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Actors union SAG-AFTRA could launch video game strikes over wages and AI

SAG-AFTRA, the union for US actors, is moving towards a potential strike against video game publishers, it’s announced.

The union, which is behind the Hollywood actors strike which has taken place since July, said on Friday it had authorised a members vote after it reached a stalemate in negotiations with game companies such as Activision and Take-Two over wages and AI protection.

SAG-AFTRA is seeking an 11% increase in wages for game performers, which is the same it’s seeking for those who work under film and television contracts. It also wants protections from AI, which it says poses a threat to performers’ artistry and livelihoods.

The companies in negotiations include Activision, Disney, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Insomniac Games, Take 2 Productions and WB Games.

SAG-AFTRA has a separate contract with video game publishers that was recently extended to November 2024 to allow talks to continue.

“Once again we are facing employer greed and disrespect. Once again artificial intelligence is putting our members in jeopardy of reducing their opportunity to work. And once again, SAG-AFTRA is standing up to tyranny on behalf of its members,” said SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher.

SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland added: “The voice and performance capture artists who bring video game characters to life deserve a contract that reflects the value they bring to the multibillion-dollar gaming industry.

“Voice and performance capture AI are already among the most advanced uses of AI: the threat is here and it is real. Without contractual protections, the employers are asking performers to unknowingly participate in the extinction of their artistry and livelihoods.”

Voting on the strike will be held between September 5 and 25.

In a statement to the BBC, Audrey Cooling, a spokesperson for the video game companies involved in the negotiations, said that all sides were seeking a “fair contract” that reflects performers’ work. “We are negotiating in good faith and hope to reach a mutually beneficial deal as soon as possible,” she said.