Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, declared the union’s intention to request a strike authorization against some of the world’s leading video game publishers. This follows a gridlock in negotiations with notable publishers like Electronic Arts, WB Games, Activision, and more. This new potential strike comes on the heels of an already existing strike against major TV and film companies, causing significant disruption in global productions.
The stalemate is largely due to two significant reasons:
- A requested 11% retroactive increase in pay rates for video game performers.
- The introduction of protective measures against the rising use of AI technology that could replace voice actors.
- SAG-AFTRA’s previous contract with these game publishers was meant to conclude last year but got an extension to facilitate continued talks.
- Both parties are expected to resume negotiations on September 26th.
AI Technology: A Point of Contention
A central issue at the heart of the disagreement is the application of AI technology in the video gaming industry. Actors and voiceover artists fear that advancements in AI could jeopardize their careers by imitating their voices, thereby cutting them out of future projects and potential income.
Fran Drescher noted in multiple statements, “Once again artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work.” She emphasized the union’s dedication to resisting such changes that could negatively impact its members.
Additional Concerns and Responses
As the industry integrates advanced techniques like motion capture, which relies heavily on actors’ performances, SAG-AFTRA seeks more comprehensive safety protocols for its members. Some of the proposed measures include:
- An on-set medic, mirroring the safety precautions in place for TV and film sets.
- Prohibitions against potentially dangerous stunts during self-taped auditions.
Audrey Cooling, speaking on behalf of the video game companies, expressed their eagerness to reach a favorable conclusion, emphasizing their appreciation for the “important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers.”
Historical Context: A Year of Strikes
The entertainment industry in the U.S. has seen a surge in strikes throughout 2023:
- The Writers Guild of America marked its first strike in 15 years earlier in May.
- SAG-AFTRA represented TV and movie actors followed suit with a strike in July.
- Productions for new TV shows and films have consequently come to a standstill.
This isn’t the first time video game voice actors have resorted to a strike, with a near-year-long strike previously occurring between 2016 and 2017.
The Larger Picture
While a strike in the film and TV industry has evident immediate impacts, a strike in the gaming world presents a more complex scenario. The absence of voice actors can delay specific production elements, but it doesn’t hinder the overall game design or the development of virtual game environments.
There’s a bit of a power struggle happening right now between SAG-AFTRA and some big-shot video game companies. The outcome of this melee could very well shape the negotiating landscape for the entire showbiz sector in time to come. With AI tech sprinting ahead full steam and reshaping the tried-and-true roles we’ve come to know, our industries are sitting face to face with the tough task of keeping up with change— all while looking after their employees’ well-being and ensuring they don’t fall into obsoleteness.
Technology vs. Talent
AI’s rising popularity in the world of entertainment is like a two-sided coin. On one side, it offers unbelievable efficiencies, unerring accuracy, and could quite possibly lower our production costs drastically. But flip the coin, and we’re facing a scary potential future where actors, voice-over artists, and even crew members might find themselves redundant. The million-dollar question that we’re wrestling with is–how can we tug on the power of AI without tossing out the expertise and talents that have been the bedrock of this industry?
Members of SAG-AFTRA have been called upon to cast their votes by September 25th. The coming weeks will be crucial in determining the trajectory of this potential strike, and the union plans to hold informative sessions for its members during this voting period.
Concluding, both parties have expressed their desire for a fair resolution, with the hope of valuing the contributions of all involved while navigating the rapid technological advancements in the industry.