As the Nerdist is reporting, the video game voice acting union, SAG-AFTRA, is currently not happy with the way things are going currently are and threatening a strike. The actor’s union is considering the strike because like all unions they want better treatment for their members. Their biggest gripe seems to be though that they want back end royalties for the actors, so if a game does well the actors can reap in that success as well.
On the surface this seems fairly reasonable, like with a Hollywood movie or hit television series. However, as Far Cry 4 director Alex Hutchinsonm points out in a tweet “If @WilWheaton (actor Will Wheaton, though Wheaton’s twitter handle is actually
@wilw) gets royalties on a game before myself or any of the others who spent years (not weeks) working on it, the system is broken.”
There is a lot of merit to what Hutchinsonm has to say. When it comes to television and cinema the actors are the draw. A lot of the time people will flock to a movie just because of who is on the poster or turn into a show because of an actor (there is a reason why people stopped tuning in when Charlie Sheen was fired from Two and a Half Men), but this isn’t the case with video games.
Sure we gamers get excited when we see names like Nolan North and David Hayter attached to a game, but if say Hayter is replaced by Kiefer Sutherland in a Metal Gear game, people are still going to buy the game. This isn’t a knock against Hayter, but we gamers play the Metal Gear series because it’s such a great franchise and Hideo Kojima seems to out do himself with each installment. Where we fans were sad to see Hayter gone in the new game, we are still playing the hell out of the game, one because it’s long and two because it’s just flat out fantastic. With that said though I was disappointed that Hayter wasn’t Big Boss in the new game, but sometimes that’s what happens.
If those who work on the game for years don’t get a bonus check if the game does well why should a voice actor who only puts in a few weeks of work in should get it? Also, sometimes a lot of voice actors just phone it in. For every Nolan North and David Hayter there are a ton of just flat out bad voice actors. And like any good capitalist system guys like North and Hayter command higher salaries than others. And if voice actors want a bonus check if the game does well then, like Hollywood actors, they should negotiate that into their contract.
I am all for folks earning a living and making the most they can out of their talents, it’s the American way after all, but I can’t side with the voice actors on this one. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the really good voice acting in many of my favorite games, but when you really think about it, which would you rather play, a great game with terrible voice acting, that by the way you only have to endure during cut scenes which is only about a tiny fraction of the game (as long as it’s not Metal Gear Solid 4) or a crap game with fantastic voice acting?
I think that answer is pretty easy. However, I’ll compromise with the (probably soon to be striking) voice actors, once the people who make the games (not the studios, but the actual programmers, writers and directors) starting getting royalties then I’ll support you, until then I just can’t. And lastly I’ll leave you with this, some of our all-time favorite games have zero voice acting in them, the majority of the Zelda and Mario franchise (and even now the voice acting is very limited), Chrono Trigger, all of the Final Fantasy series up to 9 (i.e., the good ones, sorry X sucks), and I could go on. Let us know what you think of this situation that could effect 2016 and 2017 games.