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Videogame voice actors say “no one” asked them about this new AI deal

Voice actors from Starfield, Red Dead Redemption 2, Fortnite, and more have come out in protest of SAG-AFTRA's new AI voice acting deal.

SAG-AFTRA AI voice actor reaction: Sam Coe from Starfield

10/01/2024 @ 10:00pm GMT An official response to PCGamesN from Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA, has been noted at the end of the article.

Videogame voice actors are coming out in protest of SAG-AFTRA’s new AI voice agreement that the union claims is “fair” and “ethical,” months after the colossal 2023 actors strike ended that saw issues over AI as one of the primary concerns from across all forms of entertainment. Many high-profile videogame actors from games like Starfield and Red Dead Redemption 2 are saying they, nor anyone they know, was broached about the agreement despite SAG-AFTRA claims that it was “approved by affected members of the union’s voiceover performer community.”

The deal with AI voice technology company Replica Studios was detailed by SAG-AFTRA on Tuesday, January 9, with voice actors in some of the best PC games able to ensure “performer consent and negotiation for uses of their digital voice double” while providing an opportunity for actors to “opt out” of the AI’s use in new works. Multiple voice actors from games like Starfield, have spoken out against the deal.

SAG-AFTRA adds that the deal was “Approved by affected members of the union’s voiceover performer community,” and that it provides “ethical use of AI 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 AI.”

Since the announcement from SAG-AFTRA, many members of the videogame and animation voice-acting communities have come out in protest, claiming that no voice actors were seemingly asked about the deal.

SAG-AFTRA AI voice actor reaction: some tweets on a background

Elias Toufexis, who plays Sam Coe in Starfield and Adam Jensen in the Deus Ex games, states “I would humbly consider myself one of the top voice actors working in games. No one asked me about this. No one reached out for my opinion. From what I’m seeing, no one asked any of my peers either.”

“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?” adds Steve Blum, who has been the go-to voice of Wolverine in videogames and animation for years alongside Diablo 4’s Mephisto.

Blum also holds the Guinness World Record for ‘Most prolific videogame voice actor’ at 366 roles as of 2017, and he’s against something SAG-AFTRA says “affected members” approve of.

When the strikes ended last year it was said that AI protections and compromises had been met, with negotiations also still ongoing. Allegra Clark, the voice of Mitsuru Kirijo in the upcoming PC game Persona 3 Reload, as well as Bloodhound in Apex Legends, put out an entire thread on the recent Replica Studios deal.

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“Here’s the thing—I know they want to use the f**k out of our voices for AI games. Not every dev, but enough. If squashing it like a bug isn’t feasible, then we can talk about consent and compensation so at least we’re not blindsided by it. Fine. But this is not the way,” Clark writes.

“SAG leadership approved this *during interactive negotiations*. That’s unbelievably shady.”

Damien Haas, who plays Heller in Starfield and The Ageless in Fortnite, says “At this point, I can’t tell what drives your actions more: direct malice, shortsighted greed, or sheer incompetence. Regardless, you’ve failed us yet again SAG-AFTRA.”

SAG-AFTRA AI voice actor reaction: some tweets on a background

While SAG-AFTRA’s post doesn’t mention how much actors will be paid if they allow AI to replicate their voice, especially in comparison to normal recording sessions, Roger Clark, who plays Arthur Morgan in Red Dead Redemption 2, doesn’t like the sound of the deal.

“If I can pay for permission to have an AI rendering of an ‘A-list’ voice actor’s performance for a fraction of their rate I have next to no incentive to employ 90% of the lesser known ‘working’ actors that make up the majority of the industry.”

Clark is essentially saying that smaller voice actors will lose out on work if bigger actors who sign up for this AI scheme sell off their voices for a fraction of their regular asking price for a performance.

After reaching out for comment on the deal and the overwhelmingly negative reaction from voice acting professionals, PCGamesN has received an official response from Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, national executive director and chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA.

“Our AI deal with Replica Studios is an important step in ensuring the ethical application of these technologies in a way that ensures the use of members’ voices occurs only with informed consent and fair compensation,” says Crabtree-Ireland.

“This is a deal that covers one company, with regard to the development of video games. This deal does not impact our IMA negotiations. Rather, it sets a model for our industry, building on the terms approved by 80% of our members just a month ago, and we hope to see more companies adopting agreements like this one.”

While we wait to learn more, we’ve got all the best free PC games you’ll want to check out, alongside some great new PC games too.

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