The voice actors behind popular series like Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil are joining together to show the gaming industry that #PerformanceMatters.
The hashtag began to show up in tweets from a variety of actors and their supporters yesterday as they rallied behind a shared cause: higher compensation for their work. The union SAG-AFTRA represents the acting talent and negotiates on their behalf.
The prospect of a resolution to their demands has emboldened many supporters and actors to speak out. The voice acting industry has always played second to big name celebrities and stars that often steal the show in gaming. Even the most well-known and acclaimed voice actors often lack the name recognition of “garden variety” celebs, but it looks like that is beginning to change.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s say that a strike action becomes necessary for this instance. What would that look like? What would the outcome of said action be? It’s no secret that voice talent is a booming and lucrative business, although much more so for the producers and companies putting out the games than the talent itself. I daresay that voice talent is due it’s time in the sun. Wonderful actors like Jennifer Hale, Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey, Nolan North and so many others are integral to gaming as a creative process and an industry. There’s clearly plenty of passion and support for voice talent in terms of increased recognition and compensation, but the realities of strike actions in the corporate world are impossible to ignore.
The current struggle of ChryslerFiat workers in Michigan for better wages and working conditions highlights the abject reality of how strikes and strike-breaking work. The current reaction to the UAW-proposed contract to end the worker action and resistance can best be described as hostile. The prospect of SAG-AFTRA engaging in a “sell out” contract might seem unlikely, but only time will tell just how the multi-billion dollar industry of game publishers will react to the struggle of voice actors.
Strikes that are widespread enough could very well paralyze the industry. While I don’t think such an action would have a profound and lasting effect on the quality of games due to the loss of talent, the difference should a strike occur should and hopefully will be enough for worker voices to be heard and demands to be met.