Game audio implementers ensure that a game sounds as good as possible. Their primary responsibilities will involve identifying where the game needs sound (spotting), managing the sound team and ensuring the delivery of all necessary audio assets, designing and testing the systems so that all sounds trigger correctly, implementing them into the game and refining those systems so that the audio is not only is of a high quality, but uses as little memory as possible.
They do this through the use of middleware programs, such as Wwise and FMOD, or using code to attach sounds to objects or environments and define where and when those sounds should trigger. Those sounds are then implemented into the game through a game engine, most commonly Unity or Unreal Engine. For larger video game studios, it’s very possible that they will have bespoke middleware and game engines, but even AAA games may still use these widely available pieces of software.
One important thing to note is that it’s very common for game audio implementers to also be involved in sound design creation, from digital synthesis to location recording and Foley, especially when first looking to build professional experience.
The day-to-day of a game audio implementer is always different, which happens to be one of the most-loved elements to the role. Factors such as the size of the game, the team you’re working with and how long the project is due to last will define what tasks take priority.
For the majority of game audio implementers, their day will usually start by meeting with their team and identifying what needs to be done that day. This can range from spotting sessions (typically the first task at the start of a project), sound creation, programming different parameters for sound triggers and testing them in-game.
For the most part, a typical work day will be 8 hours. Start times can vary, especially if you’re working remotely with a team that’s in a different timezone, however it’s still fairly common to work to a 9-5 schedule.
Game audio implementers will be part of a team, which can include sound designers, composers, lead programmers and also the creative directors. How large these teams are will be dependent on the size of the game
“The thing that I really like is you’re kind of the glue, and you get to put together what the sound designers have been imagining where you can say, 'here’s the music, here’s the triggers, this is when it’s going to change in the game and this is the impact it’s going to have'. It’s that lovely balance between creative and logical that I really enjoy.”
- Jake Basten (Game Audio Implementer, sound designer and composer for video games)
“I absolutely love the variety that it’s brought to my day to day life. Sometimes I’m out in the studio, sometimes I’m playing my instruments, sometimes I’m out walking around on an adventure trying to find good Foley sounds.”
- Emma Stray (Programmer and producer)
“For me the passion is knowing that I’m going to have an effect on people’s emotions. I think being able to have that kind of influence on someone is really powerful and it’s very humbling to have someone say ‘that made me feel like crying, or jumping up or feeling excited.”
- Matthew Owen (Junior audio programmer at Virtex and dBs alumnus)
The video game industry has been growing rapidly, outperforming both the movie and music industry combined last year - with 2022 estimated to have generated US$220 billion. As a result, the level of opportunities is vast.
Game audio implementers can work for smaller development teams on indie-level projects to build their experience and either remain working on those types of projects or look to progress onto larger games, such as AAA with bigger video game studios.
Given that the role requires experience in understanding sound and programming, there’s also the opportunity to diversify into sound design roles as well as programming the actual game.
While it’s true that the video game industry is growing rapidly, and has an increasing demand for audio specialists, there’s an equally large number of people who want to fill those positions and a high bar of entry to get them.
“We’ve all seen it, the job applications that say you need to have worked on two AAA games to get an entry-level position - a lot of people get disheartened and give up. The only reason that I’ve been successful is because I didn’t give up - you just have to keep doing it. There’s definitely lots of people coming up that could be game audio implementers quite easily, but the pool is huge, so you need to have something that sells you. Get some coding experience, work on your sound design chops, so there is something you can sell. People want someone who is flexible.”
- Jake Basten (Game Audio Implementer, sound designer and composer for video games)
As mentioned at the beginning, the role of game audio implementer and sound designer is often entangled in the professional world and as a result, many roles will combine the two fields into one position, both at smaller independent studios and larger, more established ones.
Game audio implementers tend to have distinct personalities, interests and skill sets. You may be cut out for this role if…
Organised – Being able to clearly catalogue all of the audio assets for a project, keeping track of different versions and not losing files is essential to this role.
Creative - Being naturally creative and possessing a desire to solve problems in interesting and engaging ways will result in a much more impressive product.
Logical – As you’re dealing with programming, there are rules you have to work by, ones that will throw roadblocks up to certain creative ideas and have to be approached logically.
Flexible - Like most professional positions, game audio implementation roles blur the lines between audio programming, sound design and even composition. If you’re knowledgeable in those areas and can be flexible in what you do, you’ll be more likely to be hired.
Problem solving – There are going to be lots of problems that you encounter throughout the development cycle of the game, so make sure you’re the type of person that thrives when a solution needs to be found.
Working independently and as part of a team – As we’ve mentioned already, game audio implementers manage teams of people, but can also be one of only a few audio specialists on a project, so being a good team worker as well as autonomous is very important.
Experimenting - A video game without sound is an empty canvas and it’s up to you to identify how you want to bring life to it through sound, so being experimental and excited to try something new is a valuable trait.
Programming - The majority of the work you do is going to involve programming, so a strong knowledge in this is vital.
Audio production – Poor quality audio will completely break a player’s immersion, so understanding how to create high-quality audio as well as mixing will go a long way. Even if the assets have been made by others on the team, having a trained ear to spot potential issues can save a lot of time.
Multi-tasking – No day will be the same, and as such you’ll be juggling multiple tasks at any one time.
Communicating - You’ll be working with audio specialists, programmers, creative leads and project managers, so being able to communicate concisely with each of them will have a huge impact on the project.
The path to becoming a game audio implementer is different for everybody, but one common thread is that it’s uncommon for someone to be solely an implementer, and they will have experience and skills in multiple related fields.
“Learning about the surrounding topics is really useful because the more you know about the whole process of making a game, the more you’ll understand and the more you’ll be able to ask the right questions, communicate to other people, I think that is kind of the prerequisite to all the things I’ve said before. It’s having a really good understanding of as much as possible within the game production cycle.”
- Fin Scholefield (Audio programmer/game audio implementer and dBs alumnus)
The more hats you can don, the more flexible you are as an employee and by extension, the greater the range of opportunities that are open to you.
Finally, and it’s something we always say, but learning through an educational institute is an invaluable way to gain everything you need for this career path. Game audio courses are much more prevalent than they were even ten years ago, and can really accelerate your progression towards a career.
“To be a game audio designer, you don’t just have to be good with music and sound, you have to understand the mechanics of how a game works and how the flow of a game state and how the character interacts with objects in the level. So if you’re not a huge gamer or haven’t played a lot of games, it could be quite difficult to know what audio is needed.”
- Emma Stray (Programmer and producer)
“If you want to be a game audio implementer, just crack on. Buy some sound design libraries or get some free sound design libraries, come up with or copy a concept for a game, work out how they would do that in Wwise - what states do you need, what RTPCs (real-time parameter controls) do you need, how would it work in the mixer bus and how would you implement that in Unity. That would be a great case study.” -
Jake Basten (Sound designer, composer and programmer for video games)
“Trying to create your own sounds which are exciting, but also have the right depth and feeling to them is a real challenge. There have been studies that document how player performance is affected by the quality of the audio in-game, so being aware of how much of an impact your sounds have and the psychology behind it all is so important.”
- Matthew Owen (Junior audio programmer for Virtex and dBs alumnus)
Building your experience in game audio implementation doesn’t need to cost the world. If you have a fairly up-to-date computer and some half decent speakers or headphones then you can start practising at home.
Outside of pre-made libraries, most smartphones function well as field recorders and there are several free DAWs to use to manipulate your own bank of sounds (Waveform, Pro Tools Intro, GarageBand, Audacity).
Wwise and FMOD are free to download and use if you don’t intend to release your own game, with Wwise offering a comprehensive and free set of resources to build your skills, which ends in an industry-recognised certification. This applies to game engines too, as Unity and Unreal Engine are free to download and use for practice purposes.
From there you can build your experience in real-world situations and meet the right people by getting involved in local game jams or similar events. These are often attended by professionals scouting for new talent and are a great way of showcasing your talents and making personal connections.
Something that shouldn’t be overlooked is how you present your portfolio too, as the nature of the role means you’ll need to showcase your talents in a slightly different way.
“Showreels are definitely important, but I think a portfolio in the form of a website is possibly more important for something like this. With programming you can showcase it in other ways than video. You can break it down in a blog, like a development blog on a project you’re working on and things like that really help you get jobs. A showreel is just the end results, it doesn’t show how you work and your problem solving abilities, which is quite essential in a programming position.”
- Fin Scholefield (Sound designer and game audio implementer and dBs alumnus)
Though game audio requires a certain set of specialist skills, all our courses will equip you with knowledge on sound design and audio production, which are both key facets to any game audio implementer.
That said, our BA (Hons) Sound Design degree is the best choice should you wish to pursue a career in game audio. Teaching you the fundamentals in audio creation, manipulation and implementation, the degree covers everything from recording and mixing, sound design, Foley and location-based recording, middleware implementation, programming, creative coding and more.
At postgraduate level, both our MA Music Production and Sound Engineering and MA Electronic Music Production degrees will help you advance your skills in production, synthesis and sound design. They don’t feature game audio-related modules, but there is the opportunity to specialise in producing work related to any niche area you’re interested in.
For those of you post-16 or coming back to education, the one-year Access to HE: Music Production diploma, provided by our educational partner Access Creative College, will teach you the fundamentals in recording, mixing, composing for screen and sound design; which will provide the perfect foundation to build from at undergraduate level
‘Game Audio Implementation: A Practical Guide Using the Unreal Engine’ by Dave Raybould and Richard Stevens
Aaron Marks' Complete Guide to Game Audio For Composers, Sound Designers, Musicians and Game Developers
Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design by Karen Collins
The Audio Programming Book by Richard Boulanger
The Game Audio Tutorial: A Practical Guide to Sound and Music for Interactive Games by Richard Stevens and Dave Raybould