I’ve read a few of these type of columns in the past, and even written one myself back in… 2008, something like that, and looking back the advice is either specific to a particular time period (”Yo, getting a job in game sound is way easier than getting a job in film sound!”) and… out of date, or… woefully out of date (”Yo, always have a CD ROM copy of your reel ready throw like a frizbee at anyone who looks remotely important”). It bothers me that these articles are still lingering around on the internetz and that real live human beings who actually need help on doing this might happen to read them and think they offer good advice. So, here is a simplified, stripped down, and soon-to-be-out-of-date list of ways to get a job in game audio…
- Be wary of the snake-oil. Spending money won’t help you get into the game audio business. Everything you need in terms of networking is accessible (attend GDC, Develop, MIGS, but you don’t need the pass – network around the fringes of the various meet ups happening around the conference) – more importantly attend, or even start, your own local game audio focussed meet-ups and events. You don’t need to join any organizations, everything you need in terms of social networking is right there for free (#GameAudio twitter to start). You don’t need to spend tons of money on hardware or software (Wwise and FMOD are free to download, and there are tons of video tutorials free online). There is an enormous amount of serious reading material available free online (designingsound.org to start). There are some very good value courses (such as the School of Video Game Audio), available that mean you do not need to get into debt, or stretch yourself financially to do this. Need a DAW? Reaper is cheaper! … and SFX libraries (independent) have almost completely made the expensive SFX library monopoly of the past redundant.
- Everyone has an origin story, and it is unique to them. It represents a unique entry point into the industry that closed behind them. You need to find your own way in, your own origin story and you need to understand that it is very unlikely that what worked for one person, will work for another. Everyone is unique, every opportunity is unique, every contract is unique, every game and every game developer is unique. By all means, you need to listen to what people have to say, but make up your own mind, take what works for you and follow your path. There are multiple entry-points. The people you should really be listening to about getting into the industry, are the ones who made it in during the last one or two years, technology, attitudes and requirements change incredibly fast and you should be listening to people who are connected to the industry on a day to day basis at the ground level.
- Demo Reel. This is my own personal advice, and what I look for (so be wary!), but in a demo reel I like to see three things… technical proficiency of the tools and processes, artistic creative ideas, and the attitude and personality of the person behind the work. A demo reel that is 5 mins of you demoing the implementation of a particular sound project, or passion project in Wwise, FMOD or Unity, with your webcam in the top corner as you explain what is being presented would be perfect. If I get a flavour of who you are, your technical skills and your inspirational spark, and if you match what I’m looking for, then we’ll definitely be talking at some point.
- Be a part of the game audio community. This is its own reward, you get out what you put in and hey, if you land a job by being an active member of the community and making connections, that’s all well and good, but do this because you are passionate and engaged in this community … and not because you just want a job. This is an easy thing to sniff out, and you don’t want that smell on you. The game audio community is something you can shape and ultimately is what we want it to be. Get involved, help curate the relevant information!
- Do not participate in a culture that crunches. If you allow your talent to be abused by a culture that crunches, then you are condoning the practice by participating in it and as a result making the industry worse for people who come after you. Great games can be made under extraordinarily poor working conditions, but those games could have been so much better (fewer bugs, fewer design irritants) with a healthy, rested workforce at optimal energy. Understand the C word and watch Coray Sieffert’s presentation here, to get well-armed with the good business case against it – http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1017826/Why-We-Can-t-Afford . If YOU wish to work extra hours for adding QUALITY, I believe that can be planned and achieved on a time-limited basis: provided you have discussed the length of the push with EVERYONE (your colleagues and your family) and made sure you have their support and have planned how to ramp up and down ahead of time. In the end, it needs to be YOUR decision, not one you are making because of being forced (threatened or bullied) to, or being guilted-into by peers or managers (still bullying). Working sustainably is the only way to have a long and fulfilling career in the games industry without spreading bitterness or negativity.
That’s all for now.