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Why You Don't Need to Live in a Big City to Work in Game Audio (And Why You Do)

Most people don't know that I was born and raised in the lovely middle-of-nowhere town of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

We're known for many things:

1. Scenic trails

2. Snowy holiday seasons

3. Meth

4. A tradition of burning couches on the sidewalk for fun (yes that's real)

5. Oh and let's not forget: the absolute highest illiteracy rate in all of Canada (also real)

One of many burned couches in my hometown

Needless to say, I get what it's like to come from a small place, and I know many of the people on this list live somewhere tiny too. And the people in those towns think that they HAVE to move to a big city to work in game audio... but is that true? Yes... and no... Let's go into why you don't need to live in a big city to work in game audio... and why you might want to. "So, Akash, you double-walled jar of toasted hazelnut praline" you say, leaning forward in your chair, feather quill and journal in hand "what are we learning today?" Part 1: Why you don't need to live in a big city Part 2: Why you do Part 3: How to make the most of where you're at While it's seen as a universal truth that we need to live in big cities to work in game audio That isn't necessarily the case. Especially now that COVID has forced every single game company on the planet to allow for work-from-home. If you're a freelancer, it matters less where you live now than ever before. You can absolutely make your career thrive, so long as you have a solid internet connection. But one thing to consider about living outside of a hub city Is that it's way less likely that people will know you exist. In a small town, you can't just go to meetups, or meet random people at game companies at a moment's notice. So, you have to be way more focused on being online than if you did live somewhere where game development is more common. Most artists really push back at the idea of using social media and building an online presence, but they're just skills like anything else. Anyone can get good at it. If you're in a smaller place, you'll also want to travel much more to conferences, meetups, and events once those start happening again. And what if those tradeoffs just don't sound worth it to you? What if you really just want to be in a hub city? Well there are plenty of upsides to being in a hub, too The closer to a game industry hub you are (such as Seattle, Los Angeles, Berlin, London, Tokyo, Vancouver, etc.) the less "online" you need to be. It's far easier to schedule meetups with people when you're in the same city as them. You can find people easily at networking events, or a friend may just introduce you to someone important out of the blue. Heck, even when I was in the hospital a few months ago, covered in my own blood and on 3 different painkillers, I got offered a gig by a guy who walked into the room. Yes, that really happened. And to that Being in a hub city drastically enhances your chances of random encounters. When people are thinking of moving, I don't tell them to move where there are lots of people, but move to where the chances of high-quality random encounters is highest. That's why I moved to Seattle in the first place. That's why I went to Berklee, too. On paper, there are more artistically-focused cities, and higher-quality schools, but I knew I'd have better random encounters in these places. It worked out great! And, if you want to work in a AAA game company, it makes things a lot easier to be in the same city the company is located in. Either way, you can succeed And to do that, you need to make the most of wherever you are. The low cost of living and general peace-of-mind you get from a small city is great, and you'll probably have a lot more mental space than someone who lives in a big stressful, high-cost place. Leverage that into building a strong online presence, traveling to conferences when you can, and studying your craft. It will take a long time, but you'll find work, regardless of where you are. And if you live in a big city, then you do need to be meeting people (even if it's just for 15 minutes at a time) as much as humanly possible. When I first moved to Seattle, I was at every networking event for about 4 years straight. Now, I don't need to go nearly so hard, but it had to be done in the beginning to become known within the city, and to be introduced to the right people. "But Akash, you chocolate honeycomb roulade" you ask, "I don't want to/can't move to a big hub city AND I hate social media" I think that's totally valid. You can still make a career work, but it's going to take a lot more deliberate thought and effort to make it happen. Your focus at that point is going to be email, online events, and getting zoom meetings with people. You'll have to become so, SO good at email and giving people a reason to talk to you that totally circumvents the need to having social media. This, like anything, is a skill that needs thousands of hours of practice. Provide value to the people you want to talk to, expect nothing in return, and you can make it work. This is all super personal, too Someone might come to Seattle or Los Angeles and hate it, and never find work, whereas someone else could thrive. You need to do what's right for you, and actually experiment and put in the work so you can find what "right" is. Or perhaps you could start a podcast where you interview people so you can make new friends without needing to go to networking events ever again. I wouldn't know anything about doing that. Nope.

So, let's recap what we went over today

  1. You both do... and don't need to live in a big city to work in game audio

  2. If you like staying out of the big hub cities, then building an online presence and reaching out to people will help immensely to find work

  3. And living in a big city means that you can be less online in general. The costs of living are higher, and it will likely be more stressful, but you'll have infinitely more random encounters with people you could work with

  4. No matter what, your approach will be personal. Just don't burn couches like my hometown does. Or do. I'm not your dad.

Perhaps you're in a couch-burning, illiteracy-loving town right now And you want to get out, or you love where you're at and want to make it work. Either way, you can make it happen, but your approaches will be different, and your approach will be personal to you. In the next few articles I'm going to be giving you more step-by-step guidance on exactly what to do, depending on where you are. If you have questions, send 'em my way!

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Then sign up for my newsletter right here. You'll get instant access to 2 free courses that will help you network and freelance in the game industry, as well as free sound effects, ebooks, and more to help your career thrive.


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