Are Video Game Actors Undercompensated?
In this NYT piece, the lead voice acting and motion capture star behind GTA 4 is a little upset that he doesn’t receive royalties or residuals like movie stars do.
â€œObviously Iâ€™m incredibly thankful to Rockstar for the opportunity to be in this game when I was just a nobody, an unknown quantity,â€ Mr. Hollick, 35, said last week over dinner in Willamsburg, Brooklyn, shortly after performing in the aerial theater show â€œFuerzabrutaâ€ in Union Square. â€œBut itâ€™s tough, when you see Grand Theft Auto IV out there as the biggest thing going right now, when theyâ€™re making hundreds of millions of dollars, and we donâ€™t see any of it. I donâ€™t blame Rockstar. I blame our union for not having the agreements in place to protect the creative people who drive the sales of these games. Yes, the technology is important, but itâ€™s the human performances within them that people really connect to, and I hope actors will get more respect for the work they do within those technologies.â€
Thatâ€™s because Mr. Hollick was paid only about $100,000 over roughly 15 months between late 2006 and early this year for all of his voice acting and motion-capture work on the game, with zero royalties or residuals in sight, he said.
Welcome to the real world, voice actors.
Salaries, royalties, and residuals, and other compensation arrangements are negotiated between two parties. Workers negotiate for high comensation and are free to work for whomever will give them the best deals. Employers are free to hire whomever they want and search for the best workers for the least compensation. That’s how supply/demand and capitalism works in all industry that isn’t heavily unionized or government regulated.
Many of the workers behind GTA 3 were able to negotiate much better compensation after the huge success of the series. Hopefully now that Mr. Hollick has helped deliver a successful product like GTA 4, he has more bargaining power in negotiating future employment contracts.
So, do voice actors deserve more favorable terms? How about game artists, programmers, middle managers, and other studio roles? Should the industry unionize to get labor more bargaining leverage?