By Phuong Pham
What does a video game need in order to be considered a great game? A solid script? A great plot? Snappy dialogue? A video game needs great acting just as much as it needs all the previous items listed. This past week, video game voice actors have gone on strike after 19 months of negotiations failed to leave the game companies and voice actors satisfied. Hit the jump to learn more.
In late 2014, the Interactive Media Agreement expired and for the next 19 months, voice actors fought to have contracts reflect the conditions of the work environment and residual pay for successful games. After both parties were not able to reach an agreement, SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) union voice actors went on strike against video game companies. The companies affected include, EA, Insomniac Games, Activision, and Disney.
The voice actors are looking to negotiate pay based on certain factors of a job. For instance, union voice actress, Jennifer Hale (better known as Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 3 and Sarah Palmer in Halo 5: Guardians) noted that, “I have friends who have had to have surgery because of the vocal stress they incurred in the session and they’ve been out of work for months.” Currently, the Interactive Media Agreement does not have any clauses about work that might cause physical harm to the voice actor or anything about adjusted pay for a highly successful game. This means that a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 which grossed $23.5 billion will still pay voice actors the fixed rate of $825 for four hours of voice work (regardless of what that work entails.) We already give film actors an adjusted salary for a film that performs well, like Robert Downey Jr. who received backpayment for Iron Man 3 in the form of a Bentley. What if we treated big names in video game voice acting like Nolan North the same way?
There is no debate that huge names like Nolan North or Troy Baker draw fans to games so maybe it’s time the industry treats them as such. Corporate gaming companies are working on an outdated system that no longer pays actors something comparable to the success of the game they helped make. When games are outselling movies, maybe we should examine how the gaming industry treats their actors and whether or not the contract of many years past is still fair.