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ę driver 8 | Main | sarge goes stable Ľ

June 09, 2005

voices ring the halls

There is a Reuters story in Wired News today about the settlement reached between SAG actors and video game producers.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hollywood actors unions have reached a contract deal with video game publishers, accepting higher pay instead of the profit-sharing they had demanded, the unions said Wednesday, removing the threat of a strike.

The three-and-a-half-year agreements with game companies came as the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists were preparing to announce the results of a strike vote.

Unions had sought to win profit-sharing, known as residual payments, from game publishers.

This may seem like stupid semantics on my part, but actors are so often misrepresented in the press, I feel it's important to set the record straight here. Residual payments are not profit-sharing. Residual payments are reuse fees that producers pay to actors when they've re-used the actor's performance a certain number of times.

For example, when an actor works on a TV show (commercials are a much more complicated beast, so I'll stick with TV for this example) the initial fee that actor earns usually includes one or two re-airings by the producer. If the producer chooses to run the show again, a cycle begins, where the producer pays the actor a residual, or re-use fee, that slowly diminishes over time. The logic behind this is that if producers are re-running an old show, rather than creating a new one, actors have fewer opportunities to work. Also, if a show is re-run very often, the producer will continue to profit from advertising sales, while the actor gets over-exposed as one character, which can severely hurt that actor's chances of being hired in different roles. I suppose one could make the argument that, in that case, it is profit-sharing, but I think that's largely semantic as well. The point is, producers and actors have had this residual payment agreement for my entire career, and it's not exactly a controversial issue.

Profit-sharing, on the other hand, is entirely different from residual payment. True profit-sharing, which is usually a percentage based on the amount of money a film earns, isn't addressed by SAG contracts, which only set minimum wages and working conditions for actors. Profit-sharing has to be negotiated, and the only actors who can grab that brass ring are superstars like Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts.

As I understood the video game negotiations, SAG wasn't asking for per-unit payments from video game producers. The proposal I read and supported asked for an additional session fee, after the game in question had sold a minimum of 50,000 copies and was profitable. Yeah, that sure seems unreasonable, doesn't it? Especially since actors account for something like 2% of the average game's budget.

Anyway, the gains we made are not that great, but they don't completely suck, either:

  • An immediate 25 percent increase in minimum wages from $556 to $695 for a four-hour session for up to three voices with increases in subsequent years, bringing the daily rate up to $759.
  • Double time pay after six hours (previously ten hours) for three-voice performers.
  • A 7.5 percent increase in contributions to the unions' benefits plans, bringing the rate up to 14.3 percent.
I'm very happy about the increase in contributions to the benefits plans, and it's great that 25% of the increase comes right away (usually it's spread out over three years) but I really wish we'd gotten some sort of residual structure in place.

Before some readers freak out that I don't think $695 for four hours is very good, let me put this into perspective: in those four hours, we usually do several hundred takes, often screaming and yelling. It's hard work, and we deserve to be compensated for it. But the thing is, most voice actors are lucky to work three or four of these jobs a year, so when the year is up, most of us are looking at under 3,000 dollars earned from games that gross several million. That seems a little out of balance to me. Before this contract, SAG actors hadn't had an increase in minimums in twelve years. Producers can afford to pay actors more, and they should.

And while I'm talking about things producers should do: I'm really sick and tired of employers and non-actors lecturing actors about how useless and replaceable we are. If it's so easy to replace us with Dave from Human Resources, then go for it. Otherwise, show us just a tiny bit of respect for the craft we practice, and the value we provide to your movies, TV shows, commercials, and, yes, video games.

I recently reviewed Area 51 for The Onion AV Club, which meant that I played it for about 7000 hours in three days. The gameplay is great, and I enjoyed it . . . but the story made it more than just another shooter, and it was the reason I kept playing until the end. And guess what? If you watch the "making of" features, you'll discover that just about everyone at the company thought it was important to hire actors who could bring "unique" voices to their characters, like Marilyn Manson, David Duchovny, and Powers Boothe. Maybe I'm wrong, but I seriously doubt that Kenny, the Hot Topic kid from the IT department, could bring the same energy and creepiness to the project as Marilyn Manson.

When I read Xeni's story in Wired about the pending strike last week, I was really sad to discover that programmers and developers had largely taken an "us vs. them" attitude regarding the actors who bring their characters to life:

"I'll back (the actors) when game programmers and artists get residuals first," said Mark Long, co-CEO of independent game-development company Zombie Studios. "(They're) nuts if they think they deserve residuals for a half-day of voice-over work," said Long. "A development team (might) slave away for two years to produce a title."
If a development team is "slaving away" for two years, and not getting properly compensated for it, what does that have to do with actors? It sounds to me like we're both after the same thing: increased wages that reflect the value we bring to the title, which we all feel the most successful game producers can afford to pay. As Peter Babakitis said,
"When gamers think that actors are out of line for asking points, then you are also preventing programmers, writers, level artists and everyone else from asking for participation. When actors get points, then perhaps programmers, artists and writers might not be that far behind -- and game production might suddenly become competitive internationally again."
Again, I don't believe we were asking for points, per se, but I appreciate and agree with the sentiment.

Developers: We're on the same side, guys, and by playing into "Actors vs. Developers," you've let the game producers divide and conquer us. If you're getting screwed, why not organize a union? I seriously doubt they could replace programmers, designers, and developers with Becky and Don from ad sales. You've got to believe in yourself, and not undervalue the importance of your contribution to the final product. We should be talking about the common goals we have, and how we can reach then, rather than arguing about who is more important.

Posted by wil at June 9, 2005 09:46 AM
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» Wil Wheaton's postmortem on Hollywood/Gaming Biz strike debacle from Boing Boing
Gamer, actor, and geek Wil Wheaton has posted an insightful post-mortem about the barely-averted strike by talent unions against the video game industry. In this post, he attempts to correct the often-misunderstood concept of residuals, among other thi... [Read More]

Tracked on June 10, 2005 10:23 AM

» Games and Actors (UPDATE) from fusion94.org
So I logon this morning and read over at Wired that there's been a settlement between SAG Actors and video game developers. SAN FRANCISCO -- Hollywood actors unions have reached a contract deal with video game publishers, accepting higher pay... [Read More]

Tracked on June 11, 2005 12:08 PM

» Residuals vs. Royalties from game girl advance
Followed a link from the PA Crew over to Wil Wheaton's blog today, where he discusses the finer points of... [Read More]

Tracked on June 11, 2005 07:07 PM

» Wil Wheaton on Games from factory of infinite bliss
Wil Wheaton seems like a nice guy, but he just doesn't get it when it comes to video games and voice talent. He says that voice actors work hard days on game projects, and that they deserve fair compensation. He also says that voice actors are on the s... [Read More]

Tracked on June 11, 2005 07:58 PM

» Union Talk: Video Game Developers vs. the Screen Actors Guild from Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life
[Read More]

Tracked on June 14, 2005 06:15 AM
Comments

I actually posted about this when I heard about the strike - http://www.randyrants.com/2005/05/er_video_game_s.html - and from an outsiders point of view, I think it's better to get the deal that was offered.

So by my thinking, for every madly successful game, there's gotta be at least 50 that crash and burn. Rather than hold out for points on the gross (or net) I think that the 30%+ increase over the next 3.5 years would be more profitable for the guild. Sure, for the one breakaway hit it could sting, but that majority of the actors employed aren't going to "have to worry" about that, IMHO.

Not to say that voice actors shouldn't be given raises or that they aren't entitled to it but two things stand out to me: Games are an ultra competative market with little margin to muck around with (aside from the breakout hit) and 30% is much higher than the increases being offered to many fields out there...

I'm glad it's resolved either way - at least the union got something out of it.

Posted by: Randy [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:00 PM


I'm a SAG v/o actor who makes his LIVING at this, so I've been watching this closely.

At first, I was against striking. Yes, I'm weak, but the last thing I need is FEWER OPPORTUNITIES.

But, as I analyzed this issue and researched budget vs. profit, I changed my tune. The typical EA game budget is about $5,000,000. The amount of pure profit EA rakes in is in the BILLIONS.

Actors deserve more because they help elevate the games to a higher level.

Developers deserve MUCH more because without them, we'd be playing a WHOLLLLLE lot of Pong.

Wil is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT right. We are on the SAME SIDE of the programmers, art directors, level designers, etc. We are all part of the COLLECTIVE CREATIVE FORCE that *is* the game.

In fact, a few fellow actors and I were having this very same discussion at our agency yeaterday: We agreed that maybe *THIS* will be impetus that is needed for game designers to form a union.

I mean, if ACTORS strike, you get lousy voice-work in your game, but you STILL GET YOUR GAME.

*BUT* if every Torque-Engine developer went on strike?

Dude: NO GAME.

Don't shake your finger at actors just because we've got a union/guild playing hardball. Instead, LEARN from this and unite.

Fight the power, and all that jazz.

If we ALL make more money, we'll work that much harder at creating an Insanely Great (tm) game. Everyone benefits.

And, for the record, this agreement is NOT good enough.

But it's a start.

--AJ

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:03 PM

Very good points, all in all. I'm not in the video game business right now, but I was in the past, so I can shed some insight. First is that conditions in the video game industry are appalling. You've probably read the stories about how some companies (including the largest of game companies) will overwork their teams and then discard them at the end, and those stories are pretty much dead-on. Of course, not all companies do that, but many of them do.

Second, there are no unified voices in Video Games. Actors, voice and otherwise, have a guild. The occasional writer is in a guild. Perhaps some of the musicians. Nobody else is. Therefore, there's no mechanism for universal change that can happen with programmers or artists. That is frustrating to many-a-programmer.

Third, profit-sharing and residuals are a dream of many a game worker, and a generally unrealized dream. Getting any money after the paycheck is cashed is terribly unlikely, and it generates bitterness and resentment in some people to think that the dream may be realized by people who aren't even "really in the games business".

As you know, there was a time in recent memory (for some of us) that video games were the sole dominion of the Programmer. There was no musician, no artist, no writer, and certainly no voice talent. There was just the Programmer, his creativity, and his programming talent. So all of these new people who are cropping up into the business are hardly, to some people's way of thinking, even really part of the legacy of video games. So there's historical imperative, some believe, to giving programmers residuals or profit-sharing or what-have-you before anyone else would get them.

In any case, I've done some work with Mattel and Disney, and I've worked with SAG voice talent, and I can tell you that I never made, combined in all my years in video games, anywhere near the money that either Chris Anthony or Jim Cummings got for their respective works in my projects. That's completely proper, of course, because those projects would have failed much sooner without Barbie or Winnie the Pooh than they would have had someone else been producing them.

Still, the video game industry has some growing up to do, and I hope they do it well. There's just far too much pain involved in making games, and most of it's completely unnecessary.

Posted by: Brian J. Geiger [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:12 PM

I've been working in the game industry for over seven years, now. In that time, I've worked on four shipped games, as artist, FX artist, Lead Artist, and Art Director.

I've never received a dime in royalties or profit sharing. I've gotten a paycheck- if I was lucky. A lot of companies go under.

A raise for voice acting? Fine. I'm all for that. As for residuals... well, shouldn't the people who devote their lives to the development of the game be more assured of residuals than the actors who come in for four hour's worth of recording, no matter how onerous?

What scared me, more than anything, about this whole situation was that the actors already have a union in place. This gives the actors tremendously more bargaining power than the developers. Should we organize? People have been saying that for years. The problem is that our main bargaining chip- a strike- would just lead to the company shutting down. Not every game company is an EA or Sony or whatever- most companies are small, and living on the knife-edge of financial ruin.

Not every game is a GTA:San Andreas. Most game companies are tiny, and composed of a small, very devoted team who have dreams of making it big. A team that says, "We're going to strike until we're assured of royalties," will be saying "Would you like fries with that?" before too long.

If actors and developers are on the same side, why isn't SAG trying to get EVERYONE residuals? By negotiating for residuals for just the actors, SAG is effectively screwing over the developers. We're not on the same side- we're only POTENTIALLY on the same side.

Posted by: Lightnin' [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:17 PM


Brian--

You're exactly right: the video game industry is VERY similiar to the old days of Hollywood: before SAG. You had greedy producers making millions while their actors were locked into contracts of small salaries (perspectively), and were prohibited from working with other studios. And even though the actors brought these wonderful stories to life, they saw not dime-one after their salary while the producers continued to rake in mad duckets.

Now, in video games, you have CEOs, corporate execs, producers and distributors all making a killing off the back of the creative team.

I'm not saying they SHOULDN'T make money: they should. Distribution and marketing is certainly important.

But you need to have a THING to market and sell. Developers make the thing.

Game developers (inclusive: programmers, artists, designers, sound engineers, everybody) need to unite. There's no way around it. The GDG (Game Developers Guild) needs to be founded.

How can we help? Wil?

--AJ

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:20 PM

One of the most frustrating things about working in IT is the notion that "we're professionals, so we can't unionize". I hear it all the time from programmers in all segments of the industry, not just from game developers.

What really needs to happen is for someone like the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (it happens to be the second largest union at Boeing, after the Machinists) to recognize that if they were to organize the software shops, they would become one of the most powerful & listened-to groups in labor within the U.S.

Starting from scratch probably won't work. It will need to start with an existing organization who has the knowledge on how to organize individuals and negotiate on their behalf.

Posted by: Beth [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:29 PM

I can see difficulty unionizing(especially at the big companies) because there are so many kids being churned out of these "schools" who are hungry for any kind of work. If the programmers at, say, EA decided to strike, EA would be able to snatch up all kinds of talent who are just eager to get their foot in the door. What's even more important, is these kids wouldn't care that were scabs, cutting any kind of union talk off at the knees.

How do you get past that kind of stuff to form an effective union?

Posted by: baobab [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:31 PM

This is not a BIG deal, but I'll say it anyway.

"Maybe I'm wrong, but I seriously doubt that Kenny, the Hot Topic kid from the IT department, could bring the same energy and creepiness to the project as Marilyn Manson."

I feel this to be an incorrect statement.
It's because Marilyn Manson was lucky enough to GET the brass ring that you can't see anyone else but he doing that job.
Truth is, Kenny might be WONDERFUL, BETTER than Mansen, but we'll never know. Because Kenny is a nobody and Mansen is a somebody.
You of all people should respect the fact that millions can't get jobs because someone else with a bigger name is going to do it.
Also, it's a bit unfair that because of fame, Mansen, and other music talent, get to do jobs that aren't in their main area simply because of their name.

Mansen, a singer, is taking a job away from Kenny, a voice over actor.
Kenny then doesn't even get that $695 than Mansen uses to light the fireplace with.

You understand where I'm coming from?

Posted by: buntz [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:45 PM

If the shop is in a "union" state, they wouldn't have the option of hiring non-union employees to cover a strike period, once their employees were organized. It is one of the protections that being a part of a recognized union provides. That is one of the reasons why trying to start a new union is so difficult. Getting the recognition from the National Labor Relations Board as a legitimate union is very difficult.

Posted by: Beth [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:47 PM


How do you get past that kind of stuff to form an effective union?

Because the quality of talent and level of professionalism of someone just out of college won't be the same as a seasoned vet.

Sure, there will be SOME quality folks. But there's a lot more to creating a game than just being handy with C#.

Besides, those nooBs of real quality will quickly see that they're on the wrong side of the issue.

--AJ

(sorry to keep shooting my mouth, but besides being a voice-guy, I'm also a hobbyist game developer via 3d Game Studio [rawk]. So I'm passionate, damn it!)

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:49 PM

Hmm... something else I've just thought of. In the past, I've done voice acting on games- because we couldn't afford to hire a "name" to do it. What would happen in that situation? I mean, not all companies even bother trying to get a "name" for their voices... in a "union" state, would they be required to?

Posted by: Lightnin' [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:53 PM

I think that's the problem Beth, you've got all these people scared for their jobs. I mean if the company gets wind of unionization, they could just terminate a few of the key organizers to get everyone else back in line. If there's no union, there's no protection. Starting a union is dangerous, and not gauranteed. It's a right big quandry...

Posted by: baobab [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:54 PM

I have so little to say compared to others. I'm just a poor lowly stage actor and hardly that. Glad you hear you like some of the changes. I understand some, but not all. Perhaps I will have to learn eventually though. Later.

Posted by: Jackie [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:56 PM

Is being a voice actor really any different from being a level designer?

An actor (say a certain starship ensign) might be typecast, because people know what he looks like and what he sounds like, but would a voice actor? Apparently Mark Hamill did the voice of The Joker on the Batman cartoon, who knew? I would never know that our illustrious host was Aqualad if he hadn't said so. I wouldn't stay that typecasting is really an issue for voice actors.

Everything else about residuals really applies to Joe Leveldesigner. If the game does well and sells lots of copies, he won't be in as much demand for new work, etc.

I'm really anti-union, but I think if there was ever a place that unions belonged, it is the video game industry. The power and profits are so far too much with the money men. Video game development talent is too easily replaced by kids fresh out of school, or naive people who just love the business too much to think about it from a practical viewpoint. There are tons of parallels between the video game industry and the film industry. I think the film industry is a bit sick, but the news headlines show that life at EA is far worse.

In the end though, I hope the voice actors get good treatment. If they didn't, I'm sure the money would just go up, not across to developers, artists, etc.

Posted by: merc [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 02:57 PM

Time and again, what companies have discovered is that if they treat their employees well and with respect, the employees do not feel the need to organize and demand collective bargaining agreements. It is only when shops refuse to respect their employees and deal with them fairly as individuals has it become necessary for the employees to organize.

I think the entire IT industry, of which game development is a sub-set, is ripe for organization, much the same way that discount stores and mall workers are. In all cases, the employees are being treated with a supreme lack of respect and fairness that will eventually lead to employees finding another way to deal with their employers.

Posted by: Beth [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:02 PM

I think programmers and developers are getting screwed over the worst of everyone, and the over-all response seems to be, "So?!? Get a union!"

I grew up in South Bend, Indiana, home of Studebaker. That car company from the olden times. The company that was profitable until the unions kept nibbling here, there and everywhere. The breaking point for Studebaker wasn't a higher wage, nor was it a demand for medical benefits. No, it was a union demand for 15 minutes of paid clean-up time at the end of the day. Everyone would stop working at 3:45pm and get paid to wash up before they drove their heavily discounted Studebakers back to their wives and 2.5 children.

The company had suffered enough. They pulled the trigger on the crippled company and shut down.

Until the mid 1990's, the UAW paid for the last few remaining work-aged former Studebaker employees to sit in front of the half collapsed plants with signs protesting unfair business practices.

That's the flaw with the concept of the union: It doesn't know where to stop. What seems like a grand and noble idea rapidly degenerates into a feeding frenzy that leaves a dessicated carcass behind.

I hope the actors, developers and programmers get a fair shake, sure. I just think though that they'll eventually get far less should they let the union camel poke it's nose into the tent of the video game industry.

Posted by: Thomas [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:09 PM

Hooray! Wil is back! Well, not that he was gone. I enjoy the Book-Writing, Poker-Playing, ACME-Acting, Step-Parenting, Pet-Owning Wil a lot. I'm just happy to see the return of Cock-Punching Wil! Woo-hoo!

As for the topic, why not have some kind of profit-sharing setup? Some games don't sell squat, but the ones that make a kajillion dollars should share the wealth instead of just giving it to the suits. It is the same beef I have with most all of corporate america. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against capitalism, I would just prefer to see more profits going back into the companies instead of the pockets of the executives.

Posted by: Sumo [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:21 PM

Sumo: As for the topic, why not have some kind of profit-sharing setup?

Sounds great, Sumo.

But the game companies aren't just going to share the wealth on their own. Why would they? I wouldn't.

They need to be forced to share.

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:27 PM

I first heard about this story on Fark a couple weeks ago and did my own rant on the ridiculous way people treat actors as expendable. I'm a theater actor in Seattle and it irks me no end when people think acting is easy and that actors are expendable and irrelevent. Here's a quick clip from my blog.

Mike Goodman is an Analyst with Yankee Group, he's also the prick who has said in reference to voice over actors in video games:


"In 99 percent of all games, the voice actors are irrelevant," Goodman said. "You replace one voice actor with another nonunion actor and no one will know the difference."


This has all come about because nearly 2000 union actors believe they should be getting a bigger cut of the video game profits on projects they work on.

Mike Goodman seems to think these actors are irrelevant and replacable. Oh, just like you Mike. There are thousands of analysts out there and you can easily be replaced, any skill you offer is of no use or worth because there are others who can do your exact same job.

---End Clip---

This attitude is prevalent in more then just the SAG, it is a widespread belief that actor's jobs are easy and that anyone could do it.

That is simply not true. It takes years to become a good actor, alot of hard work and a thick skin. I am very pleased with SAG.


Posted by: jhjanuary [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:27 PM

I'm not by any means an actor. I've done some singing gigs, years ago before too much smoking took it's payment. When I was younger I was one of those people who thought actors were overpaid. However, one day I was asked at my place of employment to supervise a film crew for a B movie that wanted to use the place for filming after hours. The director put me in the movie as an extra since I had to hang around anyway. It was excrutiating! It was my first and LAST experience with being in front of a movie camera and I was just an extra! 8 hours a night for quite some time for 5 minutes of actual useable footage a night! I talked to the actors, (won't name the movie but you can figure it out by this), and Rene Z and Matt M were both cool and told me they enjoyed it and hoped to make it big. I wished them luck and told them I would never again think acting was an "easy" job, nor would I ever again want to be even an extra in a movie. Having to do the same thing over and over and over because someone is sweating their makeup off, or a car goes by, or the air conditioner kicks on, etc. SUCKS!

More power to all the Actors out there! Give them the money they so richly deserve. I'll stick to sitting on my couch playing PS2 and watching television, thank you. If I want a work-out I'll go to the gym. I'm glad there are talented actors out there to entertain me and I'm all for paying them to do it!

Posted by: Shane_S [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:27 PM

It was excrutiating!

You said it Shane.

There's that 0.1% of SAG actors who are big stars and haven't a care in the world; making zillions of dollars.

Then there's the 99.9% of us who are just trying to make a [not very lucrative] living because we dig the collective creativity of it.

I read with people every day that you'd recognize from television and film. They're not stars, but they are working actors whom you'd know at first sight.

And yet, here they are, auditioning as "Man 1" in some lousy Maryland Lottery commercial for radio that if you actually BOOKED it would pay you about $500 gross. After taxes and agent commission, you'll grab about $250.

They have to do it because they are still in that 99.9%. Acting is NOT easy work, it's a SHITTY industry, and it mostly doesn't pay well at all.

But you know me, I can't complain. ;-)

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 03:47 PM

And while I'm talking about things producers should do: I'm really sick and tired of employers and non-actors lecturing actors about how useless and replaceable we are. If it's so easy to replace us with Dave from Human Resources, then go for it. Otherwise, show us just a tiny bit of respect for the craft we practice, and the value we provide to your movies, TV shows, commercials, and, yes, video games.


Wow, I must say I am a little offended by this. Let me explain why. I certainly am happy that you are making the money you are worth as actors working on games. However, and I understand some people feel actors are replaceable, but was the HR comment really necessary? After all, I work in HR AND theatre. I am a stage manager for a small non-profit theatre which does great work with great actors ... all of whom work for corporations in HR, accounting, the Social Security Administration, banks, all over. So, maybe "Dave in Human Resources" has more going for him than a suit and the ability to quote employment law at will. Maybe you should think about giving those guys in HR a little credit and respect for the hard work they do every day. You at least get some time off Ė in HR some weeks I donít know what time off is Ė it is far from the 9-5 ob I sometimes long for!


But let me get back to something else. Actors are, unfortunately, replaceable. I have worked with some snotty actors who have been replaced even in the middle of a run. It happens. Usually, those actors are the ones that make people say actors are replaceable. For that matter, Dave is replaceable too. We ALL are, itís just a fact of life. Tomorrow someone shiny and new can fill your spot. He isn't you, but, hey, he works, right. Just a reminder to everyone not to take your position for granted.


Please don't take this the wrong way. I have read your blog for awhile now ... and I had the biggest crush on you when I was younger, I am just a little upset that someone I feel I have really grown up with and have had so much respect for not only as a working actor, but a writer, as well, could be so insensitive as to the fact that his readers are, in fact, the very people who are the non-actors working and not getting any respect either. Comments like that - while probably not meant in any way to offend - are the reason that there is conflict between actors and non-actors. The projected air of superiority which leads to the comments you are so against. Again, we are all replaceable.

Posted by: funfairiegirl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 04:12 PM

I think it would have been nice if video game actors got some kind of residual. However I do also agree withn the person that the argument about overexposure does not apply to video games. Also the argument about getting less work because of repeats does not apply. I just think if a particular game really takes off and makes tons of money the people who worked on it should share in the profits (although I don't know why it should only be actors).

I do have to take issue with the part about the usefulness of actors. I think acting is like any other job. If you prove useful to the company (help them continue to make money) then you work, if not you don't. I work in the finance dept of a television station owned by a major studio. Everyone bends over backwards for the talent, while the rest of us are expected to give 110% at all times for know reward other than our paychecks. And in this competitive industry the paychecks are not that big.

I do think, however, that anyone who complains about the salaries only a select few celebrities make should not be a consumer for their products.

Posted by: Sheri [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 04:12 PM

In Washington state there's Wash Tech. Unfortunately, Microsoft
hates
workers. If MS unionized, there wouldn't be a need for contractors anymore, but when ever I bring up WashTech with any friends or coworkers they are always conviced organizing would just make things worse. I really don't see any possiblities for IT unions since most of us are just too scared to stand up for ourselves.

If IT was to start unionizing, the games industry would be the last to feel the effect. IT in the games industry is just that competitive.

Posted by: theslate [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 04:17 PM

People who don't act (or write) think that anyone can do it with minimal training.

Nope. Or, at least, not to professional standards. Sure, it may seem easy, but to do it well requires many years of practice and working with patient teachers -- leaving out the handful of prodigies who show up every generation and fuel the idea that luck is more important than hard, hard work.

[b]Funfairiegirl:[/b] I think "Dave from HR" was not meant to single out HR workers, but was picked as a single example. It could just as easily have been "Dave from the mail room" or "Dave from the steno pool," and I don't think Wil would have meant anything negative about mail room workers or stenographers ... he just needed an example, that's all.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 04:25 PM

Brothers In Arms: Wouldn't be as good if they didn't have anyone to say the lines. Would it?

My husband and I just disagreed about our position on this. He's on the programmer's side, being a administrative assistant and having done programming. He says "thousands upon thousands of hours vs. 'I can make my voice sound like this...'." He believes that if they didn't agree with the pay, they should have signed up for the job. I did try to explain that in that market, you take what you get. Didn't work. Me, I'm on the voice actor's side, being someone that had the leads in all the school plays because I was the best actor there (i know, i know, school plays are small potato's, but when you are tortured EVERYDAY about your looks, your teeth, your hair, the fact that your legs are long and skinny or the fact that your family is DIRT POOR and can't afford a car whose doors will stay shut when you go around a corner...being recognized, by even the popular kids, as the best actor in the entire school was a BIG DEAL TO ME!!). I agree that if a game makes millons upon billons of dollars, yeah. The actor that caught your attention and kept it should get a little more than $695 for his/her work.

In short: I agree.

Posted by: VeronicaKnight [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 05:06 PM

i've worked in the video game biz on the production side for five years. you have to look at the big picture to understand why no producer wants to fork up more money for voice talent.

nine out of ten games lose money. for the vast majority of publishers, profit margins are slim. EA is an exception, not a rule -- and even they had a bad quarter. take 2 isn't in sunny weather, despite the performance of the GTA franchise. everyone is outsourcing overseas, or opening foreign branches -- like EA. if big companies aren't even paying overtime to their core -- artists, coders -- do you expect the little guy to? just like in the film biz, there are only a few big fish, and everyone else gets eaten alive.

re: unionizing the game biz? LOL. do you know the average salary for a mainland chinese engineer is about $2000 a year? it doesn't take english or u.s. citizenship to make and sell a AAA game in the u.s. in hollywood, you need u.s. actors, u.s. settings. in gamerwood, you need renderware,3d studio max and c++.

artists, coders, voice actors -- they are on the same side, yes. however, they are competing for a finite pool of re$ources. a producer's job is to get a game out within budget, on time, making the most money. looking at things realistically, we all know decent voice acting is nice. however, "decent" voice acting can be found among non-SAG talent. star talent commands premier salaries -- but now your capital is really going into marketing. producers bring in tera patrick or jean reno into their game not because of voice acting ability. they bring in stars for the same reasons they buy rights to NBA franchises: name recognition, which they hope will equate to sales.

What do The Sims, Diablo II, Everquest, Halo 2, GTA 3, Metroid Prime, Pokemon, Halflife 2, Battlefield 1942, Gran Turismo 4, Pacman, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, and World of Warcraft all have in common? They're all AAA titles where voice acting made little to no difference whatsoever. That's video game reality.

Posted by: darkestblue.com [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 05:49 PM

Yay for an agreement. As a former actor (ok, let's say "lapsed-actor-who-hasn't-done-a-damned-thing-since he-left-school-but-wants-to-do-voiceovers-someday"), I always get a little bit of the warm fuzzies when good things happen to my fellow thespians. In this case, I hope it will help you out a great deal, Wil. Of course, I also hope it'll help me should I ever get back into acting. And while I'm dreaming, I'd like a pony.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say, I think, is "w00t."

Posted by: Chris the Tiki Guy [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 05:50 PM

Thanks for the education, Wil!

Posted by: Gilder [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 06:00 PM

Does not the fact that they (Video Game Producers) did settle with SAG speak to the fact that they do value professional talent? If I was a programmer, (I'm not) I would look to that settlement as hope for more equitiable distribution of the profit. Even a producer should welcome that way of wage payment because it eliminates any need for higher wages on a hourly level. Higher levels of compensation would only paid upon the gaming public's acceptance of a game.

Posted by: Bruce [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 06:04 PM

As an IT worker myself (system administration, primarily, on-call 24x7), it's hard to figure exactly how a union agreement would work. Sometimes, putting in long hours is just a fact of the job. It's kind of a running joke at my office -- "Sure, I get paid overtime... it's just that the hourly rate keeps going down."


If developers are being hired on a contract basis for a certain project (similar to the actors), then building some sort of profit-sharing into the agreement makes sense: I do good work, the game succeeds, I get some extra rewards. As Lightnin' pointed out, many games are developed by small studios (although they might later be picked up by a big distributor). Profit-sharing rather than additional up-front benefits might allow these companies to stay in business long enough to finish the game and actually reap some of those benefits.


But that doesn't explain what to do with us salaried types.

Posted by: Christina [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 06:12 PM

When actors (and writers) decide to be actors they're taking a great risk. Instead of working consistently for a specified amount of money, they take the risk of not ever working, or occaisionally working, for a specified amount of money.

Every time a producer hires an actor (or writer), they benefit from the risk this artist took to put their talent out there. That risk should be compensated because often most of us only work a few times a year, and the fact that we take this BIG risk is what makes our talents available to support the project.

Every time someone says to me "Gee, working at home as a writer would be fun, I should do that" I urgently wish they would. The work, when we can get it, is great, but the risk to be able to do the work is very high.

Posted by: Alicia [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 07:01 PM

Alicia, you make extremely good points! So does Wil.

Look, I'm a writer and a producer (not of games, so I can't speak for that milieu). But, when I produce a presentation, I go for a talented professional to do the voice-over. Why? Because they have what it takes to make the words work. I have NO problem with the union's fees because of all the reasons that Wil and other actors have rightfully pointed out: the skill, the craft, and the professionalism comes at a price. If you dont' want skill, craft, and professionalism, then you get what you pay for.

The same should be true of the programmers and writers. As a scriptwriter (and writer of other things), I've heard it said too damned many times: "Oh, anybody can write." as a justification for hiring the low-cost equivalent of "dave from HR" or "somebody's girlfriend/boyfriend who works cheap" on a project (Not taking potshots at HR or girlfriends/boyfriends.) But you get what you pay for. IF you want the low-priced spread, then you're going to get it -- and not the trained, skilled professional your project needs.

THe issue, as many here have pointed out, is respect for ALL professionalism, skill, and craft. The fact that the actors have negotiated that should not deter the others from asking for their share of the respect and money as well.

Posted by: spacewriter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 07:18 PM

Guys, I value actors. A well-trained voice Ė well, thatís better than sex (better than some sex at least) (or is it better with sex?). Anyway, I used to be a programmer, then an analyst, then a consultant, so I value people who work in IT, too. I believe many people are not compensated as they deserve, while others who add less value scoop the pot.

I am not criticizing anyone. I do want to add a different perspective.

Several years ago I left my relatively high-paying IT job because it no longer satisfied me, because I wanted to care for people, because I think the values of this society are frequently upside down and inside out, and because I wanted to express better my own values as well as having more brain left for my writing (beware: novel brewing). Thereís more to it, but thatís the short and relatively painless version. My choice. I accept the consequences happily. I wanted Ė no, needed - to take the risk to express my values and work on my writing.

For the last several years Iíve worked two part-time jobs at once. One of these is as a hospice aide, providing personal care to dying patients in their homes. I drive 30-60 miles a day, good weather or bad. I see 5-6 patients a day. I comfort families, wash patients (ranges from helping shaky people in the shower to doing complete bed baths for immobile, incontinent, demented or unconscious people of all shapes and sizes), help out in other small ways. I keep an eye out for signs of physical, spiritual and emotional trouble. I keep patients and families safe. I hold people while they die. I manage to keep chatting when necrotic tissue falls off in my gloved hands, so I donít upset the patient. I take care of people whose tumors I cannot count. Trust me, almost anything a make-up artist has sculpted on a horror film actor is something Iíve touched on a person I cared for, and about. I feed people who canít remember how to eat. I get hit by some patients with dementia, and begged not to leave by others. The two are equally hard to deal with. I sing, and read aloud. I hold one patient while she dies, wash her body, and still have to get to the next house on time and looking cheerful. And I havenít covered the half of it.

$12.50 an hour. And Iím trained, experienced, close to bilingual, certified, tested, and highly paid for the job; lots of people get less. What price is your dying family memberís comfort worth? And how much do you pay for a game?

Itís a damn good thing I love my work and the people I work with. And, in the end, that seems to be the only reason for doing a job that I can be happy with (practical monkey is cringing and whining again).

As I said at the start, I am not trying to pick on anyone. It takes enormous courage and love and dedication to choose any career in the arts. I have great respect for people who are daring enough to follow their bliss, and I want them to be as well supported as possible. I also rely on them. When I get home from a bad day, I need ways to release emotion. I count on my DVDs and books and music to restore me (check out www.metbymoonlight, and scroll to the item marked ďWith thanks for poetryĒ to see why). Just wanted to add perspective on other fields which are even more inequitably compensated.

Which I expect you knew alreadyÖbut I needed to express. Rant over. Thanks for listening. Misery loves company?

May all our monkeys find a better balance; may we each get paid enough to allow us to be who we really are.

Posted by: honeycomb [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 07:29 PM

My father was a "card carrying Reagan Republican," and my mother is very nearly a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Me? I'm a Dem and completely in favor of Unions. Without unions no one in this country would have so much as the opportunity for a living wage.

I know the nomadic style of programmers would make creating such a union difficult. But it absolutely would be worth the efforts for all those involved.

Posted by: ShelaghC [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 07:37 PM

A friend of mine had a good point- name ONE game that succeeded on the basis of voice talent. I can only think of a few games that were hits that had big-name voice talent- and few of those were AAA(A) titles. Did the voice talent in, say, San Andreas help the game become an even bigger hit? (Yes, I know who worked on it.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is, do games NEED voice talent? I mean, sure, bad acting can ruin a game... but can good acting MAKE a game? When I play a game, it's to Play the Game. I never pick up a game based on who did the voices for it.

Posted by: Lightnin' [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 08:10 PM

"7000 hours in three days".

Wow, so with the new wages, you're pulling in like 1.2 Million for that article, right? Sweet! :)

On a more serious note - why do non-actors and employers think of actors as so replacable? Is it just self-consolation that "they're not really worth that much...", or do they have some honest belief that the entertainment industry could prosper without the entertainers?

In any case, thanks for doing what you do.

Chris

Posted by: Chris [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 08:42 PM

Though I strongly disagree with some of the opinions expressed here, I just wanted to take a moment and thank everyone for sharing them. Reasonable, considered dialogue is always a great thing.

Posted by: Wil [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 08:44 PM

While I agree that it's a great thing that the actors are getting more money, I still have to point out one thing: 4 hours, $759. $189.75 an hour. That's a whole lotta kablingy! And yeah, you don't get that money for the whole year. Maybe you only get 4 of those a year. I'm assuming you're doing something else on top of that, and not expecting it to pay your yearly bills? I don't really know where I'm going with this, but almost $190 an hour is a hell of a lot more than the coding grunts make, and they are working 70 hour weeks with no overtime.

And you want to unionize the developers?? Good luck. There are a TON of people out there who are out there training themselves to design excellent maps, create excellent art, code excellent code just for the sheer JOY of it, and while they may not have the experience in a real-game environment, believe you me that there are many of them that are just as good, and half as jaded, as the ones working on our favourite games. Remember Counterstrike? Yeah, that was made by a bunch of guys purely for the hell of it, because they loved games that much. Now they work in the industry. There are hundreds of guys JUST LIKE those guys who will cross that picket line in a second. It sucks, but it's reality. And jobs are scarce enough in the IT field as it is, people have mouths to feed and bills to pay - the last thing we want to do is drive more jobs overseas. And that's exactly what the companies will do, and people will still buy the games because your average 14 year old gamer doesn't give a flying shit whether his game was made by union workers or not. Hell, your average *24* year old gamer doesn't care either, I'm willing to bet.

Wow... that was way longer than I intended it to be. I just get a might het up when it comes to people talking about unionizing my field - it's hard enough to get a job, without throwing a union into the mix!

Posted by: antifuse [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 08:49 PM

I still have to point out one thing: 4 hours, $759. $189.75 an hour. That's a whole lotta kablingy!

BAH!

$189.75 per hour for the session. Sure, that's what it SEEMS like.

You have to audition A LOT (in the voice-over world) to make a living. Auditioning means driving (LA) or subways/cabs (NY). Which takes MONEY.

Auditioning also takes TIME. You have to read and read and read tons of copy before you hit.

Factor all of *that* time in and you'll see that per hour earnings come wayyyyyyyy down.

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 09:14 PM

Thank you Wil for explaining the situation so that someone like myself could understand. I was wondering what all the fuss was about and now I know.

I'm glad you're feeling better too.

Now, I gotta run...I can't find my purse and it's driving me crazy!

Posted by: lois [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 09:19 PM

To be quite frank, I feel actors are highly overpaid and overrated. I'm sorry if this offends. I feel production crew and the rest of the backstage people should be paid more. Yes, actors are important to the show, but without the people in the back, you're nothing.

Not to mention people who work in hospitals, firefighters, police, etc.

At the end of the day, actors are only one piece of the machine.

Posted by: Ginger Snap Cookie [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 10:02 PM

I work for a video game developer. I'm in a position to see the financials. The previous comments regarding this issue have been rather insightful, but I'd like to add a couple things.

First, the typical developer sits on a royalty rate that is less than favorable if they are receiving their development as an advancement on royalties. Self-funding developers or self-publishing developers are a little different. The average game developer, after paying costs, is fortunate to make a profit; the vast majority of games make no money, even if they sell > 50k units due to the rising cost of hitting the moving target of technology. The consumer wants flashier, prettier -- much like the movie business, and that costs money. Would Lord of the Rings have been the same movie on a 5m budget?

There are publishers that rake in the cash, the VUGs and EAs of the world, but many of these developers dedicate years of their lives to the success of these titles -- the elements that make them successful: their gameplay, story arc, persistence where applicable, art, and feature sets.

I mean no disrespect to the people who work very hard at their craft as voice actors, but I can't advocate giving points to someone who contributes one day, two days, or one week to the development process -- regardless of what they do. Not when I can give those points to someone who worked hard on the project for years -- an artist, a programmer, or a game designer, or even the receptionist.

With regard to unions, the reason most people feel it's fruitless is the same reason that the developers at EA are going to find their jobs outsourced -- there are many *capable* people who can do those jobs, and will do them without complaint. A side-effect of globalization and the shrinking planet, I suppose.


We have to remain competetive, do we not? Or can we afford to stand on principle and find our jobs and livelihoods shipped to Malaysia, Indonesia, and China?

As an aside, I've lurked here for years and never posted -- sorry to be long winded the first time out of the gate.

Posted by: theprof [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 11:01 PM


I feel actors are highly overpaid and overrated.

People should be paid what the market bears.

Sure, cops and teachers should be paid more, but the market doesn't provide for it.

And, conversely, there are a MILLION corporate CEOs who make TONS more money than the average actor (or even the average Major League Baseball Player)... are they overly compensated, too?

I say yes. But someone thinks they are worth the money (stockholders, directors, etc)

I think how much money Oprah makes is DISGUSTING. But you know what, the market shows that she is WORTH it (somehow).

If there wasn't a demand for Oprah, she wouldn't make that kind of money.

Whether we like it or not, SOMEHOW there is a demand for Lindsay Lohan.

Don't blame actors because the average American cares more about Bradd Pitt than they do about the salaries of firefighters.

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 9, 2005 11:06 PM

I must admit that I'm a bit conflicted about unions in general. Back in "the day" (i.e. in the days when huge companies like standard oil forced their employees to work for next-to-nothing in exchange for a crappy shantytown to live in, and you considered that a treat compared to what some folks were getting), there's no doubt that unions were absolutely needed. The power that the workers gained by uniting and forcing their employers to treat them like "real people" is one of the most significant societal steps forward in our country - when the upper echelon of income earners and company owners/managers were required to start treating every person in their company as an actual human being.

There's no doubt that in today's world, there are times and places where unionization is useful and needed. You can always find cases where dumbass management is trying to take advantage of workers, necessitating that they use their collective power to keep that crappy-@$$ management in check. I must say, however, that in addition, the immense power repesented by thousands of an industry's workers banding together has been and continues to be abused by those in power in many unions.

The power represented by the unionization of workers is very substantial, and that power needs to be treated with respect and only utilized when necessary. This doesn't mean that the union's leaders need to try to make sure that they can squeeze every nickel out of management that they can during any negotiation, not realizing that they're bullying the company into bankruptcy. Too many unions in recent years have followed this tactic, and many American businesses have suffered as a result. Not only that, but many of the union leaders have, both now and in the past, become as arrogant and corrupt as the supposedly "arrogant and corrupt management" they're "fighting against."

The mistrust generated on both sides of the table in the labor world in so many industries has also led to a general decline in labor-management relations and to a state where one side really does usually view the other as "evil." That is truly unfortunate, and does the parties at both sides of the table a disservice. You can't negotiate in good faith (and not try to take advantage of the other side) when you're negotiating with the devil.

This isn't "pie in the sky" idealism or a wishful view of the world. It's merely my observation and opinion of the state that we're in.

Now, for an on-topic comment... :-) I understand Wil's point, and I support the argument he just made for SAG/AFTRA. One of the things that stands out to me most is the fact that the minimum wage hadn't changed in 12 years. That's always a sign that your minimum is in need of consideration for an increase (and usually long before 12 years are up).

I'm not in a union now (I'm I/T, where unions are rare), but I have been in the past (non-IT job), and quite honestly I don't like being caught up in the "us vs. them" mentality that many unions create. It's true that mgmt can be to blame for causing some such sitations by being stupid, acting in bad faith, and trying to take advantage of their employees, but a union's leaders can do all of those things, as well (and, sometimes, they do).

Ok, enough long-winded rambling. To sum up: I'm with Wil in this case, and I support the concept of unions, but I don't support what many unions have become. (Man I could have saved myself a lot of typing just by writing that. :-) )

Posted by: VineyardDawg [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 03:28 AM

You know one of the stupidest arguments I'm seeing here is that voice acting doesn't "make" a game, so who needs it. What a joke.

Lots of things don't "make" a game. Realistic hair rendering doesn't "make" a game, so hey why bother with all that? Sourced lighting doesn't "make" a game, so hey why screw around there? Music doesn't "make" a game, why screw around with soundtracks, who needs those? 3D models don't "make" a game, we were just fine before all these fancy polygons. Sound effects don't "make" a game, just throw in some generic beeps and boops and it'll be fine.

You know what you have then? FUCKING PONG. FOREVER.

No one thing "makes" a game, lots and lots of disparate elements come together to create a complete experience. Voiced characters are becoming a part of the experience, and the people whose job it is to ensure the quality of that part of the game deserve adequate compensation for their contribution.

And come on people, is anyone here going to argue that Warcraft would have been half as fun without the peasants chirping "For the King"? I loved that shit and so did you.

Posted by: Oh Snap! [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 07:51 AM

People should be paid what the market bears.

Sure, cops and teachers should be paid more, but the market doesn't provide for it.

Exactly. And the market bears what it does right now. The Union is arguing completely against your own point. They don't want what the market bears. They want more.

Posted by: n0wak [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 08:02 AM

Exactly. And the market bears what it does right now. The Union is arguing completely against your own point. They don't want what the market bears. They want more.

Um, negotion is sort of a part of the market. "What the market bears" =/= "What EA Games decides you're allowed to have".

Posted by: Oh Snap! [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 08:12 AM

The problem with the programmer's attitude is that if they are "slaving away" for two years on a project, they are also GETTING PAID for that two years. In fact, they are getting paid for every day they are working. The fact that they have steady jobs amounts to much more than residuals because they have steady, relatively large income. In other words, they are making huge amounts of money on any given title as opposed to the actors, who basically get a one-shot deal. It's comparing apples with oranges.

Posted by: SilverWolf [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 08:18 AM

The anti-union sentiment I'm seeing in some of these posts is based on lies and propaganda. Businesses that have failed that happen to have been unionized didn't fail because of the unions. They failed mainly because they had a poor business model and failed to change with the times. Plenty of non-union businesses fail as well. The arguments are similar to that of the insurance industry, who are the biggest liars of all. They claim not to be making a profit, when the truth is that they are making huge profits, but the few at the top are taking the lion's share and making everybody else suffer. There are so many loopholes and ways to hide the profit in the books that they can get away with it.

Posted by: SilverWolf [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 08:34 AM

Um, negotion is sort of a part of the market. "What the market bears" =/= "What EA Games decides you're allowed to have".

Right. The game development industry is immune to labor market forces because the Big Companies keep the labor disorganized, controlled and fearing for their jobs.

The market doesn't know what developers are worth because THEY don't know what they're worth.

I'm starting to sound like Karl Marx now, so I better start to bow out of this thread lest I be thought a red commie bastard. ;-)

--AJ

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:24 AM

Andrew: I agree that he was just using "Dave in HR" as an example, but I think the underlying issue is the lack of respect on both ends. As if it is somehow EASIER to do that type of job than act. I have done both. They are both hard, but I put in more hours with my HR job than I do with theatre. I put in a lot of theatre hours, but if my boss calls me afterhours, I pretty much have to get to work ... the theatre sticks to the schedule - you may have to shoot later than you thought, but when you get off, you're off. I spend a minimum of 50 hours a week at the office and at least another 20 working off site. That is the nature of today's work force. I know mail room people who work 60+ hour weeks. Making the general statement that he did, Wil showed his lack of understanding of the daily work force ... and that we are not the sum of our jobs. Many of the working masses have talents and skills that you never see when we are at the office.

Posted by: funfairiegirl [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:34 AM

Wil, you know what upsets me? It's that you don't understand why programmers would be upset at the SAG. The SAG expects their members to waltz in, fart around for four hours, collect $700, and *still* want residuals on top of it.

Four hours, Wil. Compare that with the six months that these programmers pour their souls into these games. They don't work hard just because they're expected to, they work hard because they love what they do. If you handed each of those developers a hundred million dollars, do you know what most of them would do? They'd start their own game companies, and work just as long, and just as hard. Because they love it. Even when they complain bitterly, even when they burn out so badly that they can't stand to look at the computer any more, they love it. The executives can get away with what they do not because these guys fear for their jobs (although that's a component of it) it's because these guys love what they do, and the suits know it. And they resist unionisation because unions would make it harder for them to do what they love.

And you expect any bloody sympathy because four hours of yelling is "hard work"?

Tell you what, you want to learn hard work, my parents' neighbours are hiring farmhands. The pay's just over minimum wage, you'll probably have to walk around in cow crap for a while each day, you might get kicked, you'll certainly reek, you'll be so exhausted at the end of the day that you won't be able to even think, you can expect a couple sunburns, you'll probably be working twelve hours per day or more... Yeah, I've got a lot of sympathy, Wil.

Frankly, this is a lot more thoughtless and inconsiderate than I'd expected from you. You're normally pretty good at trying to see things from the other side's point of view, but you really dropped the ball on this one.

Posted by: canuckotter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:45 AM

Wil, you know what upsets me? It's that you don't understand why programmers would be upset at the SAG. The SAG expects their members to waltz in, fart around for four hours, collect $700, and *still* want residuals on top of it.

Four hours, Wil. Compare that with the six months that these programmers pour their souls into these games. They don't work hard just because they're expected to, they work hard because they love what they do. If you handed each of those developers a hundred million dollars, do you know what most of them would do? They'd start their own game companies, and work just as long, and just as hard. Because they love it. Even when they complain bitterly, even when they burn out so badly that they can't stand to look at the computer any more, they love it. The executives can get away with what they do not because these guys fear for their jobs (although that's a component of it) it's because these guys love what they do, and the suits know it. And they resist unionisation because unions would make it harder for them to do what they love.

And you expect any bloody sympathy because four hours of yelling is "hard work"?

Tell you what, you want to learn hard work, my parents' neighbours are hiring farmhands. The pay's just over minimum wage, you'll probably have to walk around in cow crap for a while each day, you might get kicked, you'll certainly reek, you'll be so exhausted at the end of the day that you won't be able to even think, you can expect a couple sunburns, you'll probably be working twelve hours per day or more... Yeah, I've got a lot of sympathy, Wil.

Frankly, this is a lot more thoughtless and inconsiderate than I'd expected from you. You're normally pretty good at trying to see things from the other side's point of view, but you really dropped the ball on this one.

Posted by: canuckotter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:46 AM

Dude, you all have got to chill out.

First of all, I have tried to design levels for the original "Half-Life". Guess what? They sucked! That's right, just because I can shoot dishes off of a roof and hit on my babysitter does not mean that I am a fantastic game designer. But I did it. I had friends play it. So it wasn't professional. So it wasn't finished. It was what it was. An amateur attempt. My feeling about producers, actors, and game developers is this. Producers shouldn't act. Actors shouldn't design video games, and game developers need to lock themselves up with more caffeine and keep up the great work. Games that are awesome hit us on the same level that movies do. They are visceral, intense, exciting, fast paced and immersive. They grab you, and take you along for the ride. It is so unfortunate that the public has to see these "professionals" argue over who gets a larger piece of the billion-dollar pie. Stick to what you do best, and stand up for what you think the work is worth. Nothing hurts more, or is more of a slap in the face than the comments about union actors not being important or noticed in video games. You shouldn't notice. It's supposed to be seamless. It should be an experience felt, not rationalized. (Oh, I like this game because Ray Liotta did the voice) You do, you just didn't know it.

To sum up. S.A.G. has been negotiating for better terms for actors for many, many years. They have a long history of sticking up for the little guy. S.A.G. is not there to protect Tom, Nicole, Drew, and Russell. S.A.G. is there to protect the many hard-working, under-paid masses that may only work on one or two things a year, if that. The only reason people are even arguing about this is because of a basic misunderstanding of the life of an actor or actress.

It's a really hard way to make an easy living.

-Coogan

Posted by: Keith Coogan [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:50 AM

I think the underlying issue is the lack of respect on both ends. As if it is somehow EASIER to do that type of job than act.

I think it's more that the actor is better-qualified to act, and the HR person is better qualified to do HR work. Saying that the actor is easily replaceable demeans the actor's work.

Coogan, good points about the thousands of actors who don't hop from one high-profile, high-paying job to the next. I think that's the missing datum in many people's arguments -- that, and the fact that the actor puts in hours, sometimes days, of preparation work for every hour spent actually acting, with no guarantee that another job is coming when this one is over. It's like the people who think that because Stephen King is a millionaire, every author is pulling down the big money. 'Tain't so.

I would love -- no, love -- make it L*O*V*E -- for firefighters, police officers, teachers, and soldiers to be making money like programmers. Or even actors. Hell, baseball players. But that doesn't seem to be how our society is rigged.

Posted by: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 10:15 AM

I'm unsure about the American acting situation, but I do know that people comparing actors salaries to those of teachers/firefighters are perhaps missing one point. Even if teachers and firefighters are not paid enough to reflect the actual value of their work, they are paid a living wage. Over here, 90% of actors are out of acting work at any one time, and only about 2-3% of actors make enough money to live off. All others have to suplement their wages with other work (such as teaching or... firefighting ;) ).

As for the games industry- with a boyfriend seeing the wastage of money in Rockstar, there is plenty that could be redirected to those who deserve it- actors and programmers alike. He even (while at Sony) did a little voice over work (being adept at jamaican/west indian accents), and gained a new respect for the work voice over actors do. (As a producer he only casted them and then heard the end result- by being more involved he gained knowledge which led to an increasing of respect.)

He still thinks I'm an idiot for attempting to make a living from acting, though. ;)

Posted by: Ta-Yu [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 11:46 AM

Thanks to Wil for laying out the issue in a clear and rational way from the actor side of the fence. This is a complicated issue, and as the game industry gets more hollywood there will be more and more of them. It definately seems more logical to band together than fight amongst each other.

I'm not sure programmers and actors should expect to be paid in the same way, but instead professionals should get to expect to be treated as professionals, especially as the budgets and profits on these games rise astronomically.

Posted by: RegularX [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 11:57 AM

Bad acting = good game?

Two words: Resident Evil.

Didn't affect it a whit. No one cared.

Does anyone REALLY THINK that the voices in the cutscenes really affect what you do in the game? They're CUTSCENES. Most people SKIP them. They're there because of the "everyone else has them" meme. I played Diablo II. The cutscenes between each area I watched precisely ONCE. They're well done. But the in-game speech? Who cares. It not only can be done by anyone, it could easily be omitted and no one would notice.

I do feel for the voice actors. I am pro-union. I also know that games are for PLAYING, and not for the STORY. Many people hide behind the immersion argument, but I think immersion is 90% engine and 10% the rest. The idea that somehow voice acting is ANYWHERE close to essential for a good game is pretty ridiculous. Only when you care about the story do you care about the acting, and if you care about the story more than what you're actually DOING, then you're looking at a bad game.

Wil, I'm glad you clarified the residual vs. royalty point. It's clear many in the media were interchanging those two terms. It's much better that you just wanted more hourly pay after a game sells X. That's the industry norm, so that's the way it goes. Sorry that didn't work out, but I'm glad you guys got a raise.

Posted by: madopal [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 12:10 PM

This is interesting reading, and it is certainly good to hear the actor's "side" of this. But there's a bit that's galling, too.


I've got no problem with an actor getting paid for what he deserves, and I'm certainly not against the idea that this is probably more than what most get. But...I think some of the actors here don't quite understand the level of effort that the more technical people put in.


I probably wouldn't even post here but...well, I went to sleep at 3 am last night. That was a capper to a twenty hour day. I arrived here at 8 am and my goal is to get out of here before the BART trains stop running at midnight. So it's a bit hard for me to hear about four hours hard work. Yeah, sure it's hard. Yeah, sure it takes special skill. But you got to have dinner with your wife yesterday while I had to say "sorry, bud, Daddy's working. Maybe in a couple days I can play with you."


And I don't even work in the game industry, and have it easy compared to most that do.


There was a comment up there saying, basically, that we programmers should be happy because we "got paid for every we worked". I've got news for that poster...most of us are salaried. Most of the programmers who made the guts of those hot games worked a lot of Saturdays and Sundays, and a lot of 60, 70 or 80 hour weeks, all on salary. We don't have a SAG to demand that 4 hours work means 4 hours pay. I essentially worked eleven hours yesterday with no compensation at all.


And it's true that most of us do it because we believe in what we're doing, but still, it's a bit galling to have someone who put in four hours labor (however hard) get such press when people are putting in two thousand hours labor for the same product and getting pushed to the back of the bus.


Unfortunately, there will never be a union for the game industry because there are just too many people who want to work in it. The entire industry is based on burning out young, naive kids and paying them crappy salaries. Most coders solve the problem by leaving for more boring industries where seventy hours a week happen once a year instead of once a week.


Wil, if you want more cash for your work, I'm all for it. Want triple the fee, you've got my support. But don't for a second pretend that four hours voice work is on the same level as the coder staring at the screen at 3 am on Saturday trying to stamp out that demon bug so that the game can go gold, having not had a day off in months.


To put it in perspective, the amount of effort the average coder puts in to the average videogame is probably on par with the amount of effort the principal actors in "Lord of the Rings" put into that movie, i.e. a year or more of solid dawn-to-dusk work. This voice actor flap feels like the guy who played "The Mouth of Sauron" complaining about the hard work he put in.

Posted by: sburnap [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 12:51 PM

This is interesting reading, and it is certainly good to hear the actor's "side" of this. But there's a bit that's galling, too.


I've got no problem with an actor getting paid for what he deserves, and I'm certainly not against the idea that this is probably more than what most get. But...I think some of the actors here don't quite understand the level of effort that the more technical people put in.


I probably wouldn't even post here but...well, I went to sleep at 3 am last night. That was a capper to a twenty hour day. I arrived here at 8 am and my goal is to get out of here before the BART trains stop running at midnight. So it's a bit hard for me to hear about four hours hard work. Yeah, sure it's hard. Yeah, sure it takes special skill. But you got to have dinner with your wife yesterday while I had to say "sorry, bud, Daddy's working. Maybe in a couple days I can play with you."


And I don't even work in the game industry, and have it easy compared to most that do.


There was a comment up there saying, basically, that we programmers should be happy because we "got paid for every we worked". I've got news for that poster...most of us are salaried. Most of the programmers who made the guts of those hot games worked a lot of Saturdays and Sundays, and a lot of 60, 70 or 80 hour weeks, all on salary. We don't have a SAG to demand that 4 hours work means 4 hours pay. I essentially worked eleven hours yesterday with no compensation at all.


And it's true that most of us do it because we believe in what we're doing, but still, it's a bit galling to have someone who put in four hours labor (however hard) get such press when people are putting in two thousand hours labor for the same product and getting pushed to the back of the bus.


Unfortunately, there will never be a union for the game industry because there are just too many people who want to work in it. The entire industry is based on burning out young, naive kids and paying them crappy salaries. Most coders solve the problem by leaving for more boring industries where seventy hours a week happen once a year instead of once a week.


Wil, if you want more cash for your work, I'm all for it. Want triple the fee, you've got my support. But don't for a second pretend that four hours voice work is on the same level as the coder staring at the screen at 3 am on Saturday trying to stamp out that demon bug so that the game can go gold, having not had a day off in months.


To put it in perspective, the amount of effort the average coder puts in to the average videogame is probably on par with the amount of effort the principal actors in "Lord of the Rings" put into that movie, i.e. a year or more of solid dawn-to-dusk work. This voice actor flap feels like the guy who played "The Mouth of Sauron" complaining about the hard work he put in.

Posted by: sburnap [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 12:52 PM

That's funny. I've always felt that the "business people" didn't respect the skills of programmers. They considered us to be "useless and replaceable" too. I think this is just a negotiation tactic used in the business community against everybody.

One truism I've learned in life: "If you accept pay below your worth, you will receive work below your ability."

Companies like hiring new college grads for the software industry because the grads don't really know their worth.

There is also a culture of arrogance in the software industry (mostly stemming from the preference for new grads I think). For every programmer who says something is difficult, there is someone else who says it is easy -- despite the fact that it is just as, if not more, difficult for them too. This plays right into the business strategy to pay as little as possible.

On the other hand, it may be that the business people just don't understand the value. I once worked at a place that needed a designer (for the web, but also for product and logo design). Instead of hiring a trained designer they hired some guy with no degree who had taught himself how to use Corel. The output was not all that great, but it was cheap.

Posted by: Alan [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 01:15 PM

Thanks Wil - someone has finally spoken in base enough english for the likes of even me to understand, concerning residual payments vs. profit-sharing and the sorry fact that people in the field can't seem to get the two straight.

As up-and-coming (AKA "Out There", if you listen to some people) producers of God knows how many examples of media entertainment, Hohmann-Becker Productions has already made profit-sharing commitments with several of our actors as well as crew: people who have already agreed to work for what may be nothing. Ever. For a small company like ours, profit-sharing makes perfect sense. Our people don't know yet if they're jumping on a gravy train or pissing down a well. They should at least be able to have the comfort of knowing that I won't be resting on their laurels when the party's over.

Given that the gaming corporations are making billions against the actors' small one-time paychecks, I hardly feel that voice-over actors are over the top with the wish for residual payments, which as you point out, has nothing to do with profit-shares.

Posted by: Les [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 01:24 PM

I think a lot of the bitterness we're seeing from developers comes purely from the fact that the SAG have much better PR. Bitterness is generally the result of a feeling of powerlessness.

When the ea_spouse thing shed light on just how badly developers are treated in the gaming industry, it got a lot of attention from blogs and the trade press. Then EA said "Shut up or we'll send all your jobs to India", and life went on as usual.

When the SAG complained, they had the PR clout to make it into the mainstream press, and they got at least some concessions out of it.

Posted by: Charles Miller [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 04:30 PM

As a 'happy' employee of that august group called Fox Sports, I can emphatize with the actors regarding the pay and wage scale for video games. As a senior freelance employee at fox sports, I went for seven years without a raise in my daily rate. Why? Because at the division I work at, it is one of the few places where management and employees actually like each other and the product we broadcast. It took the threat from my coworkers to go union that made the company to look at us, our product and our commitment to the on-air look at Fox Sports World. The average pay raise was 25% across the board immediately; with some freelancers with a dew years getting 5% and some, like myself receiving 50%. Those who are not in the business don't realize that many of us who work in TV, Film and radio do so because it is fun and creative.

Posted by: tdguru [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 06:55 PM

I just can't buy the argument that someone's wage should be higher because they work in a very competitive field and may only book a few jobs a year. That's the film industry. I spent a few years as a gaffer on independent films and shorts and was generally paid less than minimum wage for 12-16 hour days, 6 day weeks while the actors were treated better than everyone else. I have degrees, training, and a broad skillset, but it really doesn't matter if you're crew because so many people are willing to do work for free to work in film.

There is a union for electrics, but when I was in LA, it was very expensive and difficult to join unless you lucked out and worked on an indie film that went union during the shoot.

Even more frustrating were the union electrics who worked nonunion shows under the table while collecting unemployment.

I agree that the entertainment industry should better compensate all those who contribute to successful products, but it's frustrating that SAG can parlay the celebrity of a few of its members in a way unavailable to many technicians whether they're unionized or not.

Posted by: claire [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 07:37 PM

Wil and others,

As I started to read this i was on the side(as it were) of 4 hours of work that kind of pay,Nice.
You take a part time job and want full time pay thats not nice. Yes, It sucks not to get the
hours you want but hey.

.....but then

A friend came to my work and was telling me how he could use a job like mine. Straight hours with
days off. He to,like the voice actors, got big pay 3 or 4 times a year. He and I both use computer to work.
He use computers and sets up big networks. I on the other hand use the computer for design;
I'm a Graphic Designer. I took the time to go to school, and worked in my field for 9 years. He has balls to say,
because he uses lots of different software, could come in and pick up my job in 3 weeks or so. I was pissed that
he looked me in the eye and said that. So, I'm the actor as it were, and felt i had to tell him
the value of my job. 20 minuts later and some bitchn he changes his story to i will know how the
software works. Thats not the same as putting together a good design.

....now

I say we all get a 30% raise.....wil i'll kick you back 10%
Thats my 2 cents

Posted by: MetalHealth [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 07:39 PM

Whining does not become you Wil.

I don't know what's happened to you over the past few months, but you've turned into a bitch.

Three days ago you come whining because people are upset you renigged on a contract, then you whine that you don't have enough 'me' time, enough creative time, enough time to plant a garden. Plant a frickin garden? 90+% of the folks that are reading this blog, clicking on your ad links, buying your books, listening when you care to show up for conferences, wish they could get off work on time to be able to see their kids before they fall asleep. You work at home for Christssake. Get over yourself.

Now we have the residuals issue on here, and you're whining again. Oh thank freakin God for SAG, finally someone who is willing to look out for the downtrodden sweatshop working folks who live in half million dollar homes and worry about whether to go soy or no soy in their frappe. You want residuals for 4 hours work? Get over yourself.

How about some residuals for folks that build the bridges, or dig the ditches?

You've definitely lost your punk cred.

Posted by: Admin_Foo [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 07:49 PM

"Even if teachers and firefighters are not paid enough to reflect the actual value of their work, they are paid a living wage."

Seriously, what planet do you live on?? I teach in DC and barely make enough to buy groceries. The amount that Wil would make in 4 hours of work is more than I make in 14 hours of work. Give me a break. That's fine that actors are getting their "due" for 4 hours of work, but don't bitch about it or threaten to strike. The world will NOT end if actors are replaced by some no name kid doing voice overs - can the same be said with firefighters, cops, teachers, nurses, etc? Doubt it.

I would LOVE to work at home, go in for 4 hours, scream and yell, and make a decent amount of money. I would love to not have to put my baby in day care so I can go to work just to buy her diapers and formula. I would love to stay at home and raise my child, but I can't. AND I can't strike in order to get better wages or benefits - I have to suffer in silence.

Get real - if you think 4 hours of screaming and yelling is hard work, try teaching 150 high school students 7 hours a day, 180 days a year and then talk to me about a demanding job.

Posted by: Sam's mommy [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:30 PM

If I could just clarify something: I never compared actors with teachers and firemen. That's a worthless comparison, because the two jobs are nothing alike. And if you want to try to place value on what one person does vs. what another person does, you should just shut up unless you're curing cancer or saving babies or doing whatever it is someone else decides is more important than your job, you dig?

I wouldn't presume to tell anyone their job isn't hard if I hadn't done it myself, and it's pretty goddamn offensive when you tell me how easy my job is.

Posted by: Wil [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 09:57 PM

Staying out of the argument about whether or not voice over actors deserve mode money overall, residuals are a really really bad way of giving it to them. Because they destroy the game in the long term, by making it too expensive to keep it in print.

Ten years after release, the value of the game is pretty well zero. And it would be great for everyone if it could be made available in a way that reflected that -- maybe a Blu-Ray+ DVD containing every game ever made for the PS2 before 2005, that can be played on your PS5. Maybe just releasing it to the public domain. But residuals stop that from happening, as they push the cost up too high. Even if they're set up so that there are no residuals to be paid in these circumstances, you still need to pay lawyers to go through all of the terms & conditions of the residuals to make sure it's OK. Even if they're based on profits made, and the fact that the re-release makes next to nothing means that the residuals are next to nothing, you still have to pay accountants to calculate the next to nothing and send out cheques for a few cents. It's just cheaper and easier to keep the game out of print.

They could, possibly, work if there were completely standard terms and conditions for residuals setting a standard time limit of maybe two or three years, after which no more residuals were payable, but it would have to be absolutely standard and applied uniformly in all cases.

Posted by: M[email protected] [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 10, 2005 11:58 PM

I think the only thing you've cleared up for me was the actual semantics of what the bargaining was for. So thanks for that. You may have also convince me they deserve an extra bonus (not residual) if a game makes it big. But I still have a few comments regarding the rest of the post.

I'm not going to dispute that voice acting is hard work, as I'm sure it is. Is it hard compared to other jobs that pay less? I'm going to have to say no. Saying you deserver higher pay simply because it's hard work doesn't convince me. That's one thing that may irk people reading that you want to be paid essentially $173.75/hr for the first six hours, and $347.50/hr afterwards, when there are much harder jobs that pay minimum wage. Sure they may not entertain other people, but hard work is hard work.

Bringing up that you may only get three or four voice over jobs in a year doesn't justify a higher wage either. Unless you are in big demand, it seems like a nice supplemental income if you can get it. You're more than welcome to look for other things to do to make up the difference. Whether or not you deserve a higher pay for your work, bringing up that you only get a few of these jobs a year is pointless. Just because other people may have what you may consider a steady job, which may or may not be harder than voice acting, does not mean you deserve more money because you work less. Again, even bringing up this point may annoy some.

And although you didn't bring up the deal regarding auditions actually reducing the total amount you make per hour, I think I'll respond with a simple, "so?" Seriously, it's part of your business, live with it. I know people who commute each day for 4 hours. That's 20 more hours added to their 40+ hours of work a week. And being salaried, the more hours they put in drives their per hour earnings down. If you don't like auditioning, then find another line of work.

Some of the games I've enjoyed over the years have had either limited to no voice acting what so ever, or bad voice acting. So voice acting is not as essential as you may think. When there is good voice acting it's a bonus, but it doesn't necessarily equate to making a game what it is. Sorry to say it, but to me and a few others, the voice acting is dispensable. If it has the potential of driving up the price of some games, I can do without.

However, I'll play along and say I do need voice acting in my games. Then I would agree that there are voice talents out there that can command the big money. Sam Fisher just wouldn't be same without Michael Ironside. Having David Duchovny who was in a TV show that had alien conspiracies in your alien conspiracy game is a big selling point, so it would be important to the game. A big name actor reprising his role in a movie based game is key, and the actor could easily demand more money. When random voice actor X demands more money claiming that he deserves it, we just have to ask, prove it. And so far, they haven't. Using the few exceptions to the rule as the rule just doesn't work.

Developers aren't necessarily taking an "us vs them" attitude. It seems more like an "us before them" view, and it's justified given the amount of time they put in to release a product compared to a voice actor. You asking what developers not being paid properly has to do with actors makes it an "us vs them." Whether or not the media is reporting it wrong, when they hear that actors want risiduals, they naturally sit up and say, "Whoah, big fella. Get to the back of the line!" It's not meant to sound resentful.

Don't get me wrong, in the end I'd like to see a good portion of the profits go back to the people who made the game, be they designers, developers, or voice actors, as opposed to the CEO of the publisher. However, thinking that by having the actors achieve points, though you may not be asking for points, does not mean that somehow the developers will be able to achieve points as well. It's easier to say they should unionize than it is to achieve. Bringing it up with a matter of fact attitude shows how little you know of any industry dealing with development. You may say you are a geek because you have your little Linux box, but you are not a developer by profession, knowing what we go through.

While your arguments may sound good to you, other voice actors, and Wil Wheaton's die-hard fans, they don't hold up to developers in the industry or most gamers. In the end, I would not disagree that voice actors deserve something when a title makes it big. However, there's a long line, and voice actors are at the end. But don't expect much to be left once you get to the front of the line, if the line ever moves.

Posted by: Sergio [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 02:23 AM

Wil, for the sake of argument, let's accept your premise that everyone's job is equally valuable (except for folks curing cancer or saving babies). Thus, extra compensation for the work put into a video game should be directly in line with the amount of effort each person put into the game, right?

So let's say there were 10 developers on the team. Then you've got a modeller, and a sound person, and a few artists, and so on. Let's say there's 20 people altogether working directly on the game. (It's a small game.) Each of these people spends six months working solely on this game, with no overtime. At 40 hours per week, that comes to 1000 hours.

Now you have to add in Jill, who spent probably 450 hours negotiating with distributors and arranging broader distribution of the game. Yeah, I'd say she deserves a share in the success of the game. Not as much as the folks who spent six months, but she still deserves compensation.

There's also Billy from HR, who spent the past six months keeping payroll running smoothly, handling the benefits claims for the rest of the company, and doing all the other wonderful things that HR does. He didn't work on the game, but every hour he worked, he freed up an hour of someone else's time to work on the game. I'd consider that pretty important. (If you don't, you've never worked in a company where a bad HR person was replaced with a good one. Trust me, these folks make a HUGE difference.) So in the past six months, Bill's spent probably 700 hours of his time working with the folks working on the game.

Next we've got Ron in Marketing. He comes up with a brilliant marketing campaign that creates a huge buzz for such a small game. Because of that, the game sells far, far better than anyone expected. He's put in 400 hours over the six months.

Now we've got the CEO, Helen. She's been busy helping Jill when needed, helping Ron when needed, doing a lot of hand-shaking and smiling for cameras and arranging financing and all that other CEO stuff. She's spent, say, 410 hours over the last six months doing work that relates to the game.

Last, but certainly not least, we have ten actors who come in to do voice work for the game. Each spends four hours on the game. You're one of them, for this example.

The big day arrives, and the game is released. Incredibly, it does really, really well. Hurray! Everyone's excited, because the owner's announced that he's only taking 10% of the profit, and the rest will be split among the employees! (VERY generous owner here.) After a year, the numbers are tallied, and it works out that there's a total of $1,000,000 in pure profit. So the owner takes his $100,000 and the remaining $900,000 is evenly divided among everyone else who worked on the game, based on the number of hours that were worked.

When you add it all up, you've got 22000 hours of work that went into the game. (Never mind salespeople, the receptionist, the janitor, the tech support guys, the IT folks...) That means that for each hour of work that someone did, they get about $40.91. So the developers are each taking home an extra $40,910. Billy from HR takes home $28,636. The CEO, Helen, only takes $16,773. And you, Wil, with your 4 hours of work -- remember, everyone's job is equally valuable -- take home a grand total of $164.

$164 extra from a game that made $1,000,000 *profit*, with 90% of the profit being shared with the employees. And that's profit-sharing, not even residuals. If we go with residuals, you're getting a lot less than $164. And in the meantime, the company's left itself on extremely uncertain footing because they haven't used any of this game's profits to tide them over if the next game is a bust.

Go ahead, try to tell me that the SAG was trying to get its members $164. No, wait, I just read what you wrote... You're asking for an additional session fee after a game sells 50,000 units. Well, my hypothetical game certainly sold more than that to produce $1M profit, so you're not getting $164... You're getting another $700. So you're saying that your time is worth 4.27 times what a developer's time is worth? Gee, what happened to everyone's contribution being equal, Wil? Still sound as reasonable as you thought it was?

Yes, this was a very long comment, but I thought it was time someone ran through some numbers for you so you could see just what you're saying, and why it's so insulting to developers to hear SAG demanding what it's demanding.

As Sergio said, yes, actors deserve something when a title makes it big. But there's a great huge line, and you're firmly at the back of it. And from the perspective of developers, you're trying to elbow your way to the front and demand extra servings. That's why it's "us vs them", Wil.

Posted by: canuckotter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 05:21 AM

One of the problems with the professional game development field is that even the best talent is often considered replaceable. With students and interns pouring out of the new game development programs that are cropping up at schools all over, producers can fill any grunt slot they need at the lowest wages. Combine that with overseas outsourcing of development, the competition for jobs among already seasoned pros, and the resistance to the very idea of collective bargaining by the majority of anti-union Libertarians that make up a lot of the programming and tech field, and the idea of a Game Developers Guild seems as much a fantasy as the content of most of the games themselves.

Posted by: redcrow [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 08:18 AM

Two hypotheses:

In a perfect world every profession would have a union, and all these forces interacting would create a fair and balanced worker compensation economy.

When not every profession have a union an imbalance is created.

Did I get any of these two factoids right?

Posted by: Lemi4 [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 08:28 AM


Good lord.

This debate shouldn't be about whether or not ACTING is hard or doing VOICE-OVER is difficult versus being a teacher or a policeman. Sheesh, my Dad was a decorated NYPD cop: I know the plight. But there weren't a bunch of fatcats getting rich off the sweat of my pop's back. He loved his job and did his job well.

This debate has nothing to do with what job is more valuable to SOCIETY. It's about this: When a product is profitable, nee EXTREMELY profitable, then those who DIRECTLY contributed to that product's success should receive equitable compensation.

Should game developers get more money when a game is successful? We (ACTORS) say YES, you SHOULD. But we (ACTORS) are fighting for our money now, thank you.

You want more? Ask for it. Demand it. Fight for it. STRIKE for it.

If striking or even organizing is too risky... well, what do you want us (ACTORS) to do? You want us to wait?

Don't take management's side because you don't have a union. That's nearsighted, counterproductive and will only serve to exacerbate your frustration.

And, guess what? That's EXACTLY what "they" want.

From the desk of your favorite communist conspiracy theorist,

--AJ

Posted by: AJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 11:12 AM

*sigh* You're right AJ, the fact that you have to slave away auditioning for the role of Man #1 in a Maryland Lottery radio spot is because the the big shot production company is keeping you down, and NOT, I repeat, NOT because you have no discernable skills and couldn't get another job. You're lucky you have SAG out there to make sure that you get your fair and just compensation.

Since I don't have a union to support me, I just have to resort to finding a better paying line of work, or improve my skill set if I want better compensation.

Kudos.

Posted by: Admin_Foo [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 03:05 PM

Sorry, but part of the argument should deal with how hard voice over work is, since that could affect how much money they are entitled to. I agree that it should not be about how hard it is compared to other jobs not within the industry, or even how much a voice actor can get, but these are things Wil mentioned in his post. So it would be appropriate to say that these are not convincing points for the thread at hand. The difficulty of the voice over work should be compared with how hard and how much work it is compared to the designer, the developers, the artists, etc, as these are the people who you will essential "share" any potential profits with.

I think canuckotter analyzed it just fine. You may be fighting for your money now, but it is still more than you should be entitled to per hour. If development somehow does start receiving some of these profits down the road, the voice actors would have already taken more than their fair share.

Posted by: Sergio [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 04:55 PM

That should've been "how much work a voice actor can get."

Posted by: Sergio [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 04:59 PM

It seems to me, that in an industry where the home-console and portable mediums (about 2/3 of the business) were once dominated for a 15-year period by Japan, a business whose production doesn't require a lot of localised talent (maybe a few good translators at best, games set in a real life place may need people to collect some info about the area once in a while), it would be a BAD idea for developers to unionize. Not to mention that many intelligent, talented people in other countries would love these jobs and would work for a lot less to get them.

I'm no expert, and I don't have a better solution, but I really believe this just won't work. I also don't have anything against actors getting residuals because like Will I don't think it hurts anyone else's chances, but programmers and artists CAN and WILL be replaced by overseas offices if they unionize. You can't really use people from Japan, China, India, etc., for acting or voice acting much of the time, so SAG is in a unique position. But if you think factory workers, telemarketers, phone-operators, customer service people, and over-the-phone tech-support personel have it bad with globalization moving more and more of their jobs overseas, just wait till you see how easy it is for big software development companies to find cheap labor internationally.

Small companies (most of them) will just fold from their games being held up too long, while big guys can easily farm out.

Unionizing is never easy, but for software development (which unlike IT does not need to be local) workers cannot turn to it as a panacea to the problems of the business.

Posted by: H3Knuckles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 06:44 PM

Wil,

Telling people to shut up doesn't help your case.

I've worked with actors and the production side. I didn't say your job wasn't hard. But it takes everyone to create a show. EVERYONE working hard. And it just so happens that everyone doesn't get the level of compensation that others do. Not even close. Which I feel is unfair as they work just as hard. Without a Green Room, perks, attention, money and the blind adulation that comes with certain types of success.

Trying hard to agree with you, but it's just not happening.

If you didn't want people to disagree with you, you shouldn't have opened the discussion for comment.

Posted by: Ginger Snap Cookie [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 11, 2005 11:18 PM

Wil is entitled to his opinion about his own work as we all are about ours.


It's not really about who has it worse, it's about a persons right to ask for more regardless of the type of work they perform.


Each year many of us hope to get a raise, bonus, higher paying job and most of us are willing to fight to get that at some point. Each of us feels we need (or would like) to get paid more for what we do. I don't know of too many people out there who are making exactly what they want, even if they dearly LOVE what they do.


There comes a time in every working person's life when they feel more would be better (I'm not talking about that miniscule part of society that makes a ton of money, that's apparently NOBODY here) everyone here has to admit that whatever they're getting paid isn't always enough (again love your job or not) to feed themselves, their family, pay for housing, medical, insurance or, as with many, just spending money on a little weekend somewhere occasionally or a few purchases of wanted goodies (what is lovingly referred to as luxury items or totally unnecessary items, let's not kid ourselves nobody here lives like a Spartan, we all have our luxuries, whether it be a daily coffee or a weekly DVD or a magazine subscription, seeing a movie, going to a concert...you get the idea.)


If people really want to know what the average an actor makes in Los Angeles (or other parts of the country), or what a computer programmer makes, or a teacher...field hand...waiter or a zoologist makes then they should go to www.SalaryExpert.com and make a comparison. It might surprise many of you that the average secondary school teacher makes more than the average actor. In fact, the average webmaster, programmer, photographer, writer, social worker, sports instructor, secretary, retail/restaurant manager manager, registered nurse, cop, payroll manager, park ranger...the list goes on and on...ALL, repeat ALL, make more than the average ACTOR in Los Angeles or anywhere else.

Yes, there are many people who make less than the average actor but I'd be hard pressed to consider $30,000* as a "lifestyles of the rich and famous" load of cash. Please! *that's an AVERAGE, the range is 17,500 - 36,000 Wow! we're talking big bucks here people. :P


Each person, assuming they have a good work ethic, works very hard for what they do relative to their position. If one relies heavily on their voice for work (as most actors do), having a 4 - 10 hour session where lines/words/screams, etc., are repeated and repeated in the studio is murder on the vocal chords (even with voice/vocal training), and if those chords aren't up to snuff for the next gig or audition then guess what? No work. Hey, no sick pay, no vacation time/pay and in many cases no medical insurance. If a field hand hurts his back...same problem. Anyone working freelance/for themselves/part time (in many cases), ditto.


It's ridiculous to see how many people are in such a state of pettiness about the way other people work, making assumptions about what people are worth (or aren't worth as the case may be), or how lucky someone ELSE is because they were able to spend time with their family, get a new car, house, go on vacation/holiday, get a raise, get a day or two off...jeez, then conversely, and just as ridiculous, put themselves at the top of the "I'm working the hardest and have it the worst" list without so much as a blink of empathy or clear understanding of how others live or how hard others work.


Everyone's basic common ground comes to this (not specifically prioritized):


*Getting/working for/having money...or more money (for saving or spending)

*Family/personal obligations

*Friends/material items/free time/fun, etc.


They asked for a raise and got it. Simple. Why is it different for Wil (or any actor) than it is for you or me? I doubt if anyone here would turn down a raise. :p

Posted by: GirlNerfHerder [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 05:16 AM

I'm a little late to this post and new to the board but some things no one has brought up are big picture factors.
Sure it's fun to stick it to a faceless rich person and make them pay you more but do you think anyone above you in the company is going to take a pay cut? Of course not, it just gets passed down the line to the consumer. With the VO actors it may not be a big deal to add 2% back into the price of the final product but thatís the nature of raises in corporations. It's always easier to give the kid in the mail room $20 extra a month. Its big news for him, he is more likely to bend over backwards for a few months because of it. He may even look the other way if you fired coworker B and gave A half of B's salary to do both jobs. I mean it seems like a good deal for him. But when you're higher up, things get proportionally larger. If you make 40K a year, and someone offers you 75 bucks extra a month, you're about as impressed as if they buy you an office cake on your birthday. Raises are always going to be less likely or noticeable in the upper levels, something significant has to change for it to be even considered. On the other hand you are more likely to get title bumps and fringe benefits that make it easier to swallow the pill.
On the corporate ladder of the gaming world, VO actors are recent additions and are at the bottom-despite any implied or actual value in their other mediums, last hired, first fired is a common rule in any business-so they got a little raise to grease the squeaky wheel and keep things running quiet. Over the course of a development would you drop $200 out of you're own pocket if it meant a slightly better product and ensured you're company stayed in business? It would be insignificant to you just as a couple hundred more is nothing to the company. Whereas to give the developers a reasonable and I suspect long overdue raise, the passed on cost is much larger and therefore less likely. I mean you certainly have cause for complaint but $50 is about as high as I can imagine spending on a game, sparkly and perfect or not.

Also on the ladder you fall about the middle. You're great at what you do and you must love it but you only seem to move laterally in the company. No one tries to get above art director because it means they stop programming. But company profits get picked at by too many people above you before you're turn; you're practically salary-capped. The only way to make more money as a programmer is to pioneer a new age where programmers themselves are marketable and serve a double purpose to the company.

Also the parallels between corporate employees and civil servants just arenít working. If you want to see a real parallel think of Major League Baseball. The stadium owners suddenly learned about modern marketing and advertising and whatnot and while their product didn't change the money they made off of it exploded. Obviously the players freaked and wanted a cut for not only being players but for being products. The owners fought back and for the first time people had to decide if it was fair for someone to one day be making a few thousand a year and the next to be making a few million. Was it the owner's ability that generated the money or the player's? On their own a player is worth little, he canít sell himself in his own venue, but as a small cog in the owner's machine, he serves a role. So what's the value of a cog?
There is also an analogy to be had with artists. A model makes a few bucks to sit but the artist's portrayal of her is worth a fortune, is she now worth a proportion of that for being involved?
Getting back to the topic though, I think people are more upset about the act of the raise and the visibility itís generated for the new less abused kid in the industry more so than the actual dollar amount. The actors were given a small raise for a small service because it's probably cheaper than a lawsuit and any resulting terms set by the court. The developers see it as the youngest getting more attention than the oldest who have put their time in and want a proportional raise, but that just equals out to more than any company will give them. But the people who benefit or suffer from the deal really had no involvement in its outcome; it was decided by people above both of you for reasons probably not even privvy to the public. So while Developers may think Actors aren't worth it, try not to get mad at the actor who appreciates it. And Actors who appreciate it, practice your acceptance speech and recognize that the Developers who create the very forum for you to even work in could use a little help and you're stepping on some toes despite you're intentions.


I realize I kind of babbled but it's late here and I've been known on occasion to howl at the moon, to borrow a phrase. I hope this gives some perspective. Not being in the industry, all I could do is give an outsiderís view.

Posted by: VivoScripsi [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 07:01 AM

Wil is an enigma, choosing to complain about how much money actors make when he is also working as a *writer*.

I did two game reviews for The Onion myself. I did them on spec (meaning with no pre-arranged fee), because that's what I have to do to get noticed, having not been writing for very long, and also lacking the notoriety of almost being executed for breaking a law on Planet Sexypeople.

The good part is that the check came fairly quickly; good, because that's way less of a given than it ought to be. The bad part: $100. For somewhere in between 30 and 40 hours of mandatory fun and six or seven hours of actual work. I already knew beforehand that writing on spec would screw me, but even still...damn.

So anyway Wil, I know this thread was a reaction to a high-profile news item, but what gives?

Posted by: Hefter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 07:11 AM

Wil, you make a good distinction between profit sharing and residuals, but then that argument flies out the door in a classic bait-n-switch.

Asking for extra payments after certain sales milestones IS, without question, profit sharing, and has nothing to do with residuals. For example, this would be like asking for extra money on TV shows that achieve a certain level of viewership on the first showing.

To make a true apples-to-apples comparison in the games industry, residuals would be similar to re-releasing versions of the game on new platforms.

However, games tend not to have long lifespans, so it's not much of an issue.

Frankly, I think name actors bring no significant value to the game industry. Just as I think all of the Pixar movies would have sold just as well had they all used no-name (though good) actors. MY company will never use a name actor in our games (too costly versus the benefit), unless that actor happens to being the only appropriate choice for matching the vocal quality we're looking for.

BTW, most game developers who work on games, often for 2-4 years, see no residuals or profit sharing. It's just absolutely whacked out to expect an actor to spend 5 - 20 hours in a studio to get something that most developers do not get.

Scott Miller, CEO
www.3DRealms.com
(Duke Nukem, Max Payne, Prey)

Posted by: Scott Miller [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 12:51 PM

For a clearer perspective on Scott's thoughts regarding voice acting, check out this scene from Max Payne, with its original audio unchanged:

http://payneno.ytmnd.com/

Posted by: Hefter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 02:35 PM

I'm surprised that video games are SAG/AFTRA jurisdiction and I can't decide if I think that they should be or not.

My current context/frame of reference for unions vs. media and entertainment industries is the battle between Canadian Actors' Equity and the Toronto Musician's Association vs. The Blue Man Group. It's framing how I look at union relationships with new forms of entertainment.
(see http://www.bluemanboycott.com)

Technically AFTRA, ACTRA (Canada), Equity (U.S.) and Equity (Canada) are professional associations rather than unions, which makes things more confusing.

Posted by: AT [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 07:48 PM

I've worked in both industries, and I seriously want to see the books opened. We hear about Halo 2 rivaling Spider-Man 2 in revenue, but we also hear about how they barely managed to break even after all expenses were recouped. It sounds notoriously like any given producer of a big-budget film promising points to all the actors, and then he shuffles numbers around until it looks like it went into the red. So sorry, no profits to share.

Designers AND actors of video games need to see more of the money they earned. Game artists rank among the lowest paid CG artists, in one of the biggest businesses in the world. The gaming industry falls under the same entertainment laws as film, radio, dance, and theatre. But film, radio, dance, and theatre have unions to protect the interests of the artists and craftspeople involved. Game development does not, and it sorely needs it.

But wait, surely you might do a voice-over in a game because you love games, right? This is a labor of love! Well, community theatre is a labor of love for the security guard looking to do something in his evening hours, or the accountant who has poems to share at open-mic night at her local cafe. Video games is business. BIG business. Just like film, music, and anything else in the entertainment industry.

Someone's skimming a little too much off the top, and those dollars need to go to the people who earned them.

Posted by: ScottMan [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 12, 2005 11:12 PM

I am a producer who works for one of the major publishers in the game industry, and I've worked on dozens of projects that have had professional SAG actors, professional non-union, and amateur voice over work. I have two things to contribute to this discussion:



Professionals



I can say, without hesitation, that professional actors are ESSENTIAL to a title. Now, notice I said PROFESSIONAL actors, not "big name" actors. There are legions of "no name" working actors in Hollywood and elsewhere, many of them are hard-working, kind, gracious, professional, amazing people who are terrific to work with.



There are some insanely talented voice over actors that rarely, if ever, get any screen time on TV or film, but have IMDB resumes that are pages long of game work, cartoon work, commercial and promo work. Some of the greatest performances in the history of video games are from people you've never even heard of, and WILL never hear of (unless you're like me and have to track the VO talent pool for casting in your next title). It's very similar to the cartoon industry. Just as much as 99% of viewers don't know who does the voices for the Animaniacs, 99% of players don't know who played your squadmates in Brothers In Arms.



There is NO marquee value in the game industry for big name actors. Although some "names" can do very good voice work (and Wil, if you're reading, I think your VO work is very good) many of them just "phone it in." Some of them are a huge pain-in-the-ass to work with, too, because they're so used to the Hollywood system where they get their ass kissed so completely and thoroughly, they don't have any sense of reality. Some have outrageously insane demands. One extremely huge actor (not on my project, thank God) asked for a million dollar acting fee for a game that had a total budget of 10 million dollars. I had another actor demanding we record them in the most expensive studio in town simply because it's closest to their house, rather than come into our own state-of-the-art, in-house recording facilities. Other actors refuse to do "pick up" sessions (where we bring an actor in to rerecord lines that didn't quite work, or record additional lines). Of course we pay actors for pick up sessions. But some big name actors REFUSE to do them. And, so, unless I am mandated by my senior executives (or, more often, by the demands of a movie-based license) to use some big name actor, I absolutely won't. I'll hire profoundly talented day players who will work for scale or double scale (or some who will give me TEN VOICES for triple scale) and I'll love every minute of working with them.



Most of us game industry people have absolutely no tolerance for charlatans and prima donnas in ANY department. All you have to do to confirm this is to look to all of the poor souls who have tried (and FAILED MISERABLY) to turn themselves into "stars" of the game industry...people like John Romero. They copped a holier-than-thou attitude, the media picked up on it like the salivating whores that they are, and, for the most part, the core audience of gamers turned their backs to them. Perhaps it is because most first-generation hard core gamers are GenXers (as well as subsequent generations), and we have that basic underlying cynicism flavoring everything we see and do, gamers just don't have a lot of tolerance for people who think they're all that and a bag of chips. Games like Daikatana didn't SURPRISE us with how bad they are, they just CONFIRMED what we already knew would happen. Shiny's Matrix game was the same way.



We respect people who work their asses off to make great games and don't hog the spotlight with their ego. And that bleeds over into the work ethic of those of us who make games. As a producer, I am no more tolerant of some Hollywood big shot who thinks they're golden and I'm worthless than I am of some modeler or animator who thinks he's better than the rest of his team and should get special treatment. I'd MUCH rather work with professional, "no name" actors who nobody's ever heard of, because, for the few precious hours I get to spend with them, they open up their soul for me right there in the recording booth and help me inject a little humanity and emotion into the game. And most are glad to do 30 takes until I, the producer, am happy with it. Even if it involves screaming. Wil's right when he said it can be demanding work.



Residuals



Most of the people around my office, when the subject of the SAG/AFTRA strike threat comes up, have a very simple, two-word answer to the issue. "Fuck them." This is profoundly sad to me, because I hear a lot of the same complaints - "they want a cut of the profits when I don't ever see a dime?"



It's sad because this is an erroneous reduction of the issue. And it's sad because we, as an industry, are missing a chance to grow. Gaming professionals can LEARN from actors on this one. The film industry is more than a century old. The game industry, by contrast, is only about 35 years old. We're a YOUNG industry. We don't have unions. We don't have standards. A lot of what we do is seat-of-our-pants craziness. We're working the fucked up hours because we can't collectively say "no." There was a time when the film industry had no unions that helped workers say "enough is enough, we are killing ourselves here." There are still non-union gigs all over the place. Game industry professionals need to ORGANIZE. You sick of working insane hours and never seeing a dime of profits? You have YOURSELF to blame. Talk to the cube rats you slave away with. Get on the net. Organize. Talk to your buddy who works at other companies. SAG and AFTRA can come in and make demands because they have clout. Hard-fought, hard-won clout that took them DECADES to establish. Where are the artists unions? Programmer unions? Designer unions?



Although I disagree with a few of the specifics of the SAG/AFTRA compromise (specifically 50,000 units...games are hardly ever profitable at that threshhold) I think, on the whole, it is a good thing. We need quality acting talent in our games in order to maintain good production values, and using non-professional talent doesn't always work out.



Wil, I salute you for shedding some light on the issue with an explanation of residuals vs. profit-sharing and for placing the struggle in a historical context. The media is making this out to be much simpler than it is, on both sides. You get upset because the media tends to portray actors in a bad light, well, game developers and publishers get pissed off, too, because the media has absolutely no idea what to do with us. They want to continue to report on us as if we're some bastard stepchild of Hollywood that follows the same rules (albeit in a more lawless way) and its just not true. The game industry is not Hollywood. The media has a lot to learn about us.

Posted by: Playful Passion [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 13, 2005 11:27 AM

I'm late to the party here, but I can't let this pass without comment. I'm well aware of the prevailing wage rates for most of the contributers to to a game project, and based upon the figures that Wil quoted above, voice actors are ALREADY THE HIGHEST PAID contributers on an hourly basis even before this raise. I find it very troubling--and even insulting to the real backbone of the game industry, the artists and developers--that the highest paid and least vital contributers to these projects would threaten to strike in order to get paid even more. Quality actors are vital in movies and television, but they are largely unnecessary--even distracting--for most games. These SAG people need to get over themselves.

Posted by: Scott Trotter [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2005 07:05 PM
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