Meet Jaclyn Shumate, Video Game Sound Designer
Jaclyn is no video game audio rookie. In fact, chances are good that you’ve personally enjoyed her work: since becoming a Sound Designer in 2006, she’s done audio for major game series including Peggle 2, Plants vs Zombies, Fable Journey, and Kinect Star Wars and many others.
If you thought that creating game audio is an easy job? Well, think again. Jaclyn says that in addition to having audio engineering talent, you must also be willing to put in the time to master your technical chops. But if you’ve got a knack for creating emotion through sound, this might be just the job for you.
How would you describe what you do every day as a Sound Designer?
A Sound Designer’s job can vary depending on what company you work for, the needs of a given project, and what the exact role is that one fills on a given team. In general, it offers a combination of a few different elements.
Communication and collaboration are key, both with any audio colleagues you may have and with the rest of the development team. This gives the designer an understanding of what audio content needs to be created for the project, and how best to implement the audio in the game.
A Sound Designer also creates content, which often involves recording audio elements and crafting them in an audio workstation to match animations or environments in the game. Creating content that matches an already-established esthetic or, if you are in a position to do so, it’s essential to also set your own audio esthetic that works in tandem with the gameplay and art style.
Once the audio is created, a Sound Designer implements it in audio middleware like Wwise or FMod, hooks it up in the game engine, and tests it in gameplay.
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How did you get started as a Sound Designer?
It took me a little while to find game audio as a career.
I’m a musician by training, and was curious about audio engineering so I signed up for some classes. We had one class that was Sound Design focused, and I fell in love with it. I knew I wanted to learn more about it, and be able to spend time getting good at it. I looked around for internships at game company startups, which seemed like the most interesting avenue to explore for me, and was fortunate enough to find one.
That was eight years ago. I’ve been happily employed in many different roles in game audio ever since.
What’s your favorite part of the job? What about your least favorite part?
My favorite part of my job is watching something that I’ve worked on so hard finally come to life, and knowing that it may make other people feel as good as it made me feel over the development process. Getting to do a final mix for a game, and realizing it sounds like what you’ve been imagining in your head for months (or years, in some cases) is one of my happiest work- and artistic moments.
My least favorite part of my job is crunching. Unfortunately, long hours are often required to make something sound the way you want it to. Crunch can be part of the career, and can take a toll on your personal life and your health.
What aspect of the job would be surprising to people looking in from the outside?
I think most people who don’t already know about game development are surprised at how technical the job is. You have to learn a wide variety of hardware, software, and different techniques to create the audio and get it into the game.
What kinds of talents and personality does it take to succeed as a Video Game Sound Designer?
It takes a strong esthetic sense and technical chops, combined with the ability to work well with others and work hard.
What advice would you give to somebody who’s thinking about Sound Design as a career?
Do everything you can to learn about Sound Design and audio implementation. It takes a lot of practice!
Seek feedback, be open to it, and put together a killer demo.
What would you recommend for education, books, or other learning to start down that career path?
More than anything, it is important to get the chops you need to succeed, and you can only do that by spending hours at it!
Do everything you can to get better at what you do. Replace audio on game clips and learn to use audio middleware. It’s also helpful to talk to people in the profession, and attend industry meetups and conferences.
Attending school is also an essential part of Sound Design, but there’s a lot more skill-development work to be done once you’re out of the classroom.