Let me say this off the hop, game audio is not a huge money making endeavor. Getting to work on the next AAA title is harder than getting signed to a major label. Bottom line, f you want to get rich…this is just not the avenue to make it happen. But if you’re passionate about working on some games, then please read on.
Almost every musician I know has expressed to me a desire to work on video game music at one time or another. And why not, with the current state of the music, film and television industries; promoters and venues at war with talent, video games really do appear to be the answer…but is it? With a flood of musicians and composers trying to “break into the game industry” some very important elements have been washed out in the undertow.
I agree the best way to get your music into a game is to offer services for free, and why not, it is the path of least resistance, I mean who doesn’t like free right? Well, this model does create some issues. What is happening by offering music for free, is professional audio pipelines are becoming non-existent. So eager are musicians to work on games that a working pipeline is often an afterthought, by parties on all sides. Game developers, who pay nothing for a service, lose the value in the process, the end product, and often take your time for granted. Musicians are so happy to be working on a game they often take on things that is out of their element or skill set leaving developers unhappy and weary of seeking out professional audio in the future.
There are a few variables that developers and musicians may easily overlook. Not understanding the process of game development, or lingo used to describe music composition can quickly become as convoluted as a GMO Labeling ballot. Being a fan of games is a good start, but one should do their research before deciding to take on their first iOS project. Websites like Gamasutra will have ample information about game audio. As musicians we need to make it as easy as possible for game developers to communicate with us. The more you know about the game dev cycle, the better you can communicate with developers.
Game developers look for things most bands and songwriters cannot easily accommodate. Things like the capability to record, mix, master and re-record music. Changes in the game developers original audio vision are often the polar opposite after months of working on the game…and you are left to make these changes. This takes time and commitment, something often lost in the music industry. I know that contracts can stipulate only X amount of revisions and similar variables, but really we want game designers to be happy, after all it is their game.
Any developer with experience will likely have already built relationships with an audio team. So…musicians trying to break into the industry should focus their attention on student and startup projects. This way both developer and musician can learn by doing, because there is no substitute for experience. Start by talking about the creative aspects of music and then move onto a workflow…and ask questions. All parties should understand the working pipeline, and other things will just have to be figured out as you go…such is working with anyone for the first time.
So why am I telling you this? Well we have an opportunity to create something new, something that works, something different then the dysfunctional method film, television and music industries use to approach audio…a functional working relationship with indie game developers the world over. I for one think that if it is handled properly, with an open mind, understanding and willingness to learn, then we are onto something great. Only then can we look at video games and say, this is next great thing for musicians, and the music that we write.
Troy Morrissey is a Game Audio Consultant/Director, Sound Designer, Composer and Audio Engineer. He is the founding partner at Indie Game Audio, DARC Productions Inc.; the Producer/Director for the Film Game Jam The Documentary and co-organizer of the Toronto Global Game Jam