5 Tips to Start a Career in Game Audio – Tips from Firelight Audio

Ophelias Chapter from Red Tear Games Dungeon

Last week, we interviewed Vale Viola from Firelight Audio, who explained her experience creating sound effects for Alexa, an Amazon virtual assistant technology, as well as her passion for music and what led her to create video game music.

Vale Viola has created music and sound effects for Alexa Skills such as Big Fart, Christmas Countdown & Santa, Animal Sounds as well as composing music for mobile games including Overcharged and Citizen: Rome.

Vale Viola Firelight Audio working on a sound design project
Vale Viola Firelight Audio working on a sound design project

Read full interview: How to Design Sound Effects for Alexa Skills? – Interview with Firelight Audio

In this article, we are sharing her advice to people wanting to break into video game sound design but don’t know where to start.

1. Learning does not Stop after University

If you go to an audio school you will probably learn all the basic audio principles and tools to get started. But bear in mind you’ll need to make learning a habit if you want to make it in the audio industry. It’s also quite hard to find a place to learn all that’s needed to work in game audio, so learning by yourself is key!

I’ve learnt with time that curiosity is the inner drive that helps you grow on a daily basis. I’m lucky to work from home (many of us are at these times, let’s be real) so I always take the time to research things when I don’t know how to do something. I always take the ‘learn now, thank me later’ approach.

Vale Viola Firelight Audio working from home

The earlier you are in your career, the more likely you are to have the time to do research and learn while you work. I google everything I don’t know, and I believe there are a ton of things I don’t know!

It’s obviously HARDER and more time-consuming to put in the work and study, but it makes you BETTER at what you do and it will probably make you work FASTER in the end!

Being curious and researching new things is what makes you level up your skills and it makes you a STRONGER professional. Being curious and doing research will ultimately level up your skills and make you a stronger worker.

Just remember the Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk 😉

2. Participate in Game Events

I strongly suggest that you go to game events like Game Jams.

Game jams are a great place to learn and meet people from other areas of game development. In a game jam, you essentially have 48 hours to create a game with other people. It usually is a great opportunity to learn how other people work. It’s fun to hear artists discuss aesthetics and see programmers solving the mystery of how to get things done by code.

Games are a multidisciplinary art so it’s really important to know how other teams work and learn how to communicate with them to create the best experience possible for the gamer. The more you understand about the other disciplines involved in creating a game the better it will be for you to communicate with them in a work environment.

To land a game audio job you need a portfolio, and game jams are a great place to create music for a small game for this purpose – I did this with Firelight Audio to showcase my work. I’ve met many professionals in game jams that later referred me for different jobs. You’ll never know where you’ll meet someone that needs a Sound Designer or a Musician for their game.

Another reason for you to participate in game events like Game Jams is that they are a lot of fun!

How to Start a Game Jam – A Beginner Guide from a Composer and Sound designer

3. Connect with the Game Audio Community

Game audio communities are great – There are many professionals posting interesting things about game audio on Twitter and you can find people showing how they do stuff that is really cool in game sound design – much like the video that I did the other day with Reformer Pro. It gives you ideas and you can learn something just by scrolling and connecting with the community.

I’ve always felt the community is super friendly and helpful to one another. In the end we are all audio nerds that love to have an audio friend to talk to

Vale Viola

There are some interesting Discord groups as well. In Latin America, we have the Game Audio Latam discord server, the people that put it together did an amazing job!

Luckily, I’ve always felt the community is super friendly and helpful to one another. In the end we are all audio nerds that love to have an audio friend to talk to. If you find out there’s someone in your town doing audio, reach out to them, connect, ask them for advice if you are just starting out. Don’t be shy, we were all beginners at some point.

You can also create small groups in your community as a safe place to learn and help each other with work. When I was studying, I learnt how important it is to get feedback from colleagues in order to improve at your craft and how having a small group with friends could be a great way of learning and exchanging knowledge with each other. What I would do is to reach out to 3 people and say “Hey, you all are audio nerds like me, let’s create a group as a safe place to ask each other questions about audio and share tips, tricks and interesting things we learn ”. We did it and it was really useful.

You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from your friends! I’m always asking people for advice about technical stuff, and I get questions from colleagues as well. We all grow together. One of those 3 people was Cuki. Today we work together doing fun things for HUGO.FM, I think teamwork is always better than working alone.

4. Take Risks

When it comes to sound design it is impossible to know everything, and we shouldn’t pretend to. When you are getting started, it is normal to find yourself in a situation in which you are asked to do something for a job and you have no idea where to start, just don’t panic!

Vale Viola’s new project: Ophelia’s Chapter from Red Tear Games

If you want to get a job you need to be willing to take risks. That can sometimes mean you’ll agree to work on something that you’ve never done before or have no experience at.

One of the first jobs I did for HUGO.FM was designing 30 dinosaur sounds. My colleague, Hugo was working on an extension for the Animal Sounds skill and asked me to do a pack of Dino sounds.

Had I done Dino sounds before? No. Did I learn how to do Dino sounds in University? Of course not!

At that moment, you’ll probably have an inner voice telling you that you have no idea how to do it and that you should decline the job offer. But my advice to step up to the challenge and learn how to do it on the go.

I researched 30 dinosaur species and came up with a sound for each one of them. My goal was to make fun sounds that made sense with what each dinosaur looks like and the informstion available about them.

5. Be Authentic and Love What You Do

It is so important to be authentic and in order to do that, you need to be true to yourself. Do the things you actually enjoy. Loving what you do will help you stay motivated and have fun working.

Obviously, we all go through times when we are just getting started in which we will take every offer we get, it’s the ’yes period’. But once you start to get a bit more comfortable in your career, being able to identify what you really enjoy could be a great way to find your identity. For example, I do game music and some people may assume I love chiptune music and the sounds of the old 8-bit games. I don’t (sorry).

Vale Viola Firelight Audio working on different projects

So today if someone asks me if I do that style, I would probably just refer the job to another composer who actually loves doing chiptune and does an amazing job, probably better than I ever could!

Focus your energy on the things you love and most of all, have fun!

For More Articles about Game Audio:

Game Sound Designer & Voice Actor in Japan: Interview with Alec Shea

How to Create Weapon Sound Effects: Interview with Nikola Nikita Jeremic

How to Automate Car Engine Sound Effects: Hidden Level Audio’s Video

For More on Vale Viola’s Work: 

Discover all her work on her official website: Firelight Audio

Listen to her music: Vale Viola’s SoundCloud

Follow her work on Twitter: Vale Viola Twitter

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