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Video game voice actors end their yearlong strike

The strike is over, if voice actors want it

SAG-AFTRA Press Conference held at SAG-AFTRA on April 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California Tommaso Boddi/WireImage/Getty Images

After more than 12 months, voice actors in the video game industry and the big-name companies that employ them have made amends, ending a strike that kept some of gaming’s best-known voices out of the recording booth.

Members of SAG-AFTRA, the organization that represents a majority of actors, recording artists and voiceover artists, announced that its members have ratified an agreement that stipulates better compensation and conditions for their work on games. After reaching a compromise with companies like Activision and Electronic Arts back in September, the National Board approved the terms in October ahead of yesterday’s actor-wide vote. Now that 90 percent of SAG-AFTRA’s voice actors are on board, the strike has come to an end.

The agreement includes bonus payments for recording sessions, which will be due by the project’s launch. Employers must also work with the organization at large on solutions and preventative measures for vocal stress, a major issue for gaming voiceover artists.

Biggest of all may be new “transparency provisions,” which will clearly spell out all requirements of an acting job. Here’s how SAG-AFTRA explains them:

The deal also contains new transparency provisions that will enhance the bargaining power of our members’ representatives by requiring the companies to disclose the code name of project, its genre, whether the game is based on previously published intellectual property and whether the performer is reprising a prior role. Members are also protected by the disclosure of whether they will be required to use unusual terminology, profanity or racial slurs, whether there will be content of a sexual or violent nature and whether [live-action] stunts will be required.

This covers much of what is expected of voice actors on games, who often spend hours perfecting grunts or yelps or other grueling tasks on the vocal cords. And to give them the heads up on whether a game will require them to throw graphic language around is also a major win for SAG-AFTRA.

Voice actors first went on strike back in October 2016, following nearly two years of failed contract negotiations with some of gaming’s biggest publishers. Alongside Activision and EA, other affected companies include Take-Two Interactive and Square-Enix — leaving some popular voices out of this year’s games.

That includes Ashly Burch of Life is Strange fame, who was replaced by another actor for this year’s prequel series Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Other actors who pledged support included David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid) and Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect).

Now that many of SAG-AFTRA members’ conditions have been met — and some publisher-proposed terms, like performance fines for “being late or distracted” have been rejected — the organization sounds optimistic for the industry’s future.

“I am excited for what this means for our members moving forward,” said president Gabrielle Carteris.

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