Many Voice Actors Have No Clue What Game They're Working On

Last week, members of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike against key game companies. Per Motherboard, we're getting a closer look at one of the guild's complaints. According to a piece by Emanuel Maiberg, the issue of transparency is far worse than we might have initially thought. Game developers are not required to give voice actors information about what game they are contributing to. It makes it harder for them to negotiate their contract fees.

Motherboard points to the case of Keythe Farley, who voiced the villain Kellogg in Fallout 4. Farley was not aware that he was working on a title in the Fallout series.

"This benefits producers because agents aren't able to negotiate when they know an actor is working on a huge game," he told Motherboard.

In the guild's formal strike notice, they say the following about transparency:

Transparency: Video game employers routinely engage performers without identifying the role or even the game that the performer is being engaged to work on and refuse to provide basic information about the nature of the performance that will be expected of them. This deprives the performer of the ability to make a meaningful decision about whether to accept a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation if they do. We are demanding that employers provide performers or their agents with basic information at the time of engagement, including the game, the role and essential information about the nature of the performance.

Responding to the strike, a joint statement by the games industry was released at the end of last week. It claimed that their economic plans were comparable to SAG-AFTRA demands for additional compensation. The strike notice lists royalties and back-end payments as a concern but also mentions vocally straining performance hours and lack of supervisors for stunts.

In a new press release sent out via email by Singer Associates, Inc the games companies had the following to say about transparency:

The Companies enhanced their proposal to agree to provide the code name of the project and whether the performer will be asked to reprise a previous role. While SAG-AFTRA contends that the video game industry is the only industry not to require an employer to reveal the name of the project on which a performer is working, SAG-AFTRA has no such requirement in Television, Theatrical Motion Pictures or Animation agreements.

Kotakureached out to the guild and Bethesda for comment but had not received a response at time of writing.


    Also explains why performances are often sub-par, if you have no idea what you are working on. Jeez.

      Absolutely it would, how could you invest yourself if you had no bloody clue what you were voice acting? "Oooooooh shit I was meant to be BATMAN... I assumed I was a third tier ballerina. Well shit."

    Wow. How can an actor be expected to turn in a decent performance if they don't even have access to the most basic context of the situation their character is responding to? Is it really that important to save a few bucks in the production stage?

      Yes. They need to save that money so that they can spend it on the really important stuff. Like marketing and executive bonuses.

      normally they're directed by someone, it's not like they're given a sheet of paper and told to get the lines right first time without any direction.

        Also keep in mind the number of times unannounced games have been outed by people putting it on their linkedin\resume\website what have you.

        This doesn't surprise me in the slightest for all except the absolute major full body mocap\facial cap roles.

        Actually on lesser projects, I'd put down money the latter, that's EXACTLY what happens.

          well you get what you pay for right? shit effort in gets shit product out.

            Indeed, but however these are the sort of things they're protesting about, these are the kinds of conditions they're trying to hit on the head. Can't fault them for that.

              I was under the impression their main gripes were pay rates and actor health, which I'm 100% on board with.
              Principal actors should have a greater idea of what the project is and who their character will be, not sure if I agree that there needs to be a union mandate about what info they have to share with all of the voice actors though.

              Keeping in mind that in my (rather amateur) experience, impromptu performances are often the most authentic.

    It sounds like performers are not told at the time of engagement, as a negotiation strategy by the producer. That's unfair but makes sense from a market perspective. It'd be entirely shocking if performers were routinely not told what the role was prior to the performance itself. I wonder how common that is?

      Sounds like the adult entertainment industry.

      I mean, not that I'd know.

      This. There is nothing in the Screen Actors Guild's statement to suggest that the actors aren't told which game they are working on while they are actually working on the game. They just aren't told before they sign the contract of engagement.

      I can see the developer's logic here as, unlike with movies, video games quite commonly aren't announced at all until quite close to release and advertising a casting call effectively puts that out into the public domain.

      Last edited 25/10/16 10:02 am

        Not just the casting call, it's not exactly unheard of for games to be prematurely outed by actors listing roles on their public resumes.

    I wonder why they don't tell voice actors what they're working on?

      I'm not sure if that's a reveal, really. Of course they are in 'pre production' for Fallout 5, they'd be in 'pre production' for all their IP's.

    pretty much this “This benefits producers because agents aren’t able to negotiate when they know an actor is working on a huge game,”
    why would you charge more if you are working on big production ... getting paid by hour apparently not good enough for that industry ?

    totally understand acting limitations without knowing what are you working on but I have a feeling this is $ driven

      Actually, you would probably charge more for a big production. In all creative industries, there's a world of difference between earning potential of AAA and indie. In most circumstances, creative professionals undercut themselves just to stay in work, because most producers cannot afford the full 'pro' rate.

      A big project can afford the 'pro' rate, but evidently, they'd rather keep paying indie rates.

      And yes, of course this is $ driven. They admit as much in the strike notice!

      This deprives the performer of the ability to make a meaningful decision about whether to accept a role or to negotiate appropriate compensation if they do.

      Last edited 25/10/16 1:14 pm

      Getting paid by the hour is a pretty poor form of remuneration for any job that isn't specifically "I need you in X place for Y hours."

      I'll say that there's actually a lot of reasons a freelancer needs to tailor their quote to a job, if you want the nitty gritty ask but I'll just make a simple point.

      These people are being hired for a specific skilled job, the better they get at their craft the less time it takes them to perform the same task so when going on an hourly rate your pay will actually drop as you get more experience.

      To a degree this will be counteracted by raising your rates but it's one reason for the need to negotiate per job.

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