ACTRA Toronto survey finds video game work impacting vocal health

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A first-of-its-kind ACTRA Toronto survey finds that video game voice work is impacting the vocal health of performers.

Undertaken in June of last year, 260 ACTRA members participated in the survey. Almost three-quarters (74%) of voice actors polled said that “very often or almost always” their sessions included loud/projected, aggressive, or vocally extreme work.

Nearly 40% said they “very often or almost always experience” vocal fatigue or stress during the voiceover session. Another 20% reported finding it frequently hard to recover vocally after a video game voiceover session, with 42% saying it took two or more days for their vocal quality to return to “normal” after a vocally extreme session.

I had one very extreme incident of vocal fatigue doing a video game session,” wrote one survey respondent. “I was actually stunned by what I was asked to do. Hours of screaming. I turned down the next job I was offered. I haven’t done a video game since. 

Another performer wrote that it was considered “a given” that their voice would be destroyed.

A battle game I worked on, they were very good about giving long water and rest breaks, but the director just considered it a given that my voice would be destroyed. Everyone’s apparently always were. The only direction was louder louder, more more, more growly…if I’d had another gig/audition the next day I’d have been screwed,” wrote the actor.

They tell you to take it easy but you just can’t when you have to do bloodcurdling screams,” wrote another voiceover pro. “If you are good at your job and complete your dialogue then they often give you more to do in your set time booked. Being fast and good at your job can mean either getting booked for shorter sessions or doing more vocals therefore leading to more vocal stress.”

Fear of speaking out

ACTRA Toronto says that performers are often afraid to speak out for fear they won’t be booked again. Over 27% of those polled had thought about turning down a session for fear of the impact it would have on their voice, or the work it would cause them to lose.

“Video Game voice actors are an experienced and talented group of dedicated performers who love their work, despite the constant risk of vocal injury,” ACTRA Toronto told Broadcast Dialogue in an email. “Unfortunately, like many other precarious workers in the gig economy, video game performers often worry that speaking out might affect their opportunity to get hired.”

ACTRA Toronto plans to convene a working group to inform next steps to protect members and improve the quality of voiceover and video game work in Canada.

“The goal of ACTRA’s survey is to identify ways to work with the game developers and companies to help performers achieve the same intensity of performance, safely,” the organization continued. “The entire industry stands to benefit because managing the risk through proper protocols will mean less downtime and longer careers for the performers and continued access to an experienced work force for the video game companies.”

Among performer suggestions are educating directors, producers and clients and adjusting workflow accordingly, including scheduling particularly strenuous work toward the end of a session. 

ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing over 15,000 of Canada’s 28,000 professional performers working in recorded media.


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