Connected: Boss fights – Industrial action in video games

More ambitious than the baddest supervillain, the video game industry is taking over the world.

boss fightWith monstrous development budgets and shiny marketing campaigns, games are levelling up and leaving the rest of the entertainment industry in their Mario Kart-fuelled dust. Being in games is cool, but unless you’re a shareholder you’re probably overworked and underpaid for your talents.

Battles in collective bargaining

After months of negotiations, video game voice actors and their union (Screen Actor’s Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) are on strike. Issues include remuneration and safer working conditions for both voice and motion capture actors. Big companies like Activision, Disney Character Voices and Electronic Arts all have affected titles.

The guild wants video game actors to be treated more like film actors. Many game voice actors work in film too, so it makes sense to offer similar conditions between the two industries – it’s the same job by a lot of the same people. At the moment video game actors receive no additional compensation if they are a part of a hugely successful title, their talent left to generate income for others. When bestselling games can make billions that can mean a lot of income.

Less deadly spikes, more health and safety checkpoints

The major issue isn’t about pay though, it’s about safe working conditions. If your job is jumping around on platforms it should be conducted with all safety precautions in place. Motion capture artists are sometimes forced to perform without stunt coordinators, which has resulted in injuries. Unlike in the games themselves, actors can’t earn extra lives.

“SAG-AFTRA has gone to the negotiations table with serious concerns affecting voiceover and stunt performers,” said SAG-AFTRA chief contracts officer Ray Rodriguez, “it’s time for video game employers to take our concerns seriously and negotiate a modern contract based on actor safety, industry precedent and best practices.”

Bestiary brutality

Voice actors are given vocally strenuous dialogue of animal grunts and screams for as long as eight-hour sessions. Many actors have suffered vocal injury and loss of vocal range because of these unreasonable demands. In order for game companies to complete their bestiaries, SAG-AFTRA want sessions limited to two hour sessions to preserve actor’s voices.

Your princess is in another castle

In some situations, actors are kept in the dark about their role until it’s too late to walk away. This surprise role could include sexist, racist or homophobic dialogue, which can be distressing to read, let alone act. You shouldn’t have to turn up to work to find out not only is your princess in another castle, but you’re playing a bad guy in the first place.

Performance matters

So, if like me you enjoy some interactive digital entertainment, reach out and share your support for the voice artists behind the work. You can support them with the hashtag #performancematters on your favourite social media network.

By Jem Yoshioka