My thoughts on the SAG-AFTRA Strike

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It’s been a month since the union representing Gaming’s biggest and most known English voice actors went on strike. Many of these same voice actors lend their voices to the English versions of Anime as well. To say one effects the other is no understatement.

…Unsurprisingly to me, the gaming community has been far from sympathetic toward the Voice Actors’ Guild overall. In fact, the reception has been mostly hostile toward English VAs over the strike. I’ve seen comments range from annoyance over the reason for the strike (“Who do they think they are?”) to trashing their profession (“If they want to get paid more, they should get real jobs.”).

I want to restate something I said on my Anime blog a few years back: English Voice Actors get NO RESPECT. NONE. Not from the industry. Not from gaming critics. Certainly not from gamers. They don’t do it for the money (They make far less than people think). They don’t do it for fame (Though some are famous from their various voice acting roles). They certainly don’t do it because they’re contracted to (rumor has it the main reason Persona 5’s North American release is being delayed into 2017 is because they kept having to get new VAs and have to redub the lines of certain characters).

They do what they do because they love what they do first and they want to give fans of the game a great experience second. I have met several English Voice Actors. I met David Matranga, who voices Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad (Anime version) at Anime Boston. I met Reina Strober, who voices Azura from Fire Emblem Fates through Serenes Forest. They are both wonderful people and I know that they are nothing short of dedicated to what they do.

Voice Acting in Japan is very different from Voice Acting in the U.S. in regards to video games and Anime. It’s a big business in Japan and VAs have celebrity status in general. In the U.S., VAs aren’t always properly credited for their work. Unlike in Japan, they don’t collect royalties (which they should) for dubbing video games but they do for Anime. Only a handful of English VAs are well known such as Mark Hamill, Johnny Bosch Young, Luci Christian and Crispin Freeman. Of them, only Johnny Bosh Young and Mark Hamill don’t have to take several VA jobs to make ends meet: Johnny collects royalty checks from his days as a Power Ranger and Mark played Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars Trilogy (Funny thing is he’s mostly voiced villains during his VA career).  Most English VAs are also live actors but some work normal jobs.

…Look, I’m well aware most gamers don’t give a damn about the people who make the video games they play, let alone the VAs. More shamefully, there is a growing belief I’ve noticed online where gamers have adopted an entitlement mentality. Let’s Play videos and review sites like Metacritic have alot to do with this. Basically, many gamers feel that if a video game doesn’t have everything they think it should have, they shouldn’t have to pay the sticker price or even at all.

It would be one thing if they didn’t want to buy the game. The problem is they WANT to play it but they don’t want to pay for it. “Why should I have to pay $40-$60 for a game when there’s only 1-3 things I like about it?” Last I checked, only reason is the only reason you really need to buy something. Regardless of the price, if you want it that bad you WILL buy it. For some reason, gamers have developed an entitlement mnentality where if they want to play a game but don’t want to play for it, they’re justified turning to piracy.

Speaking of which: Nintendo dropped the Banhammer on some gamers with hacked 3DS consoles who broke the street date with Pokemon Sun and Moon last week. What happened is apparently they used an exploit to play game after pre-downloading the game ahead of its official release (which is legal). The problem is they used 3rd party software to decrypt the game after it was downloaded onto the SD Card to unlock the game. Every 3DS with the hacked game file was banned when they tried to connect to the eShop. Unsurprisingly, the gamers blamed Nintendo for banning them. The audacity of people who refuse to take personal responsability for their own stupidity.

Anywho, It’s been about 20 years since voice acting started to became the norm in video games in the U.S. The first game I played with English Vocals was Starfox 64 in 1997 (Technically it was Mario Kart 64 the year before). Two years later, I played Metal Gear Solid. Can you imagine Metal Gear Solid being such a cult classic without David Hayter as Solid Snake? Almost 10 years later, I played Tales of Symphonia for the Gamecube. Scott Melville voiced Lloyd Irving and Cam Clarke voiced Kratos Aurion. Can you imagine if they weren’t voiced? Would the game have been as memorable to those who played it? How about Persona 4 Golden for the Vita? Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS? I could go on.

Me, I support SAG-AFTRA.

I’ve met many English voice actors from both Anime and video games over the last 7 years, mostly at Anime Boston. If you met them, you’d find it hard to believe they voice some of Anime and Video Games’ most memorable characters. They’re humble, down to earth and most are gamers themselves. Even so, they don’t let it go to their heads. Well…except maybe Greg Ayers. I’ve met him several times so I can say that. LOL.

You could easily make the arguement I’m being partial but it stands to reason. I feel like the open hostility I see online sets a dangerous precident for anyone considering getting into voice acting at all. The advent of the internet and social media opened the door to fan dubs. As someone who scoffed at fan-dubs until last year, I have since come to appreciate talent when I see and hear it. When an Anime doesn’t get an official dub, it falls to dedicated fans to do an unofficial dub of the anime. They do it knowing they won’t get paid and will oftentimes have to content with a DMCA Takedown when they put it on You Tube. They do it for their fellow fans.

The way I see it, when you disrespect official English VAs you disrespect Fan VAs too. You’re basically telling those who Fan Dub they’re wasting their time trying. Most official VAs have alot of respect for Fan VAs believe it or not. They were there themselves at one point. One thing almost every single VA I’ve spoken to has said is if you wanna get noticed, you need to record yourself and post it online for feedback. Don’t try to sound like the character’s original VA, just be yourself.

I’ve been looking at recording some lines myself but everytime I seriously sit down and type some lines, I have an ailment that effects my throat and nose like a cold. It’s true I’ve recorded videos while not 100%. That’s different since I’m not reading from a script. I wouldn’t dare record something that’s meant to be scripted unless I have clear airways!

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