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How does one get into sound design and audio engineering for video games?
Old 25th April 2012
Gear Maniac

How does one get into sound design and audio engineering for video games?

So here is my story. I have a certificate in audio engineering from Audio Recording Technical Institute (got it in 2009). Unfortunately the job hunt didn't go so well (mostly due to me not being able to decide or focus on a particular sub discipline of audio engineering) after graduating plus money problems and having a baby forced me to become a regular working guy. They offered students the opportunity to audit classes they've already taken and take any new classes they would offer, but the school ended up closing it's doors for good, so no dice. My engineering skills have deteriorated a bit do to being out of practice and having to turn my studio room into a baby room, but I think I'm ready to give it another shot.

I've always wanted to do sound design for video games, but the school I attended did not offer this. It was a recording, mixing, post production type of path.

I'm having alot of difficulty finding information on how to even get into this type of work and when looking at jobs from companies like EA, etc. I find that the requirements for sound design/audio engineering positions vary alot. Everything from knowing Pro Tools and hardware recording to being familiar with middleware (still in the process of researching to understand more about how this is used in sound) and having a degree in computer science.

Also it seems just about every job requires that you have a few years of experience working with titles for Xbox 360, playstation 3, or PC.

Can any veterans of the video game industry explain what I need to do to get on track towards a career in sound for video games?

I have an Imac, decent studio monitors (a usb powered system with sub and stereo monitoring that can be expanded to 5.1 easily), a quality hand held recorder for capturing sounds, Pro Tools LE, a very old mbox (i think it came with Pro Tools 5 or 6 LE ill need to upgrade this guy probably), and a keyboard midi controller. The space I have is very limited though I can't even fit everything at once, but we may be moving to a more spacious apartment. I'll also try to rearrange things in the house.

I was planning on finishing a demo I've played around with of the intro cinematic from the popular Xbox 360 game Bioshock. It would simply be the cinematic, but I would replace all the sounds. It has no dialog, so I think its a good candidate for something like that, but is it the right type of demo for a video game job or is it more of a movie/post production type of demo idea? I would like advice on any other ways to get going and get my foot in the door though. I need a career and I'm willing to take the long road if I need to.

Should I become familiar with some other type of software that is commonly used in the video game industry for sound? I'm not all that fast or skilled with Pro Tools and I got it for free. I just paid for the upgrade to 10. Taking a different approach wouldn't be a big deal as long as it's not to expensive. Maybe some type of software used specifically for sound design/synthesis also? Middleware? I would keep the Imac, the hand held recorder, and monitors

How about education? I'm considering going back to school since I'm close to an AA degree. Is a computer science degree necessary to excel in sound design for video games? I wanted to also go back to the school I got the certificate from (A.R.T.I) and audit classes I've already taken or do their new classes since I'm a graduate, but they closed down. To bad it was only 2-2 1/2 hours away from my house.

Anyway this post is to long. Thanks for any help you guys can provide.
Old 21st May 2012
Here for the gear

Your school sounds very similar to mine in terms of curriculum. I studied at the Institute of Audio Research in Manhattan. It was only a 10 month audio program but it gave me the start that I needed to look for internships/jobs. Anyway I've also always been interested in video game sound design. Sound design, especially for video games is definitely a fun job and if you can get into the industry it has the potential for very good pay and benefits.

I've been working for a local indie game developer as their sound designer for about a year now. If you are looking to get your foot in the door and get some experience then this is definitely a good way to start. Working for an indie game developer has advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are that you will likely (but not always) do work for free or very little pay. Indie game developers usually have a low budget and are trying to pave their way into the market by making games that a publisher will fund or that people will enjoy and buy. The advantages (in my opinion) Completely outweigh the disadvantages. By working for an indie game developer you will have the chance to learn and grow with a company that is still learning and growing. Not to mention it's a great resume builder. Having "sound designer for game developer" written on your resume is going to give you a much better chance of landing that dream job with a AAA game company than a college degree or audio school diploma alone. The other advantage is that the company that you work for could very likely land a big publishing agreement by creating a game that's marketable and appealing. If this happens then that's great because their success is your success. At that point you can really take a deep breath and just enjoy your job and your life.

Here's a good couple of way's to get yourself a job with an indie developer.

1. Google. I know it's pretty obvious but just search for indie game developers near your area. your likely to find at least a couple. Depending on where you live this might work or it might just lead to nothing but that doesn't mean they don't exist.

2. This one is the most important. Go on this site below
News and Updates | IGDA
The IGDA (International Game Developers Association) has chapters all over and your bound to find a chapter in or near your area. Find out through them when and where their next chapter meeting will happen and attend it. You will most likely be the only audio guy there (which is great for you) amongst many programmers, game design majors, artists, and maybe even some semi established game developers. This is a great way to network and have a good time doing it. Maybe you'll find some like minded individuals that you can start your own company with. And maybe you can even meet some already established or semi established indie developers who could use your services. Just stay persistent, be yourself, and have fun. At these meetings it's okay to admit that you have no video game experience your surrounded by a bunch of people on the same boat as you. Just make sure people realize that you are an audio expert.

3. Another great way of finding developers is to search for kickstarter campaigns for video games.
Kickstarter is a great way for a game developer to fund themselves without a publisher. All of the money that they make is Fan/friend funded and if they meet their goal then they have the money they need to pay people for their time spent on whichever game they're working on. This is a great way of finding indie game developers that are out there and offering your services to them.

4. Watch these videos. They helped me realize that what I was learning in my post production class is very similar to what a video game sound designer does.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Sound Design and Creation - YouTube
The Sounds of Skyrim The Mark Lampert Interview Part 2 - YouTube
All you need is to get your foot in the door and start working for a company. no matter how big or small they are you are still getting on the job experience and building your resume. Little by little you'll make progress and start paving your way to success if you stay on this path.

Good Luck!
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