SAG-AFTRA Approves AI Voice Actors, Enrages The VA Community

ai voice actor

In recent months, there have been concerns about the developing use of AI voice actors in video games. Most recently, Embark Studios’ new shooter, The Finals, came under fire for using AI-generated commentators. Despite the ongoing contention, the actor’s union, SAG-AFTRA, has approved using AI voice actors for video games and partnered with Replica Studios to deliver ‘AI being done right’.

That’s Going to Cause Trouble

In what has been hailed as a ‘groundbreaking’ agreement by those who have signed it, SAG-AFTRA has agreed to work with Replica Studios to produce ‘fair and ethical’ digital replicas of the voices we hear in video games. This monumental movement has unprecedented implications attached to it, as with the ever-evolving technology of voice replication, we could one day see a time when no human voice actors are needed.

In a statement released by SAG-AFTRA, it was written:

The agreement between the leading AI voice company and the world’s largest performers’ union will enable Replica to engage SAG-AFTRA members under a fair, ethical agreement to safely create and license a digital replica of their voice. Licensed voices can be used in video game development and other interactive media projects from pre-production to final release.

In a message posted on social media, Replica Studios stressed that first and foremost, ‘consent, contracts, and compensation’ are on the minds of everyone involved in the deal. It’s a mission to make ‘creativity and narrative storytelling more immersive and engaging’, and it’s reportedly going to ‘benefit the voice talent, the game studio, and the consumer’.

However, several voice actors surfaced on Twitter to stress their concerns about this news. For instance, Elias Toufexis, who has in the past lent his vocal talents to the likes of Deus Ex’s Adam Jensen and Starfield’s Sam Coe, said:

I would humbly consider myself one of the top voice actors working in games. No one asked me about this. No one reached out for my opinion. From what I’m seeing, no one asked any of my peers either.

Steve Blum, who has acted in roles in Mortal Kombat 1, Diablo IV, Star Wars Jedi, and The Last of Us Part II, among many other games, said:

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?

Kellen Goff, who has voiced characters in Like a Dragon, The Lords of the Fallen, Remnant II, and Street Fighter 6, wrote:

Livid. You sold us down the river, behind our backs, AGAIN. I’m so sick of you (SAG-AFTRA). Time and time again, you’ve screwed the VO community over. I legitimately detest you, your hold on our industry, and how you abuse it. This isn’t democratic. This is dictatorship.

This is a developing situation but at face value, the community’s sentiment is wholeheartedly negative towards this news. Some of the biggest and most experienced names in voice acting are voicing their opinions online and some have started whispering about a second actor’s strike.

For more Insider Gaming coverage, check out the news that Remedy has trademarked a new game

  1. If Steve Blum is angry, you know it’s bad. The guy is a living legend of the VA industry.
    His coming out and saying he wasn’t consulted is shocking.

    I believe there ARE ethical and acceptable ways to license creators’ and actors’ likenesses and profiles for AI derivative works, but considering the possible perpetual and eternally derivative nature there has to be a residual kickback until the end of time, and a hefty upfront cost for essentially owning a clone of someone’s identity.
    Guilds and Unions exist to protect not only the rights of their members, but the wellbeing of their industries as a whole. These kinds of decisions and announcements should NEVER be taken lightly and involve feedback and discussion with all the major players.

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