Top Sound Designer Skills: what video game companies looked for when hiring in 2021
What are most video game companies looking for when hiring sound designers? What skills should I be focusing on and learning more about to be a competitive candidate in game audio? Over the past year I collected over 120 posts from publicly posted listings to find out more about these questions. A link to all the posts can be found here. These posts are mainly from larger studios and come from all over the world.
A few details about this data: these jobs include the titles Sound Designer, Audio Designer and everything with less seniority including associate, junior, intern, etc. Only sound/audio designer. No technical, no composer, no programmer, no senior, no lead, no director. I wanted to focus on these early-on, "entry" level positions because they seem to be the most competitive and allow for us to more accurately link the results to this level of role, rather than including all levels of game audio jobs.
These skills are from the requirements and preferred qualifications section, not the responsibilities. The thinking here is again to keep the results more focused on specifically what skills companies are requiring and wanting.
Omitted from the data are soft skills like communication, hard-working, etc. and must-haves that all sound design jobs require like a demo reel, sound design skills, plugins, audio editing skills, computer knowledge, etc.
Lastly, I'd like to thank Brian Schmidt and his article for giving me the direct inspiration to make something like this. I'll have some more caveats and thoughts, but that's enough for now - let's take a look at the results: (Special thanks to Aaron Richards for the lovely graphs!)
"Experience" commanded the top spot with 73% of all postings asking for it. These range from 1 - 5 years and sometimes included AAA games and full-cycle production. Many times a degree or diploma would be equal to 1 - 2 years of work, being called out specifically 23% of the time. Paired with this was "shipped games", where 39% of listings noted having shipped a game or two as being important for hiring. Out of all job postings, 25% did not list experience as needed for the role.
Wwise took up second with 65% of all postings mentioning it. Compared with FMOD's 33%, Wwise was the clear top winner of middleware for most companies.
In the mentioned DAWs category, Reaper came in first with 39% of posts listing it. Pro Tools at 33%, Sound Forge and Nuendo both at 19% and Cubase at 13%.
For game engines, Unreal takes the cake with 35% and Unity close behind at 25%. Out of job listings that specifically mentioned one or the other, UE4 got mentioned 59% of the time, while Unity was at 41%. In addition, 32% of posts also listed some form of scripting skill. Usually Blueprints, Lua, Python, visual, and C# were the main ones listed here.
Interestingly, field recording skill was desired 34% of the time. Compared with studio recording at 23%, the need for skill with recording equipment, mics, and mic placement was significant.
Music composition/editing/theory was another surprisingly common skill at 31%. Included in this category was any mention of music with instrument proficiency, implementation, talent, and knowledge.
Implementation came in at 30% but was not so straightforward. Because of the vagueness of the word and the specific link it has to which game engine and/or middleware the company was using, the percentage isn't completely accurate. It can be safely assumed that if a specific game engine or middleware is mentioned in a job post, implementing audio into those listed would be an important skill.
A few honorable mentions include VO (voice over editing, recording, design, directing) at 18% and multi-channel mixing and format experience at 14%.
Digging a little deeper in the data, we can see that anytime software type(s) were specifically mentioned, both Reaper and Pro Tools seemed to be prevalent, with Nuendo and Sound Forge being notable as well.
There were times where a specific software was preferred in a listing. Over half of this time Reaper was mentioned with Pro Tools sliding in closely behind. Wwise dominated this preferred category with 90% of the time being the preferred middleware over FMOD. And for game engines, UE4 was called out as being specifically desired almost 70% of the time over Unity.
Many conclusions can be drawn from this information, and readers should take time to think about how this might be interesting or useful to them personally. I will say though: being hired as a sound designer in the current time is VERY competitive and clearly requires multiple skills and experiences.
Hopefully this gives direction to those looking to focus in on their lacking areas of skill as well as give veterans a pulse on the game audio market.