Gaming

New SAG-AFTRA Agreement Could Majorly Impact Video Game Voice Actors

Highlights

  • SAG-AFTRA’s agreement with Replica Studios sparks controversy as it threatens to replace video game voice actors with AI Hollywood voices. Fans are unhappy about the potential replacement of human voice work.
  • The use of AI replications of real voices raises concerns about the quality of NPC voices and narration.
  • Audiences criticize the opt-out policy in the SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios agreement, as it could result in voice actors unknowingly having their voices replicated without consent. The use of AI in video games may lead to budget reductions and further layoffs in the industry.


A brand-new agreement between SAG-AFTRA and the artificial intelligence voice technology company Replica Studios has sparked controversy, as it threatens to replace video game voice actors with AI Hollywood voices. The recently released title The Finals received backlash for utilizing AI voices, and this new agreement with SAG-AFTRA has many voice actors and gaming fans unhappy that human voice work may be replaced by AI.

Having just released in December 2023, The Finals has been the topic of continued debate among gaming audiences, regarding the use of AI in video games. While the gameplay and graphics have been well received, many still remain uncertain about the studio’s use of AI replications of real voices rather than just using human actors. Now that SAG-AFTRA has officially given the go-ahead to a major AI voice tech company to start using Hollywood voices in video games, fans are questioning if the guild’s decision was the right move.

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Announced today at CES 2024, this groundbreaking agreement between SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios would allow for AI replications of Hollywood actors’ voices to be used in video games. The deal comes freshly off the heels of a months-long actors strike, with many disappointed that this new AI voiceover agreement contradicts one of the key pillars of last year’s stalemate between SAG and the AMPTP. While this new agreement is strictly between SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios, many are fearful of the long-term implications of this landmark decision. Video game voice actors have previously feared AI taking roles away from human workers, and the Replica Studios deal holds the potential for AAA studios to cut costs by utilizing AI voiceover instead of hiring voice actors.


Audiences Voice Displeasure With the Use of AI for Voiceover

Fans of both film and gaming have already begun voicing their displeasure with the SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios agreement. The deal notes an opt-out policy, which audiences are critical of, as it could potentially lead to some voice actors unknowingly failing to opt out and have their voices replicated without actual informed consent. Many also believe that AI lacks the sincerity and authenticity of real human voice actors and are subsequently worried that the quality of NPC voices and narration will decline. Culture Crave shared a clip of an AI voice available from the official Replica Studios database, and fans were immediately critical of the quality. With many gaming studios facing layoffs and resorting to shutdowns to cut costs, the SAG-AFTRA and Replica Studios deal may open the door for further budget reductions with AI being used in favor of paid voice actors.

As the video game industry continues to see major changes, fans are less than happy with this new deal between SAG and Replica. Many are still reeling from the massive labor impacts on developers in 2023, and 2024 has already seen more gaming layoffs at Unity and other companies. Whether this SAG-AFTRA agreement will have a positive or negative impact on the video game industry remains unknown, but voice actors and fans are continuing to share their polarizing thoughts.

Antonio Josse

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