After last yr’s dual Hollywood strike, AI continues to go away SAG-AFTRA, the world’s largest performers’ union, grappling with the right way to protect its members because the industry evolves. 

During ongoing negotiations with major video game corporations, using AI within the production process has emerged as a sticking point.

SAG-AFTRA chief Duncan Crabtree-Ireland suggests the probabilities of a brand new strike at “50-50, or more likely” in the subsequent 4 to 6 weeks.

It’s necessary to focus on that that is separate from SAG-AFTRA’s agreements struck with film and TV corporations last yr.

Instead, it’s concerned with protecting video game performers and voice artists and is viewed as potentially more complex as a result of how long video game franchises can go for.

Speaking at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Crabtree-Ireland acknowledged the strong opinions and divisions among the many union’s 160,000-plus members regarding AI and generative AI tools. While some members pushed for an outright ban on their use in union-covered productions, Crabtree-Ireland recognized that such a requirement can be unrealistic.

“We wouldn’t have succeeded, any greater than any union ever in history has been capable of stop technology,” he said. 

“Unions that try that approach, they fail they usually hand over the prospect to influence how those technologies are implemented. The fact of the matter is, we’re going to have AI.”

These comments echo across other creative industries facing pressures from generative AI, similar to digital art and music. 

Instead, the union leader emphasized that SAG-AFTRA’s position revolves around “consent and compensation” for its members when AI engines use their work, ensuring that the implementation is “human-centered and focused on augmentation [of production], not alternative of individuals.”

In late January, SAG-AFTRA announced an experimental agreement with AI voice studio Replica Studios, outlining how AI voices might be utilized in video games. 

The one-year trial contract, unanimously agreed upon by a committee of actors who frequently work within the video game industry, sets out conditions and payments to voice actors while creating digital voices and licensing AI voices in video games.

However, the announcement surprised some top voice actors, with Elias Toufexis (Deus Ex, Assassin’s Creed) and Steve Blum (Call of Duty, God of War) stating that that they had not been consulted on the matter.

This demonstrates the complex landscape SAG-AFTRA must navigate as AI becomes increasingly prevalent within the industry.

The gaming industry, typically, has embraced generative AI quickly, with 86.7% of firms identified as early adopters. By 2026, AI could impact 13.4% of this sector’s workforce, or 52,400 jobs.

It’s evident that because the industry continues to evolve, SAG-AFTRA must protect its members while acknowledging the seemingly inevitable adoption of AI technology. 

Crabtree-Ireland cautioned video game producers to not underestimate the union’s concerns about AI and their willingness to strike if crucial.

“We don’t need to go on strike,” he said, “But we’re not going to make a cope with these corporations that don’t protect our members from abusive and exploitative uses of AI.”

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