Guest contribution by Mirella Diez Moran
My name is Mirella, I’m a video game sound designer and I’m Spanish too. I guess that in any other country none of these things would be particularly relevant, but given that there are very few people working in video game sound over here-not many more than twenty people-I guess I’m like some sort of unicorn.
When I decided I wanted to work as a video game sound designer, I had already worked in a few audiovisual projects. The problem with the Spanish film industry is that most companies are pretty crowded, so I was aware that it would be almost impossible to make a living out of working in it. It was then, when I played a game called “Sword & Sworcery”, that I realized that I could try entering the video game industry. I’m also a gamer since I was little, so I thought it was a brilliant idea.
The first thing that surprised me was that I couldn’t find any studies that focused in game audio at all. And it was pretty hard finding people working in the field, too.
That year the video game industry in Spain turned over way more benefits than the film industry, and yet it was really hard to find people actually working in it. How could this be? It didn’t take me long to realize that the biggest issue we’ve got in Spain regarding video game audio is a general lack of awareness that affects both academic studies and video game studios.
Concerning education, it’s still really hard to find any academic formation at all. The main way of learning the job is either being self-taught or studying in other country.
Concerning the Spanish video game industry, I’ve found that game audio is one of the fields no one ever seems to think about. Even though musicians may have things a bit easier, the common thing over here is that most companies, no matter the size, don’t have audio personnel in their office.
And it’s not just that there aren’t many audio designers inside the developer teams, there’s a widespread ignorance of their professional needs too. Many times one has to fight in order to be able to do a decent job.
It is common for developers to be reluctant to let both musicians and sound designers using the game engine or the repository server in order to integrate the audio into the game. I know many musicians that weren’t even allowed to see the game they were working at, so that they would have to write music blindly.
Implementing audio is always a polemic thing over here. The most common practice is that programmers trigger all sounds directly by writing the code for it, not allowing the audio professionals intervene in the process, leaving zero control to how their work will be displayed in the video game.
The use of audio middleware is far from becoming a standard, here in Spain. Developer teams have little knowledge of these kind of tools, and most of the times they don’t allow their use. Instead they usually offer some in-house made tools that tend to be insufficient, since they were developed without asking the audio professionals for their needs.
Besides all this, there is great ignorance concerning the video game sound creation process, and therefore studios tend to think that all the audio work for a game may be done in the latter weeks of development. In most of the cases, time estimations are totally unreal.
What I also found, concerning the freelance scene, is that economical retributions are very far from the real cost of the audio creation process.
Many of these issues may be a direct consequence of the lack of industry in the country until the indie expansion in the last 5 years or so. On top of that, many of the people that found new studios have no previous experience in the video game industry, which probably contributes to the general lack of awareness on game audio related stuff.
How could I fight all these issues when being a newcomer in the industry? Well, I thought it would be a good idea to rely on the few game audio professionals that went practically unnoticed in the country. Inspired by the awesome international Twitter community of #GameAudio, I created a Facebook group that would serve as a meeting point for game audio professionals where they could share their experience and knowledge with each other.
After that I also organized the first Spanish game audio meeting conferences ever, aimed for audio students in Madrid.
In the future I will also focus on Gamelab—Spain’s most relevant game developer event—featuring some game audio talk for once.
I still don’t know whether I’m making the right steps or not in order to create a better game audio culture in my country, but one thing is for sure: I won’t ever have to regret for not trying.
Mirella is a freelance video game sound designer, currently working on several indie titles, such as “Candle” and “Crossing Souls”. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MissGameAudio.