Skip to main content

On like silent Donkey Kong: video game voice actors authorized by union to strike

video game voice actor strike authorized jennifer hale
Jennifer Hale/The New Yorker
Computer games may be going quiet in the near future, as a vocal majority of video game voice actors has been authorized by their union to go on strike for better pay and working conditions. In late September, several prominent gaming actors pushed for a strike, and an impressive 96.52 percent of the SAG-AFTRA union’s members have voted in favor, according to a recent announcement from the powerful performers’ union.

The announcement is quick to point out, however, that this does not yet mean that the actors are on strike, but rather “it gives the National Board the authority to declare a strike.” 75-percent approval was required from the membership for a strike to be possible, and the vote’s overwhelming support for a strike easily satisfied that requirement.

Related Videos

The possibility of a strike came up when the union’s previous Interactive Media Agreement expired at the end of 2014. Negotiations in both February and June of 2015 failed to produce a new deal, and the union then decided to pursue stronger tactics. With the board and membership’s authorization, the Negotiating Committee will now be able to realistically threaten to strike when they return to the bargaining table with major video game publishers.

According to an explanatory page on the union’s website, their platform comes down to essentially four big issues. The actors wish to be paid and treated in a manner that reflects the massive growth of the video game industry in recent years, which is eclipsing film as one of the most dominant and profitable media. Like film actors, voice actors want residual compensation from the back end for games that do exceptionally well. They are only asking for additional payment when games sell over 2 million copies, protecting smaller projects and developers. This figure was chosen based on research conducted by the union, as it explained in a related statement:

We looked at the 100 top-selling games of the past two years and found that of the games with sales numbers that would trigger a secondary payment under this proposal – the “blockbusters” – the penetration of union performers is nearly 100 percent. That’s why we positioned our “ask” at 2 million copies – it’s where most games start to turn a profit, and it’s where all the union talent is found.”

Second, the actors would like protections in place for vocally stressful recording sessions, in the same way that stunt performers are compensated based on the difficulty of a given role. With the massive total recording times typical of major video games, the fatigue from challenging sessions can add up and damage the actors’ instrument, the union claims. They are asking that taxing sessions be limited to two hours.

Third, voice actors are often pulled into doing motion capture work in games as well, but sometimes without the same safety precautions taken for stunt performers in film and television. The union is asking that stunt coordinators be used in order that dangerous physical scenes are recorded with the same rigorous concern for safety as in any other medium.

Finally, the union is requesting greater transparency on the projects that actors are signing up for. Actors are frequently recruited for projects knowing little about the context in which their work will be used. In extreme cases this has led to actors revoking the rights to their performances on finding out about a game’s offensive content.

The move to strike has been supported by many prominent voice actors, including Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect), Wil Wheaton (Broken Age), David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid), Ashly Burch (Life is Strange), Tara Strong (Batman: Arkham City), Elias Toufexis (Deus Ex: Human Revolution), and more.

Editors' Recommendations

A sad day in the Mushroom Kingdom: Actor who voiced Super Mario Bros.' Luigi dies
Super Mario World Cartoon

Tony Rosato, who lent his voice to Luigi in The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World in the early 1990s, died Wednesday at 62. Larry Goldhar, his former agent, confirmed the news, saying that while an autopsy will be performed, Rosato is suspected to have died from an apparent heart attack.

Rosato got his start as a sketch comedian for the Canadian show SCTV in 1980. From there, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1981. Rosato, born in Naples, Italy, became the first cast member born outside of North America. He only stayed on SNL for the 1981-82 season. In 1985, he took on the role of Arthur Morelli in the Canadian police procedural Night Heat, and played the character until the show ended in 1989.

Read more
Striking video game voice actors often don’t know what game they’re voicing
destiny crucible multiplayer guide iron banner

One of the biggest grievances of video game voice actors currently striking against the industry is that quite often they don't even know what game it is they're working on, at least not until long time after recording. This means that actors often don't get the rates they might otherwise be able to demand for major jobs, and that's something they want to change.

As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, the strike of the Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists officially began. Union members picketed publisher Electronic Arts on Monday, October 24, but officially it all began a few days before.

Read more
Mario’s voice actor joined Instagram and his videos are delightful
mario voice actors instagram videos delightful

Charles Martinet, the actor who provides the voices of Mario, Luigi, and Wario for Nintendo, has started an Instagram account to which he regularly posts delightful videos, frequently featuring his trio beloved characters.

Most recently, Martinet has been touring Chile and filming brief sketches featuring plastic figures of his famous characters commenting on their travels. We've included a few of our favorites below, but be sure to follow him for more, since he's been posting quite regularly in the month since he started the account.

Read more