When it comes to building diehard communities, video games are hard to beat. From corner penny arcades to home consoles and online play, games have always brought people together. So much so, that the gaming community now boasts nearly three billion gamers of all stripes-all connected by love for immersive entertainment.
That power to connect always resonated with me. As a musician, it’s what drove me to explore new styles and techniques of sound design and compose original music for games to communicate the intangible. It also inspired me to found Unlock Audio and partner with mid-size and indie developers-the very people who I believe will set new examples for artistic achievement and equitable game development (something many gamers have come to seek).
To serve my team and partners best, I sought to uncover what matters to developers and players most by researching a new business model for game audio. From this research process, we realized that the game industry is full of diverse voices that often don’t have a clear path to be heard, and that leadership amongst smaller teams can take the first steps to lift up their coworkers and broaden that path, changing the creative process and promoting better practices for the whole industry.
By sharing what I’ve learned so far, I hope our industry can champion greater equity from the ground up. I believe doing so is essential for unleashing our greatest creativity, building stronger partnerships, and pushing the limits of how deeply people love what we create together.
1. Demolish silos to fuel creative passions
The freshest and most cohesive gaming experiences are made when collaboration reigns. Silos, when departments operate in complete isolation from each other, are often a hindrance to game development. Art, story, sound, and gameplay work better when they evolve together, free of disciplinary segregation and egos. After all, exciting new ground is hard to reach when departments stick to their lanes, and strict development divides only serve to create tensions that can emerge in the final product. The same can be said for social and cultural silos.
Diversity of thought and experience only expands our creative potential, and uncovers more opportunities to inspire deep and widespread connections with our games. Even solo creators can benefit from escaping their own personal silos and finding a creative sounding board to test and improve their ideas for their game and audience.
By breaking down these barriers, passions and drives will lead to greater studio output strength. Without silos, development becomes an exchange of much more than expertise-allowing a broader range of perspectives to be embraced through a holistic lens-thereby lending equity and refinement to the process, product, and its contributors alike.
Ridding development of these superficial limitations is an essential step, and one best taken quickly to realize full creative potential.
As an audio partner, I know my team can contribute best when we’re involved early — ideally at onset — and remain engaged until project completion. This allows all partners to feed on the many passions at play and truly understand the vision of the game and what’s necessary to deliver the best experience for its audience.
When all partners and disciplines can work closely and constantly together around a shared vision, conceptual divides and tensions begin to fade. That’s not to say discipline experts can’t or shouldn’t lead from their own experience, but deep collaboration is the true key to reconciling our many diverse references and building better overall games.