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A potential strike could silence voice actors

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Video game voicing has come a long way since the days when you couldn’t tell a person from a computer.   

Today, said Timothy Seppala, who covers the video game business for Engadget, “voice actors are an incredibly big portion of the game.”

Seppala points to games like “The Last of Us,” which are cinematic and have well-developed characters.

The vocal performances are incredible,” he said. “I almost cried when I was playing the game.”  

As roles have become more demanding — and the video game industry has ballooned into a $90 billion business — voice-over actors have become more demanding as well.

And their demands will be on the table when, and if, SAG-AFTRA — the union that represents video voice actors — resumes bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents big video game makers.

Earlier attempts this year to hammer out a deal went nowhere. The union’s members have already authorized a strike, if it comes to that.

Among artists’ demands are residuals — or bonuses — for blockbuster games that sell more than 2 million units. The bonuses would increase at 4 million, 6 million and 8 million, according to reports.   

Right now artists are paid a flat fee for their video work, regardless of the success of the game. 

“I’m not some fat-cat rich actor,” said D.C. Douglas, who is the voice of Albert Wesker in “Resident Evil” and Legion in “Mass Effect.”  “I‘m struggling to get that next gig. So that’s why residuals are important to us.”

Douglas said voice actors also want limits on the number of consecutive hours they are expected to scream, for instance, or make death cries.

“It’s exciting to do and what not, but it also trashes your voice, and trashes your voice for other work,” he said. 

Neither the big video game companies, like Electronic Arts and Activision, nor the union will comment on coming negotiations.

Dave McNary, who has been covering the story for Variety, said the industry is in a tricky position. 

“It’s a little bit of a dangerous area,” he said, “because these games, some of them are very popular.”

So popular that they have spawned multiple sequels. 

McNary said game makers don’t want to alienate their fans by giving new voices to characters they have come to know and care about. 

Correction: The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was misspelled in an earlier version of this story. Text has been corrected.

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