Voiceover Actors Of Video Games Are Nearing First Major Strike

Nolan North, who voices Nathan Drake
Image credit – NicheGamer.com

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

One of my son’s favorite actors is actually a voiceover actor named Troy Baker. Providing the voices of the Joker and other characters in animated TV series, Baker is also a very prolific video game voice actor for such games as Batman Arkham Knight and Uncharted 3. But he may be out of a job soon as voice actors in SAG-AFTRA are poised to consider their first major strike against video game developers, and they’re taking to social media to let the world know about it.

I love voice acting in video games, but our employers don’t seem to think #PerformanceMatters, so I voted YES to strike. #iamonboard2015 – Wil Wheaton, Twitter

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Image – Jennifer Hale, Twitter

The SAG-AFTRA strike authorization centers around participation should a game do well. Games like Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, DestinyMortal Combat X and Grand Theft Auto V can make billions, thanks to that initial charge of between $60-100 per title.

There’s also the emerging entertainment value of video games as a spectator sport as so-called “lets play videos” on YouTube and Twitch, as well as broadcasted over Sony’s Playstation Network and XBox Live are becoming more popular than network television. So more people are watching the performances of voice actors and motion capture artists than ever before.

The problem is, that voice actors and motion capture artists don’t get a piece of that pie, which can amount up to three times that of the film industry, according to SAG-AFTRA, and that’s what the union is looking to change.

The idea that not paying royalties is equal to us not caring about vocal performance is ridiculous. – Alex Hutchinson, Twitter

Most people playing video games don’t realize that actors show up and do motion capture of the character that they are indeed manipulating, even professional athletes are paid to come in and provide athletic moves that are motion captured and used as a baseline for video games such as Madden NFL, and EAs FIFA Soccer games.

And video game developers of late have courted A list actors like Kevin Spacey and Nathan Fillion to provide voiceover work for games like Call of Duty Advanced Warfare and Halo Guardians. So, it’s understandable that actors would like to be rewarded for their participation, but not in the way many would think. This really is more about the acknowledgement of the performance that goes into a video game, than it is to get a piece of the proverbial pie.

But with so much money being made, is it fair that an actor can show up for scale and not really get any recognition? That’s really what the strike is about, but the financial element of the participation, according to SAG-AFTRA is just the physical manifestation of that appreciation.

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Image by Ken Lally on Twitter

So actors are taking to Twitter to talk about it all and to post images of their votes. Troy Baker isn’t one of them though, as he quit Twitter over the summer because fans didn’t appreciate his online sense of humor. But even if Baker did vote yes, he can fall back on his other voice work.

That hasn’t stopped other actors though, like Wil Wheaton – actor and self-proclaimed gaming geek, from being very vocal. His tweet is above and it’s been echoed by others like Sean Schemmel (Dragon Ball Z), who also said “voice acting in video games requires a special skill set that producers don’t seem to appreciate…#iAmOnBoard2015,”

Ken Lally (Call of Duty) agreed, posting a picture in his motion capture costume and saying “Game industry makes 3 TIMES as much annual $ as the Hollywood film industry. Actors don’t :(.”

Hollywood strikes can be costly, not only for the actors who go without work, but also for technicians and craftsmen who usually walk out in solidarity. Studios, though, not so much as their slate of film releases often allow them to weather such storms in the short run. And there’s always the non-union option overseas, especially with visual effects.

I have a hunch that the same will be true with video game developers since much of the performances for video games occurs early in development, when the performance capture and voiceover work is recorded. I’m not so sure how the short run will be served by a strike, but  in the long run, it can delay new game releases that are early in development.

The problem is, with so much money on the line, video game developers have a much longer runway than film studios do. Several Hollywood actor strikes have lasted months, one has to wonder if a video game actor strike would be much longer, like maybe over a year. Here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Hat Tip – The Nerdist

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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