GameSoundCon Industry Survey Results


As the GameSoundCon conference draws closer, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the Game Audio Industry Survey that was designed by GameSoundCon Executive Producer Brian Schmidt.  The survey was prepared in response to the broader “Annual Game Developer Salary Survey” offered by industry site Gamasutra.  Since the Gamasutra survey suffered from skewed results for game audio compared to other game industry sectors (owing to lower participation from the game audio community), Schmidt set out to obtain more reliable results by adopting a different approach.

Instead of focusing on the yearly salaries/earnings of audio professionals, the survey concentrated on the money generated by the music/sound of individual projects. Each respondent could fill out the survey repeatedly, entering data for each game project that the respondent had completed during the previous year.  The final results of the survey are meant to reflect how game audio is treated within different types of projects, and the results are quite enlightening, and at times surprising.

GSC-SurveyThe financial results include both small-budget indie games from tiny teams and huge-budget games from behemoth publishers, so there is a broad range in those results.  Since this is the first year that the GameSoundCon Game Audio Industry Survey has been conducted, we don’t yet have data from a previous year with which to compare these results, and it might be very exciting to see how the data shifts if the survey is conducted again in 2015.

Some very intriguing data comes from the section of the survey that provides a picture of who game composers are and how they work.  According to the survey, the majority of game composers are freelancers, and 70% of game music is performed by the freelance composer alone.  56% of composers are also acting as one-stop-shops for music and sound effects, likely providing a good audio solution for indie teams with little or no audio personnel of their own.

A surprising and valuable aspect of the survey is to be found in the audio middleware results, which show that the majority of games use either no audio middleware at all, or opt for custom audio tools designed by the game developer.  This information is quite new, and could be tremendously useful to composers working in the field.  While we should all make efforts to gain experience with audio middleware such as FMOD and Wwise, we might keep in mind that there may not be as many opportunities to practice those skills as had been previously anticipated.  Again, this data might be rendered even more meaningful by the results of the survey next year (if it is repeated), to see if commercial middleware is making inroads and becoming more popular over time.

Expanding upon this subject, the survey reveals that only 22% of composers are ever asked to do any kind of music integration (in which the composer assists the team in implementing music files into their game). It seems that for the time being, this task is still falling firmly within the domain of the programmers on most game development teams.

The survey was quite expansive and fascinating, and I’m very pleased that it included questions about both middleware and integration.  If GameSoundCon runs the survey again next year, I’d love to see the addition of some questions about what type of interactivity composers may be asked to introduce into their musical scores, how much of their music is composed in a traditionally linear fashion, and what the ratio of interactive/adaptive to linear music might be per project.  I wrote rather extensively on this subject in my book, and since I’ll also be giving my talk at GameSoundCon this year about composing music for adaptive systems, I’d be very interested in such survey results!

The GameSoundCon Game Audio Industry Survey is an invaluable resource, and is well worth reading in its entirety.  You’ll find it here.  I’ll be giving my talk on “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems” at GameSoundCon at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 8th.

Many thanks to Brian Schmidt / GameSoundCon for preparing this excellent survey!

Game Music Documentary at GameSoundCon


The kickstarter campaign for the documentary “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound” is entering its final six days.  I’m pleased that the producers approached me to be interviewed for their film; I’ll be talking about my career as a game composer and my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music.  The “Beep” documentary looks like it will be a fascinating project, and all indications are that the resulting documentary will be a wide-ranging discussion of the audio aspects of video game design and production.  Two days ago, the kickstarter announced that its plans include coverage of GameSoundCon, the video game music and sound design conference founded and executive produced by the president of the Game Audio Network Guild, Brian Schmidt.


The conference is less than a couple of weeks away now, and I’m looking forward to giving my presentation, “Advanced Composition Techniques for Adaptive Systems.”  The GameSoundCon crowd is one of the most enthusiastic and creatively-charged groups of people I’ve come across, and it will be great fun to meet new people and talk about the current state of adaptive music in games.

When I heard that “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound” would be covering GameSoundCon, I started thinking about the nature of Brian Schmidt’s conference, not only as a great gathering place for creative audio folks, but as a historically-significant event.  After all, one of the slogans of the “Beep” documentary is “Be a part of game sound history!”


The GameSoundCon conference will take place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles on October 7 – 8.  GameSoundCon will be celebrating its 10th conference this year.  Since its first event in 2009, GameSoundCon has been steadily growing as a resource to the game audio community.  GameSoundCon concentrates its sessions solely on game audio, which separates it from other industry events that encompass the entire discipline of game development.  Further, the GameSoundCon conference embraces both the music composition and sound design disciplines, differentiating it from other music-centric gatherings such as Game Music Connect, the Ludomusicology Conference and the North American Conference on Video Game Music.  This particular combination of priorities seems to make GameSoundCon an ideal event for the “Beep” documentary team, and I wonder how their historical perspective will inform their coverage of the conference.

In my own speech at GameSoundCon, I’ll be approaching the topic of interactive music in games from both a modern and historical standpoint, and I imagine that other presentations will do likewise in regards to their topics.  It’s nice that the GameSoundCon event will be documented with the intent to understand its historical significance, and I’m looking forward to meeting the documentary team of “Beep: A History of Video Game Sound.”  There are still 6 more days to go before the kickstarter ends, so if you want to get involved, you can go here.

Music and Aural Feedback (for Game Composers and Sound Designers)

Over at, writer Kyle Hilliard conducted an interesting test. He recorded the sounds made by video game controllers to see which is the noisiest. In the course of the test, he pressed the buttons of various controllers from across the long history of video game devices, and then categorized the controllers according to their peak decibel levels. You can go over to his article to read about his testing methods and see the bar graph of his results. 

His test got me thinking about the idea of aural feedback – the use of sounds to confirm or reinforce the literal actions of the player. For instance, when the player hits a button and causes an action in the game, the game emits a sound that represents that action. These can range from plain clicking noises meant to accurately emulate the sounds the controller makes naturally, to more whimsical dings, pings, tones and whooshes – the inherent nature of which would depend on the atmosphere of the game. These sounds can encompass both the immediate action of clicking the controller and the physical action or reaction that occurs as a result of player’s click.

When these aural feedback sounds are strongly evocative of a sound effect, such as a click or a whoosh, then they fall completely into the purview of the sound designer’s art. But when they are closer to dings, pings and tones, they begin to cross into the realm of musical expression. This is when the sound designer and the music composer for a game can work in a very collaborative fashion.

The video game Peggle 2 is a great example of this, and a perfect demonstration of sound design and musical score working together in perfect harmony (literally). Here’s a demonstration of aural feedback at its most musical:

Ultimate Trailers – West One Music


I’m pleased to share some news about one of my recent projects: music composition for the Ultimate Trailers album from West One Music.  The album is described by West One Music as “hard-hitting epic action trailer cues including electronic and rock hybrids and orchestral action.”  West One Music is one of the leading recording labels for production music that graces audiovisual productions around the world.

Music from the album will be available for use in television and film productions, so I’m looking forward to seeing my music appearing in lots of interesting projects!  Here are some photos from the orchestral recording sessions for the Ultimate Trailers album.  My music was recorded by the Alvernia Orchestra – some of their other film projects have been Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove and Closer to the Moon.



Music, Audio and Immersion (for Game Composers and Sound Designers)



Since I’ll be giving a speech at the Montreal International Game Summit in November about “Music, the Brain, and the Three Levels of Immersion,” I thought I’d use this blog as an opportunity to look at three other perspectives on the role of music and sound in the Immersion phenomenon – in which we lose all sense of reality and surrender ourselves completely to the gameplay experience. My speech in Montreal will include some ideas that are detailed in chapter three of my book, A Composer’s Guide to Game Music, and the connections between aural experience and the immersion effect will be correlated to some specific research studies that are explored in my book. However, there are certainly multiple ways to approach the topic, and immersion is a complex subject to tackle, particularly when we’re attempting to understand what role audio and music may play in the experience.

In the article, “Papa Sangre and the Construction of Immersion in Audio Games,” author Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo attempts to understand the immersive power of the audio-only game Papa Sangre, while also touching upon the effects of gender exclusion on the ability of non-represented genders to become immersed. The author’s conclusions about the internalized nature of audio-only immersion are intriguing.

In part three of the article, “Video Game Technology: Immersion Through Sound,” author Hugo Aranzaes makes some interesting points regarding the effect of increased audio channels (surround sound systems) on the immersive power of sound, particularly in the case of First Person Shooters, in which such positional audio information can be used strategically during gameplay.

Finally, an article by Connor Bridson provides a highly personal and subjective viewpoint about an equally personal and subjective experience – the horror game. Entitled “Immersion in Horror Video Games,” the article contends that audio in an atmospheric horror game occupies a greater position of importance than visuals in the experience of immersion.