Photo Credit: Sony PlayStation
SAG-AFTRA members have voted to authorise a new strike against the video game industry, with an overwhelming 98.32 percent in favour. The union claims that 34,687 members cast ballots, representing 24.49 percent of eligible voters. Bear in mind that this authorisation does not guarantee the strike will happen, but that the union members are serious about stopping work if the unions fail to reach a fair agreement with the companies. The voting period began on September 5 and ended on Monday, September 25, ahead of new negotiations that kickstart on September 26 (PT). If it goes through, this would mark the second video game strike since a similar action took place in 2016 — lasting nearly a year.
“It's time for the video game companies to stop playing games and get serious about reaching an agreement on this contract,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said in a prepared statement. “The result of this vote shows our membership understands the existential nature of these negotiations, and that the time is now for these companies — which are making billions of dollars and paying their CEOs lavishly — to give our performers an agreement that keeps performing in video games as a viable career.” The union is gunning for a new Interactive Media Agreement that ensures video game performers who do voice acting, motion capture, singing, stunt work, and the ilk are compensated fairly.
Once again, #SagAftraMembers have come together in support of their peers, voting overwhelmingly — with 98.32% in favor — to approve a strike authorization on the Interactive Media Agreement ahead of a return to negotiations. https://t.co/x5e2Fj6yen— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) September 26, 2023
The 2016 video game strike marked the longest in the union's history, with a three-year contract being drawn in November 2017 which lasted until 2020. The same deal was then extended to 2022 and 2023, and now SAG-AFTRA is heading back to negotiate with at least 10 major companies. These include a mix of publishers and production studios: Activision Blizzard (Call of Duty), Blindlight, Disney, Electronic Arts (Star Wars Jedi: Survivor), Formosa, Insomniac Games (Marvel's Spider-Man), Epic Games (Fortnite), Take-Two (Red Dead Redemption 2), VoiceWorks Productions, and WB Games (Hogwarts Legacy). However, it appears as though SAG-AFTRA has been trying to negotiate a new agreement since October 2022 to no avail, and therefore the strike authorisation shows how serious the workforce is when the need arrives.
In addition to demanding higher pay to compensate for rising inflation, SAG-AFTRA is trying to fight back against the ‘unregulated' use of artificial intelligence, which would replace and strip away work from performers. There's also the matter of companies being able to use an actor's digital likeness for projects without consent and proper payout. This was also a sticking point for the ongoing Hollywood actor's strike. Similar to film and TV actors, video game performers work on a contractual basis for multiple developers or publishers. As mentioned before, if the negotiations are met, a strike might not happen after all, and the development of games will continue as planned.
Earlier this week, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) reached a ‘tentative agreement' to end the strike after roughly five months — the strike action started on May 2. The deal still needs to be finalised and further details on the met conditions will be revealed in time. For the time being, picketing outside studios has been suspended but the union added that nobody is supposed to resume work until an official announcement is made (via The Hollywood Reporter).