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    Voice-Over for video games, a “grand theft”?

    Is pay for video game voice over artists a ‘grand theft’ and do all VO artists have a ‘call of duty’ to voice their concerns?

    In an industry where it can be a challenge to get paid what you are worth, this is never more true than in the video game business where pay for VO artists has often been a source for lively debate.

    Video games are big business. In fact they are such big business that Hollywood A-Listers like Samuel L Jackson, Gary Oldman and many others now get involved and get paid huge sums for their contribution.

    Nobody doubts the contribution that Hollywood A-Listers make and the star power they bring to the table but the trouble is, they eat up a big portion of the budget. This means that the rest of the cast, who are hard working, highly skilled, versatile and professional voice over artists get left with the scraps.

    Annual sales for video games have doubled over the last 10 years and the big blockbuster games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty can yield as much as a $1 billion each. Professional Voice Actors are the mainstay of these productions and help bring the game to life but despite the huge success of the games, the voice actors remain largely unknown, completely uncelebrated and definitely uncompensated for the global success of their endeavours.

    It’s not that video game voice actors are clamouring for fame and fortune. They love what they do and they embrace the challenges that it brings. However, you can understand how they might get a bit peeved when they only get paid by the hour (about $200 an hour if they are a good negotiator or have a good agent!). There are no big bonuses, percentages of sales or even residual payments for their work, despite what a phenomenal success the game might be!

    Whilst $200 an hour is a good salary it’s all about context. The time spent in the studio on your feet, delivering several voice over parts, responding to direction, and dealing with retakes can be incredibly draining. The money is definitely earned and when compared to a cameo role a Hollywood A-Lister might make, the sum seems derisory.

    The following quote from veteran voice actor Steve Blum, who has starred in many of the Call of Duty games, probably says it all concerning the current state of the industry:

    “I recently walked off a game because they expected me to record over 20 vocally stressful characters in one session for scale because they had blown their budget on a few ‘A-Listers.'”

    The video game industry will continue to grow and whether the talented VO artists involved in the industry can get a fair share for their contribution remains to be seen. It will be a great day for all VO artists if they do!

    What do you think? Are you involved in the video game industry? What are your thoughts regarding the state of pay? Please share here.

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