As I’ve progressed in my career as a game music composer through the years, many people have asked me ‘how do I get into writing music for games?’ which made me write this article. I’ve compiled some tips into starting this journey which has worked for me, and I hope they’ll help and inspire you to begin your journey too! Please note that these are suggestions and not a guarantee of landing gigs, but increasing the chances of getting them.
1. Build a Portfolio Website The game audio scene is (currently as of writing) overly saturated, so you will need to have your own site which makes it easier for people to check out your work and contact you. Regarding the basic setups of a website I’ve noticed that:
Having a .wix or .blogspot in your URL is ok to have in my opinion. Until you are in a position to invest in a .com or .co.uk URL, I personally do not believe this is a problem. On the other hand, first impressions do matter.
The same can be said for your email. Having a @hotmail.com or @gmail.com is okay to have as your professional email. As long as you have your name in the email and not an inappropriate/racist/misogynistic / internet meme-y based email name, I wouldn’t sweat about not having a [yourname]@yourwebsite.com email from the get-go. Again, only do so if you are in a position to invest in this.
Business cards and the exchange of them are common in the industry, and you’d often come away with a whole bunch of them. A design that you may want to consider (if you are comfortable), is to have your own profile picture on them to aid people recognising you. Though do note that having decent quality business cards will require funds so only order a bunch if you’re in a position to do so. Business card details, however, do go out of date after a few years since people move on so make sure to establish contact soon after your first meeting!
Finding projects to work on can be challenging but that doesn’t mean your portfolio should stall when you’re not actively working with anyone. Use this opportunity to treat your portfolio as a project and hit your own creative goals. Document your progress!
2. Build a Presence online / offline, Be Part of the Community Twitter: There are ways to do this depending on what you feel the most comfortable but a huge amount of game devs are on Twitter in Europe / North America area. The #gamedev and #gameaudio tags are often used though I highly recommend that you follow a few game devs and see what is being discussed to keep up to date with current affairs in the industry.
Networking Events: The industry hosts a lot of meetups, talks and conferences. A good way to build these connections is to regularly attend these events. Depending on your comfortability levels and social-economic background, this may not be the most accessible. However, there are alternative events that are out there which may cater to your specific needs and you’ll need to look out for them. Groups on meetup.com like GameDevLondon's Game Dev Lunch which I run caters for this. It is good practice to give back to the community. No one will return an email to a person who only talks about themselves and part of building a good relationship with a community is to invest in it. Respect spaces, be kind and courteous and contribute to building a welcoming and safe community for both developers and audiences.
3. Make Your Own Indie Game I cannot stress how much you’ll learn while you make your own game. In fact, this was what got my first gig since my client was more impressed about me making my own game than my university or music grades. I can guarantee you that you’ll learn the following:
First-hand experience of the game design experience from concept, implementation and resource constraints from small details to overseeing the whole project.
If working by yourself, you’ll learn which part of the game design process you struggle with or enjoy.
If working in a team, you’ll learn people management and associated soft skills (people skills, how to give good critique, delegating and setting boundaries for example).
However, it is daunting to start making a game from scratch so here are some ideas/tips to get started:
Start small, the smaller the scope, the better. What will go wrong / break, will very likely go wrong and break.
It’s totally okay if things aren’t perfect or 100% finished. Your priority is to learn and create a playable game demo.
Download some apps/programs and follow some tutorials. Unity is a very popular cross-platform game engine, but there are other apps like UnrealEngine, Construct2, and free programs like Renpy. Note that some programs require payment while others are free. Some have a steep learning curve, while others are more intuitive. Unfortunately, this is something you’ll need to spend time to research and try out.
Some programming languages may not carry over to other engines, but you can carry over game design principles.
4. Attend Game Jams The quickest way to build your portfolio and build connections is to attend game jams. Game jams can be any length of time and be taken online or offline. Popular game jams include the Global Game Jam and the Ludum Dare. Other smaller game jams can be found on places like itch.io or indiegamejams.com. GameDevLondon also runs Jams which can be found here on the website.
5. Play Indie Games There is a tonne of game jams happening and indie games being created constantly. It is hugely beneficial to play games and read dev blogs by indie creators, ‘experience’ and even walking based games, and games with narratives not usually explored in AAA. Not only will it help build your vocabulary of describing design experiences, but it will also expand your knowledge of the creative use of simple game mechanics.
That’s it! Hope these suggestions will help kick start your journey in getting more involved with writing music for games. Thanks for reading!
About The Author:
Jade “JDWasabi” Leamcharaskul is a music composer of Chinese-Thai heritage, based in London UK and the Co-Founder of Game Dev London.
She has written in a range of music genres, sound design hybrids and for mediums such as games, film, animations, podcasts, web series, art installations and musical theatre.
She adores video game music and the deep, meaningful connections it creates for players and she probably drinks too much coffee.