2020/10/07

Recasting Life Is Strange: Video Game Voice Acting during the 2016–2017 SAG-AFTRA Strike

The journal Television and New Media has published the article Recasting Life Is Strange: Video Game Voice Acting during the 2016–2017 SAG-AFTRA Strike, which I wrote together with Jaroslav Švelch. In the article, we explore the recasting of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm caused by the strike, which forced Ashly Burch to give up her role of Chloe Price from the first game. While Burch became a writing consultant for the prequel and the performance of the new actor Rhianna DeVries was generally praised, the recasting still caused heated discussion about the importance of video game voice casting. 

Our analysis shows that some voice actors qualify as above-the-line talent partly thanks to their strong identification with popular in-game characters, which is often strengthened by appearance of actors in official promotional videos (such as the one embedded below). Actors in supporting roles try to rise above the figurative line by engaging in relational labor (livestreaming, cosplaying, and connecting with fans), highlighting their involvement in the game to compensate for precarious working conditions and contingent employment. During the strike, the above-the-line status and relational labor could be used to mobilize support for the union something that other more central but less visible professions in the video game industry might not be able to do. While not all SAG-AFTRA's demands were met, the recasting drew attention to voice acting and reignited the interest in organized labor action We conclude that the struggle for better working conditions calls for solidarity between above-the-line and below-the-line workers, as well as between core and peripheral professions.

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