GAME AUDIO ROCKS OH YEAHHHHH *bursts through a concrete wall*

*ahem* I mean… Hello and welcome!

You’re reading this because you think I’m really attractive are interested in getting started into the wild and wonderful world of game audio freelancing and want to learn what first steps you should take to move forward! Whether you’ve dabbled with Ableton a bit or have recorded a few sounds out in the Amazon or have never touched a piece of music software, this guide is for you! Or, perhaps, you already have some experience in this field and are just curious to learn a few extra tips you might not have picked up before. Wherever you’re at right now, you’re in the right place!

This guide draws from my experiences working in game audio and also includes thoughts shared with me by people like my game audio husbands Akash Thakkar and Ryan Ike (if you haven’t listened to our PAX talk on how to get started in game audio, you can do so here. This blog post is effectively an extension of what we discuss in our talk). While most of this guide will be geared towards freelancing and the indie side of games, some of this content can still be applied to the AAA side of things too if that’s your focus.

Okay! Let’s jump right in!

Getting Started
Ask yourself “why?”
I’d like to start us off with a very simple question that will help lay the foundation for everything you do moving forward. Before I cover any of the technical details of working as a game audio professional, I think it’s important to take some time to reflect on a simple question: why do you want to work in game audio? What inspires you about it that makes you want to create audio yourself? Further to that, you can start to ask yourself: what are some specific goals (short or long-term) that you have down this path? For example, you might be getting into this field because you want to want to help bring game worlds and atmosphere to life through sound. Or maybe, you want to do game audio more as a hobby and use it as a fun excuse to get yourself motivated to increase your guitar playing ability.

Whatever is your reason, it’s totally valid – there’s no right or wrong answer here! I think it’s important though to gain some clarity about this, because once you do have more clarity on the ‘why’, you will have more intention and focus moving forward. With intention, making decisions that move you closer to your goals becomes a lot easier (e.g. if you’re getting into game audio because you intend to focus on becoming a better composer and musician and want to eventually do YouTube covers of video game soundtracks you love, then you’ll probably decide to not focus as much time and energy on learning sound design techniques). Take 5-10 mins to sit down with a journal and brainstorm some ideas about your ‘why’. You can totally keep your reason(s)/goals to yourself, but if you feel so inclined, go ahead and post in the comments below or send me an email with your ‘why’.

Your Workhorse: The DAW
As a game audio professional, one of the first things you’ll want to invest in is a piece of computer software that allows you to create and edit music/audio. Similar to how a photographer or graphic artist might use Photoshop as their workhorse, we as audio ninjas will need to use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Here are some of the most commonly used DAWs (note that I do not have any affiliation with any of the companies/products listed in this guide and will not receive any kind of commission or referral bonus if you purchase software from them):

  • FL Studio (free trial/starting at $99; PC only)
  • Logic Pro ($200; Mac only)
  • Cubase (starting at $99; Mac & PC)
  • Ableton Live (free trial/starting at $99; Mac & PC)
  • Digital Performer (free trial/$500; Mac & PC)
  • Pro Tools (free version called ‘Pro Tools | First’/$600; Mac & PC)
  • Reason (free trial/$400; Mac & PC)
  • Sonar (free trial/starting at $99; PC)
  • Studio One (free trial/starting at $99.95; Mac & PC)
  • Reaper (free trial/$60 for personal use/$225 for commercial use; OSX & PC)
  • Garage Band ($5; Mac only)
  • (Audacity: Not technically a DAW, but it is a free audio editor that I have used many times to do basic editing tasks; Mac & PC)

Fortunately, you can get set up with the basic software you need to start creating great game audio for very little/no money! Each DAW usually has some form of video tutorial series on its website or YouTube so you can get a feel for how it looks and flows before you buy it. Also please note that some companies offer a discounted educational price for their software if you sleuth around a little on their site (or do a Google search for “[name of DAW] educational discount”). Personally, I started in Garage Band, then moved to FL Studio for a while, then Cubase, and now I primarily use Logic X. If you’re feeling really stuck deciding which DAW to start learning, I would recommend looking into FL Studio (PC only) or Logic X (Mac only).

The great thing about almost all of these software packages is that they come with a lot of built-in plugins and presets for music creation and audio manipulation. This is fantastic especially for those of you who are just getting started, because you can literally start working on your first track or sound effect right out of the box! Eventually you will want to expand your studio to include more software/plugins, a decent pair of headphones/monitors (speakers), a microphone, and a field recorder, but I’ll get into details and recommendations on those things later on. For now, it’s important to recognize that just getting set up with a DAW is really all you need to get started – you don’t need anything super fancy to start creating great game audio!

So, to recap: welcome to the kick-ass world of game audio! There are a lot of really great resources out there, and you don’t need anything fancy to get started creating great sounds and music. In the next post of this ‘Guide to Game Audio’ series, we’ll talk about composing!

Let me know in the comments below what kind of DAW you prefer using, and if there’s anything you’d like me to talk about in future blog posts. Thanks for reading, and chat to you again soon!

TABLE FLIP HYAH (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻