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Ask the Experts: 'Game Audio Gigs'

In the latest Ask the Experts column on sister web site GameCareerGuide.com, Jill Duffy fields a question about breaking
In the latest Ask the Experts column on sister web site GameCareerGuide.com, Jill Duffy fields a question about breaking into game audio. Gamasutra.com is also running this breaking-in column here -- please consult GameCareerGuide.com's Getting Started page for more advice on entering and progressing your career in the game industry. Dear Experts, I'm currently in college studying music technology. My dream is to get into doing sound for games, but I don't know where to start. I've worked on a few movies so far. I'm trying to find an internship for this coming summer and I'd really like to get one in the gaming industry. Any pointers? Thanks! Mallory Dear Mallory, Let me first say that getting into game audio is so competitive that I've never heard of companies offering an internship in it. However, and I'm blushing to admit this, after a few milliseconds' worth of web searching, I actually found a job ad from a Los Angeles-based company looking for an audio intern for games, film, and commercials. Go figure. Supply and Demand My finding that internship job ad was either a complete fluke or evidence of the rapidly changing nature of the game industry. But by golly, does it give me hope for you! As you consider your future career in game audio, you should know some of the basic facts about how audio in games work, and how game audio technicians work. The music, sound effects, and other audio for a game typically are put in at the very end of the development cycle. For example, a game that is in development for two years might not have any sounds in it, other than placeholders, until the last few months. This means that game development studios don't typically need to keep audio technicians on their payroll for the entire duration of a project. The majority of game audio work that happens in the industry is contract work. The exception is a game company that is large enough and has enough projects in development at once to keep an audio person (or two or three) busy throughout the year. Even then, even in the really big studios, there are rarely more than a few people in the audio department. In other words, full-time positions are rare. There are few positions and many people who would like to fill them. Following the laws of supply and demand, it is just as difficult (or more so) to get into game audio full-time as it is to become a full-time creative lead game designer. Going Freelance As a freelance audio contractor, or even as someone employed by a company that takes on contract work, you should be prepared to tackle different challenges every single day. Your tasks might include everything from composing music to creating special effects to mixing to figuring out how to minimize the memory allocation associated with the game audio. Be prepared to do everything. One way you can learn a little bit of everything is to look for any kind of audio work you can find. Get experience in music recording, creating special effects for film, directing actors as they read dialogue; and you can get these experiences while working on non-game projects. Vincent Diamante, a freelance game audio designer and senior editor at insertcredit.com, wrote an article for GameCareerGuide.com called "How to Break Into Game Audio." Getting the Gig In it, he advises game audio applicants to bear in mind what a game audio engineer may be tasked with doing: being the one and only person on the team who knows anything about sound. "Being the sole audio director means is that you are likely the sole advocate for the audio life of the game. ... You should be ready to stand up and be heard for the needs of audio. And I don't just mean memory allocation or polyphony requirements. If artists are proposing changes to assets that you think have a significant impact on the audio assets you are delivering, the rest of the development team needs to know about it." Diamante also recommends getting into game audio by looking for small student groups or new independent developers who might be interested in hiring someone for free or a very low cost, and in exchange you get to have a credit on the game. Go Google for that Los Angeles-based internship, Mallory, if you can, and send them your resume now even if they're not yet looking for someone for the summer. Tell them about your experience in film, then wow them with your understanding of how audio for games is different ("Music in games has to be looped!" "Reuse sound effects, and thus minimize the audio memory footprint, by breaking down commonly used sounds into a few component parts that can be remixed programmatically"). Impress them now, and maybe they'll hold a space open for you come June. Good luck! Jill Duffy is editor of GameCareerGuide.com. She also writes this bi-weekly column, Ask the Experts, in which she helps people find answers to their game industry questions by consulting experts in the field. Send your questions to theexperts (at) gamecareerguide.com.

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