This is a guest contribution coming to us from Andy Bertolini. Having recently worked at Anki, and at Somatone before that, Andy is a fantastic Voice Over editor also deft in the arts of audio middleware. He has been the person who has solved our problems before we were aware they even existed, and we couldn’t have shipped our latest title without him.
A Newcomer’s Journey into Game Audio
I would like to imagine that many of us, if not almost all of us, have at some point asked ourselves: What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? And where do I want to work? That being said, they are not always the most easily answered questions. I personally had quite a bit of difficulty doing just that. Growing up, I was never the type of person that aspired to a specific “dream job.” There were two things that I knew I wanted to work with: Audio and Video Games. However, this introduced an entirely new layer of questions. Which discipline did I want to pursue and how should I approach getting into that field?
Our industry is an interesting one as it is comprised of many unique disciplines; recording, composing, programming, sound design, etc. As a relatively new audio professional, it was intimidating, overwhelming even, when contemplating what I wanted to specialize in. The Game Audio industry, like many others, has a wide spectrum of specialty subsets that I could focus on, but how could I decide? I’d like to talk about some of my personal experiences when trying to decide on a specialty and what factors came into play to mold my decisions.
As I said earlier, I’ve never had a particular affinity towards a specific discipline within the audio world; I only knew that I wanted to work in Game Audio. This made for a rather stressful period in my life filled with a large amount of soul searching and self-reflection. With such a large spectrum of potential disciplines, how could I feel comfortable specializing in just one? What if I chose poorly? What if I ultimately didn’t like the specialty?
So there I was, standing at a pivotal crossroads, attempting to make a decision that would ultimately shape the beginning of my professional career. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]So there I was, standing at a pivotal crossroads, attempting to make a decision that would ultimately shape the beginning of my professional career.[/perfectpullquote]It was then that I realized I needed information. I needed a starting point, and an avenue to ask questions.
The Hive Mind that is Subreddit
The beauty of the technological age we live in is that we have, at a moment’s notice, access to an infinite amount of information. In the hope of narrowing down such a large spectrum of potential careers, I started to focus on the individual bands that defined it: sound design, audio programming, and editing. My goal was to use the readily available information to explore each discipline while continuing to give myself the freedom to experiment.
I began by creating a Reddit account that would be dedicated to anything related to audio. As I scoured over endless amounts of content, I came across a handful of subreddits that offered a wealth of information:
- Game Audio: https://www.reddit.com/r/GameAudio/
- Audio Engineering: https://www.reddit.com/r/audioengineering/
- GameDev: https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/
- Unity3D: https://www.reddit.com/r/Unity3D/
- Programming: https://www.reddit.com/r/programming/
- SuperCollider: https://www.reddit.com/r/supercollider/
Each of these subs acted as a unique hub that offered varied points of view, information, and levels of community involvement. Furthermore, I could tailor my experience to fit my current needs and interests through engaging in discussions with audio hobbyists, enthusiasts, and professionals from all over the world. Conversely, if I wanted to, I could silently lurk and assimilate information on my own terms.
YouTube: Everyone’s Classroom
Having available access to a massive network of like-minded audio professionals, their advice, their work, their successes, and their failures, was a tremendous step towards gaining a better understanding of what resonated with me. However, I started to find myself lacking content that could actually teach me new tools and concepts. Luckily, many Reddit users did an excellent job of linking me to external sites. It was here that I began exploring the depths of YouTube tutorials and podcasts. A few notable series that I frequented were:
- SuperCollider: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRzsOOiJ_p4
- Reaper: https://www.reaper.fm/videos.php#Nzw5xwpcCJs
- Reaper Blog: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC39aOXMqg48qpzEz1l_-7tQ
The beauty of the video tutorial is that even though it is linear by nature, you have dynamic transport controls. Did you miss what the YouTuber was saying because you were attempting to follow his instructions? Just hit rewind. Do you need to catch up to what they were talking about? Just press pause. With these tutorials, I was able to learn on my time and at my pace. And fortunately, with the vast expanse that is the internet, it was highly likely that there was a tutorial out there for just about anything I could imagine. That being said, there were instances where I wanted to take what I learned and expand upon it in real-world scenarios. It was here that I sought out mentors, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends.
What better way to get a taste of what a specialty is like than by going straight to the source: a person that specializes in that discipline! Your colleagues, acquaintances, and friends are a massive pool of knowledge to draw from. The ability to have a conversation in real-time, to ask about a person’s workflow and technique, is one of the best learning opportunities you could hope for. Not only will they be able to explain what they did and how they did it, they can also give insight into the rationale behind why they did it.
Being new to the industry, I took advantage of every opportunity presented to me to ask as many questions as possible. These conversations allowed me to expand my understanding of their specialty while also deepening the relationship I had with them. If I could give any advice to new folks starting on their audio journey, I would say this: don’t be shy about asking questions outside your chosen specialty. Who knows, maybe those conversations will lead you to discover something you didn’t know before. But if the information isn’t the most relevant to you, don’t sweat it. You still are establishing a good perspective.
Some of the best advice I was given throughout my many years of academia was: [perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Be unrelenting in your curiosity, insatiable in your thirst for knowledge, and above all else never stop asking questions. Curiosity is the path by which you expand your understanding of the world around you.”[/perfectpullquote]“Be unrelenting in your curiosity, insatiable in your thirst for knowledge, and above all else never stop asking questions. Curiosity is the path by which you expand your understanding of the world around you.”
What started as a maelstrom of anxiety, stress, and impossible decisions transformed into an amazing opportunity to explore various avenues of learning. Being as inexperienced as I was in the professional audio world, I lacked the insight on how best to specialize when looking for work. This presented me with a unique opportunity as it forced me to explore and experiment with different specialties. I started by utilizing various web-based information hubs such as Reddit and YouTube to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of these disciplines. When those sources fell short, however, I turned to my colleagues with their decades of professional experience. They were a more personal and intimate source of information that allowed me to ask the plethora of questions I had rattling around my mind.
Looking back, now that I’m on the other side with a somewhat clearer idea of what I want to be, I’d like to say: Never stop asking questions, and never stop looking for the next thing you’re going to be great at. Just because you specialize in a certain discipline doesn’t mean you should stop looking forward. Our industry is a massive spectrum comprised of countless specialties; do not be afraid to wander. Never lose the curiosity, that initial spark of intrigue that originally got you into audio. Nurture it and feed it with as much information as humanly possible.