Just as Nintendo is finally ready to include voice acting in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the rest of the industry might be about to lose it for a bit: some of gaming’s biggest actors are going on strike.
The Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is threatening a strike from this Friday against a number of gaming publishers as they struggle to negotiate new contracts for voice and motion capture actors in games. They want a few big alterations to acting contracts: contingent compensation (i.e. residuals or back-end payments tied to games’ success); caps on stressful vocal sessions involving recording growls, screams, and the like; more transparency, including actually knowing the names of games before they sign up for them; and proper use of stunt coordinators (for motion capture work, I can only assume, unless voice acting is very different to how I imagined it).
Union actors apparently make up around a quarter of the industry’s talent, but include a few big names like David Hayter (who was Solid Snake up until Kiefer Sutherland stole it from him) and Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect‘s FemShep). Union reps will be back at the negotiating table for the next couple days, but if talks don’t go well, they’ll cease work indefinitely from Friday.
The silver lining for you, average videogame enthusiast, is that this likely won’t affect any new releases too badly. Only 11 studios are covered (though that admittedly includes big ones like Activision, EA, and WB Games), and it only affects work on games that entered production after February 17th 2015. The realities of most publishing schedules means any new releases were likely in production long before that date, and aren’t covered by the strike. So we can all get back to our lovely fantasy worlds and forget about the legitimate issues facing the gaming industry because they probably won’t affect us any time soon.