A Year in the Real World

I flew to Portland in August for the XOXO Festival & Conference. The attendance is limited (by lottery), and it’s relatively easy to stumble into conversations with creative people from many different fields and backgrounds. There seemed to be a trend this year. Many of the talks had more to do with our relationships to each other than anything else. There were personal accounts of how loss and near-loss caused shifts in perception, the power of platforms like Twitter and how they’ve been used to rally support for causes both empathetic and misguided, tales of disrespect of both culture and gender…

My takeaways from that experience were emphasized even more by what’s been going on in my life. I’ve had a long and somewhat dormant relationship to my emotions and those of others, and I’ve been trying to work on that area of things. Over time I’ve built up a barrier, an invulnerability that in some ways suited my Jedi lifestyle, very much devoted to my work, but in many other ways, I feel had stunted my ability to experience the full spectrum of my emotions and the potential for depth in relationships. So I tried this year to work on that aspect of my life, setting aside more time to spend with family. I also started therapy, to try and stay on top of my emotions.

I’ve been on a perpetual quest to streamline my life in the ways that I can control and that are appropriate. About a year ago I started to feel overwhelmed by my social feeds - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and so forth. I’ve had the people I follow on social media muted for most of this year. It’s reduced my level of ‘gotta check this out!’ and 'internet rabbit hole syndrome’. It’s encouraged me to be more deliberate about cultivating individual relationships, which is great. And now I wonder 'what is X up to?’ and I can intentionally reach out to that person. There are many whom I admire, respect & love who are far away that I don’t get to connect with as often as I’d like, and I do what I can to stay in touch. I think making that process intentional has been beneficial. But this also means I’m a bit of a recluse on the internet. I am out of the loop. But I’m starting to suspect that the tradeoff has been worth it. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ve created more space in my daily life that I could spend wisely.

Distraction has been such a huge problem for me, and I’ve tried my best to minimize it. It’s not enough to give one element up. Without a change in behavior, another distraction simply fills that role. The time I’ve spent not engaged with social media, I’ve sometimes spent reading the news and watching YouTube videos, which can be just as distracting. I catch myself acting in a way that supports the thought that I can’t live a balanced life until I meet my deadlines. I tend to become a shut-in when I am feeling the pressure of my work. And while I know that this creates emotional distress, it remains difficult for me to drag myself out of the house when I know I have piles of work to do. I often seek out distraction when I don’t feel like doing the work that so urgently needs doing. I too often avoid my initial resistance to working and find a distraction instead. And fast forward a few hours and the whole work day is gone. It’s easy to overdo it with the self-medication and to lose track of time. Time is what we got, and I want to treat it with more respect. There is a time to take a break, but certain types of distractions can bleed into time that would be better spent recuperating in nature, or with friends, or working.

Interview: Chipmusings

Bleeker Puddle, by Yours Truly.

Robin and I talk about my experience in college, my early career, the early phase of commissions, the chipmusic scene, my defunct netlabel, etc.

Link: Chipmusings

Q: How do I find game audio gigs?

Folks have asked me this question many many times, and I think with good reason. It can seem rather daunting to find a game project to score. The reality is there’s no guaranteed path to success. My journey has been winding, but fortunate. My first gig was fortuitous. I cold emailed an indie developer for my second. I went to GDC on college loan money to find my third. My fourth and fifth projects were internships. My sixth was a result of a reference from my fifth. My most important (FEZ) happened in part because I played a show in Montreal.Being a freelancer is a bit like rolling a snowball. Sometimes you gain a lot of ground in a short time, and other times it’s a grind. I had part-time jobs for awhile, until I lucked out and worked on a very successful game. It’s easy to admit that a lot of the projects I have worked on since FEZ have been the result of exposure I gained from it.

Work Philosophy

Like anything, finding projects to work on is about who you know. The most important thing you can do is be visible. Have a strong web presence, and attend lots of events where there are game developers. Share your music. It’s okay to let people know that you are looking for projects to work on, but don’t be too aggressive about it. Developers are well aware that there are a lot of composers who are looking for work.Don’t put the cart before the horse. Game developers are human beings, many of them lovely. The best way to develop a working relationship with someone is to get to know them in person.

Where Do I Go?

There are many wonderful events that happen every year, where creative people of all kinds congregate in the name of games.

  • Conferences
  • GDC
  • IndieCade
  • Fantastic Fest
  • PAX
  • etc…

Game Jams This format is one of the easiest ways to work on a game. You will meet lots of cool people if you make an effort. I find writing music at game jams to be difficult, but it’s not impossible and I think it can be worth it regardless. My friend Bill Kiley wrote music for a dozen games at MolyJam a few years ago. That’s a lot of future potential right there!

Here is a site that maintains a calendar of game jams happening around the world: http://www.indiegamejams.com

There are game jams happening all the time. It doesn’t take much to get involved when the stakes are so low. People go to have fun, and so can you!

Online Communities Do you prefer the shadows of your abode to the dangers of the real world? There are plenty of websites where game developers and creative types gather. I’m a bit out of the loop, but I spent a lot of time on TIGSource, which is still alive and kicking. Also, this may go without saying, but don’t forget: Google is the most essential resource of our time.

What Do I Do?

Release Music Getting your music out there can’t hurt. It also gives others a better understanding of your identity as a musician. I use Bandcamp to sell music on my website, and CDBaby to push my music to the most popular channels.

Build a Portfolio Part of being visible is giving people an easy way to learn more about what you do. A portfolio also allows you to communicate the direction you are looking to move in with your work. If you don’t have any gigs to showcase, you can always make demo material.

Live Performance A great excuse to travel, meet new people, and showcase your music. Traveling is in part how I ended up working on FEZ.

Business Cards Here are some great reasons not to buy business cards:

If You’re Fortunate…

It’s easy to say yes to an opportunity when there are no others. That said, as soon as you feel like you can, try to be discriminating about the projects you undertake. I believe that we all benefit when we choose to focus on the projects that resonate with us.

More Links

Composer Chance Thomas gives some great advice about developing a long-term strategy for finding work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFPpCorN56w

Some inspiration: https://medium.com/@noahbradley/how-i-became-an-artist-4390c6b6656c