Happy new year everyone!! Whether your celebrations were low-key and quiet or loud and extravagant, I hope you all had a great NYE party!
Now that you’re getting over your new year’s hangovers and swinging back into the flow of work, you might be thinking, “Jacob, we’ve talked about the technical side of game audio and how to hone my art. But how do I, y’know, get on actually doing the thing?! I WANT GIGS TELL ME NAO. AUGHAGUHGHAGH.” Well, GOOD NEWS EVERYONE! In this post, I’m going to be sharing with you some thoughts on how to meet people and network in a genuine, non-sleazy way, and in turn, how to find gigs!
Since it is now the new year, many of you might have made some new year’s resolutions for yourself. One of my goals this year is to help you stay on track and achieve your own goals, game dev/audio related and otherwise. I am working on some future blog posts as well as some video course content that I think will really help many of you follow-through on what you’re striving for this year, versus letting your resolutions remain stuck as fun ideas that would be ‘nice to have some day’. You’ll be hearing from me later this month with more information about this content!
Goal Setting, Revisited
Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a new year’s resolution, stuck with it like a badass for most of January, and then fell off the wagon around February or March, giving up and resigning with the thought of “welp, maybe I’ll accomplish this next year…”. I certainly have! What I want to offer you in this section is a really quick and easy goal setting technique you can use to help you stay on track with accomplishing your goals.
Don’t just let your new years resolutions stay lofty as ideas floating out there in space (“I’m gonna hit the gym and stick with it this time… for realsies!”). One of the key elements to accomplishing your goals is to write them down. Take 30 minutes and grab a journal or make an Evernote document and write down the following: 3-4 major goals you want to accomplish this year. Be specific: if your resolution this year is to get fit, what does that look like or mean to you (eg, by June 1st you want to have lost 10 lbs and can easily perform 20 pushups in one go)?
For each, get really clear on the ‘why?’ you want to accomplish that specific goal. Getting clarity on this really helps later on when we might falter and feel unmotivated to keep going. Then, jot down under each section a brainstorm for daily, weekly, and monthly things you might do to move you closer to accomplishing your goal. If you want to improve your Wwise implementation skills for example, you might practice with the software for 20 mins a day, meet up with an accountability buddy every week to share what you’ve created, and go to a meet-up once a month to chat with local game developers and meet new people.
You don’t necessarily have to follow every single idea you write down, you’re just generating a list of possibilities of steps you can take to move closer to successfully accomplishing your resolutions. You’re setting up a game plan, with steps and actions you can take, versus sitting there pondering your resolutions and wishfully thinking that they will suddenly come true.
Every week, dedicate some time to check in with yourself and revisit your goals. See if you’re on track and reflect on which steps work for you, as well as which ones you might want to try out moving forward. If you’ve found yourself flailing, recognize that it’s okay and normal to falter like this, and that today is the best day to hop back on your horse and get back on track. If you’re consistently flailing, check to see if your goals are practical given your circumstances: if you’re a full-time student who is also working a part-time job, it’s unlikely that you’re going to create 5 albums from scratch by the end of January (unless, of course, you’re some X-Men with crazy-productive music powers or something). I highly recommend doing this check-in with with an accountability buddy (#accountabilibuddy!) if you have one.
Here’s another way to think about this: whether you’re wanting to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year, become proficient enough at piano to feel confident posting a YouTube video of yourself by the summer, or build up your public speaking skills to give a talk at PAX Prime, ultimately each of our resolutions and goals boils down to forming new habits. What’s great about habit-building is that we can break down each habit into smaller steps and create a tactical plan that we can still follow, even when we’re not feeling in the mood. By making this brainstormed list, you’re giving yourself tons of options of ways you can accomplish your goals.
If there’s only one thing you take away from this section, please let it be this:
Please email me or let me know in the comments what kind of goal-setting strategies you use to stay on track! Let’s move onto to talking about finding gigs!
A lot of people hear the word networking and immediately think of a person coming up to them and shoving their card in your face going “eyyyyyy”, shooting you some finger guns as they walk away, their slightly over-sized suit emphasizing the awkwardness of their slicked back hair glimmering in the sun. EUGHHHH. You don’t have to be like that to get gigs. Those people are an example of the opposite of what I think networking is about.
Ultimately, networking is about making friends.
Imagine this for a moment: would you rather work with a team of people who treated you like an expendable audio monkey, or with a team of people who value you as a team member and respect your creative input? By becoming friends with the other developers and audio people you meet, you ultimately form a much more genuine and valuable relationship with that person/team than if you walk around reverse pick-pocketing your business cards into other people’s backpacks in hopes that they’ll just randomly email you. This genuine relationship with the developers makes it far more likely that you working together is a good match for everyone, and that you will mutually appreciate and respect each other’s design and creative ideas, resulting in an even better game that gets made.
As you go to meet-ups and conventions (and I’ll give you some specific recommendations on those in a sec), you are going to meet a lot of people. Of course, the expectation is not to become best friends with everyone, but when you do chat with someone and find that you click, spend some time getting to know them a little bit! Ignore jumping straight to “HI I’M AN AUDIO PERSON I’M SO HUNGRY PLEASE HIRE ME”, but spend time focusing on them, asking about what they’re working on and the kinds of things they’re interested in.
Sometimes you will click really well, but you find out they already have an audio person for their game. Don’t dismiss them just because they don’t have a job for you right now. If you do get along really well, you might end up getting to work together on their next project, or they might be able to refer you to one of their friends! Sometimes you won’t click at all, and that’s okay! In the same vein of ‘you can’t please everyone’, you’re not going to be friends nor want to work with everyone.
If you’re interested in learning more about some specific networking techniques (such as talking points, how to meet people, etc.), Akash Thakkar has a great free course on networking that you can sign up for here.
Networking is really crucial in terms of finding gigs, because so much of getting work in this industry is helped by who you know. You never know how building up your community and network of friends will pay off. As you meet people, you begin to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might make a new friend named Elise at a meet-up, and would learn that she’s a kickass sound designer with a specialty in creating sci-fi monster SFX. Maybe you get offered a gig that’s a sci-fi game, but you decide to refer her for it instead since your specialties lie elsewhere in game audio. A few months later, Elise might send a project your way because she’s gotten to know you since you helped her out that one time and thinks you’d be a good fit for this project. It’s about adding value and supporting each other – we’re all in this to make awesome art right, so why not help each other out when we can along the way?
But where do you meet people in the first place?
Meeting People in Person
There are a few great ways to get to know people in person, including:
- Meet-ups: Using www.meetup.com is an excellent resource to get out into your local community and meet fellow folks in the industry. Go to everything from game audio meet-ups, to Unity/Unreal Engine meet-ups, to even things outside of games entirely (I guarantee you’ll be the only game audio person in the photography meet-up, but you never know what connections you’ll make by expanding outside of your field and comfort zone a bit).
- Game Jams: Everything from Ludum Dare to the Global Game Jam to smaller locally organized events are excellent ways to meet people and build up your portfolio quickly. Usually the game jams last only a day or two, so the commitment on a project is fairly minimal and gives you a fun opportunity to practice working quickly and creatively under a time crunch.
- IGDA: The International Game Developers Association has chapters around the world, which host events for their respective communities. Look on the website to see where the nearest chapter is to you and what events they might be hosting!
- Video Game Events, such as:
Meeting People Online
In addition to meeting people in person, there are several resources online where you can meet people:
- Kickstarter Games
- IndieGogo Games (Side note: I’ve had less success with emailing developers on Kickstarter and IndieGogo lately, but it still might be worth a shot)
- Facebook groups
- The #gameaudio hashtag on Twitter (also #socksofgameaudio and #derpfacesofgameaudio are pretty wonderful)
Ultimately, networking is about making friends, not shoving your business card in someone’s face and hoping they’ll email you back with a job offer. By making friends and getting to know people in your community, you build your own network of game industry professionals with whom you can hang out, share ideas, and ideally, collaborate. Get out there online and in person using some of the resource above as a starting point. Don’t be discouraged if things are slow at first and gigs aren’t falling in your lap; it takes hard work and time to build up your network and for people to get to know you and your style. Use the goal setting exercise from above to help you stay on course with what you want to achieve this year (let me know in the comments or email me if you have questions or thoughts about other goal setting techniques you use)! Again, check out my friend Akash’s great course on networking for even more details on this topic.
Next week we’re going to touch upon getting paid for your hard work! $$$ Dolla dolla billz y’all. $$$