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The Big List 2021: Resources for Game Music Composers
Game music composer Winifred Phillips shares an extensive list of online resources, including upcoming industry conferences, online communities, bulletin boards, and a round-up of audio software. Features links to free videos of conference sessions.
March 15, 2021
15 Min Read
Glad you're here! I'm videogame composer Winifred Phillips, and every year I compile a "big list" of the top online resources available for game audio folks. It's an evolving list that expands each year as more awesome professional tools and great networking opportunities become available. However, before we begin, it's important to acknowledge what the Covid-19 pandemic has done to our industry this year. While the games themselves are as popular as ever, those of us making assets for these games are working under extraordinary circumstances. It's harder than ever to meet face-to-face, and our community can feel a bit fractured and distant. With that in mind, let's kick off this list with a look at how we're connecting with each other in the time of the coronavirus, exploring how conferences and events have adapted to our socially-distant world this year. In doing so, I'll be sharing some videos from conferences that took place entirely online, including the full-length video of the talk I gave in 2020 at the Game Developer Conference (pictured above). After that, we'll once again explore the best available resources in the form of online community groups, software applications, and academic institutions with wellsprings of expert knowledge to share.
So if everybody's ready, then let's get started!
The Game Developers Conference is a mammoth yearly event held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, where the game development community gathers to attend educational presentations and check out new tech on the conference's exhibit floor. Due to the pandemic, the Game Developers Conference plans on holding another entirely virtual event this year during the week of July 19-23, 2021. While we're waiting for the full-fledged GDC event this summer, the GDC organizers have pulled together a free virtual conference kicking off this week! GDC Showcase 2021 includes 49 sessions across all game development disciplines. I'm pleased that I'll be participating in both the GDC Showcase this week, and in the full GDC Conference in July. My presentation this week is entitled, "Homefront to God of War: Using Music to Build Suspense." I'll be answering questions during and after the presentation, so I hope you'll register to join me on March 18th (3:15pm PST). In the meantime, I'd like to share a video of my presentation from last year's entirely virtual GDC event. During this event, I was pleased to discuss the importance of memorable musical themes in game music composition, using examples from my work on such projects as Assassin's Creed Liberation and the LittleBigPlanet franchise. Selected talks from this online event are now available via the GDC YouTube channel. Here's a video of the online presentation I gave during virtual GDC 2020:
The Audio Developers Conference is an annual event that focuses on some of the most complex issues involved in audio development, including some highly technical sessions that delve into issues specific to game audio folks. The most recent Audio Developers Conference took place from 17 - 19 November 2020 as a virtual event on the Remo networking app. All of the conference sessions are now available for free viewing on the conference YouTube playlist. Here's a presentation on game music from a programmer's perspective, given by Guy Somberg of Echtra Games:
The Audio Engineering Society International Conference on Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality took place from August 17 - 19, 2020. This conference gathers researchers, engineers, and developers to exchange ideas on the subject of audio creation and implementation in virtual and augmented/mixed reality. The entire conference is now freely available for viewing on YouTube, including the panel on audio development of the Valve Index and the VR game Half-Life: Alyx, given by members of the VALVE Audio Team.
The Audio Engineering Society organizes a robust convention calendar for the benefit of audio engineers around the world. Events include both topic-specific conferences, and larger-scale main conventions taking place twice a year in cities that alternate between the USA and major cities in Europe. Both conventions in 2020 were virtual live-streamed events that included exclusive virtual walking tours of world-renowned recording studios. Recordings of AES 2020 presentations were made available to registrants for a limited time. The Audio Engineering Society's Spring 2021 convention will take place entirely online from May 25 - 28, 2021. Here's a video showing the virtual walking tour of Metropolis Studios from the AES Fall 2020 convention.
The Audio Mostly Conference on Interaction with Sound is an interdisciplinary conference bringing professionals and academics together to discuss the intersection between sound/music and the design of products, games, software, virtual environments and more. The latest Audio Mostly Conference took place from September 14 - 17, 2020 as a fully virtual event. A broad selection of presentation videos are available for free online. The next Audio Mostly Conference will take place online from September 1 - 3, 2021. Here is a scholarly presentation that explores nonlinear, interactive composition techniques from a more scientific point of view, as presented by Adrian Hazzard, Chris Greenhalgh and Maria KallionpaÌˆaÌˆ:
The Develop Conference in Brighton is Europe's leading game development conference, bringing industry professionals together for three days of learning and networking. The latest Develop: Brighton conference took place as an online event from November 2-4 2020. Videos of sessions are available for free viewing via the conference YouTube playlist. As of this writing, Develop: Brighton intends to hold a traditionally physical conference event from October 26 - 28, 2021. Here's a Develop: Brighton 2020 presentation given by Bogdan Vera of Media Molecule on audio creation using the tools of the Dreams video game:
GameSoundCon is a two-day conference focused exclusively on game audio topics, and held every year at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. This year, GameSoundCon held its conference virtually from Oct 5-7 2020. Videos of conference sessions are now available for a $25 fee, and will remain available online until "at least April 3, 2021."
The Ludo2021 Conference on Video Game Music and Sound will take place entirely online from April 23 - 25th, 2021, and will be free for both presenters and attendees. The theme of this conference will be, "Where in the world is video game music? Geographies, Cultures, and Regions of Game Music." The conference that was scheduled to take place at the University of Malta in April 2020 was postponed indefinitely.
The Music and the Moving Image Conference takes place at NYU Steinhardt, and focuses on the relationship between all visual projects (film, TV, games, etc) and music/sound content. Their conference was originally scheduled to take place in May 2020, but has been rescheduled as a virtual event set to take place via Zoom from May 27 - May 30, 2021. The keynote address will be given by famous film composer Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings).
The North American Conference on Video Game Music is a scholarly event taking place each year at a different sponsoring university, and focusing on the study of the role music and sound plays in video game design and appreciation. The most recent conference took place entirely online from June 13th - 14th 2020. Videos of conference sessions were not preserved after the event. This year's event is scheduled as an entirely virtual conference to take place from June 12 - 13, 2021.
Beyond the offerings presented each year in conferences, there are other mind-expanding resources available from academic organizations such as these:
Communities / Discussion Forums
Online communities have become more important than ever this year, as other means of connecting with each other grow increasingly difficult in our socially-distanced world. Below I've provided a list of online community groups from around the world, organized alphabetically and grouped by continent.
There's also a handy Google Map) that provides similar data, for those who prefer a more graphical approach.
After the location-focused community groups, I've included some more generalized game audio bulletin boards and online communities.
Game Audio Groups - Americas
Game Audio Groups - Asia
Game Audio Groups - Europe
General Game Audio Communities and Forums
This list expands slowly each year, as more tools are introduced for game audio creators. As before, I've included the time-tested middleware applications, along with tools for spatial audio design and a collection of the most popular Digital Audio Workstations.
So there we have it - the big list for 2021! I hope you'll find something useful in this article. Thanks for reading!
Winifred Phillips is a BAFTA-nominated video game composer whose latest project is the hit PlayStation 5 launch title Sackboy: A Big Adventure (soundtrack album now available). Popular music from Phillips’ award-winning Assassin’s Creed Liberation score is featured in the performance repertoire of the Assassin’s Creed Symphony World Tour, which made its Paris debut in 2019 with an 80-piece orchestra and choir. As an accomplished video game composer, Phillips is best known for composing music for games in five of the most famous and popular franchises in gaming: Assassin’s Creed, God of War, Total War, The Sims, and Sackboy / LittleBigPlanet. She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER’S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the MIT Press. As one of the foremost authorities on music for interactive entertainment, Winifred Phillips has given lectures at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, the Society of Composers and Lyricists, the Game Developers Conference, the Audio Engineering Society, and many more. Phillips’ enthusiastic fans showered her with questions during a Reddit Ask-Me-Anything session that went viral, hit the Reddit front page, received 14.9 thousand upvotes, and became one of the most popular gaming AMAs ever hosted on Reddit. Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.
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