Brighten the Corners of Game AudioThis article is a guest contribution by Damian Kastbauer and does not reflect the views of DesigningSound.org or its Contributing Editors
I wondered how my life post-freelance would change my experience at GDC. Worried that I might not have the drive to meet and connect with people, without the dependency on hustling for opportunities. Ultimately the opposite proved to be true: this year was even more socially pronounced than ever. I met so many new and caught up with so many old friends. People and conversations continue to be my absolute favorite part of GDC; skimming the cream of inspiration from peoples experiences helps drive my excitement for this industry. Coming out of this year’s #GameAudioGDC there’s an overwhelming swell of emotion which can be felt rippling outward across the community with each passing day. It’s through these proclamations of passion and seeing people right-back to working on initiatives surrounding game audio that has helped me pull out of a post-GDC depression. After riding a week of enthusiastic positivity, its hard coming to grips with the hard work that needs to be done to follow up some of the difficult epiphanies about our culture that have surfaced within our industry through the gracious sharing of perception and experience of people in the community.
It should go without saying, whether you think of this as a post-gamer gate world or within the expectation of human decency, that creating a safe and inclusive space for sharing knowledge and experience should be at the heart of any educational pursuit. While mornings come early at GDC, the Game Audio Podcast has been waking up at 7AM for the past 3 years to report on the game audio buzz coming off the show floor and flowing from sessions to be broadcast outside the confines of San Francisco. The podcast itself was borne from the idea of “continuing the discussions that started at GDC and find a way to continue the conversation throughout the year”. Despite the punishing early-hour and expectation of verbal prowess, these have become an open-door experience that welcomes anyone willing to wake and join us at Sightglass Coffee. This year saw the week-long morning standup reaching 30-50 attendants daily and allows for an open forum to discuss the excitement of the previous day and anticipation for the comings day’s events. What unfolds is a public display of knowledge-share running the gamut between student/ beginner and professional members of the game audio community. This cross-collaboration towards the goal of sharing the experience of GDC is simply a spectacle to behold and, to me, clearly the heart and soul of what GDC is for me. I’m so proud of the way the people I spoke with conducted themselves in such an inclusive manner while lending their voices to the podcast. Couple this daily event with a more informal lunchtime meetup behind the Carousel outdoors and you can truly feel the pulse of the game audio community.
While the heart of the community beating strongly throughout the veins of the conference, it’s important to frame this vitality in the context of the two professional groups publicly representing game audio. Both the Game Audio Network Guild (GANG) and the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group (IASIG) have established a community founded on the passions and best-intentions of some of the finest contributors to game audio over the last 20 years. Made up of a member list that, over the years, reads like an encyclopedia of game audio superstars, their tireless work has established a firm-footing for our craft in the game industry.
With that said, it’s challenging coming face-to-face with the somewhat out of touch and insensitive way that GANG presents itself at times. The first issue is the name of the organization itself – the word ‘gang’ has such terribly negative connotations and it totally fails to represent the game audio community we all know and love. It’s hard to avoid sounding terrible out of context when calling yourself “a GANG member” or associating yourself “with a local GANG (chapter)” and the whole acronym resonates with a juvenile humor that simply isn’t funny. While GANG has achieved a great deal over the years by raising the awareness of game audio, it’s no longer served by this bastion of aggression. It’s not something that will put everyone off, but once the legacy of verbiage is acknowledged it feels completely out of place; once a negative association is made, it’s difficult to un-make it. Call it a times-they-are-a-changin’ moment of clarity or simply an indication that, while the game industry at large is facing perception and growing pains regarding inclusivity, GANG has some work to do in order to shed some old habits and connotations.
There’s a survey at the end of this article where you can share your opinion on the acronym GANG.
Which brings me to the GANG awards themselves. The awards ceremony aims to be a moment of pause during, what can be a frantic week of (over) socialization and a time to recognize the great work done across our community. I have felt this recognition ripple throughout the community outside of audio departments and influence positive change from outside the sound-proofed studio walls. When people (producers, engineers, artists and all the other disciplines that make up game development) hear of the recognition of technical and artistic excellence for games we’ve made, it gives greater pause to the consideration of audio as an integral part of the process. This recognition lends itself to this voice by shouting accomplishments outside of the audio department and putting a sharp focus on the audio in a game.
I was struck by the humbleness of most award recipients at the awards show; usually the first thing out once reaching the podium was a spoken appreciation for the work of everyone in the room and their teams. A sentiment that is deeply felt, for the attendance brings together some of the finest artists in game audio. This feedback-loop of positive recognition was heart-warming and made me feel like part of something much bigger than myself. The realization that I am part of this community, actively or passively and how I feel deeply invested in “the long game” of what game audio can be. Surrounded by peers and visionaries, the emotion in the room made me feel like I was a part of the legacy. Which is why I feel so strongly about some changes in the way the community is represented by our organizations and how it’s in everyone’s best interest to help bring about positive change.
Despite the good vibes and respectful recognition, I was brought face-to-face with something which unfortunately tainted and contradicted the mood of celebration and brought the entire experience down. Used as interstitial “comic relief” were a couple of internet-culled videos poking fun at video games in general as a way to ostensibly “lighten the mood”. This point is a little unfair without context and was a little difficult for me to understand in the moment. I don’t watch much TV and my view of popular culture phenomenon such as Celebrity Roasts [picking apart people for their flaws] and Wipeout/ Break.com [laughing at someone’s misfortune or poking fun from afar] are as an oddity not an embrace. The discomfort I was feeling was validated when I received a text from a friend who was voicing the same feelings during the awards. One such video was senselessly bashing Destiny for its perceived failings (amidst a room full of people who worked on the game) and another berating an animated Pac Man for being “too fat”. Comments to the extent of “these are NOT my people, this is NOT my scene, I want NO PART of this weird self-important nonsense!” echoing the hallways. These feelings were not exclusive to this year’s awards, but a common theme from the last few year’s awards shows. Afterwards in conversations it seemed like I just needed to open the door for commentary and I was met with the same feelings of inappropriateness and insensitivity.
It’s not that either of these videos are “bad” per-se (searching for them, I found many other variations on the same theme) but in context I feel like the choices didn’t represent the spirit of the event, they didn’t respect the people in the room, and unfortunately showed exactly the kind of behavior that we, as well adjusted adults and professionals in the game industry, should be distancing ourselves from whenever possible. In comparison to the questionable one-liners delivered by comedians at an event like the Oscars (which zing by in a couple of seconds) these video held a captive audience in their negative embrace well past the point of comfort or comedy. It’s one thing to cue up a video on your desktop and close the window when you’ve had enough, suffering through 30-60 seconds of title bashing during an uplifting awards ceremony honoring the work of people whose artistry is being recognized is another thing entirely: punishing.
GANG has an image problem, and one that can’t be simply solved with a new website. From the juvenile and antiqued naming already discussed, to the lack of inspired discourse in their forum, GANG is ripe for re-branding, re-invigorating, and re-inventing. From the GANG Town hall this year, it was clear that the GANG forum participation is at a lifetime low. Of the 60-ish people in the room two hands went up when the question of “Who here visits the forum?” Additionally, there were several voices from the community who wished there was more involvement and another who shared a story of posting a question years ago with no response. From my perspective (and behavior) people today will stay mostly within their “social garden” as long as it will fulfill their social needs. That means that, if a person can get the kind of interaction they’re looking for on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, DesigningSound, VGM or wherever they hang around online, they don’t need a paid forum. I don’t care if you are a student or a professional, $100 USD a year is a lot of money for access to the crumbling remains of a long dead and abandoned walled-garden. And new members keep coming, many students and new to the industry, hoping to find a secret in-road or sympathetic ear to assist them on their way. When the GANG forum fails, it does more than just fail its membership, it leaves a black-hole sucking the positive efforts of the organization with it.
In comparison, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that #GameAudio on twitter is an extremely supportive community of profession and hopefuls all soaking-in and contributing to the conversation. Twitter might not support the long-form conversation, but there are many publicly available places where people can engage in discussions. The conversation going over on reddit at /r/GameAudio allows for detailed discourse and bubbles up the most relevant discussions to its user-base and is open to everyone. At its best, I think the value of GANG is not in its forums but in the semblance it gives to game audio overall. Some of the negative perception facing GANG is the belief that the forums are still relevant in this day and age as a value proposition to their membership. This presentation of the GANG forums as valueble for members is misplaced and should be focused on the recognition, education, and outreach efforts of which the organization continues to champion.
The other aspect brought into sharp focus over the past-years is (my perceived) redundancy between the work of the IASIG & the Interactive Entertainment Sound Developers (IESD), a professional branch of GANG “focused on discussing and addressing the needs, resources, standards, and continuing education”. While both organizations have found their own reasons for existing and continue to work towards a shared goal of standards & recommendations-based guidance for the game audio community, their individual output can often be found lacking. The momentum of each initiative or working group is directly related to the passion of the knowledge-leader, whatever the intended goal seems to be. Each organization provides a place for someone’s passion to find a forum with others who can help shape and polish an idea-at-hand into something that may become adopted as a suggestion or standard to the industry-at-large. As the passion of Garry Taylors work to define a Loudness standard at Sony neared completion, the IESD was brought in to help to carry forward a Mix Recommendation publicly and encourage its adoption across many larger studios. Similarly, the IASIG Educational Working Group produced a report of recommended guidelines for Game Audio Education Curriculum.
At best these working groups become a catalyst for discussion surrounding a relevant topic within the community and result in the public sharing of a best-practices. At worst they become an ever-quieter blip on the email-reflector radar growing dimmer with each passing year. Regardless of output, the redundancy makes me feel like there is room for the cross-pollination of passionate collaborators which could result in the perception that there’s more going on. From the outside-in it’s difficult to see the movement of either organization (even from within) as it often develops wholly behind-the-scenes at a glacial pace. It seems as if each group has a cadre of motivational folks who help to spin the wheel of progress and I wonder if by combining efforts they might not be able to accomplish more together.
From conversations I’ve had (and a healthy dose of my feelings) I think there’s a lot of confusion around why there are two separate entities in game audio and what benefits one might have over the other. While each of their roles seems somewhat defined, after swimming in these waters for many years, the water surrounding things like: redundancy, value, forums, and output make for a misunderstanding as to where someone should align and focus their energy as part of a community (not only energy, but also the misconception of “allegiance”).
It’s with these fuzzy-feelings and a full-head of conversations surrounding the current state of things coming out of GDC this year that I’ve endeavored to get everything into this document. I’ve had so many soft ears to bend and smart people filling me up with observations and opinions that I can’t really take credit for all of the words or emotions. There has been incredible progress on the part of both GANG and IASIG over the past years thanks partially to the refreshing of leadership and the continued effort of passionate individuals. However, I can say that there seems to be a resounding feeling that things could be better…and that is a big reason as to why this is surfacing.
Here is a summary of the points I’m trying to make:
- Rebrand the Game Audio Network Guild (GANG).
- Rename the organization.
- Increase sensitivity during the awards ceremony.
- Re-Focus Membership towards: awards, education, outreach.
- Deprecate the private/ proprietary forums.
- Absorb/ Adopt the IASIG as the Professional Branch of the organization.
Amidst feedback from some that the sense of game audio community is stronger now than it ever has been, I think the time is right to capitalize on this goodwill. As someone who wants to extend that good feeling into all of the dark corners of game audio I hope we can all find a way to work together to bring forward positive change in a respectful way. My hope is that this article is received with the best intentions and serves as a catalyst for change or at the very least catharsis.
I think it would be valuable for people to share their opinions on the state of these organizations and I look forward to getting a better understanding of people’s perspective on these issues. Maybe there’s something missing from this article that feels relevant and appropriate to open up for discussion. If you do choose to comment on this topic, please try to find a way to present your feelings respectfully.
In the spirit of that, please share your perspective on some of the issues raised in this article through the Survey or in the comments.
Survey – Game Audio Organization Perceptions
I would also like to see a more diverse leadership board of GANG, and have there be more clarity about how the leadership team is chosen, and how long their tenure is.
Hear, hear. Game audio people are some of the most fun people to talk to, ever. Very professional, but never grandiose, truly the highlight of GDC.
Jack Menhorn says
FYI: Comments are moderated. So if your comment does not appear immediately its simply because I have not approved it for display yet.
Thank you so much for expressing a thought that’s clearly been on your mind for a while. While I think that the game audio community is a group of fantastically wonderful supportive people, I recognize that there are always things that we could do to improve things organizationally.
I think that there is some redundancy between GANG and IASIG. Given that old wounds that separated these groups of people seem to have been, for the most part, healed, it is at the very least time for the discussion to begin.
The proposal to amalgamate IASIG and GANG–how would that work in terms of the general remit of the groups: e.g. IASIG being more specifications focused, and GANG being more advocacy focused. Would it be an umbrella organization with smaller focus groups, or would there be smaller groups with different functions that are essentially separate entities?
It would be great to pool the financial resources of both groups into doing something great for game audio, rather than spreading it (too thin?) in both individual entities.
Damian, you have two separate points relating to GANG’s name and branding: Can I just clarify, do you see that as two different points to address (i.e. that the name and the overall brand are 2 separate issues?)
Cheers for the response and thanks for sharing your insights and seeking clarity on some of these points.
GANG Name vs. Branding:
I think there are two issues that overlap. The name is an issue that should be addressed *simply* by changing the name. If this were to happen, there would be an opportunity for the organization to sharpen focus of their branding and perspective. They overlap inasmuch that there is the potential to make changes representing the (future/ continued) direction of the organization.
Proposal to Amalgamate:
I like your idea of an umbrella organization, I’m honestly not sure. Does a “parent” organization “adopt” the IASIG as a standards/ workgroup committee that runs independently *for the good of* game audio? The GVAC extension of GANG has no current redundancies with other groups and seems to be operating well under the leadership. Ultimatly, as you say, it would be great to pool resources (financial and knowledge-share) in a single place.
Brian Schmidt says
To correct a bit on your survey, it’s not really accurate to refer to IESD as “The Professional Branch of G.A.N.G.”; rather it is the branch focusing on Sound Design (Interactive Entertainment Sound Designers), limited to members with significant professional experience.
I think the IESD has changed its focus a bit over the years, filling a hole it saw (eg standards, but separate from hardware standards)… that may have been the reason for some of the overlap it currently has with ia-sig.
Originally IESD was created to counter the feeling withing GANG that it was too music/composer focused and didn’t give enough attention to the sound aspects of our industry. It also wanted to be a professional designation for sound designers–something that could be credited with their name (sort of like MPSE).
It gradually served as a vehicle for discussion of some issues (loudness is a great example) which lent themselves to formal or informal standards.
Professional branch vs branch of professionals.
Thanks for clarifying.
Michael Csurics says
Spot on. On all accounts.
For me, it’s always an awkward conversation when I tell interns/youngins/protegees/hopefuls about GANG. I almost universally refer to it as AudioGANG, which I know is redundant but makes it sound more like a retro-positive reclaiming of the word (ie. Getalong-Gang, or Our Gang).
And, while we’re airing it all out – the next time someone posts a clip from Audio Atrocities with “bad VO” in their talk/panel/show/etc… I will be first in line at the Q & A.
I’d also love to get a sense of your and the rest of the community’s thoughts on award nomination/voting processes as well as categories. Not a list of complaints, but a list of suggested improvements.
We just can’t grow or improve if we’re not open to change.
Internet hugs to you Damian.
Cheers Michael, it’s nice to be having this conversation and hearing from other people on these issues.
Your Audio Atrocities beef sounds article worthy. :)
The award nomination/ voting/ category discussion is exactly the thing an organization should be fostering within the community. My guess is that this is something GANG would welcome.
Nick P. says
To be honest, because it’s called GANG I always assumed it was a closed clique doing things I don’t know about, that you have to be invited into, or initiated into, or something.
Kenneth Young says
Nicely put Damien! Thanks for taking the time to articulate these thoughts. I have to say I agree with all your points – I hope they come to fruition. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
Richard Stevens says
Yup. Good points all.
I think the fundamental questions is – what are these organizations for and how do they seek to achieve these aims? My starters would be :
– Recognition: Raising the profile of game audio both within and outside of the industry
– Education: Supporting learning about game audio, and it’s relationships to game design in general
– Recommendations and standards: Like the Game Audio Curriculum Guidelines and loudness standards
– Community:Supporting all of the above
As Damian says there’s lots of different places that do different aspects of this very effectively but some things do need a more organised voice and despite the very good intentions of both GANG and IASIG there does seem to be stagnation behind the paywall…
Rob Bridgett says
Damien, this was a fantastic read. I agree with everything in here. I’m excited about what the future of all these organizations holds, but *only* if it involves the self-knowledge and self-awareness that you have shown in this article.
“AudioGang” focus on recognition (awards) feels spot on – it’s the big ticket for the organization and a pure organizational focus on that could do a lot to improve things so much imo. e.g An open, clear, unrushed transparent awards voting system – a fresh judging panel each year – more relevant awards categories – bring the whole thing into the present.
Also, as an IESD co-chair myself, I would personally love some restructuring esp including IASIG.
There is so much more to get excited about here, but for now I’ll leave it with a big thank you for writing and publishing this here!
Brian Schmidt says
Thank you for your thoughtful post on brightening the corners of game audio. You raise a lot of interesting issues, some of which we have been thinking about ourselves. And I believe we all agree that the Game Audio Community in general is incredible—as I talk with other disciplines in game development, or with people in the music industry brand new to games, they all marvel at the openness and inclusive nature of the people in game audio.
Regarding some of the issues you raise:
At this year’s G.A.N.G. Awards, we showed some interstitial videos which, plainly put, we shouldn’t have. As the person ultimately responsible for what occurs during the awards, I apologize to anyone who was offended by them. It was an error in judgment, made in haste (note to self: don’t wait until the very last minute to vet the award show videos!), and in hindsight, we should have exercised better judgment. As you said, it’s ok for the 60 second office viewing; at our premier annual event, not so much.
The forums is something we have been thinking about hard lately. When G.A.N.G. was founded, there was no facebook, no twitter, no vine, reddit, Instagram… So the forums represented one of the few online places where the game audio community—from veteran to student– could easily communicate and exchange ideas and questions with each other; ‘walled communities’ was the norm as this new-ish “web 2.0” was taking shape. “Social networking” changed things dramatically.
Today, forums may not make sense as a primary method of communication. The challenge is ensuring the more open groups don’t become “listen to my new track” spam-lists (which I’ve seen happen to more than one online community). This is something we are actively looking at.
That said, G.A.N.G. has always been about far more than just forums. Outreach, education and recognition have been among the key pillars of the organization. Just this year, we instituted the G.A.N.G. Scholars Program, which sent 5 well-deserving full-time students to GDC on an all-access pass. And of course the multiple G.A.N.G. events such as those held at SFCM, DigiPen and various studios.
Regarding the ia-sig. You may not be aware, but a few years ago, we had this very discussion. There was a thought that ia-sig could become “G.A.N.G. Tech,” or merge with G.A.N.G. in some other way. The ia-sig (disclaimer: I used to sit on the ia-sig steering committee) traditionally tackled problems relating to hardware—getting the different manufacturers into the same room and hammering out standards for the good of all. The ia-sig, afterall, is a sub-organization of the MMA, the MIDI Manufacturers Association. It was responsible for industry-changing standards like DLS, DLS2, I3DL2, and (some say) was the reason Microsoft “opened up” 3D sound acceleration back in the 90’s.
Still, at the time, we all seemed to feel that there was enough of a difference in focus and in ‘vibe’ that it made sense to keep the organizations separate. Perhaps things have changed significantly since we last broached the issue. I would be very happy to entertain the notion of a tighter cooperation between ia-sig and G.A.N.G.
On your final issue, I think we may need to simply agree to disagree. We don’t anticipate changing the moniker, Game Audio Network Guild any time soon. “gang” has more meanings than the one you selected. Among some of the others:
• “a group of people who are friends and do things together”
• “a group or a band”
• “a group of people with compatible tastes or mutual interests who gather together for social reasons”
• “A group of people working together”
• “a group of persons having informal and usually close social relations”
• “to assemble or operate simultaneously as a group.”
• And of course as a verb: to “gang together” is “to collaborate to overcome a common obstacle.”
That last definition goes to the very heart of the organization: G.A.N.G. was born out of a desire to overcome the common obstacle we all share of “Game Audio Doesn’t Get The Respect It Deserves,” in the broader game development community and to a certain extent, the public at large.
As I said at the outset, we have been struggling with some of these same issues ourselves, and how to address them. Thank you for providing your input to the community in a respectful, but honest way.
President, Game Audio Network Guild
I can sure empathize with concerns and challenges for today’s forums such as the “check out my thing” spamming. Is it feeding the quests of the ever larger newcomer traffic without boring the professionals? Throw in the need to balance site / admin / management requirements with community desires and it can seem like you’re a 110 lb referee getting in between two heavyweight boxers. Regardless of the challenges behind facilitating it, we have to keep putting something out there to enable the discussion, analyze its effectiveness and revise. Obviously these people want to talk to each other, are looking for ways to do so, and we want to help them do it. The forum format may be a challenge but we’ll keep trying. Please do holler if there is any way I can help.
moderator of reddit.com/r/gameaudio
RJ Mattingly says
In branding, it’s not the definition of a word, but its connotation that matters. Sure, the word gang has several meanings, but the fact that many associate it with criminal violence is enough to suggest that it should not be the single word off of which you hang your entire organization’s identity.
If you look through the verb uses from the definition you reference, you see “to attack in a gang” or “to gang up on” (to unite in opposition; combine against). Even if there are other interpretations of the word, these are the images that come to mind for many people who hear it. If I name my organization “bang,” I could argue that I’m only making a reference to cleaning dirt off my boots, or the start of a Pure Data patch. But because of the social connotations (not the least of which includes combining it with the word ‘gang’ I might add), it has the likely potential to bring about a negative impression. With so much hate flying around already, why allow a group so centered around community to even potentially be misconstrued with one of enmity?
Even at it’s best, it conveys some sort of exclusivity. As Nick P. comments: “… I always assumed it was a closed clique doing things I don’t know about…” Truly, the inside jokes thrown around in introductions and videos during the awards conveyed that exact message. Visions of Mean Girls arise as I sit through the ceremony thinking “boy I hope I’m cool enough to get these references someday.”
Again, why allow a group so centered around inclusiveness to even potentially be misconstrued with one of exclusiveness?
Timothy Muirhead says
Wow this community is amazing! Everyone is being super respectful and communicating clearly and openly. Hopefully it stays this way and some real positive changes can come of this. Thanks for bringing this up Damian. And thanks to Brian Schmidt too for the thoughtful response. I don’t have much to add but just wanted to point out how impressive the game audio folk are. I was fully expecting a flame war.
Tom Todia says
“I would never want to be a member of any club that would have someone like me as a member” Groucho Marks Sorry, I had to do it.
Alexander Brandon says
Completely agreed on Brian’s points. And issues that need airing definitely must be heard! So many thanks to you Damian.
I personally found it surprising that 12 years after the formation of the organization, people have taken issues with the name.
Firstly, I never say “I’m in a gang”. I don’t know anyone else who has. I also don’t know anyone that says the acronym to someone unfamiliar with the group already. I say “Game Audio Network Guild”. Then I say “or, “GANG” for short.
I also believe the name is of comparatively little importance to what we need to DO. Originally GANG was founded as a guild, which traditionally actually trains members to become masters of their craft. We have not had the means to do so in the same way that an electrician’s guild has, but the education and outreach has always been there, from the first game audio scholarship ever created at Ex’pression to mentorship questions on our early forums, the most recent GDC passes Brian spearheaded for the student.
Our goal is to increase this sort of sharing of knowledge and training of skills where possible. And worrying that the name is too associative with criminal behavior in an organization that has already tied itself and its membership and board of directors with numerous academic institutions I think is more of personal preference than an intrinsic negative image of the guild overall.
That being said, I’ll also leave this group with the following: criticism is welcome, but the value of criticism is not only coming up with constructive goals that address the critical points, but taking action. It’s frankly quite easy to observe something that needs improvement. But we encourage anyone, ANYONE to step up and help out at anytime. There is absolutely no exclusivity there. And articles like this are a good first step.
Ashton Morris says
That was an interesting read. I have only been involved in game audio for about three years. With many years before that focusing on bands, live audio, and performing. And I can tell you the one thing that I have noticed about it is that it’s very open and inclusive.
Even though there are enough new composers and sound designers sprouting up each day to fill the oceans, there is a very tangible mentality in game audio that says “come on in, welcome, let me show you around.” Especially on twitter and in many other forums.
And I think in some part that comes from the game dev culture in general, and maybe our time period or our generational spectrum. People want to help you learn, to teach you, to help network with you, and that is a very very pleasant experience. I have worked with actors that have given the wrong address to other actors for an audition just to enhance their odds. But not in game audio. Sure no one is trying to convince their developer to drop them and go with you. But there is a genuine sense that if you are passionate and polite, then you absolutely deserve to be here, and that we want you here to fulfill your passion, because its makes better games and experiences for everyone.
Although I have not had the pleasure to participate in GDC yet, to me that is the spirit of game audio.
This is just my opinion but when I started I was turned off by GANG’s paid membership. It entirely wasn’t clear what they did, what they offered, any why I should pay to join. To me it had the aroma of classified ads for modeling in the paper. When you go, you just end up paying for professional photos and then are left to your own devices. And your dreams for fame just end up filling the wallets of those that convince you that they’ll help you get there. Maybe my impression is far from accurate, but seeing as its not a union, and that the don’t collect royalties, I decided to look elsewhere for advice and community.
As for the name, personally I had never noticed it having any negative connotations until I read this. To me when I read the word gang here, in my head I think ” game audio network guild.” And when I read gang in the papers I think of an actual gang with no correlation to the guild to which we are referring to.
That being said I feel that we can find plenty of other creative ways to award and educate our peers outside of these organizations if we put our minds to it.
Lastly I know I am new to game audio, but I do genuinely appreciate the spirit that of game audio that I have experienced thus far, and I hope to contribute in my own way in the future.
Thank you so much for mentioning the GameAudio subreddit/community! As a moderator there who truly wants to do whatever I can to help make it a great environment and resource for game audio professionals and enthusiasts, I have to also say this;
It would be nice to have a solid central community for those of us who love our craft. Sure, I’d love for /r/GameAudio to be that and at times when I’m working on new feature ideas or adding info to our wiki pages I can get carried away dreaming that our community could be that center. However, the truth is, what we have is just right. We have just one small piece of a fantastic network. Some of our community members run some of the well known game audio related podcasts and blogs and they actively participate in the community and answer newcomer questions. Then something comes along that reminds me how many great people are tuned in, like one of our more recent posts that simply asked “Who are you?” Everyone who posts in the subreddit and mentions a project they worked on is always someone I just want to reach through the screen and say “I played/listened/watched that! You and your work are awesome!”
These people are in the GameAudio subreddit, they’re in GANG, they’re at GDC, they’re talking on the podcasts and blogs we enjoy, they’re sharing their work and thought process via YouTube tutorials, and of course, they’re speaking to us in the games we sometimes get to play. We’re all looking around to communicate with each other and finding many of the same places. The best thing is that we ARE talking to each other and sharing this weird road we’ve decided to ride on together.
Cheers to the all Game Audio folks out there and looking forward to hearing what you have to say at the various places which we convene.
Joe Thom says
As a reletively new game audio devotee I can honestly say that the game audio community is the most welcoming and open group I have ever come across. The desire and drive to share information for the benefit of the art as a whole is entirely humbling and makes the profession the most exciting that I can imagine.
Being from England I unfortunately have been unable to make it to GDC as of yet but have my sights firmly set on next time, so I will look forward to making my contribution to the discussion and meeting all you game audio folk then!
dren mc says
great discussion everyone!
one point that deserves to be made regarding membership dues to an org like either G.A.N.G. or IASIG is that they exist so that the org can exist to carry out meaningful goals from their mission statement, such as the awards shows, scholarships, and awareness. Those membership dues don’t exist to create exclusivity.
Some examples: As a member of N.A.R.A.S. (they do the Grammys) I pay about $150 (maybe it’s $175 i don’t recall) in annual dues. I’m a voting member (something you have to apply for, assuming you have enough album credits) so I can participate in the Grammy awards process. This is, literally, the first bullet point made on the Grammy.org site under “Why join?” Other bullet points include “Speak out collectively for your rights as a music maker”, “Access Grammypro.com, members only website” “enjoy discounts on the goods and services you use most”.
Oddly enough, that’s pretty close to what GANG offers as well. Although, there is no vetting process for voting members with GANG. If you join you can vote. You don’t even have to be a member to nominate.
Similarly, the same thing has happened with the Grammpypro site, as with GANG and others, which is that NO ONE uses GrammyPro! You won’t find Quincy Jones offering production tips on Grammypro! Everyone got eaten by the Facebook monster or still uses email lists and the brand new site that NARAS just built gets nary a view. Seems like it’s hard to make the forums thing work for anyone.
Another example is the Graphic Design Guild which is $200/year & they offer a handbook, webinars, newsletter, member portfolio website, insurance (that’s cool!) and discounts.
Anyhow, point being is that professional organizations have dues but not because they are creating exclusivity. Far from it. But they do need a budget to create some of these things that we value (education, recognition, awareness etc).
One aspect of the closed G.A.N.G. forums that I always did appreciate was that I could carry on discussions there that would pretty much stay there and not be openly available for others to see (if i wanted some privacy in regards to dealing with a particular client, for instance, or chatting honestly about software/libraries etc). With discussion taking place on FB, you can forget about that level of privacy. Or maybe that’s just a symptom of the web at this point.
Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents on professional orgs and member’s dues. I just include them in my annual cost of doing business (and it’s important to not confuse what these orgs do with what a union does…very different). :)
I’m sure I’m going to ruffle a few feathers, but I think the discussion is necessary. So here goes…
First off, thank you, Damian, for an excellent and well-reasoned essay. I am very much in agreement with what you have said. The acronym for the Game Audio Network Guild is very hard to utilize without feeling like it has negative connotations. In fact, I rarely use the acronym when speaking with folks outside the game audio world, since they’re likely to be confused about it. (I even tell people “Game Audio Award” instead of “GANG Award”.) While the “GANG” moniker was likely quite helpful in the early days of the group, when game audio folk really needed to fly the Jolly Roger and command a unified front for attention, I believe it is time for GANG to grow out of its adolescence and evolve into adult leaders of our industry. As Damian said (and Brian Schmidt thankfully addressed in the comments already), the stature and public perception of the group and its most public aspect — the awards ceremony — needs greater care and consideration, a lesson GANG’s past leadership learned many times over the years. I have no doubt that the current leadership will make the necessary adjustments, and I am eager to witness this advancement.
Thinking further about names, though, I very much like that IAsig uses “Interactive Audio” as its name, rather than “Game Audio”, since it covers the broader area many of us work within. Games are a subset of “interactive audio”, not the other way around, and as we’ve seen, there are plenty of things we all do that constitute “interactive” while not being “games” (i.e mobile apps). From my perspective, that is as important of a reason as the tone-deaf acronym is for GANG to seriously consider engaging in a rebranding effort.
I don’t think it’s remotely a secret that I’ve been rather critical of GANG over the years. Fortunately, with the change of leadership, some of the things I’ve been vocal about have begun to change, which I am quite pleased to see. This makes me think that at some point in the future I could possibly see myself as a member again.
Unfortunately, though, there are some cultural aspects of GANG that are so engrained that they are simply accepted as okay. The one that bothers me most is what I perceive as the “composers first” mentality of GANG. I certainly realize that most of the original founders of GANG were composers and a significant portion of the membership are, as well. But it has always felt to me that the members of GANG thought of the group as primarily for composers, and that sound designers, voice actors, recording engineers, implementers, etc, were somehow not quite as important. I’m NOT saying that the organization seeks to establish that imbalance; just that it seems to be a general “composers club” atmosphere in the membership. This feeling was, to me, exemplified by the creation of the IESD, which basically organized the sound designers into their own sub-group. A voice actor group (GVAC) formed after that, since it seemed a natural evolution. But I don’t recall ever hearing of a similar thing for the composers. To me, that really drives home the idea that GANG — in practice — is a composer club [the general membership] that has non-composer members [who end up filtering their way down to IESD and GVAC].
If GANG (hopefully renamed and rebranded someday) were to ever merge with IAsig, I’d be very concerned that this “composers first” mentality would be a cultural clash and a problem to reconcile between the two entities, as IAsig doesn’t seem to have such a bias, at least not one I’ve ever noticed.
Perhaps I’m the only one who has this impression, but I suspect I’m not.
Kurt Heiden says
Thanks Damian for putting so much thought into this, and to Brian for the gracious reply and to all for the great comments and conversation. I can speak to this from an IASIG perspective and hopefully clear up any confusion about the IASIG, how it works, and its relationship with GANG.
The IASIG and GANG have different charters but they are not adversaries nor are they mutually exclusive of one another. Joining either doesn’t mean the other is a competitor. I think they both serve the community well, but differently. The IASIG is a subgroup of the MIDI Manufacturer’s Association (MMA). Aside from the complications of what a merger would mean for both of our groups and the MMA, I don’t see a quantifiable advantage in IASIG being absorbed by GANG but I do see potential benefits from greater collaboration and clarification between the two organizations.
Regarding what we do, the IASIG has shied away from advocacy or promotion of professions, and having any awards programs. We stick to publications and free industry resources that serve the community. The IASIG has, on a few occasions, discussed expanding our charter to include other things but they’ve always been things that would not overlap with GANG’s mission and quite often we found we did not have the resources to bring about the changes we discussed. Still, there is much to do and being actively involved in an IASIG working group can help others and it can be very rewarding to complete new industry resources.
More exposure about the IASIG within GANG could help more people realize that we are available for them to find other collaborators and publish things for the benefit of all audio professionals and educators. Similarly, GANG likely has a greater reach to more people for promotion of completed publications. Since IASIG work is often intended to benefit the fields that GANG members work in, it would help to have GANG spread the word widely on our behalf when working groups begin and when a final document or resource is published. I’m not sure we would need to be one organization to accomplish that goal but we would need more frequent communication than we have today. Maybe a bi-annual or quarterly conference call or a shared online resource for both groups to post cross-organizational topics? Maybe a single point, joint GANG-IASIG membership discount for joining both groups at once? I’m always open to new ideas and happy to put them on our steering committee agenda.
I think the IASIG could benefit by knowing more about what GANG members are seeking. There are many brilliant people in GANG who aren’t IASIG members and if we knew more about what they’d like to see happening in the industry, we may be able to find ways to help facilitate some sorts of beneficial resources.
The IASIG focuses on an active membership over a larger membership. Our organization does its best work when multiple people at once devote their time to give something back to the industry through a working group. As volunteers that can lead to a slow process when things get crazy in our day jobs. That said, we do have several new members who joined after GDC this year, including three new steering committee members. Lots of new activity has begun, including two new working groups.
The IASIG does not have the resources in membership size or budget that GANG has. Our charter would be better served by 30 very committed, passionate and patient industry experts with time to spare than it would by having 300 less-active members. The IASIG’s output is directly related to active member participation and knowledge. This is critical to understand. Sometimes it’s one person’s great idea being made into a spec, but they run out of time to devote to it and others don’t have time (or the knowledge) to pick up the ball and run with it – so it sits until someone with the knowledge and time can do it. That doesn’t mean nobody’s doing anything – they are – but it can slow projects down. When development of new assets slows down there is no way to accelerate their creation without active participation. People need to draft documents and circulate ideas for a publication of resource in order for us to reach publication. So don’t let anyone tell you that the recent long lead times to develop specifications and other resources means that it’s always that way. If ideas for improvements gain momentum with many people, things can move quickly as long as members stay active and engaged. Having more GANG members actively involved and contributing to projects in the IASIG would be incredibly helpful.
GANG members have my promise that if they have a great idea to improve tools or education for audio professionals in the gaming industry, we will welcome them and will be there to facilitate their project and see it through for the benefit of the industry. Just bring someone to champion the project as chair and everything else is already in place. Likewise, we welcome any greater collaboration between GANG and the IASIG so keep those ideas flowing and let’s find places where the two organizations can help one another! I don’t think a merger is needed (or feasible logistically) but maybe more conversations like this will help people better understand the distinctions between the two organizations and how they work together in different areas for he benefit of everyone in the industry.
Chair, Interactive Audio Special Interest Group
Wow. Excellent discussion, everyone. Thanks, Damian, for bringing it into the light.
Jory’s comments about G.A.N.G. feeling like a composers club and Nick’s about it feeling like a closed clique are spot-on to me. I understand and certainly emphasize with the desire to maintain a closed-circle of communication for professional niceties. Five minutes on Social Sound Design and anywhere on reddit are enough to make me run away from the continual inundation of, as Brian said, “Listen to my latest track” posts and questions about “How to sound design a game for my first time with no money”. That said, however, a pay-to-play forum is hardy the answer to that in this day and age.
G.A.N.G. is much more than just the forum, but is far less than it needs to be to attract my hard-earned money. There needs to be an obvious benefit to being a member beyond awards, forums and a coupon. A quick perusal through the resources section reveals a limited number of links and papers that are easily and immediately found elsewhere. The “news and features” links haven’t been updated recently (last feature was 1/03/15, last newsletter was August, 2013, there are NO entries on the events calendar… not even 2015 GDC). Back when I WAS a G.A.N.G. member, I joined the IESD in its infancy, only to watch it languish for years of what seemed non-action. Yes, there are the pillars of outreach, advocacy, and standards, but there is very little on the website that makes it clear what is going on. The may be the reasons for G.A.N.G., but the lack of transparency and lack of updated activity makes it difficult to discern just how much of that is truly being done. So much of the website is closed to non-dues-paying members that it appears to be nearly inactive.
Brian, I understand a “gang” is much more than just a negative connotation. I wrestled with this very fact myself when Damian first brought it up to me a few months ago. Growing up, “gang” was how we referred to a group of friends. “Hey, gang! what’s going on?” There wasn’t, colloquially, a negative meaning.
That was 30 years ago. Now a “gang” has more baggage in the public eye. Sure, not much more than it has always had, but as an adult I’ve grown to be aware of how it is perceived by more than just my close friends in the small almost-rural suburban municipality I grew up in. I realized recently that I never had the discomfort others have felt by saying, “I’m a G.A.N.G. member,” because I never said it. I found myself saying, “I’m a member of the Game Audio Networking Group,” because I was inevitably going to have to explain what “G.A.N.G.” meant anyway. Acronyms require explanation, after all, or they are meaningless.
Tony Porter says
An analogy… When deciding which church to be part of, you should always ask yourself if you will feel comfortable inviting others. When students and others starting out ask me if I should join GANG, I honestly say I don’t know. I never did, I kinda always wanted to but didn’t see how I could contribute, how I could make an impact. I’ve always prided myself on serving, and cherish my time as an educator in this field. I guess I always ask myself, am I needed here? Can I make a bigger impact somewhere else? I have found, probably like many others, many ways of learning and sharing that don’t take much more than a few clicks and you’re in. Things like the new wwise facebook group, twitter, and of course gameaudioforum.com. GAF has some really low activity these days but there’s some really good info there. Its certainly a kind of stagnation but with social media allowing for a much more dynamic conversations its hard to compete, certainly only being a forum. Even so, when folk ask me now where to go for answers I point them to GAF and tell them to use the search function. Chances are its been covered (though by now could use some updatin’.) Be that as it may, that’s the kind of church I can bring friends to.
I really love GANG and everything they’ve done. The awards are a highlight for me even if I don’t agree with what gets nominated, etc. I don’t think I have an issue with the name, it’s trivia to me. I don’t know what kind of organization could make everyone happy across all disciplines so the mere fact they’ve been trying all this time is commendable. I know so many members and after all this time I really thought I’d be one too. I’m not looking for what benefits me most, never have. I’m looking where I can benefit others, as little or as big as I can.
There is a reason we all hang out together at industry events. There is a camaraderie that exists here that simply doesn’t elsewhere. Do you see all the animators flocking around each other and planning group activities? Or perhaps a 3 day bootcamp for texture artists? Organization should empower and unify instead of partition and specialize. Sound design, composition, implementation, voice over, etc should band together. We should really be trying to form Voltron.
We should ALL be trying to form Voltron.
Adriane Kuzminski says
Thank you everyone for clarifying the differences between the organizations. I was confused about the differences between GANG, IASIG and IESD, and I think I see where they are coming from now. I am still confused about the relationship between IASIG and IGDA though. I thought IASIG was an IGDA subset like GASIG, but the separate dues seem to make that not the case.
I am also still unsure of the benefits of a GANG membership. Membership is about strengthening a community through involvement, sharing and support. Since I’m guessing GANG events are held primarily in Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, or LA, I don’t think I would get that chance. If there was a Boston or NYC chapter, I’d be more likely to join.
Since I can’t see what the site offers, I can only say (and hope I’m not being totally redundant) that I would look for dependable, up to date and easy to navigate publications and learning resources. My AES and IGDA memberships took up my “allowance” for the year, but what I like about AES besides the many chapters and regular meetups is that the site has a limited video, tutorial, podcast and publication vault (though it could be much beefier given how many AES conventions happen each year). While there is a wealth of game audio resources all over the internet for anyone to find, there is a WEALTH of game audio resources all over the internet, which can be hard to trudge through without direction or a seal of approval. Even something like the Rainspell Game Audio Pearltrees is what I’d like to see with more focus on journals and standards like AES.
As far as online communities, I feel like I can barely keep up between DS, #gameaudio and the Facebook group. I haven’t even looked at the Reddit group yet.
That’s all I got! Thanks!