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Voice Actors For Games Feel Blindsided by SAG-AFTRA Deal; Claims They Striked To Keep Profession Alive, Not To Be Replaced By ‘AI Replica’

A deal that was struck between the AI firm Replica Studios and a Sag-Aftra union, allowing the studio to use AI-generated voices in games, has left a lot of voice actors feeling blindsided. According to the deal, it will guarantee informed consent and full compensation to the voice actors. But many voice actors said that they were not even informed about this deal and called it “garbage”.

What exactly is the deal and what does it say? 

In the email that was sent to Sag-Aftra union members about the deal, it’s been stated that this deal was done with the knowledge and consent of a committee whose members were “actors with significant and diverse experience performing in games.” It went on to say, “The contract was specifically tailored to the needs of voice actors, ensuring informed consent and proper compensation terms that are unique to this set of performers.”

The Sag-Aftra committee said that the deal laid out all the terms and conditions for using AI-generated voices in video games, which Replica Studios will be allowed to license. The deal also requires the studio to get consent from voice actors before using their likeness through AI and underlines the fact that the voice actors have the right to deny their voices from being used. 

The union’s chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said that with the development of AI in recent times, it was important to protect the rights of voice artists as game studios are also looking for more efficient ways to create games. He also went on to mention how the contract was “specifically tailored to the needs of voice actors” as it ensures informed consent and proper compensation. 

The president of Sag-Aftra Fran Drescher said that this was an example of “AI being done right” while Shreya Nivas, the CEO of Replica Studios said that this was an “ethical approach” to AI. However, it seems that the voice-acting community does not agree with this sentiment.

What did voice actors say about this deal? 

After Sag-Aftra’s months-long strike against the usage of AI in films and TV shows, the move has come as a surprise indeed. Most of the voice actors have said that the deal goes directly against the purpose of the strike. Mortal Kombat and Fallout voice actor Sunil Malhotra said that he sacrificed most of 2023 to keep his profession and not “shop around my AI replica.”

Even though the announcement by Sag-Aftra said that the deal was indeed “approved by affected members of the union’s voiceover performer community”, prolific voice actor Steve Blum claimed in a comment he made on the X post, made by Sag-Aftra about the matter, that nobody he spoke to knew about the deal or what it entailed. Other voice actors who have voiced video games such as Shelby Young and Andrew Russell have also spoken up against it with Russell calling the deal “garbage” and Young saying she was disappointed by the union. 

Some of the voice actors who are not part of the gaming community have also spoken up against the deal. Veronica Taylors, the voice of Ash in Pokemon, said that she was surprised at how the contract was done without a vote. While the voice actor of Tai in Digimon, Joshua Seth called it a “big mistake”. Another union member Paige Raisenfield, who is an audiobook narrator, said that she was ashamed that her payments to the union went towards this deal. 

Several gamers and fans of the voice actors also reposted the X post saying that they do not want to listen to soulless replicas of their favorite voice actors and instead would like their voices in the games. A lot of them also were bewildered about the announcement and asked what was the point of the strike last year then.

 

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Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama, a lifelong enthusiast of Artificial Intelligence, has been exploring technology and the digital realm since childhood. Known for his creative thinking, he's dedicated to improving AI experiences for all, making him a respected figure in the field. His passion, curiosity, and creativity drive advancements in the AI world.
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