Last year, the actors union SAG-AFTRA led a strike against Hollywood to protect actors in the entertainment industry from the use of AI to replace or replicate hard-working talents. This week, the union announced that it has suddenly struck a deal with an AI firm called Replica Studios that will now enable them to replicate and license the voices of video game actors (with their consent). However, video game voice actors have now spoken up, calling out SAG-AFTRA for not actually consulting leading actors in the industry first.
SAG-AFTRA claims that this AI deal was approved “by 80% of our members” as well as “affected members of the union’s voiceover performer community.” However, several popular video game voice actors have come forward claiming that they weren’t made aware of the deal with Replica at all.
Veronica Taylor, best known as the English voice of Ash Ketchum from Pokemon as well as many video game characters, stated, “How has this agreement passed without notice or vote? ‘voice to be used as a training data set’? Why can’t the actual actor be used for the videogame??? Every job brings a unique opportunity for an actor to …act. Encouraging/allowing AI replacement is a slippery slope downward.”
Steve Blum, known for voicing several video game and anime characters including Wolverine and Cowboy Bebop‘s Spike Spiegel, stated:
“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?”
Apex Legends voice actor Erika Ishii added, “Approved by… WHO exactly?? Was any one of the ‘affected members’ who signed off on this a working voice actor?”
SAG-AFTRA released a statement to IGN detailing exactly what this deal means for voice actors. While it stipulates that actors will still need to give their consent before allowing their voices to be licensed out, most gaming voice artists are already perfectly comfortable with actually putting in the work instead of using AI to do the work for them. However, the grander issue is that the actors union claims that this deal was approved by certain members of the video game voice acting community who have yet to be named or come forward. No voting process was issued on the deal.