Welcome to the site! Although it actually launched a few months ago, this is my first post since we went live back in September. I know it’s not typical to set up a website and then not begin immediately spewing your opinions all over the internet, but who are you, the Blog Police all of the sudden? Because if you are, I’d be very curious to know how you found yourself in such an exclusive (and oddly specific) position.
Believe it or not, that actually brings me to the topic of this week’s post. I know, right? How’s that for a segue?
One of the most difficult things about being a composer beginning a career in video game scoring is that there is no set avenue into the business. I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people in the industry, but it’s starting to look like I might have an equally good shot at my dream job if I take up sorcery, or promise my first born child to some dark god. But hey, maybe I wouldn’t have liked the kid anyway. For all I know, he might’ve ended up making me look bad by being better than me at things, like catching a baseball with something other than your face, or being able to dance for more than five consecutive seconds without making your wife seriously consider a divorce. And that’s just . . . I mean, ugh.
A lot of career paths are like trying to scale a skyscraper using only the stairs. Certainly difficult, but at least you know the route you’re going to have to take to get to the top. If you want to become a lawyer, for example, you’ve got law school and passing the bar exam ahead of you. No easy task, but at least you know where to start.
Now imagine that you’re standing on the sidewalk trying to get into this building, except there are like twenty-seven different doors. And they’re all on the fifth floor. Look around. Do you see Batman nearby? If so, does it look like he’d be willing to let you borrow his grappling hook? Doubtful. He seems grumpy and withdrawn.
The point is that I’ve rarely heard the same story twice when it comes to how a particular composer got his or her job in the industry. Some people knew someone on the audio team. Others sent their demo out to every developer they could find an address for. Still others just got a lucky break. The Big Man himself, Nobuo Uematsu, was working at a music rental shop when a Square employee approached him and asked if he’d be interested in writing music for their games, an offer which eventually led to his work on the Final Fantasy series.
My favorite “How I Got My Job” story comes from Daniel Baranowsky, who, among other things, wrote the incredibly awesome soundtrack to Super Meat Boy (and who’s work you can check out at his website: http://dbsoundworks.com/). I was lucky enough to meet him at PAX 2010 and ask him how he got started. He told me that he’d been doing a lot of arrangements for OverClocked ReMix which, if you haven’t heard of it, is a site that features original fan-made remixes of video game compositions. It’s also fantastic, and you owe it to yourself to check out some tracks: http://ocremix.org/. Through a contact he’d made there, he found out about a game that was in development and asked if they needed a composer. When they told him they were going to go in another direction, he basically said “Fu** you” (his words) and wrote them some sample tracks anyway. When the developers inevitably loved his work, he got the job.
I guess the only constant in video game composition is persistence. Regardless of the ways in which composers found themselves writing music for games, they all say the same thing: that they simply continued doing what they loved and searching for opportunities until they found an opening. I may not know how I’ll end up working on my first game, but I know that quitting because the path isn’t clear won’t be involved. I’d advise any fellow aspiring game composers to consider the same mentality.
I also promise next week’s entry won’t close out like the end of an afterschool special, so come check us out again then, won’t you?