Video Game Actors Strike: Third Picket Set for Insomniac Games

SAG-AFTRA demonstrators set to head back to Burbank on Thursday

The Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) has announced plans for a third picket line in the video game actors strike.

It’s scheduled to kick off at 11:30 a.m. this Thursday at the Burbank, California, offices of Insomniac Games.

The actors union staged its second picket on Nov. 3 at WB Games Inc., also in Burbank.

The union’s first picket line of the strike was staged in late October at the offices of Electronic Arts in Los Angeles, in which more than 300 peaceful demonstrators showed up.

SAG-AFTRA called the strike on Oct. 21 after trying for nearly two years to negotiate with video game producers.

The biggest point of contention is that the gaming giants, including Electronic Arts, Activision and WB Games, claim that SAG-AFTRA rejected a workable compromise for increased pay and better working conditions for voice-over actors and stunt people who perform for popular video games.

“These proposals exchanged across the table prove the companies and SAG-AFTRA have largely agreed on the significant issues before us except for the label we have placed on the ‘Additional Compensation,’ which would be paid above and beyond our proposed 9 percent pay increase,” the gaming companies’ chief negotiator Scott J. Witlin said last week.

“The documents also demonstrate that the companies value performers and reached agreement with the union on the issue of vocal stress,” he added.

SAG-AFTRA has accused the video game companies of “trying to convince our members and the public that video game actors actually support the last proposal that these companies made.” The guild emphasized that the companies “cannot unilaterally determine when we have a deal” and that union members voted by a margin of 97 percent to strike.

“If the companies want our members to vote on a deal, we can arrange that as soon as they offer a deal that is acceptable,” a prior SAG-AFTRA statement said.

The actors union believes the gaming companies are being resistant because they fear other groups working for them — including programmers and designers — might pursue their own negotiations.

“This is not an industry with the best track record of labor practices,” SAG-AFTRA said in early November. “They have a long documented history of overworking their employees to the point of damaging their physical and emotional health. Our performers are at the vanguard of demanding better treatment, but they are surely not the only video game employees in need of it.”

 The top priorities for the union are:

-That video game actors receive a one-time residual payment for their work only when a game sells more than 2 million units.
-Limit sessions for vocal work to two hours in order to avoid vocal chord injuries.
-Improve transparency, so actors know whether they’re playing a lead character or a supporting role, and also whether they’ll have to relay sexually explicit or offensive language and/or storylines.
-Assurances that stunt coordinators will be present when capturing stunts or other dangerous work.

The targeted video game publishers include Activision; Blindlight; Corps of Discovery Films; Disney Character Voices, Inc.; Electronic Arts; Formosa Interactive; Insomniac Games; Interactive Associates; Take 2 Interactive; VoiceWorks Productions; and WB Games.