Those demands center on four issues. The first is vocal stress. From the outside looking in, it's easy to question just how tough voice acting is. You say your lines, maybe shout a bit, then go home. We've all done school plays or little theatre as kids. We know.According to Jones, it's extremely demanding, particularly given the difference in pay between a voice acting session and better paying work like commercials and cartoons.
"I've been called into video game sessions, and it's four straight hours of screaming bloody murder." -Cissy Jones
Jones is equally withering in her appraisal of the games industry's obsession with secrecy."I think there's a fear of corporate espionage. It seems like a lot of companies worry that if Call of Duty 19 gets out, that Gears of War 24 will beat them to the punch," she says. "So that's some of it, but beyond that I honestly don't understand the veil of secrecy around it. It's incredibly frustrating."If the need for so much secrecy sounds confusing, in a games industry which already insists on draconian NDAs for everyone who darkens its doors, it probably should. The games industry imported its focus on confidentiality from the broader tech sector long ago, which seems like an appropriate fit when applied to the more industrial aspects of game development, like engine creation. But the way this pervasive insistence on mystery rankles for voice actors points to a much larger tension."Culturally, I think it's difficult for these companies to think of themselves as entertainment companies and they very clearly are," Blanc explains. "They're competing in the same market as film and television and theatre. They consider themselves to be tech companies. They keep saying to us that Silicon Valley doesn't work this way. Well, I do all my work in Los Angeles, and all your companies have come here because the talent is here. And look, I get it: From their end, it's an engine and a set of algorithms that perform certain functions. The trouble is that voice acting doesn't just slot in like a stick of RAM."
"Voice acting doesn't just slot in like a stick of RAM." -JB Blanc
SAG-AFTRA insists that they're negotiating for bonuses, not residuals. Jones bristles at the suggestion that they're asking for the latter."There's a lot of talk about residuals. We are not asking for residuals. We're asking for bonus payments. It's a different scope. For every two million units sold, up to eight million… so if Call of Duty goes on to sell 30 million units, which it has, we only ask for bonus payments on eight million of those sold. That's really not a bad thing. But that's where the developers, who are putting in crunch time, could see a change for themselves as well."The fight over language isn't accidental. A debate centered around bonuses would be happening on familiar ground for devs. But a fight for residuals places the voice actors apart from the developers, since they may appear well beyond what game developers could ever hope for, given the culture differences. By insisting the fight is over residuals, whatever the truth, a wedge is created between voice actors and developers who might look to SAG-AFTRA as inspiration.
"I know who wins the battle between game developers and voice actors. It's the game corporations." -Keythe Farley
Related, From Waypoint: Check out Senior Editor Mike Diver's top ten games of the year.
Farley concurs, saying that he doesn't know a single actor who doesn't want to help out the developers they know. "I know who wins the battle between game developers and voice actors," says Farley. "It's the game corporations." This enthusiasm for helping, even if SAG-AFTRA can't directly unionize development studios, is something labor reporters and organizers outside the games industry have been hoping for.