How to Work in Game Audio (Even if You're Transitioning From a Different Field)

Quick! Name one of your favorite games! One of my favorites, you ask? Well, I'm personally a huge fan of "Rodney's Fun Screen" for the Tandy Memorex VIS. Wait, you mean you haven't heard of the Tandy Memorex VIS? The hottest sack of garbage game console of 1992? Well, on top of being one of the worst selling consoles of all time, it also was sold only in RadioShack stores and played almost exclusively educational games. Oh and it came with Windows 3.1 installed on it. OH! And it was $699 USD, which is about $1300 in today's dollars.

The Tandy Memorex VIS after a SIGNIFICANT price cut

I love it. While this console was an absolute clunker, it clearly didn't stop the industry as a whole from making the upgrade to newer and shinier consoles as the years went on. And speaking of making upgrades, I've getting questions lately from people who are looking to get into game audio from related or totally different fields, and I can see why: It's fun, many jobs allow us to work from anywhere, the industry is far more friendly than fields like film or TV, and it's still moving forward (albeit slower) in the face of the plague. So, if you're looking to jump into game audio, let's make that upgrade to a new career as smooth as possible. Here's what we're going to cover today Part 1: How the Game Audio Industry (very roughly) works Part 2: Indie VS AAA development Part 3: Networking In a very broad sense, the game industry works similarly to many other creative/technical fields There are teams, directors, programmers, artists, musicians, sound designers, producers, quality assurance people, publishers, and countless other roles. We, as audio designers, will get hired onto a team (either as a full-time employee, in-house contractor, or as an external freelancer/contractor) and work with that team until the audio part of the project is done - which will have radically different timelines depending on the game itself. We may even work with multiple teams at the same time. After that, we might continue supporting the game we just made with extra content, move on to a new project with the same team, or go somewhere else entirely. And this is where things get very interesting for us Most people want to get work as a full-time in-house sound designer at a big company so they can just hunker down and make sounds for the rest of their days, or they try to look for an in-house composer position where they can just have a steady paycheck to write music all day... but things don't always work that way. Much of our work, on top of making audio, also has to deal with understanding direction, getting client feedback, networking, pitching for jobs, going to meetings, understanding people, dealing with pressure, getting rejected... and if we're freelance, we need to learn about negotiating, finding clients, building a brand, and countless other bits. On top of needing to think about all of these different moving parts, we can also think about two broad spectrums of game audio we can work in: AAA or Indie games. AAA games are the giant blockbusters Your Call of Dutys, your Assassin's Creeds, your God of Wars, your League of Legends, your Overwatches, your Halos and Destinys, etc. etc. These are the big games that are often heavily marketed, have big budgets and have quite large, often global teams behind them. And then we have indie games Which run the gamut from games made by almost entirely by one person (think Undertale), all the way to pretty-large undertakings with teams of around 20+ people (games like Subnautica fall into this category). These games usually have less in terms of budget, smaller teams, and are far more flexible in terms of how they work. This is the category I much prefer to work with. Neither of these paths is the "right" or only one But many sound designers initially go for AAA because of the large-scale projects they'll get to work on. Many also want to work at a AAA company because of the perceived "job security," but true job security in the game industry is very rare, regardless of company size. If you're a composer, you'll almost certainly have to be a freelancer. Yes, there are a few in-house composer jobs in existence, but they make up less than 0.1% of opportunities. Most every composition opportunity will be for freelancers/external contractors. Focusing on indie games almost always requires you to be a freelancer, at least at the very beginning - which is great for people like me who like to run their own business and be in charge of every aspect of their careers, but isn't so great for people who just want to make sound all day. And yes, you can absolutely work in both Indie and AAA at the same time And no, the dichotomy isn't so simple as just working on either huge AAA games or tiny Indie games. There are also games that bridge the gap between the two categories, also referred to as "double-A" or "Triple-I" games. Regardless of which way(s) you want to go Networking is still absolutely essential. Thankfully, game audio as a whole is pretty darn open and friendly. Yes, there are some grumps and curmudgeons, but as a whole you'll find it to be far more giving and open than other entertainment industries. While we can't really network in person right now There are oodles of online opportunities to do so. Regardless of where you live, I recommend starting with Instagram to get your network going. Just follow my guide here to get started on that. And if you want to network at online events, I recommend taking a look at this list. It's not completely exhaustive, but does a pretty good job of curating the biggest game industry events around the world. Will you start to get work instantly by following these ideas? Probably not. Will it start to come if you're consistent? Absolutely. "But Akash, you lightly melted Oreo ice cream sandwich on a hot summer's day," you ask "this can't possibly be everything I need to know!" It isn't! It super isn't! There's so much to working in this industry, and there's absolutely no one "right" way to going about it. Your path will look dramatically different from everyone else's. Still, some core things always remain true: network with people, make friends, practice your craft, show your work, put yourself out there, and understand what people are trying to make. One common mindset I see, however Is people thinking they're "too old" to work jump into game industry work. YOU'RE NOT. Your networking efforts might shift to different groups of people depending on your age, but they remain largely the same. Regardless, just be sure you play games. It makes it way harder to find work in the field if you don't know the medium. So, let's go over what we covered today 1. The game industry isn't too dissimilar from most other technical/creative fields out there 2. Two very broad parts of game development are AAA and Indie games. You can work in both, and there's a lot of "Grey area" between the two categories 3. Like any field, networking and making friends is a massive part of success in the field. I recommend starting with Instagram and finding online events. 4. Please, if you care about me at all, buy me a Tandy Memorex. I love garbage games so much. So even with clunkers like the Tandy Memorex VIS The game industry continues to move on. If you've been playing around with the idea of getting into the field, you're in good company, and will find plenty of opportunities if you play your cards right. If you're brand new to this field This may seem like an insane time to jump into it, but it's honestly as good as a time as any. All conferences are way cheaper and 100% online, everyone's stuck at home so they're way easier to get in touch with, and remote work is the new normal - even with AAA studios. And if you are indeed new to the field of game audio Then you know how important it is to get as much support as you can. That's why I've created not one, but two free courses to help you get your foot in the door. In these courses, you'll learn how to network, charge for your work, and find projects no matter where in the world you live (and yes, even during a pandemic). Just sign up here to get them!