The video game industry has hit another big, unwieldy milestone in its maturity into the world of mass media today, with news coming that SAG-AFTRA voice actors are striking from performing in its games. The work stoppage is specifically aimed at 11 of the biggest companies in the games industry: Activision Publishing, Inc.; Blindlight, LLC; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Electronic Arts Productions, Inc.; Formosa Interactive, LLC; Insomniac Games, Inc.; Interactive Associates, Inc.; Take 2 Interactive Software; VoiceWorks Productions, Inc.; and WB Games, Inc. That covers most of the big-budget games out there, from Fallout 4 and The Last Of Us, to series like Call Of Duty and Assassin’s Creed.
SAG-AFTRA and the companies in question have been waging a heated war of words over the last few weeks, with the performers’ union claiming that its current contract with the companies—first written in 1994—fails to take into account the fact that gaming is now a billion-dollar industry. Meanwhile, the companies claim that the union is holding the process up over “terminology,” wanting to refer to an agreed-upon bonus for session work as “contingent compensation”—potentially opening the door to the same kinds of residuals that performers receive for acting in TV and films.
According to a press release from the video game companies, the strike isn’t expected to impede development on games that are already in production, due to “No Strike” clauses in the current interactive media contract between the two groups. (Games put into production after February 17, 2015 will be affected, though, according to the union.) Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA has released a PDF outlining its position on the labor dispute, calling for secondary compensation for games that sell over 2 million copies, increased transparency about the details of parts being offered, and more considerations of performer safety, both for vocal performances, and motion capture. Its members are picketing outside Electronic Arts, one of the biggest employers in the industry, this afternoon.