The strike that has side-lined many voice actors for the past 11 months looks to be over.
A boycott of some game companies began last October following a breakdown in negotiations between Hollywood's largest actor's union and a group of game publishers. It is the longest strike in the history of the Screen Actors Guild, which was founded in 1933.
On Saturday, the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) reached a “tentative agreement” with 11 video game companies it was boycotting, including Activision, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
SAG-AFTRA’s national board still has to review the contract at its next meeting in October, but the union has stated that its members are now "free to resume working for the companies that were struck on all titles effective immediately".
SAG-AFTRA was seeking secondary compensation and more transparency regarding roles for its members, among other things.
Secondary compensation (also known as residuals or bonuses) is when an actor receives a share of the profits from particularly successful titles. Such a practice is common in film and television, but voice actors do not typically receive residuals on video games.
Under the new agreement, actors will not receive residuals in the traditional sense, but upon a game's release, they will get a bonus payment determined by the number of recording sessions they participated in.
“This is an important advance in this critical industry space,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris.
“We secured a number of gains including for the first time, a secondary payment structure which was one of the members’ key concerns.”
SAG-AFTRA also lobbied for game makers to disclose project names and role details prior to contract signings, so actors will better know what they are auditioning for, and will thus be in a better negotiating position. It cited instances where actors were asked to voice sex scenes or dialogue with racial slurs without agreeing to the material beforehand.
The tentative agreement fulfils some of those requests by requiring companies to disclose a project's code name, genre, whether it is based on previously published intellectual property, and whether the performer is reprising a prior role.
Union members will also know 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 stunts will be required.
"This expanded information will empower performers and their representatives to bargain knowledgeably for compensation and to understand the nature of the performance that will be required, both of which have been a challenge for our members in an environment characterised by code names and secrecy," said SAG-AFTRA’s chief contract officer Ray Rodriguez.
Another issue for actors is vocal stress, which is exacerbated by things like battle cries, death scenes, and grunts. The deal doesn't specify anything regarding stress, but states that employers will commit to continue working with SAG-AFTRA on the issue.