Voice actor Jennifer Hale needs little introduction, having gained fame playing characters like Metroid Prime’s Samus Aran, Bastila Shan from Knights of the Old Republic, and of course Mass Effect’s one true Commander Shepard. She’s also known for Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series, in which she’s played the shifty geneticist Naomi Hunter since the series’ inception in 1998. But in a recent podcast appearance, Hale revealed that her first MGS gig voicing that important character paid only $1,200.
Previously, Hale avoided naming Metal Gear Solid directly in interviews, only saying in September that a “game made $176 million” and paid her an hourly wage that was “way less than [what] I wanted it to be.” But in this week’s episode of the My Perfect Console podcast, currently available in early access, Hale responded quickly to host and critic Simon Parkin’s question as to what that $176 million game was: It was Metal Gear Solid.
She agreed with Parkin that her original MGS pay, $1,200, is at a “grotesque disparity” with $176 million, saying “it’s indicative of what’s happening in modern culture. […] For every dollar that the workaday person makes—and [voice actors] are workaday people; all actors, on-camera, voice-over, who are not celebrities are workaday people—we make a dollar for every $399 [executives] make.”
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Still, “I love [Metal Gear],” Hale said. “It was such a crazy departure from anything I’d done before. I loved it because it was brilliant, and because it was just so unique. […] And it’s dark, and it’s mysterious, and it’s intense, and […] I loved everything about it.”
Currently, Hale is one of many video game voice actors prepared to strike over what they tell Kotaku is “an existential fight to make sure that they hang on to the rights to their own voices, their own images, because that is what they make their living with, as well as achieve wages that will keep up with inflation so that they can continue to be professionals in this space economically.”
During her podcast appearance, Hale reinforced this last point and said she wants voice actors to receive residuals for game work “on a flexible structure that honors the indie developers, that honors the budgets and capacities of teams. I would like to see that.”
SAG-AFTRA members authorized a video game strike with a 98 percent “yes” vote on September 25.