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Video Game Companies Can Soon be Striked Against SAG-AFTRA - Here's Why

Posted by Sara Cooper | Sep 18, 2023 | 0 Comments

SAG-AFTRA are not only going against talk shows and activities in entertainment production; video game companies are being considered too.

With the labor action beginning with the WGA since May 1st of this year, actors from both film and television joined them in the picket lines in mid-July.

With SAG-AFTRA, their video game contract is coming to a close with expiration, called the Interactive Media Agreement.

Their last contract negotiation with video game companies was in 2017, key issues that are relevant today that were not even a complete thought 5 years ago includes AI – a form of technology that can ruin the authenticity of art formed within the industry.

SAG-AFTRA said that it has held five separate, multiday bargaining sessions with an industry bargaining group consisting of signatory video game companies.

The game companies have failed to address members' needs on issues of artificial intelligence, wages and safety, the union said. Last November was the time the contact had expired.

At the end of September, bargaining will be more into play with both the negotiating committee and national board; the national board in plans to have a strike authorization with board game companies as the bargaining resumes on September 26th.

"A successful strike authorization vote doesn't initiate a strike," the union said on its website. "Instead, the strike authorization permits the National Board to declare a strike if the video game companies fail to negotiate fairly with SAG-AFTRA for the benefit of its members." 

The interactive media agreement covers “off-camera [voiceover] performers, on-camera [motion capture, stunt] performers, stunt coordinators, singers, dancers, puppeteers, and background performers,” according to SAG-AFTRA. 

Demands that are being asked in the upcoming contract include changing the unregulated use of AI, and a pay increase in wages and working conditions, said the union.

AI has been an ongoing threat in the entertainment industry, and even more in video games because of work in voice-over.

"The capacity to cheaply and easily create convincing digital replicas of performer voices is already here and widely available," SAG-AFTRA said in a message that was seen on their website. "You can find the tools to do it yourself with a simple Google search. Without protections, not only will this be the future of how voices are recorded for video game characters, but your own voice recordings will be used to train the AI systems that replace you."

Performance capture, a media structure that captures stunt performances for characters in vide games, can be easily copied with the usage of AI.

The demand for wage increases is of the same amount as in film and television contracts, to keep up with inflation. It is an 11 percent increase compared to the last contract.

Postcards with instructions on how to vote online were mailed Sept. 5, the union said. Voting will close at 5 p.m. PT on Sept. 25.

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