Victoria Prentice on How to Build a Career in Sound Design for Video Games

It’s probably fair to say that some jobs in game development are perceived as more prestigious, more desireable, or more ‘sexy,’ than others, but the fact is that there is a whole world of possibilities for game development careers beyond the well known positions of designer, artist or programmer. Games are huge multimedia undertakings with hundreds of different specializations coming together to create a single product and every one of those specializations represents a possible entry point for aspiring game developers.

One such often overlooked path is the world of audio and voice recording for video games. With motion capture and animation technologies creating ever more realistic characters, so too must the bar be raised for capturing those vocal performances. One studio leading the way for more immersive and nuanced voice acting is London’s OMUK, which has recorded voices for everything from the Game of Thrones: A Telltale Games Series, to Panzer Elite.

Keeping everything running at OMUK is studio manager, Victoria Prentice. After a degree in music from the University of Manchester and a year of sound design at UAL, Prentice started working as a freelance sound designer for films and animation, but eventually decided that she wanted more experience in a professional recording studio environment. This lead her to OMUK, where she was offered a position as a freelance dialogue editor. “I’ve always loved playing games,” she said, “so this was an exciting opportunity for me. I worked my way up from there, learning new skills wherever I could and am now studio manager.”

A typical day for Prentice can vary greatly, with her tackling everything from working with actors as an audio engineer or voice director, to pre-production and script management, to project management and liaising with clients. “One of the best aspects of my job is the variety,” she says, “being able to work on so many different titles and switching between genres so often means my job is constantly changing and never gets dull.”

When asked about the skills necessary to be a good studio manager, Prentice cites multitasking and possessing wide range of skills since she often needs to fill different roles in different productions. However, in addition to flexibility, a good eye (or, ear in this case) for detail is crucial. “Working in the studio all day requires hours of intense listening and concentration. Any mistakes made when recording can be costly to fix later on,” says Prentice. “So we need to make sure there are no problems with the recordings, whether it’s the engineer listening for technical issues or the director ensuring that the actors’ performances work well together and fit in context in the game.”

“I often wish we could be more involved earlier on and take more of a hand in shaping the game itself. Audio is crucial to a game’s success and early involvement in the creative process can only improve the final impact,” she says. “We usually get involved during the final stages of a production so I’d love to learn more about what goes into building the game world, such as writing or level design. Also the chance to get more heavily into sound design again would be great.”

She also advocates getting involved early for those seeking a career in sound design for games, “A portfolio is a great way to show off your skills and creativity, no matter your discipline. For those wanting to build an audio portfolio, I’d recommend looking online for projects to join as there are always teams needing good sound for their game,” she says. “Networking at meetups and games industry events is also a great way to build connections.”

As for career highlights, although all of her projects brought unique challenges, there are a few recent projects that stand out in particular. “Telltale’s Game of Thrones was a definite highlight, it was great to work on a production with such a well crafted story. Also games with funny and inventive scripts are so much fun to do; Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald, the Esper series and The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 are all recent highlights.”

As for her favourite games outside of work, she admits a soft spot for The Legend of Zelda series, “Link’s Awakening was one of my absolute favourite games growing up,” she says. Currently she is playing through Firewatch.

To learn more about Prentice and OMUK you can check out her previous interview with British Games Industry group UKIE or visit the OMUK website.

Mariko McDonald
Mariko McDonald is a freelance writer and blogger based in Montreal, Canada. She likes writing about video games, playing co-op games (badly) with her husband and obsessing over her cats. Follow her on Twitter.

Mariko McDonald
Mariko McDonald is a freelance writer and blogger based in Montreal, Canada. She likes writing about video games, playing co-op games (badly) with her husband and obsessing over her cats. Follow her on Twitter.

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