Actors union asking California safety regulators to investigate mistreatment of voice actors

Cites medical evidence as fact of mistreatment

The Screen Actors Guild is asking California safety regulators to investigate the video game industry after concerns were raised by voice actors that their alleged mistreatment led to damage on their vocal cords.

In a letter from SAG’s national executive director David White to the California division of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, White claims that as video game narrative continues to expand, voice actors are being asked to create sounds that “go way beyond a safe pitch zone.” White adds that actors are reportedly being asked to work for up to four hours at a time creating, “noises, death screams, creature voices, combat yelling and other sounds, with so much force and explosive vibration, that they are causing internal damage to their vocal cords.”

White also cites research from doctors that show the effects these sessions have on actors, including the development of polyps, cysts and in extreme cases, vocal hemorrhaging. These effects can be reduced or avoided, White claims, but the most important issue is that developers are not informing actors of the possible risks they face going into a session. Due to actors being freelance workers, most won’t bring up their concerns with developers, according to White, leading to an unsafe work environment.

This isn’t the first battle that voice actors and SAG have had with different companies within the industry, and negotiations for better workplace safety have been ongoing since 2014. Last October, members of SAG within the Interactive branch of the union voted overwhelmingly in favor to go on strike after their concerns weren’t met by developers. Those who voted in favor of the strike included some of the biggest names in the industry, including Jennifer Hale (Mass Effect) and David Hayter (Metal Gear Solid).

Companies within the industry, like Activision and Electronic Arts, have been quiet on the issue. Polygon has reached out to attorney Scott Witlin, one of the lead negotiators for various companies within the industry, for comment.

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