The focused few will eat you alive

I'm a huge advocate of not just practicing our craft.

Of course, being great at music, sound, art, programming, writing, etc. is incredibly important.

But there is way more to freelancing successfully than our hard skills.

Heck, even if you want to work full time at a AAA company, getting noticed, promoted, and having influence require being good at much more than just your skillset.

So, we're going to break the major roadblocks of so many game industry workers down into three ~*~*~*~*~*~categories~*~*~*~*~*~*~

1.   Productivity/Focus

2.   Asking for What You're Worth

3.   Comparing Yourself to Others

Today, we're going to talk about getting that good good focus and being able to work without constantly stalking our Twitter crushes.

Nowadays, the bar for being able to focus is so low, that having the ability to work for any stretch of time without distraction is seen as a superpower.

Unfortunately, many of us (myself included in the past) focus on trivial garbage that robs us of our focus and ability to produce.

As a result, we no longer have the habit of being able to work in a deep way.

I can count on two hands the people I know around my age who routinely dive into their work with extreme focus.

And I've noticed that these focused few:

·       Get paid more

·       Solve deeper problems

·       Gain high amounts of prestige for their work

·       Have more time for their lives as a whole

When you meet someone who can really dedicate themselves fully to a task, you'll notice that they're exactly the type of people that are getting all the gigs.

They're the ones who are eating every other freelancer alive.

For years, I was a mental wreck. Barely able to keep afloat in my day-to-day work.

So, today, I come to you with a suggestion. One that helped me break out from this career-destroying cycle.

Many of us all know about the Pomodoro Technique (which this method is based upon), but I have found a much more effective alternative.

And for those of you who don't know what the Pomodoro Technique is, it works like this:

1.    Set a timer for 25 minutes

2.   Work in a focused way for 25 minutes without any distractions

3.   After that 25 minutes is up, take a 5 minute break

4.   Repeat this cycle 3 more times

5.   Take a longer break and start the cycle over

Pretty simple, right?

And for those who are new to it, it almost always works. Over the short-term, at least.

But within a few days or weeks, most everybody goes back to working with extreme distraction.

Why?

Because starting our efforts with such tiny breaks is insane.

We're going from spending tons of time goofing off to having teeny-tiny-barely-enough-time-to-take-a-poop breaks.

This is not a great way to build a powerful focus habit.

Instead, we need to build in rewards for our focused work, and a 5 minute break isn't going to cut it. At least, not at first.

Enter my perfectly-named supermethod…

Akash's Advanced Approach for Augmented Acuity:

To start, you're going to schedule an hour of work in your calendar for the task at hand.

For example, you'd have an hour-long block that says "compose" or "email developers."

Then, at the start of this block, you're going to set a timer for a small amount of time - anywhere from 10-25 minutes.

The more you hate or dread the task you're going to be working on, the shorter the time that you'll set.

And, just as you expect, you'll work on your task for the amount of time you've set.

But then…

Once the timer runs out…

*whispers*

~~~~~You take a break for the remaining hour~~~~~

Yes, that's right.

If you just worked for 25 minutes, you get to spend 35 minutes goofing off without guilt.

Check Twitter!

Look at dog gifs!

Roll around in your own filth!

The idea is that you're giving yourself a disproportionate award for the work you just did.

This will release some of those intoxicating brain chemicals, which will help the reward centers of your soft, delicious brain light up.

And once that break is over, you can start the cycle again if you want.

If you work like this just once a day, you'll gradually improve your ability to focus and get shit done.

And as time goes on, you'll feel comfortable increasing the amount of time you work, even on dreaded tasks.

And even though it may seem like such a small step in the beginning, this is the superpower that will make all the difference in your life and career.

XOXO,
- Akash

P.S. One of my favorite books on the topic of focus is Deep Work by Cal Newport. Get it. Read it. Love it.

P.P.S. If you're not already aware, my business coach and I released an entirely free online course for those of you who want to break into the game industry. Grab it here

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There's always a better way

Back in 2013, I went to speak at a video game conference in Texas.

Long before I gave my talk, I noticed a panel all about freelancing on the schedule.

So, of course, I went.

I was super excited to learn more from people who had clearly established themselves as successful freelancers.

After they all went through their introductions, the moderator asked the entire group what it took to become a freelancer/business owner/Youtuber.

I was mortified when every single panelist went down the line, and talked about how they:

  • Were always sick
  • Barely got any sleep because they had to work 24/7
  • Ate terribly unhealthy food because it's all they had time for
  • Never got to see their friends or families
  • Had breakups or divorces because of their lifestyle

"That's just what it takes," one of them said.

Everyone in the room, with the exception of the ludicrously handsome Indian man in the front row, was nodding along.

And even back then, long before I had done anything of note, I knew there had to be a much better way.

Sadly, information like this is more common than the stuff I espouse.

And I realize it's because there IS a degree of sexiness related to the hustle, even if some people take it a bit too far.

It's very boring to say:

"Yeah, I worked 3 hours today and got more done than most people do in 8, all you need to do is just gradually increase your focus over the course of a decade and then you'll never have to worry about having enough time for yourself."

Instead, we hear constant messages like this:

"GOD I AM SO BUSY!! WHY PAY RENT WHEN I CAN LIVE AT THE OFFICE?!?! SLATHER ME WITH PRAAAAAIIISE!!!"

Most people will go with the second option. It's sexier, more exciting, and fools people into thinking that they're making progress, even if the direction they're going is backwards.

Praising Busyness

Being "busy" has become a badge of honor.

But you can't sustainably "do it all."

It's the idea that we HAVE to do it all RIGHT NOW that causes so many of our problems in the first place.

Oprah said it best: "You can have it all, just not all at once."

Picking the essential things, the right things, and pushing those levers and having plenty of time left over… that's the lifestyle I want, have achieved, and am always looking to refine.

And ironically, doing less actually leads to getting paid more, greater health, more time, higher quality work, a greater sense of accomplishment, and more happiness overall.

I'm not killing myself with my work and I never ever do crunch, and that unfortunately makes me a weirdo in the game industry.

Write down your ideal day

Here's an exercise for you to try to make sure you don't fall into these typical traps:

Write down your ideal day in extreme detail.

What's your day like? Where do you work? When do you wake up? Where do you live? How long do you work for? What city are you in? What's the weather like? Do you exercise? What do you eat? When do you come home? What does home look like? Who do you live with? Do you have a hobby? Do you own 3,000,000 dogs?

Odds are, you're not going to write things down like "I'm always horribly sleep-deprived" or "I have zero time for friends and family."

When you read over this, you'll know very quickly what sort of work and life you want, and implicitly, what sorts of garbage you need to start cutting out to get to that ideal.

I did this exercise when I was still in school, and every single thing I wrote down (minus owning a dog, but that will change soon) ended up happening.

Maybe you'll realize that you want to cut out meetings, or never want to wake up early ever again.

Perhaps you'll realize that you've been spreading yourself too thin with dozens of different hobbies and haven't been getting the quiet "me time" that you desperately need to move forward.

Or it could be that you finally realize that your goal is to live in a Rapture-like city at the bottom of the sea with your 3,000,000 dogs.

Don't steal that one. That's my goal.

Now, none of this means that you can be ultra picky about all of your work if you're just starting out.

But it does provide a standard for you.

And having a clear standard to grow into is far more powerful than just saying things like "I want more time" or "I want better projects."

And it's that level of clarity that will allow you to build something incredible for yourself.

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It's My Birthday! Here's What I've Learned


IT'S MY BIRTHDAAAAY!

And because it's ma birfday, I'll share three things I've been pondering on and learning during my 29 years on this planet.

1. It's okay to be silly

When I was first starting out, I was intimidated by all the "professional" people who were at video game conferences.

I would joke around and try to get them to lighten up, and was only met with disdain and blank stares.

I was worried that, to be successful, you had to hold yourself back substantially. That you couldn't have any fun.

But it turns out I was hanging around the entirely wrong people.

It turns out you can be fun AND successful. These are the types of people I want to be around. 

They're rare, and there are certainly lots of people who will try to make you feel bad for enjoying yourself, especially in a professional context. 

But it's worth taking the time to find the few people you truly gel with.

Nowadays, if someone has a bad energy or is just plain boring, I just don't spend a lot of time with them.

And even if they pay well, I turn down their job offers. This saves us both a lot of time. They can go off to their seminars all about the color gray while I wrestle frost giants. Everybody wins.

2. Act on what is uncomfortable AND unfamiliar

Lately, I've been moving towards what feels most uncomfortable and what is the least familiar.

We all know that, as humans, we tend to seek out comfort and avoid pain. 

But what is far more insidious that we move towards what is familiarly uncomfortable. 

We'll procrastinate on doing our taxes as a form of familiar discomfort that we've dealt with before, instead of hiring an accountant or getting our books taken care of - something that's unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

So if a new job or opportunity comes my way that I'm completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, I'm much more likely to say yes.

3. Seeking pride and validation from your work is nothing to be ashamed of

We're told not to seek validation from others, and we feel ashamed if the barest thought of pride flickers across our brains.

Turns out, validation feels really freaking good. People like winning awards and being recognized for a reason.

We post Facebook statuses for the likes, we tweet for the retweets.

We go to the gym so that cute guy/girl will notice us, we buckle down on our business and become successful to get revenge on the people who told us we couldn't do it… the list goes on and on.

Yet we DENY that we're actually pushing ourselves for any of these reasons. 

Own the fact that these sorts of reasons influence why you want to improve yourself. It'll save you a lot of heartache and will make actually doing your thing a hell of a lot easier.

And when people send any sort of compliment my way, now I just say "thank you!" instead of trying to deflect it. 

Feel that pride and know that it's totally okay to be feel good about what you do.

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Why I Freelance and Why You Should Too

It used to be as little as 10 years ago, you could get a job at a large game studio and feel pretty secure.

Plenty of junior-level positions were open, and almost every skillset was in demand.

My, how things have changed. 

Now, if you want to work at a large company, they ask for 5 years of experience and 2 shipped console games for most every decent position.

And who knows? If you get the job, maybe you'll be fortunate enough to get laid off right after your game ships.

If you do really well, your game will get canceled, and you won't even be able to talk about it in future job interviews.

And maybe, just maybe, if the stars align, you won't even get paid for your work.

Twice.

FANTASTIC!

For some reason, a lot of you want to work for large companies that will use you up and throw you aside.

By the way, this isn't because these companies are malicious. 

They're just poorly structured.

Maybe you want security - even though you're likely to do better financially when you're only accountable to… you.

Or maybe you want experience with working on a team - though that can be earned by putting yourself out in the industry, going to game jams, being social, and being a part of the massive community.

And perhaps you want to work on one certain game franchise - this drastically limits your opportunities, but that's fine. 

Most likely, however, you're scared to put yourself in the line of fire, get bruised, fail, and have only yourself to blame for your setbacks.

DON'T GO THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR

Thankfully, the industry is getting better and better, but the more people that enter it, the more the onus is on you to get the best work possible.

If all you're doing is submitting resume after resume wondering "Why are less-qualified people getting the job?" then you're totally screwed.

These studios get thousands of resumes all the time.

And the top-performers? They're the ones who didn't even apply for the job, but were asked directly to work with them. 

If you're trying to get the best opportunities by going through the front door, you'll be waiting in line for eternity.

The ones who get the best gigs are the ones who built their own experience first.

They freelanced, got really freaking good, built their networks, and as a result, get all the best gigs. 

They don't just "show up" and hope for the best.

They don't dabble.

They don't jump from shiny thing to shiny thing, wondering what their "passion" is.

They don't try to be a game developer on top of being an internet celebrity, a renowned ballet dancer, and a top-rated chef. 

They focus on just three things:

  1. Building their network (by focusing on making real friends)
  2. Working on projects that will move them and those around them forward
  3. Saying "no" to anything that doesn't fit in the top two

And as a result, all the best opportunities come to them.

THIS IS HOW IT WORKS

The process that AAA studios go through when they're hiring for a coveted position goes something like this:

  1. They put the job posting online (this isn't always the case - the best jobs get filled before they're even posted.)
  2. An internal, employee-only email is sent out asking "Hey, does anyone know someone who could fill this job?"
  3. Someone responds with "Yes. I have a friend who would be great."
  4. Then that friend gets the job.
  5. Any resumes that were received weren't even looked at, providing the recommendation worked out.

Does this apply to all positions? No. Of course not. 

But for the most competitive ones like audio designer, or concept artist? This is extremely common.

"But Akash, you lascivious fountain of milk chocolate, if I get hired as a [position I don't actually want] within the studio, one day they'll eventually hire me as a [position I actually do want]." 

No. They won't. 

Many studios prefer to keep their employees on the "track" that they're currently on.

They're investing thousands of dollars to train you at your current job. They don't want that to go to waste.

And honestly, if you're spending 8-10 hours of your day as a QA specialist, then what are the odds that they'll notice your audio abilities? 

They'd much rather hire the person who's been spending their days as an audio designer, working on games constantly. 

Again, this isn't universally true, but it is a trap that many fall for.

HERE'S THE CATCH 

Working for yourself is infinitely harder than working at a large company.

You have to manage yourself incredibly well, put yourself out there in a thousand different ways, be good with money, and struggle for years before anyone notices you. 

You also won't make much money at first.

Though freelancing can (eventually) earn you exponentially more than the same position at a AAA company. 

You get to work at your best in whatever environment you see fit.

Then, when you get really good, studios will be knocking your door down, begging you to work with them. 

And they'll even pay you more than their full-time employees - often for working less.

Hidetaka "SWERY" Suehiro - creator of games like Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, put his transition from working in a studio to owning his own company very well.

Note that he left his original studio job due to health concerns (surprise surprise) which have completely cleared up now that he's out on his own (surprise surprise surprise)

In the end, I realized that going to the same office every day at the same time, whether or not I actually had work to do, taking a lunch break at the same time whether or not I was actually hungry, and acting like I was awake even when I was sleepy was not the way to go about creating truly amazing work.
— SWERY
LOOK AT HIM. HE HAS AN OWL!

LOOK AT HIM. HE HAS AN OWL!

Boom. Drop the mic, SWERY. You've earned it.

I'd like to leave you with one more quote from one of my favorite authors: 

The idea that we need to “pay our dues” is a lie told to us by people who wanted our efforts and labor on the cheap.
— James Altucher

This doesn't mean you'll get paid well for your work right away. 

And it doesn't mean you'll get the best jobs immediately - you're going to have to work on a ton of garbage to get to the good stuff, no matter how skilled you are.

But it does mean that you can sidestep most of the typical advice given to us:

"Work somewhere for 10 years, then do your own thing."

"Just get good at what you do and people will notice."

"If you want to work in this industry, expect not to make any money."

IT'S NOT FOR EVERYONE

Is freelancing for everyone?

No. Of course not.

Some people prefer to work on a large team and want an office to go to every day.

That's totally fine.

We need large studios to provide tons of jobs and create huge games like Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed.

We couldn't have those games without these behemoths.

And some developers live and die by daily, in-person communication.

But that regimented life isn't for me, and I know it isn't for a lot of you either.

We live in an incredible age of abundance.

Every single one of us has the capability to make a great living working in this industry, all the while dodging some of its worst flaws.

And it comes down to how much you're willing to fight for it.

--

By the way, I am a huge proponent of having a day-job if the game dev money isn't coming in just yet.

This advice is to keep you from falling into the common traps associated with this industry and wasting years flailing around.

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I Used to Clean Toilets

A lot of people ask me what I did before working in game audio.

Well, it was all smooth sailing for me.

I kind of rolled out of bed one day, dusted off about a dozen Werther's Original wrappers that were stuck to my face and had a couple thousand gigs waiting for me.

Minus being covered in sticky candy wrappers on a daily basis, that's not even remotely true.

I was actually a public pool janitor.

Yes, that's right my lovelies, I used to mop up piles of (mostly human) feces every day starting at 5AM.

A question I asked myself every day...

A question I asked myself every day...

Again, these were public pools.

That means that PEOPLE used them.

The amount of dark necromancy that went on in those bathrooms would make even Bellatrix Lestrange cringe in terror.

The smell got so bad that I eventually had to wear a respirator every morning to prevent from vomiting instantly.

Seriously. It was that bad.

It goes without saying that that wasn't my dream job.

When I wasn't excising the foul spirits that lived within each urinal, I would read.

Book after book about audio production, DAWs, Harry Potter, music theory, Harry Potter, positive psychology, self development, public speaking, Harry Potter, and anything else I could get my hands on.

And that small act made all the difference in the world.

I know a lot of you are just getting your game industry careers off the ground.

That's why I have my blog, newsletter, Youtube channel, and my online courses - to make that incredibly difficult journey as easy as possible.

While your peers will be focused on showing off pictures of their Logic projects on Instagram, realize that all of your biggest dreams, goals, and achievements will be the result of your most consistent habits.

I had the skills to do a TED talk because I spoke publicly, twice a week, to a small room of Berklee students for 3 years straight.

My good friend Ryan Ike was ready to write music for the indie mega-hit Gunpoint because he wrote a small piece of music every single week he called Microjams. Not for fame, not for glory, not for some pat on the back, but for himself.

Film composer Hummie Mann (composer of Robin Hood: Men in Tights and one of my mentors) trained his ear by humming every single mode to himself over and over during his daily workouts, which gave him an incredible ability to put his musical ideas down on paper instantly.

I'm extremely fortunate to come from a small middle-of-nowhere town pool janitor to where I'm at today

But I am by no means special.

Now that it's 2017, many of us will set huge bombastic goals, which is great.

But whether you're scrubbing toilets, or making seven figures as an international Harry Potter fan-fiction icon, just remember that it is the small, insignificant, modest acts that make all the difference. 

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BE CONSISTENT!!!

I recently discovered a new quote that has quickly become one of my favorites.

The blessing in life is finding the torture you’re comfortable with
— Jerry Seinfeld

Coming from one of the most successful comedians of all time, that says a lot.

Jerry Seinfeld is famous for his "don't break the chain" experiment, where he would mark an X on his calendar for every day he practiced his routine. His goal was to have as long of an unbroken chain as humanly possible.

Was it fun? You bet it wasn't.

Did his passion, motivation, and drive stay strong throughout the entire process? Absolutely not.

Did it, in his own words, feel like torture? Yes.

There is a lie being sold to people nowadays saying that you need to find your passion. Once you find it, everything you do will just fall into place and nothing you'll do will ever feel like work again.

Unfortunately, that's total bullshit.

I see so many of my colleagues jumping from thing to thing, wondering why they're not getting results in their life.

"I'm going to start a Youtube series!"

"I'm going to make a Podcast!"

"I'm going to go to the gym and get ripped!"

They last maybe a few months before "life gets in the way." Or they try to look for something that's more exciting.

No matter what you choose to do with your life, there will be years where everything you do yields zero results, no one cares about you, and you won't feel like the work you're putting in is worth it.

And no matter what, there will be times where what you're doing will feel like its own special form of torture.

So what makes the difference between the people who succeed and those who don't?

Consistency.

Constantly working at your craft, putting yourself in horribly uncomfortable situations, and never backing down when you feel like you "must not be cut out for this."

Does this mean you'll never have fun doing what you do, or you should self-flagellate to get things done? Not at all.

But this does mean that no matter what your "passion" is, what you do will feel like work.

STOP DABBLING

What matters more than anything is how consistent you are in your work. Are you putting in 5 minutes a day without fail?

Good, you'll be way ahead of the dabblers who put in 6 hours a day and then quit after a month.

Don't be one of those dabblers.

Embrace the unsexiness of being consistent, and realize that very few people are willing to put in the boring hours to get the life they want.

After all, that time is going to pass by anyway. You might as well put it to good use.

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Do The Wrong Thing

Recently, a friend of mine told me something fascinating:

Basketball players who shoot free throws underhanded have radically improved accuracy over those who shoot normally. 

Meaning the player who looks like this:

Score way more free throws than the player who looks like this:

Rick Barry, a pioneer of the technique, sinks 9 shots out of 10 from the free throw line, which is almost unheard of from those shooting traditionally.

Even with these amazing results, almost no one is adopting this technique.

Listen, I'm no sports-guy, but this realization brought a question to mind.

What are WE doing that is less effective than it could be? What are we doing "correctly" that's holding us back?

Here are some things that come to mind, though I'm sure you'll be able to fill in your own:

  1. Not thinking of our business as… A business. Just getting good at our craft and wondering why the gigs won't fall into our laps. 
  2. Believing that it's taboo to talk about money, thus preventing us from learning about it.
  3. Not exercising, believing that our time would be better spent working.
  4. Not deciding which areas in our life are most important - and just "going with the flow."

What are you holding yourself back on?

Dig deep and ask yourself if what you're doing is actually going to give you the results you want.

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Get Your Focus Back

When I was studying at the Berklee College of Music, I was consistently on the edge of failing most of my classes.

Not because of lack of understanding, or even of desire, but simply because I was distracted.

And that distraction meant I wasn’t creating anything worthwhile.

I Simply Couldn’t Get Anything Done

I had gotten to the point where it was impossible for me to work with any degree of focus. I would have to have something in the background, whether it be music, Netflix, or Youtube. As a result, I would pull all-nighters for assignments that should have just taken me a couple hours.

Many of us work in the exact same way every single day.

We play music in the background, we keep a tab with Facebook open, and our phones are always within arms reach. Ironically, we sometimes even tell ourselves that this distraction helps us focus.

And unfortunately, these work habits are the very reason we’re not getting the results we want from our career and day-to-day lives.

Yes, game design can be an incredibly lonely process. That’s why it’s so easy to fall prey to the shiny things that are constantly beckoning for our attention.

Though if you can get your brain back to a state of focus and deep work, then you’ll rocket your career forward to an insane degree.

Our focus and ability to concentrate is like a muscle. Days that are bereft of deep work gradually wear away at our ability to create meaningful work.

Very few people doing creative work today are able to focus for extended periods of time. An 8 hour day may contain 3-5 hours of quality output at best.

But it simply doesn’t do to just say “Hey, focus more and everything will be fine.”

For a brain that’s used to distraction, forcing it to focus on the task at hand is like asking a gold fish to climb a tree.

To be able to work deeply, we just need to gradually train that focus muscle and bring our brains back to their natural states.

From Near-Dropout to TED Speaker

I’d like to share with you my absolute favorite technique for training focus.

This is how I brought myself from near-failure in college to being able to work on Destiny, Hyper Light Drifter, and a TED talk all at the same time without losing sleep.

There are hundreds of ways to get your focus back. This is just one I’d like to share with you that you can do immediately and get fantastic results.

It’s called moving meditation.

Some of you may meditate already, whereas others may not. Your prior experience with meditation doesn’t matter. This is a bit of a different take on things.

It works like this

  1. Go for a walk/jog in a familiar area.
  2. Make sure you’re not using headphones or listening to anything. Ideally, you won’t even bring your phone with you.
  3. While walking, focus your brain on just one problem or task that you’d like to make some progress on.
  4. Keep yourself focused on this task and keep thinking on it as long as possible.
  5. When you get distracted, acknowledge your distraction and gently guide yourself back to thinking about the task at hand.
  6. Continue doing this for the entire walk, gently guiding your brain back to focusing on the task at hand whenever a newer/more enticing thought occurs.

The key is to make sure that you keep bringing yourself back to the task at hand. Even if you firmly believe that something else has come up that's more important, do not switch your focus.

You also do not need to solve your problem outright during that one walk. You just want to make some degree of progress.

Here are some example topics that I’ve used this technique for:

  1. How to optimize the studio in between projects.
  2. How to systemize my follow-up process to turn leads into gigs faster.
  3. Future field recording trips I’d like to take.
  4. What my next Youtube video should be. 

Your walk can be as long as you want. Start off shorter to make things easier for you and gradually increase the length.

You get the benefit of some fresh air, some mild exercise, and you’ll blow your own mind at how much progress and clarity you’ll make towards your bigger goals.

And to top it all off, you’re teaching your brain to focus again. This will bleed into everything else you do in life and can mean the difference between a mediocre and stellar career. 

A Focused Mind is an Inspired Mind

Give this a shot. Maybe you’re struggling with a lack of focus and inspiration at the moment. Something that I think I’ve dealt with more times than I care to count in my life.

Allowing ourselves the ability to work deeply will allow for inspiration to come knocking at our door.

After all, inspiration is reserved for the dedicated few who give their craft the time, love, and energy it deserves.

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(Don't) Follow Your Passion

This is what comes up when I search the word “passion” in my Gmail inbox:

So you know, when it says “many” it means there are too many emails for google to worry about calculating.

It’s basically saying “Aww hell. I give up. Listen. There’s a lot of these. But don’t worry. You’ve got this, buddy."

The idea of following your passion has become so pervasive that it’s seen as weird if you’re NOT doing your best to find out what it is.

Unfortunately, this has led a lot of people to become dabblers. 

You know the ones. The ones who get really excited to do something, tell all their friends about it, and then 2 months later, are doing shit-all with their lives.

You’ve done it. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. Many are still doing it. All in a vain attempt to discover what we are truly passionate about.

Well, I’m here to give you some good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) news:

None of us have any sort of pre-determined passion.

Simply put, we’re passionate about what we’re good at.

And if we don’t spend any time getting really good at something, going through the countless hours, the tears, and the extreme stress of it all, then we wind up as yet another dabbler.

Just another person who jumps from big idea to big idea, never accomplishing anything worthwhile.

We’re not born with chromosomes that dictate what we’re meant to do.

We don’t have DNA that says, without a doubt “Ah, now this one, she will be a great water polo player."

What a terrible system that would be.

That’s not one I want to be part of, and neither should you.

When you believe in the idea of "finding" your passion, you’re buying into a system so evil that it would make a James Bond villain question its morality.

“Okay, let’s implant these people with something they REALLY like doing, but not tell them. Most of them won’t even find out what it is before they die! HAHAHAHA!"

Directionless Passion

So, what if you have become a dabbler? Someone who gets really excited about something, but then discards it after deciding “it must not be for me?"

Well, it depends.

If you’ve spent your life building up some sort of skill, then it would be very wise of you to either A) Keep developing it, or B) Leverage it in some way in your new field.

If you’re a writer who wants to become a pilot, then write about your journey to become one.

If you’re a programmer wanting to become a game composer, then create apps and tools that will allow you to create new and unique music that no one else could.

Oh, and don’t quit your day job.

If you have no career capital (meaning real experience in your field of choice), then you’d be foolish to dive in head first like the rest of the courage-culture tells you to do.

Keep doing what you’re doing to make money, then hustle as hard as you can on the side to get your life going in the direction you want.

Do The Work

It’s time to put your head down and do the work.

Realize that whatever you want is going to take years, even decades, to get decently good at.

I get emails all the time from total beginners asking how long it will take for them to get on teams like Heart Machine or Bungie.

My response is often “10 years, and that’s 10 years of no one knowing your name, caring who you are, and your friends/family making fun of your life decisions."

It’s weird. They never get back to me after that.

It’s Not Just a Hobby

Stop treating your life’s work like a hobby.

Don’t wait until you're motivated.

Don’t write music only when you’re “inspired” Or when it “feels right."

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist said it best:

A successful day writing is the day that I suffer in the morning, and I have fun in the evening.
— Paulo Coelho

Practice, action, and focused work all feel like shit most of the time. That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

When you feel like you’re pushing yourself and can’t go any further, when you hate your practice sessions, when you can’t imagine doing any more…

Those aren’t the signals to quit.

Those are the signals to keep going.

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Why You Must Play More Games

"When people ask me if I went to film school, I tell them, ‘No, I went to films.’” - Quentin Tarantino

This quote sums up something very important: If you want to work in a certain field, it’s pretty important that you participate in it.

If you’re a chef, you’re probably interested in trying out new foods.

If youre an author, youre probably reading plenty of books.

If you’re a game developer, you’re probably playing gam-

Oh… Wait… No...

Unfortunately, many game developers take great pride in saying “Oh god, I’m so busy. I haven’t had any time to play any games this week/month/year/decade."

We’re typically so overworked that we view any time that could be construed as “fun” to be a total waste.

THIS ISN’T A GOOD THING.

If you’re so busy that you can’t enjoy the very thing you’re creating, then something needs to change.

Learning From Top Performers

When chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin was 8 years old, he was already on track to become one of the best chess players in the world.

At his first national tournament however, he lost and was completely devastated.

What did he do then? Did he double down and practice harder than any of the other kids? Did he wallow in self-pity? Did he have a slick 80s montage featuring deft maneuvering of pawns, queens, and rooks? 

No. He and his family went fishing.

When he came back from this vacation - one where he barely played any chess at all, he won his next championship and became a national chess champion at the age of 9.

In Josh's book (The Art of Learning) he attributes this leisure time heavily toward his success as both an International Chess Champion as well as a Tai Chi World Champion:

I have come to understand that these little breaks from the competitive intensity of my life have been and still are an integral part of my success.
— Josh Waitzkin

If top-performers like Josh (among many others) attribute their success to having periods of downtime, then isn’t there something to be learned here? 

In the past, I was certainly guilty of thinking of downtime as wasteful and unproductive.

This type of thinking has lead me to burnout and eventually lead to me hating my work.

If youve been working in this field for any length of time, Im sure you can relate.

Taking some downtime, playing some games, and (most importantly) not feeling guilty about it can make a huge difference in your daily productivity.

It can completely revitalize you, not to mention give you some inspiration for your current projects.

It’s not a huge time commitment

And before you give me the common responses of “Well games are long so who has time?!” or my favorite “I’M ALWAYS ANGRY AND YOU WILL BE HEARING FROM ME ON TWITTER” (an increasingly common reaction) please note that you don’t need to play games for 60 hours at a time to get any value out of them.

Just a little bit here and there will go a long way.

Maybe you only have time to play 1 hour a week. Great.

Taking the time to enjoy other peoples creations can make the difference between peak productivity and feeling like you want to want to boil your computer in a vat of oil.

You Owe It to your brain

So what am I playing?

At the time of this writing, I just finished Life is Strange as well as Contradiction: Spot the Liar! (pictured below).

Every time I play a game, I come back to work with greater gusto and can get tons more work done in a short period of time. Its pretty easy to get inspired with all of the great stuff thats out there.

So go, be free, and play some games once in a while. You owe it to your brain.

Godspeed

Godspeed

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Why you MUST share your work

When was the last time you shared your work and something terrible happened?

Did you put your music up on Soundcloud only to have the entire internet rise up against you in a grand revolt, chanting the words “no more video game music!” ?

Likely not.

Even still, many people in the game industry are downright terrified of promoting themselves and their work. Frankly, they are selling themselves short by pretending that they’re not an “expert” or “authority” in their field, even though they already have tons of experience and know-how. 

I’ve definitely been guilty of this, and if you’re a human, so have you.

If nothing bad will happen to us if we simply share our work or spread our knowledge, why don’t more of us do it? Why don’t we teach others what we know? Why are we so damned scared?

Well, on top of the general fear of rejection, we’re scared that people will discover that we don’t have all the answers or aren’t masters of our craft.

Maybe you don’t have a college degree, so your hard-won skills/knowledge aren’t worth anything to anyone.

Or maybe you just don’t have your Masters degree yet, so you're not really an expert.

Bullshit.

Anytime those thoughts enter your head, you’re giving the middle finger to everyone in your industry and saying “I don’t want to participate. I don’t want to share my knowledge. I enjoy holding everyone else back."

So how do we share our stuff without being sleazy? How can we teach people in our industry about what we do?

It’s quite simple really:

JUST DO IT ANYWAY.

As creatives, we have a habit of underselling ourselves and our own experiences. We believe our knowledge and skills are commonplace, when they are anything but.

If we think “well, everyone knows that MP3s don’t loop. You’ve gotta use OGGs to get compressed audio to loop. Duh.” the less likely it is that others will ever learn that tidbit of knowledge, thus holding everyone else back.

Start a blog, a Youtube channel, a Periscope channel, a Twitch stream, a newsletter, a Twitter account, ANYTHING that will allow you to add value to the world around you. Share and show what you’ve been up to and you’ll be shocked at how many people come out of the woodwork to support you.

Stop holding yourself and the industry back. Show your stuff. Share your knowledge and be the expert that this industry is so desperately in need of. 

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Why You Need to Charge More for your Work

“Frankly, I hired you because you were the most expensive choice."

Those were the words spoken to me by one of my clients when I asked why he hired me. He said this even when he had his choice from hundreds of other composer/sound designers out there, many of them very famous and well-known, with some even willing to do the work for free.

The Benefits of Asking for More

At that moment I realized how important it was to charge more for my services as a freelancer. Not only was I doing myself a disservice by charging too low, I was telling potential clients “I don’t trust myself enough to do a good job for you, so I’ll just charge you less."

You aren’t giving your clients what they want

Many freelancers are trying their hardest to be a Ford, when, in reality, a lot of great clients are out there looking for Ferraris. You’re busy doing your best to be a lower-priced member of a faceless mob, all while the best clients are actively seeking a premium, high quality experience.

Let me put it this way: If you were looking for a new computer, and saw one for $99, what would your initial thought be? Likely “What’s wrong with it?” or “That must be a piece of crap.”

That’s the vibe you’re giving off when you significantly underprice yourself.

When you undercharge for your services, you are saying “Hey, don’t worry, I’m going to do a bad job on this. Also, I’ll have to get 10 other clients who also underpay me, so I’ll have to half-ass my work for all of you. Sound good?"

You will lose clients

When you charge a high number for your services, you will lose some potential clients, but many others will be more attracted to you. You will be able to take on fewer projects, do more dedicated and better work, and give each project your all.

Also, if someone is paying you a lot of money to do something, you’ll likely feel very guilty for not giving them their money’s worth.

Create your best work

If you’re a freelancer in this industry, it’s worth taking a look at your services and ask “Do I want to be a Ford or a Ferrari? Do I want to provide my clients with a top-level experience while creating great work? If so, how can I start charging more for what I do?"

If you ask for what you’re worth, you’re doing a service not only to yourself, but to every client you ever come into contact with. 

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How To Get Good

I still remember when one of my Berklee teachers came right up to my desk during class and announced loudly "your compositions suck." 

And you know what? He was right.

Up until that point, I was at the bottom of all of my composition classes. Frankly, I didn’t understand what it took to get good at my craft.

From that point on, I decided to spend years reading books and finding mentors to decode just exactly why and how some people are world-class at what they do, while most struggle to make any progress at all.

Have you ever been thrilled about being mediocre at something? My guess is no. Every single creative person on the planet wants to get good at what they do. It is in our nature to strive to be the best.

Even so, many of us fall by the wayside. We don’t put in the hours that we need to to become great. We stop working towards our goals on a daily basis, and get back to the boring day-to-day grind, barely noticing that we are not doing the work that really matters to us.

Why do so many people set bold goals, get excited, and then fail so quickly? It all comes down to one key question:

Are you Patiently Impatient (PI) or Impatiently Patient (IP)?

On first glance, these two things seem to be the exact same thing, but there is a key difference:

Patiently Impatient:

This is the category most people fall in to. We believe that we have unlimited time to do what we want. We can figure out our fitness on January 1st. We can start practicing guitar only once we find the perfect teacher. We can start our own business once we have 6 months of savings in our bank accounts.

How many of you have said something like that to yourself at some point? I know I certainly have. 

Sometimes, the day does arrive. We start doing whatever it is we planned, except we are horribly impatient. We dive in with extreme gusto and excitement, work toward our goal with reckless abandon, and then burn out within a month. We then say things like “this must not be for me."

We are patient when it comes to starting toward our dreams, but are impatient when it comes to actually putting in the work.

Impatiently Patient:

Most super-successful entrepreneurs I have met are Impatiently Patient. If their life and business isn’t how they want it to be, they freak out and put a plan into action right away. The key difference is what they do after they start working.

They acknowledge that whatever they are doing will take time. They know that everything in their lives is like a sculpture, requiring a ridiculous amount of effort and attention to see it through to the end. IPs don’t care how long a task will take, however. They are willing to start today, but take as much time as it needs to get things done.

So which category do you fall into? Sometimes we may fall in to one, and other times into another. 

Anytime you’re working toward your goal or starting a new endeavor, it is worth taking stock of your emotional state regularly and feeling which category you fall in to. 

If what you’re working toward is something that you genuinely want, then it is worth starting today.

If it’s worth doing, it’s going to take a very long time. 

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You Have Nothing to Fear - What I Learned from Being Detained

"Are you another fucking Saudi?" Were the first words out of the border patrol officer's mouth as I gave her my passport. Instantly I knew that things weren't about to go so well. 

As you may or may not know, my skin isn't the most porcelain white, and thus I've been exposed to a fair amount of racism (especially in the US) from casual, thinly-veiled remarks to overt verbal assaults. The worst of this happens when I travel through the US border without a token white friend.

The above event happened a couple years ago, and it was one of the scariest things that had ever happened to me. I was openly verbally assaulted and humiliated, detained, locked in a room, and threatened with jail time, all because my ancestry doesn’t fit within current government ideals. My valid work visa was thrown away, and I was given 29 days to leave the country. Permanently. 

It took me years (and a couple lawyers) to get over this event, but now I'm grateful that it happened. Why? Frankly, the entire ordeal made me fearless, especially when it comes to my career. 

 

Becoming Fearless

So many of us (myself included) come from a place of fear when we think about working in the game industry. "What if I fail? What if I make no money? What if... What if... What if..."

We must remember that we chose this industry because it's fun. We want to be here. I don't think anyone's parents are saying "you must have a respectable career as a doctor, lawyer, or video game composer." 

This event made me realize two things:

1) What we do is awesome.

2) Thankfully, none of our decisions will result in the loss of life or limb. 

It's all too easy to get scared with decisions of what city we should live in, how we can make money or start our career, or if we should even start at all.

While you may not have been through the event above, I am sure you’ve had your share of rough times in your life. Did you come out a better person? Did the challenge teach you something that living in constant comfort couldn't have? Good. That’s all the more reason not to fear the decisions, tasks, and path before you. Again, if you’re working in the game industry, then you know that we’re here to make amazing work. We’re not here to live in anxiety or fear of the what ifs. So just do it. Dive in. Do the work and get where you deserve to be.

After all, there's nothing to fear.  

Why You Need to Invest in Yourself - Part 2

Read Part 1 of this series here.

In my last article, I talked about why you need to invest in yourself. There is one key point that I didn’t touch on, however.

While it is wise to invest in your skill set, knowledge of your field, or in your health, there is also another reason to take the time (and money) to push yourself further.

Life. Experience.

For some of you this may be obvious, but I get a surprising amount of resistance from people when I talk about how to push your career and life forward. The general responses seem to be knee-jerk reactions. These replies are referred to as “invisible scripts” by financial expert Ramit Sethi. Basically, they are deeply-embedded myths that we simply believe without a second thought. They’re so insidious that we almost never notice when we’re saying/thinking them. 

Here are some examples of invisible scripts:

“The game industry in my city/planet sucks.” 
“I don’t have any good friends because no one cool lives here."
“I can’t make music because I didn’t go to school for it."
“I’m so bad at sound design."
“I don’t want to try that because it will stop me from enjoying X."
“I’ll try and get a job at a game studio. That’s the safest option."
“That’s cool, but I could never do that."

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone gives you the life experience that will help you completely dismantle many of the scripts that are running your life right now. When you go to a seminar, travel to a new country, meet new people, read a book, or learn a completely new subject, your ability to see through the lies that have been perpetuated in your own head grows.

For example, last month I went to London (yes, again). This time for a completely different type of seminar - a real estate investing seminar hosted by John Lee and Vincent Wong of the Wealth Dragons.

Me with the Wealth Dragons: Vincent Wong (left) and John Lee (right).

Me with the Wealth Dragons: Vincent Wong (left) and John Lee (right).

Why did a game audio professional go to a 3-day real estate seminar in London? To get out of my own head, to learn how successful people in other fields work, and of course, to get yet another taste of London. I learned more about marketing, pricing, and positioning than I have from any other talk or seminar that was within game industry. I smashed some of my own invisible scripts and am now able to coach my students far more effectively. None of this would have happened had I stayed at home and done the same thing over and over.

Even if your idea to invest in yourself has little or nothing to do with game audio (or whatever your chosen path is), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Most of the time, it can only benefit you.

What do you guys think? How have you been pushing yourself forward lately? Leave your comment below.

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Why You Need to Invest in Yourself - Part 1

Read Part 2 of this series here.

TL;DR: Stands for too lazy ; didn't read. This one is a bit longer than my other articles. Read it. There's some important stuff in here.

For those of you who know me well, I am extremely passionate about investing in myself. I spend every bit of extra time and money that I have on doubling down on my own body and brain. I've learned over the years that this is a mentality common among athletes, but somewhat rare in the game industry.

What do I mean when I say "invest in yourself?" Simply put, it's putting time/resources into improving the key aspects of your life, which Tai Lopez categorizes as health, wealth, love, and happiness. 

I recently had the opportunity to travel to London and meet with two amazing people I look up to: Brian Rose (host of the London Real podcast) and Dan Peña (known as the 50 Billion Dollar Man). If you're not familiar with either of their work or the kind of intensity that Dan projects, you can check out a trailer for the event that I attended here.

Dan is the kind of no-nonsense person that, through his intensity and passion, can help people get through the fear and laziness that's constantly holding them back. The event as a whole made me extremely uncomfortable, which is exactly what I needed. The last thing I want to do is become complacent. Traveling to London to have Dan push me beyond my limits was more than worth it.

Me with the host of London Real, Brian Rose (left) and the 50 Billion Dollar Man, Dan Peña (right)

Me with the host of London Real, Brian Rose (left) and the 50 Billion Dollar Man, Dan Peña (right)

It's so easy to get stuck in our own heads. So much so that we sometimes don't realize that we could be spending our energy on a thousand different and better things. I myself have been guilty of this many times.

How about you? Is your nose so close to the grindstone that you've gotten stuck in a rut? Remember that getting good at whatever it is you do involves a lot more than just practicing your craft and going through the basic motions of your day. You must increase your faculty in all of the key aspects of your life.

Why?

Simply put, there are thousands of variables that will determine our success, many of which are within our control. Putting in the time (and sometimes money) toward bettering yourself can put you so far ahead of the game in the long-term. There are plenty of wealthy people who are unhappy, or healthy people who are unwealthy, for example. I highly doubt you want a life that skewed toward just one of the four key areas.

Here are some ways/ideas to invest in yourself:

  1. Learn a new instrument, synthesizer, piece of software, etc.
  2. Take a class or online course in a new subject
  3. Go to conferences/seminars
  4. Cut out the negative people in your life
  5. Read/listen to a book, find great podcasts, watch TED talks, etc.
  6. Exercise

What does any of this have to do with game audio? Everything. We're so focused on getting good that we don't realize that there's more to success than just being excellent at creating music/sound. Do you want to feel more comfortable in social situations? Start practicing social skills, find a coach/therapist, or take a class. Do you want to get fit? Start finding a movement practice that you enjoy doing consistently. And on and on. It sounds so simple, but very few people really bother to push themselves.

In the end, it's completely on us to make ourselves better. And it's extremely easy to just lay back and binge watch shows on Netflix until the end of time. 

Take the time and, if possible, pay the money and invest in yourself. 

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My favorite resources!

I get emailed pretty regularly about my favorite software/resources/books/pro wrestlers, so I thought I'd compile it all into a friendly list that I will keep updated. Some are game audio related, whereas others are just things that I enjoy!

Audio software:

Other Helpful Apps:

Game Engines:

Tutorials:

VSTs/Plugins:

SFX Libraries:

Podcasts:

Books:

Blogs/Websites:

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Just Add Value - GDC 2015 Postmortem

I came back home from GDC 2015 just a couple weeks ago. As usual, it was an insane whirlwind of friends, games, and fantastic times. For those of you who are considering going, I highly recommend it.

Now, I'm going to make a bold statement and say that this was absolutely one of the best GDC experiences that I have ever had. Why is that? Did I walk away with a dozen projects? Did I win any awards? Did someone finally realize that my idea for a wrestling/Metal Gear/Dark Souls mashup would be the greatest video game of all time?

No.

This was one of the best GDC experiences I have ever had for one reason: I focused 100% of my energy on adding value to other people.

What do I mean by "adding value?" Well, before we get into that, let's chat a little about the International Ambassador program that I was a part of.

International Ambassadors:

This year, I had the great pleasure of gaining an International Ambassador (IA) scholarship at GDC. This was the inaugural year for the IA program. The greatest benefit of being an IA is that it made me a part of an amazing group of people that I could hang out with throughout the conference.

                                                                                      The GDC 2015 International Ambassadors

                                                                                      The GDC 2015 International Ambassadors

Having a support network like this is one of the greatest things you could ever ask for at GDC. I am incredibly grateful that I had a group of International Ambassadors and Conference Associates that I could spend time with throughout the week. The incredible friendships that were formed go way beyond the conference and will surely have a huge impact on me throughout my entire life.

Adding Value:

My goal for this year's GDC was to introduce as many amazing people to as many other amazing people as possible. I'm lucky enough to have plenty of work to do, so instead of drumming up more for myself, I went in looking to help others in whatever way I could.

                                                                                                     This is what GDC's all about!

                                                                                                     This is what GDC's all about!

A funny thing happened. Even though I focused all of my energy on helping others without asking for a thing in return, I formed a ton of great connections, got hired for a new project that I'm very excited about, and left San Francisco feeling amazing!

So what do I mean when I say "add value?" Adding value can be anything from making someone smile, all the way to giving a project to someone more suitable than yourself. Without trying to sound too woo-woo about this, it seems when you're focused on helping other people, a lot of great opportunities seem to come your way, almost by accident.

I'm lucky enough to be in a position that I occasionally have to turn down projects due to a consistently full schedule. This doesn't mean you need to give away tons of work when you can barely afford rent. However, when you're shaking someone's hand, changing your mentality from "How can you help me?" to "How can I help you?" can make all the difference in the world.

The best networking advice I've ever received: 

When I was first starting out in this industry, Danny Baranowsky gave me some truly amazing networking advice that I still carry to this day: instead of focusing all of your energy on getting a gig with someone who is way ahead of you in the industry, focus on the people that are at your level and bring one another up through hard work.

Although that advice took a while to click for me, I couldn't agree more. While it's absolutely imperative to speak to those who have tons more experience than you, there are countless people at your current level that you can and should create amazing work with.

Counterintuitive networking:

I will be the first to admit that my old mentality when it came to networking events was to go out and talk to as many people as possible - all in an effort to hoard every gig for myself.

So many people I know who are starting off in the game industry have a similar mentality. And who can blame them? No one has told them that they need to do anything different. It definitely doesn't feel natural to add value to complete strangers when you're looking for your big break.

As soon as I made the shift to adding value, the results were insane. Gigs came to me without me needing to hunt for them, my network got stronger and stronger, and I was able to connect talented folks to one another with ease, which led to more gigs, an even stronger network, and more connecting.

How can you help?

What are some ways that you can add value in this industry? Here are a few ideas, but this is by no means a complete list.

  1. Introducing people to other people in your network.
  2. Giving projects away if possible.
  3. Mentoring others in the industry.
  4. Playing other people's games and letting them know how much you liked them.
  5. Being a good conversation partner.
  6. Sharing cool resources with those around you.

Again, not a full list by any means! Now go out there and add value, friends!

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects

Game Industry Networking Part 2 - Events and Conferences

If you haven't read Part 1 of this series, go ahead and read it right here.


It's conference season again! That means we'll have to brush our teeth (for once), print some new business cards, and get networking!

Of course, with all of these conferences coming up, we're going to need to dive deeper in to the much-dreaded topic of networking. Last time, we discussed how we can better introduce ourselves at game industry events. This month, we'll go a bit deeper into the topic and cover networking at events/conferences both small and large.

Adding value before even walking in to the room

When it comes to getting truly phenomenal results from your networking efforts, 80% of the work is done before you even walk in the room. We're going to put in 2x the work compared to everyone else. This 2x investment can mean 50x better results. 

First, to add value to every event you go to, you'll need to do your research. You'll want to find out a few things out before you even walk through those doors. 

  1. Who's going to be there? (is there an invite list like on Meetup?)
  2. Who am I most likely to meet?
  3. What questions (if any) do I have for them?
  4. Do they have LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or Twitter profiles?
  5. Have they done any interviews, lectures, etc?
  6. What games have they worked on?

Yes, I actually want you to take some time and make a plan based on who may be at the event you're headed off to. This can be done weeks in advance for larger events such as GDC, or just 20 minutes before heading out the door for a local IGDA meetup.

Obviously, for huge events such as GDC, you won't be able to know exactly who's showing up. In cases like this, make a list of some of the people that you'd likely run in to and who you'd like to meet. On top of this, look at who's speaking, look at the IGF nominees, research their creators, and if you want to go the extra mile start sending out emails now to plan some meetings!

Here's what to do:

  1. Make a plan using the above tips before your next event.
  2. Write down who is going to be there and who you'd like to meet. I use Evernote for this.
  3. Write out scripts/questions to the potential people you're going to meet (Similar to what we did in Part 1)
  4. Show up to any event and talk to people!

Let me know how it goes!

Write those scripts down! I'd love to hear what you come up with, so please do send me an email or follow me on Twitter! I can't wait to hear about your results.

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects

Game Industry Networking: Part 1 - How to introduce yourself

Part 2 of the networking series is up! Read it here.


This month, we're going to start the first in our game audio networking series with a simple topic: how to introduce yourself at networking events.

Let me ask you: the last time you were at an event and someone asked "So, what do you do?" how did you respond? Did your booming voice shake this stranger to their very core, or did you stammer out a response that left your conversation partner looking at her watch?

We have introduced ourselves to people thousands of times, but few among us takes the time to get any better at this crucial aspect of meeting people.

Most of us never realize that getting good results from our networking efforts is a skill, not some in-born talent. It takes practice, experimentation, and planning to get good at this.

Here's what to do:

All I want you to do this month is to write down answers to common questions you'll get at networking events. I want you to plan this stuff out ahead of time.

Whether it's in an Evernote, Google doc, or just on a notepad, I want you to write down as many answers as possible to the following questions:

  1. What do you do?

  2. Where are you from?

  3. Who do you know here?

  4. What are you working on?

  5. What games are you playing right now?

While these definitely look simple, we can all improve on how we respond to these common questions. We can come across as more confident and professional, simply by improving our introductions. 

Just remember that you don't need to memorize your answers to these questions, or reach for your phone whenever you approach someone. Use your answers as a guideline to follow as strictly or loosely as you like.

Go Beyond

When thinking of your answers, I encourage you to go beyond the standard responses:

"I make music for games."

"I'm from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada."

"I'm working on X game."

"I'm just a student/trying to get started in X discipline." <---- I HATE this one.

These statements are boring conversation killers. Try adding some flavor to each of these.

"I create sound/music for games. I make everything from symphonies to explosions."

"I'm from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. A town that is so small that we have a law that states no building can be taller than the church downtown."

"I’m currently working on a game called Hyper Light Drifter. We were Kickstarted last year over 1000% of our goal and we were also just featured in an issue of PC Gamer UK."

"I'm a composer/sound designer working on X game. On top of that, I'm currently studying music composition at X school."

Test the Reactions!

The key here is to test the reactions you get from people you're speaking to. You may introduce yourself as a composer/sound designer to one person, and then to another, you may introduce yourself as an emotional engineer. See which works better and keep using that. See networking events as an opportunity to experiment and practice!

Let me know how it goes!

Write those responses down! I'd love to hear what you come up with, so please do send me an email or follow me on Twitter! I can't wait to hear about your results.

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects