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Arts and Entertainment

SAG-AFTRA Goes On Strike Against Video Game Companies

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After 19 months of stalled negotiations, the entertainment industry's largest union announced a strike against 11 video game companies. SAG-AFTRA actor's union members are seeking greater compensation for voice-over and stunt performers working in the gaming industry, as well as increased safety measures. According to Deadline, this is the first-ever strike against the video game industry. The work stoppage went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The union is fighting for its video game performers to start receiving residual payments based on a game's success—a compensation structure that's the norm for film, TV and commercials. City News Service reports that the targeted game companies—which include Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Disney and Warner Brothers—refused the terms and instead proposed a 9 percent wage increase and additional compensation on individual videos.

"This group of video game employers knowingly feeds off other industries that pay these same performers fairly to make a living. This represents a 'freeloader model of compensation' that we believe cannot and should not continue," SAG-AFTRA representatives said in a statement.

Fighting for the same benefits and protections afforded to other members of the industry is at the crux of the union's demands. Beyond the altered pay structure, SAG-AFTRA also wants to ensure that the safety measures that are standard practice for non-game shoots will also be put in place for stunt performers doing motion-capture work on games.

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"It is about fairness and the ability of middle-class performers to survive in this industry. These companies are immensely profitable, and successful games—which are the only games this dispute is about—drive that profit," the union said in their statement.

Scott J. Witlin, the chief negotiator for the video game companies, told the L.A. Times that “We had hoped this would be successful, but union leadership left mediation without providing a counteroffer. We urged union leaders to put the package to a vote of their membership, but union leaders refused."

According to the Times, the video game companies in question "have argued that their industry is fundamentally different from Hollywood," making a residual-like payment structure infeasible for them.

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