SAG-AFTRA, the union representing actors, broadcast journalists, hosts, voice actors, and other media professionals in the US, has voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against several major video game companies. This includes popular publishers such as Activision, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, and Take-Two Interactive. While the vote does not guarantee a strike, the union hopes that it will provide “added leverage” in their negotiations for a new Interactive Media Agreement.
The current Interactive Media Agreement was reached in 2017 after a nearly year-long strike by voice actors. Originally set to expire in 2020, it was extended until November 2022. Negotiations for an updated agreement have been ongoing since October 2022, but SAG-AFTRA stated that the signatory game companies have refused to offer acceptable terms on critical issues, such as wages that keep up with inflation, protections against exploitative uses of artificial intelligence, and basic safety precautions.
SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher called for the video game companies to take the negotiations seriously and emphasized the need for an agreement that supports performers’ careers in the industry. Drescher highlighted the immense profits earned by these companies and the need to provide fair compensation to performers.
While SAG-AFTRA is already representing actors who have been on strike since July, the negotiations for the Interactive Media Agreement are separate. However, many of the issues being negotiated are similar. Chief Contracts Officer Ray Rodriguez noted that the exploitative uses of AI and low wages are challenges faced not only by those in the video game industry but also by those in film and television.
The union identified several critical issues at play in the negotiations, including artificial intelligence protections, wage increases to account for inflation, and safety measures for on-camera performers and voice artists. SAG-AFTRA reported that out of 34,687 members, representing 27.47% of eligible voters, 98.32% voted in favor of authorizing a strike.
If a strike is called, it would not necessarily bring video game production to a complete halt, as companies could choose to work with non-union actors or even AI-generated voices. However, it would likely cause disruptions, such as production delays, particularly for demanding, big-budget games that may require significant recasting efforts.
In response to the strike authorization vote, the video game companies involved expressed optimism that an agreement can be reached without a work stoppage. They stated that they will continue to negotiate in good faith and have already reached tentative agreements on over half of the proposals.
The outcome of these negotiations will have significant implications for actors and media professionals in the video game industry. It is evident that SAG-AFTRA is taking a strong stand on issues it believes are critical to its members’ livelihoods and careers, and it remains to be seen how the negotiations will progress in the coming months.