May 22, 2024

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Approval of AI Voices for Video Games Sparks Criticism from SAG-AFTRA

4 min read

An agreement has been announced by the actors union SAG-AFTRA in collaboration with AI voice studio Replica Studios, detailing the utilization of AI voices in video games.

As the capabilities of AI voice cloning continue to advance, it is likely that the financial and practical advantages will result in the technology replacing human workers. This presents a challenging task for SAG-AFTRA to safeguard its members in the face of AI’s impact on the industry.

The statement from the union announced that the partnership between the prominent AI voice company and the biggest union for performers will allow Replica to legally involve SAG-AFTRA members in the process of developing and licensing a digital copy of their voice, with fair and ethical terms to ensure safety.

The agreement labeled as “experimental” will remain in effect for a period of 1 year, serving as a test for the agreed upon terms. The contract specifies the terms and payments that will be provided to voice actors while developing the digital voice, as well as the licensing of the resulting AI voice for use in video games.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the committee that consists of actors who are regularly employed in the video game industry unanimously reached an agreement on the replica studios agreement.

Despite this, a few of the union’s leading voice actors were taken aback by the declaration and stated that they had not been consulted beforehand.

According to a tweet by Elias Toufexis, a video game actor known for his work on popular titles such as Deus Ex and Assasin’s Creed, he has not been consulted or approached for his thoughts on a particular matter. He also believes that none of his colleagues have been consulted either, based on his observations.

One would expect that if they wanted input from renowned voice actors in the video game industry, they would have reached out to individuals such as Steve Blum, known for his work in games such as Call of Duty and God of War.

According to Blum’s tweet, there was no approval from anyone in our community that he is aware of. Games have been his main source of income for many years. He is asking who you are referring to.

Pardon me? With utmost courtesy… it is mentioned in the article that it is “Approved by the union’s voiceover performer community who were affected.” To my knowledge, no one in our community has given their approval for this. Video games make up the majority of my income and have done so for many years. Who are you specifically mentioning?

The agreement mentioned here is distinct from the one related to the film and television industry, which is currently undergoing negotiations following the resolution of a prolonged strike that occurred last year.

The union is currently in the process of negotiating an Interactive Media Agreement with major video game companies, which is separate from the topic at hand. Despite voting to authorize a strike for its members in the video game sector, the union has not yet put this into action.

The majority of the negative feedback about the agreement revolves around a perceived lack of communication, rather than the quality of the agreement itself. Nevertheless, those who rely on voice acting as their source of income in the gaming sector may not be enthusiastic about the ongoing developments.

According to SAG-AFTRA, there is a wide range of opinions among its members regarding AI, with some advocating for its prohibition while others are enthusiastic about the potential it offers.

It is improbable that AI voices will be prohibited, and currently, human voice actors are still essential for the initial recording process.

In the future, it appears that AI voices could potentially reduce costs for video game companies, while skilled voice actors may encounter difficulties in securing job opportunities.

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