The ongoing strike between the voice actors guild, SAG-AFTRA, and the 11 companies that they failed to reach agreement with — which includes Activision, Disney, Take Two and Insomniac Games — is set to ramp up a notch this week, with members of the union set to picket outside EA's Los Angeles studio tomorrow morning.
Details for the picket motion have been posted on the SAG-AFTRA website, with EA's Los Angeles studio targeted. The stoush is over a renegotiation of the Interactive Media Agreement labour contract.
The strike was announced last week after talks broke down, but the picketing of EA's offices is set to take place from 4:30 AM Sydney time (2:30 AM in Perth, 3:30 AM in Brisbane and 4:00 AM in Adelaide).
In a bid to ramp up pressure on the companies involved, prominent voice actors have come out and spoken about some of the conditions they experienced. Jennifer Hale, known for her work voicing the female version of Commander Shepherd in the Mass Effect series, told NPR that she "had friends who have had to have surgery because of the vocal stress they incurred" in recording sessions, resulting in them being out of work for months.
Steve Blum, who has been credited on more than 400 video games and was recognised in the Guinness World Book of Records in 2012 for being the most prolific voice actor in video games, said in a seven minute statement that he has "even thrown up and bled from the throat" after vigorous voiceover sessions.
"I've personally lost my voice for over a week on several occasions, passed out from screaming, even thrown up and bled from the throat — and I'm one of the lucky ones who have not sustained permanent damage," he described on a page established to promote the strike.
EA was contacted for comment, but due to the weekend (in the US) they were unable to provide a statement by the time of publishing.
Tara Strong, who has voiced multiple iterations of Harley Quinn including in the Batman: Arkham series including many other animated series, tweeted this early Saturday morning:
#performancematters Final straw 4 me was one of the negotiators looked in my eyes & said, "No one really cares about the voices"
— tara strong (@tarastrong) October 21, 2016
A lawyer representing the video game companies and publishers targeted by the strike said that voice actors only accounted for "less than one tenth of 1 percent of the work that goes into making a video game". Scott Witlin told NPR that "if we pay [voice actors] under a vastly different system than the people who do the 99.9 percent of the work, that is going to create far more problems for the video game companies".
The four main points of contention come down to a limit on vocally stressful sessions; secondary compensation for games once they sell 2 million units or more, with a cap at 8 million units; the inclusion of a stunt actor on-set for safety precautions; and greater transparency around hiring and the work required.