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SAG-AFTRA: AI "equal or even greater threat" to video game performers

"These vital protections are not only righteous and fair...but necessary to counter the existential threat to member work posed by the unregulated use of AI."

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

September 6, 2023

2 Min Read
Logo for actors union SAG-AFTRA.

In a letter issued to SAG-AFTRA members, president Fran Drescher and executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland called artificial intelligence "an equal or even greater threat to performers in the video game industry than it does in film and television."

AI is a key issue in the actors guild incoming negotiations with game developers such as EA, Take-Two, and Insomniac Games. Throughout 2023, voice actors have made clear the potential damage such technology could do to their careers and reputation, especially as companies are trying to get actors to sign away their voice rights. 

One of SAG-AFTRA's demands is for actors to have the ability to give informed consent and appropriate payment for their performances to be used to train AI systems. Similar protections, which fall under the Interactive Media Agreement (IMA), are desired for performance capture, such as face and motion. 

"Without those protections," it continues, "your face, your expressions and your signature moves can become the basis for an unlimited number of characters across an unlimited number of games without your involvement or even knowledge. [...] Your own voice recordings will be used to train the AI systems that replace you."

If bargaining doesn't get anywhere, and if the National Board doesn't feel like game developers are talking in good faith, voice actors may be permitted to strike. From now through September 25, SAG-AFTRA members are voting on whether or not to authorize said strike.

Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland used the letter to establish solidarity between game and film/TV actors, which already have sizable overlap. Dual strikes "make sense," they said, because the two groups share "largely the same fight over the same issues, and members are stronger together."

Previously, Drescher called the overlap between games and film/TV "no coincidence, but rather a predictable issue impacting our industry as well as others all over the world." SAG-AFTRA's overall aim is to create a new Interactive Media Agreement that includes safety protections missing from the current IMA and bring games up to par with its sibling medium. 

"Without fair terms that protect our members and respect their contributions, employers should not have the benefit of our members’ services. We urge you to vote YES to authorize a strike should it prove necessary."

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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