The Comic and Media Expo returned to Mesa for its second year over the weekend. The convention hosted many different special guests, cosplayers, vendors and attendees over the three-day period. Among them was Bill Salyers, known for his voice work as Rigby on Regular Show, Hank in Evolve, Mordin Solus in Mass Effect 3, and many more.
Salyers celebrated the success of Regular Show entering its eighth season, as well as the premier of its own feature film (aptly named Regular Show: The Movie). He is also a part of the Performance Matters movement, which has garnered much support from video game fans in the past few weeks.
Performance Matters is a campaign created by members of the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union. The movement was orchestrated in regards to failed contractual negotiations for the restructuring and renewal of the Interactive Media Agreement between voice actors and video game companies.
Video games are unique from most other voice work, as they do not typically dole out residuals or bonuses to voice actors as animated movies and television series do. The biggest focal point in the new agreement talks is SAG-AFTRA members are proposing that actors get a limited bonus payout if a game sells more than two million units, as outlined in their online statement. The two groups have reportedly met twice since February to negotiate terms for a new contract, both of which have yielded no results.
An overwhelming majority of SAG-AFTRA members voted to authorize a strike should another round of negotiations with representatives of the video game industry fail to reach an agreement. Among the many voice actors whom reportedly voted for the widespread work stoppage: Phil Lamarr, David Hayter, Laura Bailey, Roger Craig Smith, and Bill Salyers.
“…the point of it is that fans actually do care what the voices are in the games.” said Salyers in an interview with atombash.com at CMX. “And the creators of the games are telling us right now: ‘That’s not the case. We could have Joe from development do the voice and that’s fine. We could have any of these people do the voice, it wouldn’t matter.’ I’m a gamer, and I don’t believe that. I love the voices, I wanna buy in. So that’s my opinion.”
The issue has found its fair share of supporters and dissenters ever since the Performance Matters hashtag hit social media in late September. Many detractors argue that voice actors shouldn’t get bonuses or residuals before the actual developers of the game do.
“Absolutely. I would go so far as to say a developer, somebody who’s spending their days, nights, and weekends making this amazing game happen, should get a larger cut than we do,” responded Salyers. “I feel the same way about developers especially because I come from an IT background, I did that before I did VO, and I have HUGE respect for those guys. It’s not an ‘either or,’ [situation] it’s a ‘yes and.’”
Information regarding any recent potential negotiations between both groups is murky at best. Although the strike is only pending at this point, Salyers commented that he “feels like it’s coming.” If the voice actors do follow through however, the effects could be far reaching; similar to that of the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007-2008.
“We’re worried about that. Could people come in under us and sweep us off our feet? Sure.” admits Salyers. “I hope not for the quality of games because I love them. I mean, I love being swept up and carried away by a whole alternate reality. And if you got somebody who really doesn’t know how to voice, then that’s gonna be harder.”
While a potential strike could put a damper on any future video games for Salyers, he expressed his excitement for the success of Regular Show and how far it has gone with him voicing the character of Rigby.
“It’s something that I totally didn’t anticipate,” said Salyers with a laugh. “I mean, my first show Moral Orel got three seasons. So when we hit three seasons with Regular Show it was like ‘Alright! We did it! Yay!’ And then we kept going, and going, and going. Now I just feel like ‘Wow! For a cartoon, this is totally on borrowed time!’”
Salyers commented that he would be appearing in an upcoming animated film alongside Adam West, as well as an Amazon animated pilot. Regular Show: The Movie is currently available on DVD and will air on the Cartoon Network in November.