The SAG-AFTRA strike that has brought several Hollywood productions to a standstill could extend to the video game industry.
In a statement yesterday, the actor's union - which has been on strike since July 14 - announced that its National Board had "voted unanimously to send a strike authorization vote to SAG-AFTRA members in preparation of the union's forthcoming bargaining dates with signatory video game companies."
"It has been nearly a year since SAG-AFTRA's video game contract [...] was extended beyond the original expiration date as we negotiated with the companies for critical terms SAG-AFTRA members need. Unfortunately, throughout the negotiations, the companies have failed to address those needs. For this reason, the negotiating committee and National Board unanimously agreed that the union should have a member-approved strike authorization in hand when bargaining resumes on September 26."
This statement means that members will be allowed to vote on whether or not they wish to extend their ongoing strike to certain major video game companies, with whom SAG-AFTRA has an agreement separate to film and TV production companies. Even if the vote passes, however, it doesn't mean a strike is inevitable - SAG-AFTRA appears to be suggesting that it's merely bringing its intention to strike as a tool to heighten its bargaining power in the renegotiations.
SAG-AFTRA's statement mentions several major game developers, including Activision-Blizzard, Marvel's Spider-Man 2 studio Insomniac, and Epic Games. Union presider Fran Drescher says that "once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect. Once again artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work. [...] The overlap of these two SAG-AFTRA contracts is no coincidence, but rather a predictable issue impacting our industry as well as others all over the world."
An actors' strike is unlikely to bring the video game industry to the same kind of standstill as the combined strikes between SAG-AFTRA and the Writer's Guild of America in the USA. Disruption would be limited to acting staff, rather than developers, who do not have a coordinated union in the US. SAG-AFTRA's influence also appears to be limited to certain American developers, and while Hollywood has a significant impact on global film and TV, game studios can be found all over the world, with several in Europe and Asia that wouldn't be directly affected by these strikes.
Nevertheless, the issue of AI voice recreation has reared its head several times, with actors hitting back at studios that have attempted to gain the rights to their voices, or re-use them without permission or payment. Last month, Smite and Paladins studio Hi-Rez walked back terms of a contract that would allow it to continue to use actors' voices in the event of their deaths after significant backlash.
For more information, here's our guide to the linked WGA strike.