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Why just "getting good" isn't enough for a career in game audio

Fun fact: bananas, one of my favorite fruits in the whole world, are radioactive.

Yes indeed! You heard that right. Eat enough bananas, and you'll grow an extra arm and gain superpowers at the level of All Might.

A single banana against a pink background
A terribly dangerous fruit

In fact, bananas are so radioactive that it would take a paltry 10-million bananas eaten in one sitting to cause radiation damage. Or, if you want to take things at a more reasonable pace, you could eat 274 bananas a day for 7 years before you start to get sick/gain superpowers.

While I love a good nanner, I don't think anyone (except me) could eat 10-million in one sitting. I could be wrong here, but that might be totally impossible.

And sometimes, knowing what to next in our careers can feel just as impossible as eating 10-million bananas. There are just so many moving parts that we might not know where to start, or what to do next now that we've begun.

So today, we're going to dive into 3 core pillars to focus on throughout your journey in game audio. If you have all three of these pillars in place, your odds of succeeding are much much higher.

The first of these pillars is to simply make stuff

This means that you have to be creating some sort of work constantly. If you're not writing music, creating sound, or practicing regularly, then there's no way your skills will grow to the point where you can become a pro.

It sounds silly, but a lot of people simply just don't practice, experiment, work on projects, or try to learn new skills, but still expect to get the best jobs in the entire industry.

So, make stuff. Do audio redesigns of cutscenes, go field recording, learn middleware like FMOD and Wwise, or write music. Join game jams, work on small projects, take lessons, join courses, or do anything else to keep you creating. People will hire people that are creating work. That excitement for the craft is really attractive to the people who might hire you.

No matter what, just remember this handy acronym: ABC: Always Be Creating.

The second pillar involves talking to people

Talking to people, sharing our work, and generally existing in the world is a skill that we're never taught. We could be the greatest composer or sound designer in the world, but if we don't know how to talk to people or how to share our stuff in the right context, absolutely nothing will happen in our careers.

To put a very fine point on it, getting good just isn't enough.

To demonstrate my point, let's go on a bit of a journey here... imagine that you're in a grocery store looking for a box of cereal. Let's say, in this case, it's Froot Loops.

If you go to the store and look around, and see that there aren't Froot Loops there, you're probably not going to drive all over the city looking for them. You'll instead choose some other similar cereal and go on your merry way.

Most composers and sound designers are like that missing box of Froot Loops. They don't exist where their clients are looking, so the people who are hiring just choose someone else.

Now that no one's confused with this brilliant cereal-based analogy, let's continue.

Though I did mention practice and making stuff in the first pillar, that's not the only thing you should be focusing on. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they need to be the best to get noticed and hired. It's common to think that we can just hide away in our rooms, make an amazing demo reel, put it online, and then hope that we'll get noticed... but that rarely ever works out.

Sure, you need to have some skill, but you'd be surprised how little raw talent and ability you need to get started. You probably won't be making much money initially, but you can certainly find little bits of work here and there so long as you're talking to others in the game industry consistently.

Showing up to online or in-person events, joining game jams, reaching out to people on social media (without begging for a job), and sharing your work all involve talking to people, and this is key to getting hired in game audio.

If you don't exist, you can't be worked with. It's that simple.

And the final pillar is that we have to know how to run a business

This is the skill that no one knows they need. If you're freelancing in any way, shape, or form, then you're running a business. Which means you need these skills if you want any hope of making a living.

Heck, even if your goal is to work at a giant AAA company one day, you still need to have business skills. Most of these big companies don't hire people straight out of school or when they're total beginners. Instead, they often hire the people who have a few years of experience working on games under their belt.

And the way to get this experience is to freelance for a while - meaning that you'll likely be running a business no matter what, even if it's just for a bit. You'll need to learn to find clients, earn gigs without being sleazy, negotiate, manage your finances, network, and oh so much more.

All of these skills stay useful throughout your whole life, too. Even if you work at a big AAA company, you'll still have to negotiate your salary, talk to other members of your team, manage your money, and handle meetings.

So don't think that working at a big company someday will free you from needing to think of yourself as a business. You'll always need those skills, but will just use them in different contexts.

So while it may be impossible to eat 10-million bananas in one sitting

It certainly isn't impossible to get an awesome career in game audio. It takes loads of time, patience, and consistency, but it's totally doable.


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