All of Your Technical Sound Design Questions - Answered

When I was first starting out in sound design, the technical basics completely eluded me.

Things like gear, sample rate, etc. etc. etc. bored the hell out of me. Honestly, I still think they’re pretty boring.

Not to say it’s bad to learn the basics — not at all. Learning the basics is extremely important.

So, when I’m asked a basic technical question nowadays, I want to jump to help — still remembering how confused I was when I was starting.

But every basic technical question has already been answered 100000x on the internet by someone really smart… for free. Just a quick google search will reveal that to us.

Sometimes, though, we just need something that is organized in a clear, clean way without needing to search through dozens of different articles.

So, I was absolutely tickled when I found this treasure trove of sound design information from Geoff Cole. It answers literally every technical sound design question we may have from gear, to effects, to setting up a studio, and everything in between.

It doesn’t focus on the creative aspects so much, like knowing whether or not a sound is good, working well with clients, or how to develop your own sound design “voice.”

But don’t worry about all that. Now that someone else has covered all the technical aspects, I can focus on getting you really good at the creative craft of sound design as quickly as possible.

Still, you absolutely have to have a solid handle on the technical side of things before we dive into the creative stuff.

Which is why Geoff’s site is so freaking good. There’s no excuse not to go through it and absorb every bit of material he has.

And once you do, you’ll be prepped and ready to absorb all my upcoming material on creative sound design.

Don’t go it alone

Working in game audio requires a ton of different skills. To succeed, you’ll need a solid mixture of creative, technical, and business skills. While the first two are tough enough, I see so many great sound designers struggling to keep the lights on due to their lack of business skills.

And who can blame them? Very few sound design programs out there teach people how to charge for their work, negotiate, and network in their industry. That’s why I created two free courses to help you find top-quality paid work, all while building a strong network.

Just sign up for those below to get instant access.

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Do You Need to Go to School to Work in Game Audio?

Here’s a question I get all the time: “Do I have to go to college/university to get a career in game audio?”

To answer that very quickly… no. No you don’t.

But school has a lot of hidden benefits that no one really talks about. I, personally, practiced 8–10 hours a day every day for many years to get into the Berklee College of Music not just so I could get better at music, but primarily to get out of my poor socioeconomic status. It worked.

It’s not really a good idea to go to school to just get good at music/sound. You can do that on your own by studying directly under a few teachers and finding some great mentors.

However, attending school will help you build an incredible network very quickly. Providing you do the ludicrous amount of work that’s required to do so.

Can you do all of that without attending a college program? Absolutely. It’ll just take a lot more initiative on your part.

Watch my latest video on whether or not you should take a college/university program to work in game audio:

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Why Deep Listening will Improve your Sound Design

Have you ever had that feeling where, after repeating or re-reading a word a whole bunch, it loses all meaning?

Turns, out, that’s called “semantic saturation.” That’s when the neurons in charge of the pronunciation and meaning of a word get so overwhelmed that they refuse to function for a bit. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s a fun little thing to observe when it does.

Our brain does all sorts of things to filter out various stimuli from the world around us — all in an effort to prevent our neurons from getting overwhelmed. This filtering process happens quite a lot with our sense of hearing. Most of the time, we listen to the world around us very passively, not noticing anything in particular unless something happens to stick out, like when someone honks their horn.

But, by using our hearing consciously and listening deeply, we’ll be able to hear the world around us in a way that we can’t normally. This allows us to shut out plenty of distractions, prevent our brains from getting overwhelmed, and really perceive how we can create better, more detailed sound effects.

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Deep listening is the active, conscious listening to the world around us
While we’re awake and going about our day, we’re just listening passively most of the time. The sounds of cars going by, leaves rustling… these all go acknowledged on a very subconscious level. None of these sounds takes any conscious attention to process.

However, when we participate in deep listening, we actively tune all of our attention to what we’re hearing. What kind of car is going by? Is it an electric car? A sports car? A hybrid? How fast is it going? Is the radio on? How heavy is it? What does it sound like when it’s idling at a red light? What does it sound like when it shifts from first to second gear? Or maybe it has a continuously variable transmission?

As you can see, there is a limitless amount of detail in literally every sound around us. However, because we don’t consciously listen often enough, we tend to miss these details. When we miss these details in the real world, we can’t recreate them in our game projects.

While deep listening takes some focus
It has a key benefit for our sound design work. Firstly, it helps us discern the details in the auditory world around us. We’ve all tried making sound for a game or film project, and were unsatisfied when things just didn’t “sound right.” This is because we are missing the key details that every sound should have. Unfortunately, if we don’t listen deeply to the world around us, we won’t know exactly which details are missing, causing frustration as we try to improve our work.

How should we perform deep listening?
Deep listening is an awful lot like meditation. If you do meditate regularly, then this will come pretty easily to you. Whether you are in your home, or in a totally new environment, you want to do everything you can to become present with the sounds around you. You can pick a specific sound, such as an idling car, or listen to something broader, such as the ambience of a forest around you.

Your goal is to put as much attention as you can to the sound that you wish to zone in on. Try closing your eyes, slowing your breathing, and focusing as best you can on just one sound.

Note that you absolutely will get distracted and will have to gently guide your attention back to the sound that you wish to focus on. Do this, and you will notice the incredible nuance of every sound that you may have been missing up until this point.

You can do this anytime
Providing your attention won’t be heavily split up. For example, while I’m writing this article, I’m not able to deeply listen to the world around me. However, if I’m out for a walk, or doing a simple task like cleaning the kitchen, I can absolutely zone in on specific sounds around me and hear what makes them special.

You can listen in this way pretty much wherever you are
The only thing I would recommend is to not do this while your attention is needed elsewhere. If you’re talking to a friend, riding a bike, driving a car, or wrestling an alligator, it’s probably best not to split up your attention.

We definitely don’t need to do this 24/7
That’s like telling an athlete that they need to be running all day, every day. We need breaks from time to time. It’s a good idea to start listening this way during downtime in your day. Maybe you’re waiting for a bus, sitting in a coffee shop, or walking up the stairs to your apartment. Those are all great times to zone in for a bit. Even just a few seconds here and there will reveal a lot of wonderful audio nuances to you.

Listening to your neighborhood
If you’d like to get started on this quickly, then try just taking a 5-minute walk around your neighborhood while listening deeply. You can start broadly, like listening to the way the wind blows around you, or you can hone in one specific sound — such as that dog that never stops barking across the street. You will be shocked at how much your conscious mind has been missing.

So, what have we learned about deep listening?

  • Deep listening is the active, fully-conscious use of our hearing to help us discern the nuance of the world around us.

  • The more we do this, the better we get at creating our own sounds for our projects. Instead of missing key audio details, we’ll know exactly which audio elements each moment needs.

  • All we need to do is put all of our attention on what we’re hearing — whether it be a single sound, or listening to a broader environment. If we get distracted, just gently guide our attention back to the sound we’re listening to.

Our brain naturally wants to filter things out
Whether it be a word we hear over and over, or the sounds of the world around us, our brain naturally wants to filter out as many stimuli as possible to keep us from getting overwhelmed. That’s why it’s up to us to consciously zone in and listen deeply to the world around us.

Breaking into the game industry can be tough
You have to meet tons of people, know where to find work, learn how to negotiate, and be good at what you do. I didn’t know any of this when I first started, which is why I created two free courses for you to help you master these skills.

All you need to do to gain instant access to these free courses is sign up for them below.

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  • Attract the perfect clients
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Should you learn FMOD or Wwise?

I recently sent out a survey asking people what they wanted to learn about game sound design, and got tons of fantastic responses. So if you were one of the kind souls who filled it out, thank you!

Well over 80% of the answers asked about whether or not it’s a good idea to learn FMOD or Wwise. I think that’s the wrong question to ask. The answer to “should I learn…” is almost always yes. ABC: Always Be Learning.

I get it, though. Game audio isn’t always super clear on what you should or shouldn’t be doing.

Game companies do like seeing people with implementation skills, it’s true. But they generally much prefer hiring a good sound designer who is just okay at implementation, over an amazing implementor who sucks at sound design. Implementation can be learned relatively quickly, while the skills of sound design take much longer to train.

This is, of course, providing you want to create sound design for games, and not become an audio programmer, full-time implementor, or a technical sound designer.

FMOD Studio

FMOD Studio

So, this is a quick article to point you toward the right resources to get better at implementation using FMOD or Wwise:

Free Wwise Course & Certification.

Free FMOD tutorials.

Adam Croft’s fantastic website and newsletter.

There. Now no one has any excuse not to be at least decent at implementation!

These technical skills are important
And along with technical skills, we also need to focus on creative and business skills. Unfortunately, I see so many great sound designers struggling in their careers because of their lack of business skills.

I certainly found it tough to charge for my work, network, and negotiate with developers when I first started. And considering I struggled so much in my early days, I created two free courses to help my fellow game audio freelancers find great, paying work that they love.

Just sign up below to get instant access.

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  • 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
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Quicker, Easier, Clearer Sound Design

When I first attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, I was excited. I was especially looking forward to the school’s professors and curriculum to teach me as much about music as possible. I had a lot of holes in my musical knowledge to fill, after all.

I was Soma from Food Wars ready to go to Tōtsuki Culinary Academy.

Only one year in, though, and my dreams started to falter. I just wasn’t getting it. No matter how many times a professor explained a concept, or how much extra homework I did, nothing was making sense. In fact, even though I had a great time at Berklee, there were still a lot of basics I just didn’t understand after graduating.

Even at the time, I knew it wasn’t the professors’ fault. They were doing their best. It wasn’t the school’s fault — so many other students were doing great using the system that I struggled so much with. Instead, I blamed myself for not being able to learn.

Over 6 years after graduating, though, I now have a solid understanding of music and sound. How? I looked for different angles. I learned that blaming myself was unproductive. Instead, I learned to blame the systems I was taught and decided to learn about music and sound from angles different than what Berklee used. This led to huge leaps in knowledge in super short periods of time.

It’s easy to think that, if something isn’t clicking, we must blame ourselves. Providing you’ve been putting the work in, that usually isn’t a good idea. As sound designers, we too need to approach sound from as many angles as humanly possible to make sure that what we’re creating is as good as it can be.

In this article, we’re going to dive down the sound design rabbit hole and cover:

  1. How to approach sound design from multiple angles

  2. Creating sound using an additive process

When I mention multiple angles
I don’t mean recording your sounds from various microphone positions. Not in this case, at least. What I do mean is that many of the sounds you create need to have multiple, seemingly unrelated, elements associated with them.

Take, for example, the sound of a door being closed. Many beginner sound designers will simply record a realistic door closing, sync it up with their film or game project and call it good. While this will sound perfectly realistic, there are almost no pieces of media (other than documentaries, and even then, not all the time) that sound exactly the way the real world does. We as players and viewers want our experiences to go beyond reality, even if it’s done in a subtle way.

So, as designers, it’s up to us to determine what each sound needs
So if purely realistic sounds aren’t always the right choice, then we need to determine what extra elements are needed for each and every sound. Each of these elements could be a newsletter in and of themselves, so we’re not going to go super deep into each one.

Instead, I’ll introduce the concepts of each, then explain them much deeper in future videos and posts.

Sound good?

Firstly, we must take the emotional context into account
What’s the emotion of the sound we’re trying to create? Yes, even if we’re simply creating the sound of a creaky door, we need to consider the emotional impact we want to make. Is this a horror movie? In which case, the door should be ominous, and possibly sound heavier than it actually is.

We also need to consider what, if any, impact the sound should have

Sticking with the door example, it could be that this horror-movie-door gets slammed shut. In which case, what sort of impact do we want that door to have? Again, it probably shouldn’t sound completely realistic. This is a horror movie after all.

And speaking of enhancing, we can also use “sweeteners” to upgrade the sound
A sweetener is generally a sound that, on its own, doesn’t sound like much, but when layered underneath other sound effects, subtly enhances the core sound that we’re working with.

When this door slams shut, for example, you can add the sound of a large bass drum being struck. On its own, it would sound out of place, but in the context of the movie, a big bassy thud will definitely make this door sound like a big deal when it gets slammed. But there are other elements as well. We can’t just focus on the shutting of the door itself.

So, we move on to the coverage elements
Not only do we need to focus on the creaking and slamming of the door itself, but we must also focus on any sounds that happen before and after the on-screen event. For example, does the door crack and moan before it gets closed, as if in anticipation? After it gets closed, does the house shake and shudder in response? These elements allow our sound to fit

And lastly, we move on to the tail of the sound
What happens after the main chunk of the sound stops? In the real world, there isn’t usually much of a decay. Many sounds start and end somewhat abruptly. That being said, if you start and stop sounds abruptly when working on any piece of media, then you’ll find that they just don’t blend into the scene as nicely as you would like.

You’ll need to follow an additive process with these elements
Which means you’ll need to add each element one by one. For example, you could start with the initial impact, then add coverage, then a tail. Lastly, you could add a sweetener as well. You don’t need to do these in any particular order. So long as the final sound is good, then you’re set.

Note that each of these elements can (and likely will) be made up of more than one sound. A door slamming shut in a horror movie may feature the sound of a door, cracking wood, and a bassy boom, all as a part of the impact element. Layering various sounds in each of these categories will make a huge difference for your sounds overall.

You may be thinking “that’s a lot to think about for every sound I ever make”
Thankfully, you do not need every element for every sound. Some sounds will work just fine with an impact and a tail (such as a simple gunshot.) Whereas others may need more of these elements. It’s up to you as a designer to use your ears and determine what’s working best.

You now know how to avoid a common sound design mistake
Many people will ask other sound designers “how do I make X sound?” but that’s a very limited way of thinking about sound design.

Think about it, you wouldn’t ask an artist “how do I draw a dog?” would you? There are thousands upon thousands of ways to draw a dog. Is the dog big? Is it happy? Is it half-hippopotamus? The question itself doesn’t lend itself to a good answer… only more questions.

Instead, you can (and should) think of sounds in terms of various elements. “This door should have a lot of impact. What sounds can I record that would have a lot of bassy thuds to it?” is a far more effective question “How do I make the Resident Evil 2 door sound?”

We’re absolutely going to cover this all more in depth
But for now, here is a recap of what we’ve covered:

  • Using purely realistic sounds (usually) isn’t going to lead to satisfying sound design in your projects

  • It’s a good idea to consider the emotional context of the sounds you create. Are they horrific? Is the character evil? Take this all into account!

  • You’ll need to add multiple elements to many of your sounds, including impacts, sweeteners, tail, and coverage elements.

  • Not every sound needs every one of these elements. Some sounds are simpler than others. Some sound, like ambiences, stand on their own without any of these sorts of elements.

My time at Berklee taught me the importance of approaching things from multiple angles
And how that mindset can really apply to anything. When we’re working on sound, we certainly can just rush into creating our effects and hoping it works out, but it would be far more effective to consider what each sound needs from multiple points of view.

One of the hardest things about working in game audio is the lack of direction
It can be a gargantuan task just to break into this industry and an even greater challenge to start making an income as a composer/sound designer.

If you’d like to master these skills, then sign up for my newsletter below, where you’ll get access to two free courses and a free eBook that will help you find game industry work, network with fellow developers, and get paid well for what you do.

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Grit > Talent

I remember when I was in high school and just getting seriously invested in playing the drums.

I would practice for 8 hours a day every day without fail. Even when my family and I drove 18 hours to visit my cousins every summer, I would bring a practice pad and play in the car non-stop.

Instead of partying on the weekends like everyone else, I would practice. In my mind, this was the only way I could get out of the small, incredibly poor town that I'm from, so I invested everything into it.

Even with all of this practice and all of this focus, there were plenty of people my age who could play tons better than me. I also made a couple of friends that barely needed to practice. They were among the rare few that "had it" naturally.

As years went on, I kept falling behind them. My skills would grow, but not nearly at the rate of any of my naturally talented peers. It was discouraging, but I still pushed as hard as I could to get better.

And after almost a decade of playing the drums, I ended up going to the Berklee College of Music, where I saw all of this happen to an even greater extent.

I saw prodigies who barely touched their instrument be in the top 1% of playing ability. I saw people who never showed up to class performing at huge gigs and playing circles around everyone else. They were also the ones getting most of the scholarship money.

And then I saw something that I didn't understand at the time.

I saw many of these incredibly talented naturals get crushed by the tiniest of failures.

Losing one gig would cause them to go into a spiral of despair. Being bested by someone else would cause them to question their very existence. Hell, I saw one of them burst into tears at getting a B on a test.

But now, in hindsight, it all makes sense.

Everything came incredibly easy to these people, so they never once had to tough anything out. They grew up surrounded by praise and attention. They didn't know the sting of failure.

As soon as the smallest negative came into their life, they were shattered. And most of the time, they quit. They didn't have the opportunity to build grit.

I even did a quick search on the people who got full scholarships in the years surrounding my time at Berklee. Out of 12, only 2 of them are still in the music industry.

Think about that, out of 12 people that Berklee deemed to be good enough to receive hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in scholarships, only 2 stayed the course.

Now, maybe some of them realized that they wanted to do something else with their lives. Great. Nothing wrong with that.

But out of a dozen people, I think it's a pretty safe bet to assume at least a few more than two wanted to make music for a living.

I mention all of this because every single one of us (myself included) has thought about quitting our pursuit to work in games. 

We wonder if we should just get a regular job.

We wonder if we have what it takes.

Often, we'll get into a slump and wonder if all the insane amounts of effort are worthwhile. And we think that we must not have the natural personality, gifts, or talents that would ensure our success.

Most dangerously, we start to think that we can't grow and change - that all we have now is all we'll have forever.

I'm here to tell you that it's not just natural ability that's going to take us to the next level. Sure, it helps, but it is far from what defines our future.

A considerable part of what determines our futures is grit. 

Grit is the ability to face adversity and grow. It's the ability to make intelligent decisions whether we're on top of the world, or at a low point in our lives. 

To this day, I'm still thankful to my childhood drum instructor, Karl, who during our first lesson, said "We're here to develop skill. We're not interested in talent."

I think about that line almost every day. I'm not a natural. Nothing in the game audio world has ever come easily to me. It takes a tremendous amount of focus, work, and failure to move just a few inches forward.

That's a regular part of this process, though. We're not in this because it's easy.

Is there somewhere in your life where you can have more grit? Is there something that you've been resisting? What's keeping you from pushing through to the next level?

Schedule > Goals

We're already a few months into 2018! Hooray!

This also means it's time for people to start quitting on the goals and resolutions they set for themselves. Aww.

That's not really too big of a surprise, though. This is usually the point when things start to get hard.

Many of us sometimes wonder if we really "should" be working this hard for something that doesn't have any guarantees.

After all, it feels like it all comes so easily to some people.

Why shouldn't we just sit back and watch anime about the handsomest boys being handsome together?

From Gakuen: Handsome. An anime I watched with my good friend Jacob Pernell. It's about the handsomest boys being handsome together. Watch it. It's so good.

From Gakuen: Handsome. An anime I watched with my good friend Jacob Pernell. It's about the handsomest boys being handsome together. Watch it. It's so good.

I've absolutely felt that struggle. The entirety of my second TEDx talk was about this exact feeling.

Thankfully, mercifully, that feeling of struggle and challenge is 100% part of the process.

Setting Goals

Setting goals is great. It's definitely a good idea to take some time and write your goals down. Getting clear about what you want in your life makes it a lot easier to say yes and no to the right things.

In fact, I'm SUCH a big fan of tracking and measuring goals that the amount of journals I have has gotten a little out of control.

I only have 9. What. That's completely normal. Fight me.

I only have 9. What. That's completely normal. Fight me.

Your Schedule

While your goals matter, you need to make sure you have a plan to follow through with them.

Being able to follow through on something consistently puts you in a different league. It's a level of discipline that can be considered a super power in our distracted world.

So while your goal will give you some direction, how you schedule out your work matters a hell of a lot more.

How are you scheduling your tasks? Especially the big, life-changing daunting things you know you need to do.

Do your workouts actually show up on your calendar? How about your composition practice blocks?

Do you have a back up plan for when you can't go all-out on your tasks? Maybe you get sick, or are traveling… do you know how you can keep progress going then?

Your Average Speed

Author, blogger, photographer, and generally super cool-dude James Clear calls this process "increasing your average speed."

He posits that the maximum speed that you do something doesn't matter so much. Anyone can get inspired, work their ass off for a short period of time, and then regress to bad habits shortly after.

But if you do something consistently over a long period of time, your results will be incredible.

My Methods

I use this mentality in every aspect of my life, whether it be personal or career-based goals.

To give you an example, here is a screenshot of my fitness calendar to show you how I schedule in my workouts. Each blue block is a separate workout.

I put these blocks in before any tasks/meetings. Taking care of myself comes first.

Now, can I hit all of these workouts with a 100% success rate?

No, of course not. Sometimes I might be sick, be traveling, or have something else come up.


Backup Plans

But, I have contingencies.

If I'm sick, I'll go for a walk instead. Or if I'm completely dead, I'll just rest.

I do lots of meal prep so my food is always healthy and ready to go.

If I'm traveling, I'll get a temporary gym membership in whatever city I'm in. Even when I was halfway around the world in Malta, I signed up at a gym and got my workouts in.

That being said, sometimes you just run out of time, have tons of meetings to get to, or are just at a conference that is exhausting.

There's a contingency for those scenarios, too. I got some weighted jumpropes that give me an incredibly intense workout no matter where in the world I am.

My pile of weighted jumpropes.

My pile of weighted jumpropes.

No matter what you're pursuing, you need to have backup plans. Your process is not going to be smooth all the time. 

Make sure you can do SOMETHING, regardless of what comes up.

As a sidenote, the times I have set up aren't completely rigid.

Each of these workouts may shift from time to time depending on what's going on that day. That's totally normal. So long as I get that workout in that day, then we're good.

Whatever you're consistent with will shape your future self.

If you're consistently putting yourself out there, practicing, and looking for projects, your odds of finding great work are multiplied greatly.

If you're consistently feeding bad habits and mindsets, they'll eat you alive.

What are you going to do to make sure you can execute as often as possible? How are you going to increase your average speed? 

What are you going to schedule in to your week?

Intention > Experience

Lately, a message I've been hearing people tell me is "You're too young/inexperienced to do this."

"This" being anything from giving a talk, to writing a book, to working on game, etc.

And what with many of us being so driven, we are going to be setting goals that may be cut down or criticized by others.

Even if you aren't "too young" there will be other judgements that people apply to you, whether it be telling you that you're "too old" or that you "don't live in the right city/country."

On the surface, those things may be true.

You may be younger/older than most of your peers, or you may live in a go-nowhere town.

For example, I actually am younger than most of my peers, which sometimes gives the illusion of being less experienced, or a being a cheaper option.

And I do come from an incredibly poor go-nowhere town.

So I've been wondering lately… why then do some people rise up so quickly despite their "disadvantages?"

And on the flip side, why are there so many people with tons of experience floundering in their careers? Or their health? Or their relationships?

I've found that this faster-than-average rise has come from being hugely intentional about everything.

In my case, I decide what I want my outcomes to be in every situation.

If I'm just waking up, I take a breath and decide what I want my morning to be and feel like.

When sitting down to work, I choose what I want that session to be and feel like.

Writing this post, I chose what I want that whole process to be and feel like.

I could choose to let my book writing process (yes, I'm writing a book for a large worldwide publisher… I'll tell you more about that later) to be a hugely unpleasant slog.

Instead, before I sit down to write, I close my eyes, and ask myself "what would this process look and feel like if it were easy?"

I then go into that process with a mindset geared more toward ease and fun, instead of dread and boredom.

This intention has allowed me to supplant a lot of the experience that most people say I need before I do anything.

But before I go on, I do need to point out that yes, experience is incredibly important. 

I'm not saying you should just stop practicing altogether.

But I don't want you to wait around for gatekeepers to tell you you're ready.

Being extremely clear about my choices and goals, and then designing my own curriculum and process to complete them is what has made my career (and those of my most successful peers) blossom.

Yes, without a ton of speaking experience, it took a lot more work and convincing to do 2 TEDx talks.

Not having a ton of writing experience, writing a book for a large publisher (as I am now) is a bit scary.

And having Hyper Light Drifter and Destiny be my first big projects was incredibly daunting.

But I'm still accomplishing goals, purely because my choices on how these things will pan out are clear.

Being intentional in what you do just requires more conscious choices. About everything. Here are some examples:

  • What have you been doing to get more gigs? Why has or hasn't this process been working for you?

  • How are you going to turn your current number of hard-earned dollars into more? What process are you going to use?

  • What self-imposed deadlines have you set for yourself to master a new skill?

  • How are you using your time in your morning? The afternoon? The evening?

  • How do you want others to feel after you interact with them?

  • How do you want your clients to feel when you deliver assets to them?

  • When are you going to take a guilt-free break today?

Asking yourself questions like this - and finding the answers - will play a huge role into how quickly you rise up. You'll be able to dodge a bunch of time-wasting activities that everyone else gets drawn into.

Most importantly, you'll be able to lessen the amount of time that you just go through the motions.

Yes, experience matters.

And intention is a multiplier. The more of it you have, the faster everything will come to you.

Where have you been just going through the motions?

Where in your life can you make choices to be more, do more, and act with more intention?

What choices are you going to make to help you rise up faster?

Think about this as you set your goals. You'll be able to stick with and accomplish them far faster when you're clear about your outcomes.

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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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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