My life as a Game Composer
Game development is a difficult business. And within that, there are subsections of game development which can be even harder to grasp. The problem however is not with the skills and abilities required for the job, but it has more to do with having the knowledge of where and how to find said jobs.
My role in the games industry is a Game Composer; which means that I write music and loopable layers and sequences for video games. One year ago, I would have been asking myself, “how do I write music for games?”. I had the musical ability and 20+ years of gaming experience, yet game development always seemed like a secret club that only these super talented artists and creators were invited to.
One day I started to look online at the usual everyday job sites. However searching for “composer” didn’t prove fruitful. After all, I loved to write music, but my lack of industry experience hindered me greatly. Like I previously said; I knew how to write music, but is that really enough to score a job? It was then by pure chance that I googled my closest city alongside the words “indie game studio”, expecting to find an indie team to reach out to. I thought to myself, “surely there will be a game studio somewhere in the city, and maybe I can ask a couple of questions”, one of those questions would no doubt be: um, where do I start?
What I found was a Meetup page. Meetup is a website and app where you choose a location and some interests and it lets you meet groups of people who are holding events/gatherings. I stumbled across an Indie Developers Meetup group due for a monthly gathering that very night. They stated on the page that it was a social gathering to discuss news, show off current works in progress, and just be rather nerdy together. There was one important inclusion on there: anyone welcome from veterans to hobbyists. I plucked up the courage and headed into town that night to make some contacts and hopefully pick some brains.
What I found at the gathering was like minded people, who were very welcoming and understanding. This was my first and probably most valuable experience in the profession. Meeting this group gave me a huge boost into getting my first job as a Game Composer and I still return every month that I can to meet new contacts and share my experiences. I soon learned that the community is very open an accepting of new members, and many take a lot of interest in seeing new creatives flourish.
I will discuss two of my next moves based on advice from the first Meetup gathering; Online Presence and Portfolio.
The next couple of weeks saw me developing a small portfolio which consisted of varying genres of music. This was to highlight myself as a diverse composer, with the hopes that one of these styles of music would catch the attention of a developer. Much of my own music is inspired by classic and epic RPG games that consist of orchestral scores and acoustic instrumentation. I wrote a small number of RPG inspired pieces of acoustic/orchestral music, a piece of synth music that roughly replicated old 8-bit sounds, and a soft salsa-esque piece reminiscent of calming simulation and puzzle games.
These were then released on SoundCloud, mainly because it is a free platform and I knew that it was supported on many websites. I made some basic graphics to use as a makeshift logo and album art. I did this on a website called Canva which I still use today due to its ease of use and the fact that, again, it’s free. Which is where I come onto my next topic.
Using my free and slightly shabby logo and cover art, I took to the one social network which was mostly recommended by the game developers I met at the Meetup: Twitter. The attractiveness of Twitter is that anyone can see your post if they are searching for what you are tweeting about. It sounds quite obvious, but if you don’t already, start using hashtags; and frequently. Want to gain the attention of a game developer (colloquially shortened to game dev)? You better start using #gamedev in your posts. The point is, you can use this platform to talk to anyone by using the appropriate tags. Search for that hashtag and you will be inundated with indie developers. These are the ones you want to be talking to, engaging with, and following; with a hope that if you express an interest in their work, they will show an interest in yours as a game composer.
Together with a starter portfolio and a small online presence, I had taken my first steps towards becoming a Game Composer and getting my first job in the industry. I hope that you find some inspiration in this article to kickstart your own ambitions, if there is interest in it I will later discuss how I got my first job, networking, what software I use and my other experiences and advancements in the game development world.