Video game voice actors have it tough. By in large, few of them receive recognition for the hard work they put in to bring our favorite games to life. But now a whole new problem has come to the forefront and video game voice actors are threatening to go on strike if things don’t get better.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is asking health and safety officials in California to investigate the video game industry over breaches of “vocal safety standards” because they claim the they death screams they are contracted to record in “shoot ’em up” titles is ruining their vocal chords. The problem is so serious that video game voice actors are threatening to go on strike.
“For up to four hours, actors are asked to perform not just voices, but noises, death screams, creature voices, combat yelling and other sounds, with so much force and explosive vibration, that they are causing internal damage to their vocal cords,” David White, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director said.
“Increasing numbers of voiceover actors are reporting that they are experiencing both short-term and/or long-term damage to their vocal cords, due to the intensity of vocal demands put on to them by the employers.”
In a letter to the California health and safety administration, Mr. White said medical experts had documented that the “vocal stress from video games is causing medical problems that include vocal nodules, cysts, polyps and, in some cases, cord hemorrhaging.”
SAG-AFTRA members have voted by 96.5% to go on strike in an ongoing dispute with video game producers over safety measures and payments for voiceover artists.
The union wants “stunt pay” for recording sessions that put a strain on the actor’s vocal chords and a stunt coordinator available during performance capture sessions. “Vocally stressful sessions” should be limited in length. The guild is also demanding bonus royalty payments for voice actors when a game has reached a sales threshold of 2 million copies.
SAG-AFTRA is asking members to come forward with examples of sessions where employers have placed them at risk.
“Among the injuries reported were instances of performers losing their voices for up to six months, tasting blood during their session, fainting or nearly fainting, and damage resulting in a permanent change to vocal range,” Mr White wrote.“Long-term effects can lead to career-ending alteration of vocal quality or vocal chord paralysis.”
Voice actors earn around $200 for a video game session in which they voice up to three parts. They do not receive bonuses or a percentage of sales. To make matters worse, Hollywood stars are now taking more work in the field, getting paid large sums for often small voice roles in video games, reducing the available fees from the budget for voiceover artists whose lives depend on such gigs.
What do you think of the grievances filed by video game voice actors?