Members of the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have voted to authorise a strike on the Interactive Media Agreement, which allows its members to work on video games. 98.32% of 34,687 voters chose to authorise strike action, however the union has stated that this doesn’t necessarily mean that a strike order will be called.
The move comes amid a wave of industrial action in the creative industry. The Writers Guild of America yesterday announced it had reached a tentative agreement to end a five-month-long strike, while SAG-AFTRA has been on strike since July.
The reasoning for the strikes involve compensation and the increasing use of artificial intelligence in creative industries. Using AI, it’s now possible for filmmakers, for example, to use a background actor’s image throughout a production, allowing them to cut costs significantly by paying them for just one day’s work.
Power to the people
Artificial intelligence is again cited as a reason for potential strike action in the prospective video game strike, and one that’s been a matter of concern for voice actors in general. For example, esteemed actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry recently made headlines after claiming that a history documentary had cloned his voice without his consent, using his narration of the Harry Potter series as its basis.
Other matters of concern include wage increases, safety for on-camera performers, job security, and the vocal stress of voice actors. SAG-AFTRA has been in discussions with video game companies since October 2022, with the next bargaining sessions scheduled for September 26-28 2023. Should discussions between the union and signatory companies break down, the door is now open for SAG-AFTRA to call a strike at any time.
The signatory companies under the agreement include Activision Productions, Insomniac Games, and Take 2 Productions.
An IATSE survey conducted between March and April took note of the lack of trade unions in the gaming industry - and hinted that an increase may be on the cards.