Voice Actors vs. Game Developers

There's a potential strike in the works, where voice actors in videogames are fighting for residual payments on successful games.

The initial reactions from game developers appear to range from "f**k those greedy bastards" to... well, that appears to be most of it.

And I understand that response. Last time this stuff came up, something like a decade ago, my thought was, "What the hell? Why should someone who works on a game for 2 hours get residuals while I've sacrificed months (if not years) of my life working nonstop to finish this?" It didn't seem fair. It didn't seem reasonable. I was pissed that voice actors could be so arrogant to believe that they deserved ongoing compensation when none of the devs who slaved away on the game day & night got anything of the sort.

And I stayed that pissed for a while. But then I had a complete change of heart.

Here's the thing - they're not saying that any developer's contribution is worth less than their contribution. They're not saying that we're entitled to ongoing compensation and you're not. They're not saying that their contributions to the game are more OR less meaningful than any developer's. They're saying that they should share in the success of a game they participated in.

And you know what? They're right.

And also? We should, too.

The thing that the actors have going for them is that they have the ability to collectively bargain for such a thing. The game industry isn't unionized. There's no collective bargaining for workers. So if you don't want to crunch, fine - you're fired. If you want residuals, then fine - you're fired. And no residuals for you. What's happened is that developers' ire has been directed at those who would dare ask for their fair share. Instead, it should be directed at the people who aren't giving the developers their fair share.

I've never worked at a game company that had profit sharing in any meaningful capacity. I've worked at places that made certain people very wealthy. But the people it made wealthy were never the same as the people doing the actual development. Why not? If a game's making hundreds of millions of dollars a year, is it just that one or two people make hundreds of millions of dollars and the rest get squat? 

Not to me.

Sure, there's risk involved in starting something. There's effort and pain beyond a "normal job" that goes into being a founder of a company. But when you're building something like a game with an engaged team, the success or failure of the game is a team sport, and a team effort. And the team should be rewarded. If the game is successful to a degree, everyone keeps working, and that's the shared reward. If the game is wildly successful, the team should share in that, as well. Equally? No - of course not. Equal is rarely actually fair. But hundreds of millions, if not billions, to a CEO and nothing to employees isn't exactly fair, either.

We're trying to bridge the gap. Our goal is to make sure that if we're successful, the team is successful. Even though we've got two founders, and two "team members", and we're working under different conditions (founders aren't getting paid, for instance), the success or failure of our game isn't in the hands of an individual, it's in our hands as a team - and basing profit sharing primarily on that and not "who was here first" or "we started it!" isn't how we're going to approach it. If we're successful, everyone who made a significant contribution to the game will share in that success.

I can't change the game industry by running around & demanding profit sharing for everyone. But what I can do is run a company based on an ideal that this is a team. And if we're successful, we're going to share in that success as a team.