With many of us still reeling from the one-two punch of COVID and Brexit, and the long shadows of winter creeping in after an almost nonexistent summer, good news can seem thin on the ground these days. However, some has arrived at last: Nearly 20 years in the making, Equity finally has a Games Agreement for those working as audio artists in video games.

Although the games industry has long been worth more than the film and TV industries combined and is well over 30 years old, up to now there has been a shocking lack of regulation for actors in a sector that is providing increasing opportunities for work, yet can sometimes be likened to the Wild West. The union has been attempting to create an agreement with the major employers for many years, but a combination of the constant churn of companies, the different ways in which the industry works, and a lack of understanding of artists' needs made the process difficult.

However, in recent months, a new call for action by a group of working games actors (mainly North American, it must be noted), frustrated and concerned by the lack of an agreement, gave Equity the impetus to reach out to the studios again. Now, after months of consultations between Equity and the games studios, agents, and actors, Equity has drawn up a new agreement for all voice artists working in games, with Mark Estdale and OMUK studios as the very first signatory.
This landmark agreement covers not only rates of pay and minimum fees, but clearly and concisely sets out codes of best practice that have been sorely needed in this fast-growing industry.
Highlights of the new agreement include the following:

- Games will be divided into budget groups of Standard/Indie/Micro, with a sliding scale of minimum hourly fees depending on the category:
- The first hour worked on any game will automatically be paid at twice the normal hourly rate for that category, wrapping what would have been a separate buyout into the fee. This will avoid the issue of buyouts being extra and discretionary, helping both actors and the employers.
- There is a provision for paid overtime.
- There is express provision for actors to be paid within 30 days of invoice, with a penalty of £10.00 per day late after that.
- Actors will be given on-screen credit in the game, unless they ask not to be.
- Using best practice, the studio will provide the actor, when auditioning or being offered the role, but BEFORE starting the job, with the working title of the project; the budget classification and applicable fee; the estimated hours of engagement; notification of any content of a sensitive nature (e.g. violent, sexual, religious, racially or gender sensitive, etc.); and of particular accents or languages required.
- The studio will endeavor to make the actor aware if the role requires vocal stress, allow a minimum of five minutes per hour of rest time, and keep to a maximum of two hours of vocal stress per day.
- Integration rights, promotional material, and questions of confidentiality are also touched on.

Any one of these provisions would be noteworthy; having them all wrapped into one succinct, comprehensible agreement is nothing short of groundbreaking and is cause for celebration.
While OMUK is the first studio to sign up to the agreement, Equity is keeping an open dialogue with the games industry and there is every indication that other UK studios will follow suit. So watch this space – there may be more good news to come.