favor of a strike, the gaming world will go silent until some sort of middle ground is reached.