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I have a background in sound and music recording. The program was tailored more towards music, film, and television. I learned to use Pro Tools, Reason, and Digital Performer. I also learned recording techniques (although this was two years ago, and I've forgotten some of them). I was wondering if it was possible to intern at a video game company's sound department.

Would it be weird to call a video game company, and ask to speak to their sound department?

Thank you.

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There are a few things about video game sound that are very different the film and video. You have to be able to use, learn and understand new tools, you have to be able to think logically and programmaticly. You should know what kind of file formats and compression codecs are good for different scenarios, etc.

I always recommend that sound designers familiarise themselves with a signal flow programming environment such as PureData, Max/MSP, or Reaktor. I think that the skill set require to make a patch in one of these environments is similar to that required to design sounds for games.

I think there are often opening for interns at game studios. You should apply like you would for any other job, with a resume and cover letter. Phoning may not be a bad idea, but could be seen by some as too forward.

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If you have no previous experience or knowledge about creating sound for games, I'd suggest some kind of introduction to the subject before even thinking about interning. You will face the concepts anyways, because it's how game audio works, but I wouldn't expect a company being interested in taking an intern to train him to use the tools and basics of game audio.

There are many books that go through the basics of the process, the terms and methodology. Some approach it from the perspective of film sound, because games are a visual medium as well. But how sound is used in games is different: the sound is played non-linearly and it's driven programmatically i.e. the game is what controls your sound.

Any kind of music/recording/sound design/audio background is useful in creating the actual content, because that's partially done in the same way (using a DAW). But game audio introduces a new concept, which is the other part of the process: audio implementation, i.e. getting the sounds to play in the game in the intended way. You need to take a look at audio middleware programs and what they are capable of and learn about dynamically controlled audio (e.g. how car engine sounds are made in racing games). Similar concepts apply to music (dynamic/adaptive/interactive music). Audio implementation itself sits between programming and creating the right content. Often there's a programmer managing the programming side and a sound designer creating the content and planning how it should be played in the game and how the programmer should program it. Audio middleware lessens the burden of both parties, because it makes it easy for a sound designer to "program" the sound events and frees a programmer from having to think about audio design.

The mentioned programs Pure Data, Max/MSP and Reaktor are approriate for learning about real-time audio control, but they aren't (at least widely) used in audio implementation. They can be used to prototype the ideas for audio before implementing them in other ways though.

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I can add that one thing you want to be aware of is that as an in-house audio guy for games, you might be expected take charge of the entire audio pipeline, including recording, implementation, sound design and music. Many game studios will have only one or two persons dedicated to audio, either relying on them for everything, or having them manage outsourcing. Personally that's one of the things I like about it, because it makes the job more interesting.

And no, it wouldnt be weird. Many Game companies have established internship programs for that purpose, and even if they don't, they might be willing to create one for the occasion.

If you want some more information on getting jobs and internships in the game industry, here are some links from the top of my head: http://www.gamasutra.com/ http://www.gamedev.net/ http://www.sloperama.com/advice.html

Good luck!

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I don't think the guys are 100% correct in this. When I first started creating audio for video games, all I heard was learn Max, learn Reaktor, learn Wwise, learn FMod etc. While being versatile and knowing a little implementation won't hurt, you have to understand that the time spent in learning implementation could be used in honing your skills, which would make you less of a Jack of All Audio Trades and more of a Talented Audio Producer.

So I never got round to learning implementation, and until now that's never been a hindrance. I did not get a job with Blizzard or Bethesda yet, but I have a steady flow of small games to work on. I got to learn a lot about Orchestration, Sound Design and DSP while actually doing it, and I will still be learning 10 years from now. It's just that I hate programming, and I won't be bothered to learn implementation.

And I'm sure that when you will be applying for a job at a major player in the industry, having a solid reel and knowing how to channel your creativity will matter more than knowing a bit about everything, programming/implementation included. After all, everything you need to know is that in games, audio does not behave linearly like it does in movies.

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  • @George . out of curiosity are you working in house or freelance? – RedSonic01 Mar 22 '12 at 6:33
  • I've always worked freelance, as it is really difficult to work in house without a solid reel and portfolio. – Cat Mar 22 '12 at 6:54
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    It obviously depends on what kinds of games one's working on. Many of the smaller games don't take advantage of advanced audio features, but rather use simple looping background tracks and one-hit sound effects for their in-game sound. Not to say that they necessary would need more than that, but as soon as the gameplay starts to have more variables to which the sound has to react, implementation is the key. Of course the roles are flexible, so one doesn't have to know about everything involved in game audio, but knowing a bit about how it all ties together helps. – Internet Human Mar 22 '12 at 8:48
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Aside from just the the Audio aspect, you should play a lot of games, and listen to how the sounds function, and what their purpose's are, to me this kind of knowledge is more important than knowing software - software can always be learnt, but a good understanding of game sound takes time to absorb and is ultimately more important. Also become familiar with the different disciplines in a studio and what they do, and how what they do will affect your work as a sound designer. After all Audio is just a part of a game and the goal is to make great games not just great audio. If you've never done games before the most important thing you could learn is a game engine like, source engine, Unity or Unreal all of these are free for experimenting with. Work out how the audio works in one of these first, this will be far more valuable IMO than learning MaxMSP, Reactor etc. As a side note the 8 years I've worked in games I have never once needed to use MaxMSP etc. the closest think I have ever done that would have required that sort of knowledge was visual programming in Unreal engine (Kismet).

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One thing to keep in mind is that games are interactive. Yes, it sounds like a no-brainer, but it's important because it means that you won't be able to predict exactly how action in the game will progress, which can make handling music for games somewhat tricky. There's ways of dealing with it (generative or interactive music can be amazing if done well) but be aware you may have to learn some new skills.

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thanks for the answers guys. one thing i'm worried about is the software. i've looked at job postings from companies such as ubisoft, and they list some software that I've never heard of. teaching me how to use software from scratch during internship seems a bit of a hassle on their end

oh and upvotes all around if i had 15 rep. heh

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