Voice actors from video games are unhappy with the way they’re being treated, and the amount of damage they are doing to their voices through long recording sessions. They want to break up those long sessions into smaller chunks, and they want bonuses when games go on to sell over 2 million copies.
Game voice actors are striking because they aren’t being heard.
We all know that working on any major game is tough, stressful, with tight deadlines. There’s countless stories of devs sleeping under their desks at night, working 16 or 18 hour days, just doing whatever it takes to get it done. We immediately think of the programmers, the artists, the writers… but the voice actors feel they’re getting the short end of the stick, too (In general, not just compared to their peers), so they’re doing something about it.
The downsides to being a voice actor in games:
There are positives to this work, but it’s tough, too. People think that it’s just a matter of standing around and talking. Working at peak performance for hours at a time can put a huge strain on your vocal cords, yet you’ll get worked like a dog on short deadlines, having to decide between this current job or possibly risking your ability to work in the future from damaging your voice. It’s rare for voice actors to get any kind of residual payments, even on games that go on to sell millions of copies, the main actors and actresses are just a footnote.
There’s a lot more recording work than you may realize. It’s not just a matter of reading a script, it’s a matter of recording different reactions for every different possible option a player could choose.
“If the character’s throwing something, you have to make a sound for throwing something a short distance, a long distance and a really long distance,” explains Elias Toufexis to CBC, best known for his role as Adam Jensen in the cyberpunk Deus Ex games.
Members of the SAG-AFTRA union are currently striking against 11 of the leading gaming publishers. They’re just looking for the same treatment that other actors and actresses are guaranteed in television and film.
“It’s the equivalent of a four-hour one-person show,” Hale says. “So that’s very demanding, especially when a lot of it is battle-oriented, and IT’S ALL SCREAMING AND YOU GO LIKE THIS!” continued Elias, who also has numerous on-screen appearances as an actor, along with his voice work.
David Hayter, who did the voice of Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games, explains that the most intense recordings (the grunting, yelling, screaming, battle scenes…) are all done on the same day, which he describes as “one horrific day“.
“One time, I actually threw up on the mic because I had to make a bunch of vomiting sounds in a row,” recalls David..
The list of demands includes:
Instead of 4-hour marathon sessions where they cram all the most strenuous scripts into one day, they want to break it up into smaller sessions so there’s less damage to the actor’s voice.
They want bonus payments on games that sell over 2 million copies, just a little taste of the action.
They want a bit more information about the characters they’re going to be playing, time to prepare, learn the backstory, rather than being left in the dark.
A lawyer representing SAG-AFTRA dismissed these demands by minimizing the contributions of voice actors and said their demands are “fundamentally unfair,” going on to state that voice actors account for “less than one-tenth of one per cent of the total workforce on the game,” and that “It basically tells those people that the performers’ efforts are outsized with respect to everyone else.”
So in other words, the poor artists, coders, and everyone else working on the game should continue being treated the same as the voice actors, who don’t feel they’re being treated very well.
A counter argument, from Phil LaMarr, a very prolific voice actor, says “They seem to be working from this assumption that they shouldn’t share [the proposed bonus] with the developers and programmers. I’m not working from that assumption. Why wouldn’t you share it with the people who are working 16-hour days during crunch time?”
So, the publishers are essentially saying that if they treated voice actors better, they would have to treat EVERYONE better otherwise it wouldn’t be fair. The voice actors are saying, good.. treat everyone better.
Gamers react to voice acting strike:
Here’s how the internet has been reacting to the news of this strike…
“Everyone is focusing on the residuals. The real issue here is they are being worked like dogs. I’m sure they’d be happy with a little consideration that their voices are their livelihood and a 4 hour session of screaming in a gravelly voice is not acceptable.” – windyisle
“Great voice acting has a huge impact on a game so it’s only fair that they get compensated properly. That being said, it’s only fair all involved share the spoils, be it movies or games. This model of some people getting super rich, while others get burned out with nothing to show for it needs to change.” – AxezCore
“You know, the comments made here kinda make me wonder if MGSV has less dialogue than normal because Kiefer Sutherland wouldn’t put up with that type of VA treatment.” – KommanderKrebs
“As a Software Engineer, I think if they(voice actors) were to get more compensation so should the developers.” – Hobbit_Swag
“They want to be treated like Hollywood actors which just isn’t the reality. A good actor can bring money in to a movie because people might go see it because he / she is acting in a movie. That never happens with voice over. No matter how talented a VO actor is, nobody goes ‘Oh, I’m going to go buy this new game even though it doesn’t look great because x is voicing the main character!’ It just doesn’t happen.” – kentathon