SAG-AFTRA pens deal with AI voiceover studio for video game work

SAG-AFTRA has announced a deal with Replica Studios that sets out provisions for AI voice work in video games.
Image: SAG-AFTRA video games logo

Actors union SAG-AFTRA has announced a deal with AI voiceover company Replica Studios that includes firm guidelines for the use of AI voice acting, and the creation of AI voice replicas in video games. The agreement was revealed at tech conference CES 2024, following months of negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and major film and video game studios – negotiations in which AI and likeness rights were a focus.

Per Variety, SAG-AFTRA is now taking steps to moderate the use of AI, specifically in the realm of video game work. In recent years, technology improvements have allowed more traditional forms of acting in video games, with actors often performing voice work and motion capture to bring virtual characters to life.

Some studios are now taking this several steps further, implementing AI in the voice acting process and circumventing the need for traditional actors – such as in The Finals, one of the first games to rely on generative AI for in-game voices. As this becomes more common, SAG-AFTRA is looking to provide more choice to actors in how their voice is used and stored.

Read: The Finals criticised over use of AI for character voices

According to SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the terms with Replica Studios are set to ensure “informed consent” is part of AI voice acting contracts. The deal also includes a requirement that performances can opt out of continued use of their voice in future works.

Per Crabtree-Ireland, the agreement will allow SAG-AFTRA members to “safely explore new employment opportunities for their digital voice replicas with industry-leading protections tailored to AI technology, allowing AAA video game studios and other companies working with Replica to access top SAG-AFTRA talent.”

SAG-AFTRA is reportedly engaged in similar negotiations with various game studios, with the aim of penning a similar deal, allowing actors to lend their AI voices to video games while maintaining consent and power of veto throughout the process. Should these talks fall through, a strike authorisation has been obtained, and is ready to be deployed.

“I hope the video game companies will take this [deal] as an inspiration to help us move forward in that negotiation,” Crabtree-Ireland said. “I’m hopeful we will be able to reach agreement with the video game studios imminently.”

In the meantime, debate around the best use of AI in video games, and the value of AI voice work, continues to grow.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.