Voice Actors Protest at E3

By Alec Matias, May 25, 2005 6:43am PDT

Unbeknownst to the majority of the attendees, videogame voice actors held a protest outside the Los Angeles Convention Center during E3. They've been locked in a battle with major publishers over a new contract, with the actors requesting additional session fees when game sales hit certain milestones; once at 400,000 copies sold and then again at every 100,000 after that.

"To deny working-class performers their fair share of the tremendous profits their labor helps to generate is illogical, unreasonable and unjust," John Connolly, president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said recently. "It is simply shortsighted to believe that consumers don't care about the artistic quality of the characters." ... "The union's demand for an equity stake, or residual structure, is unreasonable and not fair to the hundreds of people who often spend years developing a game," Howard Fabrick, an attorney representing publishers in the talks, said in a statement. "Voiceover work represents a small fraction of a video game's development and consumer enjoyment."
The current offer from the publishers is a 34% pay increase over three years (to $375 an hour), "raising overtime payments, limiting the number of voices that actors would be required to perform and agreeing to pay extra when a publisher uses a voice recording in another game." The voice actors recently polled its union members if they should commence with a strike. If the majority agrees, a strike could take place as early as two weeks from now.

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74 Threads | 315 Comments

  • I can't fault them for trying to get as much as they feel they deserve out of the publishers. They'd be stupid not to. And games are continuing to go more and more mainstream and compete with other forms of entertainment for the consumer's spending money. They realize this and want to be sure that they are well positioned from the start. Look at the Blizzard games. All those guys in Warcraft and Starcraft and the little phrases they said. People still remember that stuff years later. It's part of what makes the game appealing and memorable. The publishers just need to figure out what that's worth to them or rather, what they feel is reasonable.

  • Some game voice actors get paid up to 33k per 4 hour session with only one 2 hour pickup session.

    Real quality voice actors already get a ton of money already. Often more than developers EVER see in game profits.

    Games that feature actors revisiting their roles from TVs or Movies, get paid like crazy for their little 4 hour session.

    The people complaining here are the little nobodies in the voice acting business, let them strike, developers will just go with non-SAG actors and the games won't suffer at all. Ooops, they can't get Bruce Willis? They get a soundalike for 1/100th price!

    Same goes for Hollywood, the only movies that are still made in Hollywood are the overpriced union forced pieces of crap being shot in already established Hollywood studios. Most movie and TV show developers shoot in Australia (the Matrix), Canada (x-files), or New Zealand (Lord of the Rings) to avoid the moronic overpowered US unions.

    Unions were established back in the industrial age when corporations were working people to their knees, 12 hour days 7 days a week in dangerous working conditions (mines, heavy manufacturing) with little pay, or working underage kids to death. Unions these days are just a bullying organization full of thugs who harass and threaten scabs (people who work through union lines because they have bills to pay), they serve no real purpose other than to force game developers / movie developers and newspapers to replace jobs with machines, or move the jobs out of the country to avoid the idiotic union rules.

    Go ahead voice actors, start your union, then watch as ALL your jobs disappear as publishers grab non-SAG actors instead. Then come crying back in a few years when you can't get work, and watch the publishers crank your hourly rate down because they are getting it so cheap from non-SAG.

    I would expect that these morons trying to strike are going to get hammered by the real voice actors out there. Biting the hand that feeds you usually isn’t very smart.

  • Residuals for games are ridiculous, but at the same time people here are making like the $300+ an hour these voice actors make is a big deal. Its not like they are working 40 hour weeks at these rates. I don't see how people can make a living just off of voice acting unless they are ALWAYS working on projects. At best I can see it as a supplement to a main income, and maybe to maintain their union benefits.

    Just to make my position clear though, asking for residuals from games is ridiculous, just as the SAG strike on the commercial contract from 2000 was ridiculous (and it RUINED commercial production in Los Angeles for the people who actually do work, driving companies to shoot in South Africa and Argentina for the next few years).

  • Actors certainly have a right to complain about what they're being paid, but before they ever get an ounce of sympathy from gamers they'll have to understand how their work is perceived as so much "frosting" on an extremely complicated and highly-desirous cake.

    Maybe that's not the case at all, maybe voice actors pour their heart and soul into the job they're asked to do, but that's certainly not how it's largely received. Honestly, how many games can you think of that have actually been enhanced by narration or cutscenes, rather than serving as the object of derision or barbed quotation? I myself am counting and I'm still on one hand, meanwhile this topic is already riddled with wince-inducing lines.

    Furthermore, their cry of injustice is drowned out by what we recognize as an even greater injustice, which is the rate of pay and working conditions of the majority of game developers. For us, the priority is clear: fix that problem first, then move on to other stuff, then eventually the actors.

    Unlike the movie/TV scenario, I did not pay money for Half-Life 2 because it stars the voice of Robert Guillaume.

  • You know what? These assholes are probabably going get what they want. The publishers are probably gonna cave in as pressure from their marketing divisions tell them "we can't possibly sell a game without voice acting" or some other steaming pile of bullshit.

    Then who is gonna get hit?

    The developers. Everytime shit like this comes up - where the publisher has to make changes in the $ distribution is the developers that take it in the ass.

    As someone who works in the games industry I have lost jobs/contracts due to shit like this. I have been a part of entire dev-teams that were "let go" because some ass who doesn't know games from a hole in the ground makes assanine uninformed decision based on mystery facts dregged up by some fuck face in publishing.

    Now I realize its the publishers $ on the line when it comes to developing a game. If the developerss produce shit then thats their own fault. But a lot of developers bend over backwards to please the publisher and still get fucked at the last minute cause of crap like this. Then they go and publish some total tripe game instead.

    Unless you are that 1% of the top 1% of developers that have produced a major super-hit game you are at the mercy of publishers consistantly.