Last September, SAG-AFTRA union members voted yes to authorize a video game strike. Reasons why included a desire for better wages, increased safety precautions, and protections around exploitative uses of artificial intelligence. Now, just a few months later, SAG-AFTRA has signed an agreement with Replica Studios, an A.I. voice technology company, to allow game developers to use A.I. voices, as reported by Game Developer.
Various video game voice actors, like Yong Yea, the new English voice of Kazuma Kiryu in the Like a Dragon series, have publicly stated that they and other actors they know were not aware of this. “Every voice actor I know not only didn’t approve this,” Yea writes in a tweet. “[They] pretty much heard about this for the first time today on Twitter.”
Every voice actor I know not only didn’t approve this, they pretty much heard about this for the first time today on Twitter.
— Yong Yea (@YongYea) January 9, 2024
SAG-AFTRA says this new agreement “paves the way for professional voice over artists to safely explore new employment opportunities for their digital voice replicas with industry-leading protections tailored to A.I. technology, allowing AAA video game studios and other companies working with Replica to access top SAG-AFTRA talent.” According to the union, this agreement will enable Replica and union members to engage “under a fair, ethical agreement to safely create and license a digital replica of their voice.” From there, those licensed voices can be used in game development and other interactive media projects from pre-production to final release.
Curiously, the union says this contract was approved by affected members of its voiceover performer community. But Yea is not alone in voicing his concern over this agreement publicly on Twitter and elsewhere. Steve Blum, whose video game credits include games like Deadpool, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series, and more, tweeted the following in response to SAG-AFTRA’s announcement:
Excuse me? With all due respect…you state in the article “Approved by affected members of the union’s voiceover performer community.” Nobody in our community approved this that I know of. Games are the bulk of my livelihood and have been for years. Who are you referring to?
— Steve Blum (@blumspew) January 9, 2024
“[This contract] marks an important step towards the ethical use of A.I. voices in creative projects by game developers, and sets the basis for fair and equitable employment of voice actors as they explore the new revenue opportunities provided by A.I.,” SAG-AFTRA writes. “In addition to establishing minimum terms and conditions, the agreement ensures performer consent and negotiation for uses of their digital voice double and requires that performers have the opportunity to opt out of its continued use in new works.”
For more, read Game Informer’s coverage of SAG-AFTRA’s 2023 strikes.
[Source: Game Developer]
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