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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. An education in music can take you to some interesting places! Creative Sound Design alumnus, Ryan Sim, has been forging a career in the Games Industry. Having transitioned from the Guitar CertHE to the CSD Degree, Ryan focussed his attention on on a career path he never realised existed, Games Audio. We caught up with Ryan to discuss everything he’s been up to since graduating.
Tell us a bit about your background. What made you want to work in this industry?
From a young age I’ve always known I wanted to be working with audio. I started off wanting to be a session guitarist and spent my time learning to play and eventually joined ACM for the Diploma and Higher Diploma Guitar courses.
It wasn’t until the first week of my degree that I realised I no longer had the same enjoyment I once had playing guitar. After talking to a few friends I realised that Games Audio exists as a valid career path. I’d never considered it before, despite the fact I spent most of my free time playing games and a large portion of my childhood too. After doing a bit of research I figured I wanted to be a Sound Designer for games and ended up changing over to the Creative Sound Design degree at ACM.
Tell us about what you’ve been/currently involved with since leaving ACM?
Since leaving ACM I’ve been pretty busy, not long after I finished I ended up landing an internship at Rebellion Games working on Sniper Elite 3. It was the perfect timing for me experience-wise because it was right on the release of the newer gen consoles meaning I got to work on both old and new ones. I spent a lot of my time there focusing on dialogue editing and the sound effects for the famous x-ray Bullet Cam the franchise is so well known for.
Shortly afterwards I went to Jagex Game Studio to work on Transformers Universe and Runescape, the childhood classic that everyone seems to have played. My main role was dealing with the special ability sound effects, rigging audio and many other tasks. Being a Transformers title meant I had a lot of creative freedom with my sound design and got to go a little bit over the top which I love doing.
I ended up moving to Sheffield shortly afterwards to work on behalf of Pit Stop Productions at Sumo Digital creating audio content for Disney Infinity 3.0 as a Technical Sound Designer. This was my first real non-junior role and it was nice to have a huge section of the game just to myself. I ended up creating many things from ambiance to breakables to foley and everything in between. It also mean I dealt a lot more with the tech side of audio which has been my goal since I started, dealing with middleware and various other game engines.
While waiting for the next project to pop up I was given a great opportunity to work at Supermassive Games and help them finish their latest project. My role here was mostly dealing with foley creation and implementation. It was a really interesting project to work on due to the more traditional filmic workflow, performing foley to a linear sequence instead of placing audio on timelines to trigger when things go off. It’s also not that common to regularly have the chance to record much source material with most modern games time frames whereas everything at Supermassive Games was mostly our own source recorded in house.
How did your roles at Super Massive Games come about?
Networking, it’s one of those really typical responses that you hear a lot but it’s true. I ended up meeting my boss at one of the Game Audio meetups going on in Guildford after seeing it posted on an email listing. I arrived there early and the place was pretty empty. I stumbled upon someone who looked just as lost as me, who just turned out to be the Audio Lead of Supermassive Games. After a chat we exchanged details and while there wasn’t anything going at the time, I kept in touch regularly and got offered the role as I was moving back from Sheffield, talk about perfect timing!
What are your aspirations for the future?
At the time of writing this I’m currently back at Pitstop Productions working as a contractor. While my long term goal is to find somewhere permanent and move there, I’m enjoying working as a contractor – experiencing different studio lifestyles and game development cycles whilst building up a nice CV to boot.
How did your course prepare you for life in the music business world?
I can happily say my course taught me the foundation for everything I know audio-wise and gave me a good starting point to build upon. I started the course with next to no knowledge of audio at all – I could play guitar but recording it myself was alien to me. Microphone techniques, terms such as foley, and the actual skills themselves were all new to me. The tutors were a big part of my development, learning from them and their techniques as well as getting helpful feedback on work during the classes.
Do you have any advice for those looking to get in to industry?
Learn to network and never burn bridges. It never ceases to amaze me how many of the people I’ve worked with know each other. The more I’m in the industry the smaller I see it really is. Everywhere I go one of my bosses or co-workers has worked alongside a previous boss or co-worker. Having a good reference from a friend/someone you know carries a lot more weight than from a stranger.
Don’t be afraid to go to events. There’s regular GameAudio drinks in London and occasional ones in Guildford that everyone is welcome to. Everyone is very friendly and happy to talk about anything. Don’t wait until you’re almost finished with your course to start networking either. You want to build up your connections over time and not at the last minute.
Have a portfolio to show people and tailor it to what you’re applying for, the amount of times I’ve seen people market themselves as composers and apply for sound designer roles is worrying. You want to sell yourself in the right way, the role of a sound designer is completely different to a composer. By all means mention you write music, that’s a nice thing to know about, but if your only showreel is music it’s unlikely you’ll be considered for the role.
Learn about interactive audio and understand how sound in games actually works if it’s where you want to be. Learn what middleware does and create a little showreel using whichever one you pick to prove you understand the mindset of how game audio works.