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Building Strong Relationships

Because I’m at least mildly crazy, and at times certainly lazy – the post you’re getting today is a special gift from me to you.

Here’s the entire (it’s like… 2500 words) raw, hardly edited chapter I wrote about networking for my upcoming book.  I considered only giving you part of it, and editing it – but it works as a complete piece and those of you who buy the book are going to get better, more fully fleshed out content anyway (and commentary from industry veterans).

So enjoy and I hope, even if you don’t buy the book – that you get something out of this one.

But if you want to buy the book, here’s the link again.  It’s $10.  As a pre-order you’ll get early access on March 19th. Continue reading Building Strong Relationships


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Go to War

I’ve been putting forward serious effort to work on things I care about professionally for over a decade.

I expected, at some point, that I’d get backlash to my face (or clearly behind my back) about how much something I’ve done royally sucks.  While I’ve had a bit of that – and perhaps I haven’t done anything so important as to warrant a large backlash – it hasn’t been near what I expected.

What I didn’t expect, is getting it worse than I expected, from myself.

Continue reading Go to War


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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The Effort Behind Success

Story time today.  First – read through these tweets:

While the advice I gave Stephanie, from my experience, is entirely true… the unfortunate part of Twitter, and often the internet, is “sage advice” without detail.

In action, what does it look like to “grab something small” and execute, and keep executing.  How long will it take until you find success?  Those things.  The things that, even this blog realistically can’t answer for you personally.

But I can give you a story of what happened to me – because from some perspectives (mine included), I have a pretty wonderful gig right now.

How I Landed at 343

In October of 2017, I started as an audio implementer on contract at 343 Industries.  I have a job that high school me would be shocked about.

But what you don’t know, and what I don’t say on the internet all the time (because there isn’t really a reason for me to – until now) is that shortly prior to accepting that job, I’d accepted a different one, not in audio or games.

To give you an idea of what I was giving up in my mind – I’ve worked with audio professionally for over a decade.  I had my first paid audio gigs while in college around 2005.  In 2012 or 2013 I made my first steps to move into the games industry, as it was one of the last audio-related jobs I hadn’t done (and was therefore super exciting to me).

But my then-job wasn’t in a place of stability, and as much as I knew what I wanted to do, at that moment I believed I needed to walk a different path and perhaps work that much harder to get back.

So how did that change in the span of a week or two?

To explain that, I need to go back at least 9 months.

How to Work Without Promises

Despite the fact that I’ve worked in audio for a decent amount of time – I’m a horrible sound designer.  I know what sounds good, I can mix, I can record, I can run sessions, and my specialty is working with the human voice.  I can run circles around you when it comes to dialogue.

But making sound effects?  I mean, I can… but there are schools that churn out kids who want to become sound designers.  I don’t believe I can compete at the highest levels among them without a lot of work.

Programming, however, is something I’ve done in various forms since I was young.  I’m not the best programmer – but the competition for people who can program audio is much less and even junior programmers get paid well enough.

So in late 2016, when it became clear that there wasn’t really any upward mobility with my job and I found out my footing could be unstable – I set myself on figuring out how I could work by doing audio-related programming.

I started this blog.  I started speaking with lots of sound designers.  I started a Slack channel, I made products and put out a book.

Obviously, I’m still working on all of this today.

But working at 343 Industries wasn’t even on my radar.

My “coolest little thing” – as I mentioned above to Stephanie – was making VST plugins.  I figured I could spend the time to figure out how to do that (I’m still not quite good enough at DSP math – but working on it!), and that would lead me down some sort of path.  I assumed it would be selling VSTs and making custom game-audio related DSP-ish things (see how clear this was?).

Instead, separate from my full time job, I spent nearly a year doing the following:

  • Started reading (and didn’t finish) a book on making VST plugins.  I’ve made a few super basic ones.  I’m still proud of that.
  • Worked on improving my math – this helped with the previous bullet.
  • Took a challenge from a friend to put Pro Tools’ audiosuite functionality into REAPER.  Months (and a lot of help from a beta-testing Mark Kilborn) later, that turned into The Instant-Take Suite.
  • On the “success” (I put out a product and anyone purchased it) of that product, I made another one that wasn’t as successful.
  • I wrote blogs 3x a week for a year.
  • One blog series turned into a book on learning to script REAPER if you have zero coding experience – I initially gave away over 100 copies.  It was awesome.
  • I briefly joined Gamkedo Club and met some really wonderful people.  Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stick around, but it got my hands on Wwise again regularly.
  • From the club experience, I became closer with Christer Kaitila, who helped name my book and even tried to help hook me up with a real publisher.
  • I started, and still maintain, an audio programming-related Slack channel.
  • Worked part-time with a wonderful group of audio people up in Vancouver.
  • Completely unrelated – I also helped my wife maintain a successful eBay store.

Thankfully, my wife is a wonderful human who lets me spend a lot of time on improving my opportunities.

But I did all of that, with no promise of anything.  I had no idea (and still don’t, for any work related to my own business) where any of it would take me.  As I work, I have a better idea of what will lead to success and what won’t – but I don’t know.  I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t tell the future.

A Little Luck

So around late August/September of 2017, I was offered that non-games, non-audio opportunity.  It promised me programming experience, and a job for at least another year.  I wasn’t in love with the idea, but it was the best thing I had at the time.

Things changed when I literally got lucky with timing.  Some people don’t like to say they benefit from luck – but lots of opportunities, especially timing, are luck.  This was luck.

I had put in a resume with 343 prior to getting the non-games, non-audio job – but for various reasons I hadn’t expected it to work out.  In addition to that, I’d also recently had my worst interview ever, with a large games and audio-related company.  I felt like I was in a hole, and even contemplated the idea that maybe it was time to be done with audio altogether.

But, thankfully, it wasn’t.

The interviews with 343 went extremely well – they seemed excited about my abilities, and I was excited about an opportunity that always seemed as if it would be out of my reach.

But I didn’t start knowing that working with 343 would be a part of what I’ve been doing.

It just happened that they needed someone who could work with Wwise – I took a course a few years back when the Audio Director at Bungie told me I needed to know it.  I use it daily now.

It certainly helped that I knew how to code Lua – which I only learned due to a challenge a friend gave me to customize REAPER.  I use that regularly now too.

I’ve also tried my best to help people in the community by doing interesting and helpful things (such as the products and Slack channel) – this was noticed by more people than 343.

So I did my part, by doing as much as I could to prepare myself and grow the probability that any option would present itself to me.

It just so happened that timing worked out that I get to spend my days at 343 Industries for now.

What Else You Don’t See

So great.  I worked hard, found some luck in the timing (which, trust me, you’ll get if you work).  Happy story, blah blah, right?

Well in the midst of all of that work, I gained so much more.  I now have relationships with the following:

  • Raven Software (Call of Duty)
  • A ton of people doing game audio in the UK
  • Oculus
  • Epic Games (Unreal Engine)
  • Audiokinetic (Wwise)
  • Firelight Technologies (FMOD)
  • All the people in the #audiocoders Slack
  • Lots of game industry professionals in the Pacific Northwest

And when I mean relationships, I don’t mean I know of people at these companies.  I mean that I’ve worked with them and/or had serious exchanges of ideas, help, etc.  Relationships that actually count beyond “hey do you know of anyone who is hiring?”.

I wouldn’t have gotten any of that had I sat back and wondered what to do next.  None of the above offered me jobs, most all encouraged me, all helped, and some bought products to support me.

Literally nothing can buy what some effort on my part has gained for me.  I don’t have a crazy number of online followers, I don’t make enough money off of this website to not have a regular job, I don’t have any promise that I’ll have this job that I enjoy forever either.

But you’ve got to start somewhere, even if you are already somewhere.

So instead of even contemplating the destination – which you don’t know, but can hope for better than you imagine – start with the coolest little thing that’s right in front of you.

Then move to the next one, and the one after that.  You literally don’t know what’s going to happen next.

To think… I even thought my career with audio might be done.  So the next time you’re in despair, don’t worry – it really seriously isn’t unique to you.

If you need any motivation – tweet at me.  I swear I read them, and I’m usually happy to reply.

Go get to work, and best of luck to you!


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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The Influence You Have

A quick thought for you to chew on today.

I’ve written before that I believe you should be teaching others (either publicly or privately), even if you’re new or feel like you’re “not good enough yet”.

I promise, you’ll find more joy than you ever expected from it.  Let me show you an example…

Continue reading The Influence You Have


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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How I Find Focus

I’ve never formally been diagnosed – but I’m pretty sure I’m an ADHD spider monkey.

From your perspective, it may or may not seem so, but I’m naturally bad at all sorts of things.  One of these things is focusing on a task for any extended length of time.

You know this is bad inherently, because everybody needs to get things done in their daily lives.  My perspective on it, though, is infinitely worse.  To do anything of consequence that I really want to get done (write a book, make software, do a good job at the office) I really need to focus.

I even have the talent to double down on this exceptional trait (my ADHD spider monkey-ism) when it comes to personal projects.  Literally every day (I’m not kidding) I find something I want to do, make, or learn.  I have a long list of books I would like to read, courses I would like to take, and projects I want to make with my hands.  Any given moment can seem like the perfect opportunity to start something new!

The big problem is, the new thing will prevent me from completing the current (now old) thing.

So I have a double issue, micro focus (just getting the task at hand done when I want to check Twitter instead) and macro focus (completing whole projects).

See?  ADHD spider monkey.  I bet you have horrific visions of an obnoxious monkey jumping around trees and screeching at people with my face on it now.  I’m sorry, don’t think of me like that, please!

Stumbling on my Superpower

The effects of my lack of focus have recently become rather bothersome.  It was only a few months ago when I took a new opportunity to work with an incredible team, and I also (obviously) regularly work on my own projects solo.  It’s one thing when I feel like my flow and focus outside of regular work hours wanes – it’s another entirely when I feel like my primary client (my job) has the possibility of suffering.

There’s a lot built into this besides what I’m about to share with you – sleeping better, getting rest both mentally and physically, getting beyond wintertime sickness.  But I still felt like I could do better than what I know I can give daily when I’m performing well, and that bothered me.

So when driving home, listening to an interview with one of my mentors – he presented a thought that floored me regarding managing your energy.

Most people are distracted by technology, their smart phones, time, etc.  I am no different, certainly.  But take that away and you’re still simply distracted by your thoughts.  You might daydream, feel like you’re tired, drift off, have “brain fog”, whatever you want to call it.

If you don’t realize it – this is a tremendous energy suck.  You might be deep in anxiety about your self-status (money, abilities, health and happiness) or you could simply be frustrated that you don’t know what to eat for dinner tonight.  Regardless, it’s difficult if not impossible to get the crap out of your head so you can have a little space, rest, and mental peace.

What if you could – just for a moment – stop thinking.  What would that look like?  When this concept was brought up, I was so stunned I didn’t quite know what to do.

Turn off my thoughts?  Wow – it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I would have relief.

I’m not quite sure where the exact connection came from in my mind, but I know that I have an uncanny ability to focus on certain things subconsciously if it’s something I’m listening to.  If I’m doing the dishes and listening to a podcast, I can track right along and tune everything else out.

The thought occurred to me – what if I do this a bit in reverse?  What if I use gentle noise to remove every other distraction around me, and if I’m listening to it then it will probably take the focus of my thoughts as well.

The next day, I put pink noise on in my headphones at work – and so much time passed uninterrupted that I forgot to stand up and take a break.  It was so surprising to me that it felt like I’d discovered some sort of superpower.

Certainly I’ve done the “listen to music without lyrics while studying” thing – but nothing’s ever come quite close to this.  I’m able to literally tune everything else out, both in the world and in my thoughts, and just get done exactly what I need to get done.  It’s a bit unreal.

What I Use

If you want to try this yourself, it’s super-duper easy.  I don’t create a custom pink noise track or pull up noise on YouTube.  I’ve found an app and a website that works super well for me.  The app is available on both major mobile platforms and doesn’t cost a thing.

myNoise on the web

myNoise for iOS

myNoise for Android

It’s easy and simple, loops well, and I haven’t had any issues with it yet.  The apps also provide a way to try out other sounds – such as if you’d rather use running water, rain, or other tones.

Obviously, if you’re working on audio editing or sound creation – this won’t work.  But I’d suggest you give it a try for your other tasks that don’t require active listening.

Additional Suggestions

I’ve had some people inquire about other concerns with long-term use.

While I’m not an audiologist – and you should not treat my thoughts as medical advice – I can give you some somewhat educated thoughts from being an audio professional.

Will this cause hearing damage?

If you’re listening loud enough to anything, you can induce hearing damage over time.  I only listen loud enough to pull my brain away from exterior distraction.  Usually I can still hear a bit of what’s going on around me, but not a lot.  Do not listen so loud that you can’t hear anything else, especially in headphones, and take regular breaks.

What about listening fatigue?

I imagine this will cause you fatigue, just like listening to any other audio sources for an extended period of time.  I feel like it will differ slightly – as when you’re listening to mixes you’re also inducing a mental aspect to listening fatigue.  When you hear the same loop over and over, you’re bound to stop hearing it accurately fairly quickly.  So long as I felt my ears were pretty fresh, I would take a break after listening to any noise, and then attempt to work on any active listening work.  It will take a bit of experimentation on your part to figure out your own personal threshold.

Isn’t this a bit of pseudo-science quackery?

I received some interesting feedback on this, actually.  Check out these conversations that spawned on Twitter:

So that’s it!  Try it out – put on some pink noise for yourself – or other noise – and see if it helps you get focused incredibly quickly.

I’d love to hear about if and how it works for you – tweet me!  @adamtcroft

 


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Don’t Do This

What follows is a raw, completely unedited (sorry) excerpt from the next book I’m in the process of writing (you can preorder it here).  In it, I cover a big no-no (in my opinion) when it comes to working for free.

If you’re looking to break into audio for games, you may be tempted to jump at the first opportunity that arises to just do something.  Often, that’s a hobby developer doing something awesome on the side – but with no money.  This is not a solution to your catch-22 where you need to have industry experience to get a job in the industry.  I outline other, successful solutions in the book.

If you’re looking to break into the audio-side of the games industry, I’m writing this book for you.  So if you’re overwhelmed by information on the internet, don’t know what to focus on, read too many threads on Reddit and Twitter, can’t focus, are stuck in a catch-22 where you need experience to get hired but can’t get it without being hired, or super depressed and never think you’ll get a shot… This one’s for you.  I’m bringing my industry pals in to voice their opinions (that may not agree with me) too.  Again – preorder here.

Hope you enjoy the content.

Continue reading Don’t Do This


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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What is Source Control

What follows is a raw, completely unedited (sorry) excerpt from the next book I’m in the process of writing (you can preorder it here).  In it, I cover some of the basic ideas behind source control for the layman.

If you’re looking to break into audio for games, knowing how to use and utilize source control can put you at an advantage against peers who don’t.  It’s one less thing a studio will have to teach you the concepts of (even though you’ll have to learn their version) on the job.

If you’re looking to break into the audio-side of the games industry, I’m writing this book for you.  So if you’re overwhelmed by information on the internet, don’t know what to focus on, read too many threads on Reddit and Twitter, can’t focus, are stuck in a catch-22 where you need experience to get hired but can’t get it without being hired, or super depressed and never think you’ll get a shot… This one’s for you.  I’m bringing my industry pals in to voice their opinions (that may not agree with me) too.  Again – preorder here.

Hope you enjoy the content.

Continue reading What is Source Control


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Business Cards Suck

What follows is a raw, completely unedited (sorry) excerpt from the next book I’m in the process of writing (you can preorder it here).  In it, I expound on my… unorthodox, to say the least… view of business cards.

A good chunk of you are likely to think I’m crazy, an idiot, and perhaps an asshole.  I won’t say you’re wrong.

If you’re looking to break into the audio-side of the games industry, I’m writing this book for you.  So if you’re overwhelmed by information on the internet, don’t know what to focus on, read too many threads on Reddit and Twitter, can’t focus, are stuck in a catch-22 where you need experience to get hired but can’t get it without being hired, or super depressed and never think you’ll get a shot… This one’s for you.  I’m bringing my industry pals in to voice their opinions (that may not agree with me) too.  Again – preorder here.

Otherwise, enjoy part of my rant on why business cards suck.

Continue reading Business Cards Suck


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Get through overwhelm in 3 steps

One of the biggest themes I’m hoping to get across to you in my upcoming book is that you are not alone, nor are your problems unique.

I say this because, at our worst and most mentally helpless – you and I both feel utterly alone, stuck, and like we won’t ever succeed in the world.  This, despite working like crazy and having all of the world’s information at our fingertips.  Logically, if everything is right in front of you, you feel like you should be getting somewhere.

But sometimes you just don’t.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by that and the mountain of information and goals that you have.

For all of my success (and though I’m nowhere near special and “famous” – I’m doing better than I dreamed of even a few years ago), I still feel like this sometimes with my goals too.

So what do you do when you’ve got all the ideas and work ethic in the world, but you just can’t manage to get past your paralysis?

This is my process.  I even did it today, I kid you not.

  1. Make a list of your goals, the things you’re hoping to complete but are stuck on.
  2. Break them (or it) down into the smallest steps possible.  Down to “Turn on my computer” – don’t worry if it sounds stupid.
  3. Act on the very first small step.

There’s two optional steps to this:

  1. After making your list, you can pick one goal and temporarily throw away the others.  Then move to step 2 of the original list.
  2. After acting on the very first small step, stop.  Don’t do any more until tomorrow.

The key to all of this is what happens after step 3 of the initial list.

Once you act, you need to be very careful about what you do immediately thereafter.

My natural inclination is to keep knocking off steps in succession, over and over, with no breaks.  I get a ton of things done, to the point where I feel great despite being exhausted.

Except there’s one problem – I won’t get back to it the next day.  Or the next.  Or the days and weeks after that.

With every day missed, it’s harder to get back to the initial project.  Invariably, I quit and fail.  Because it’s familiar, easy, and literally requires no work.

Then I’ll start the whole process over again with something else new and shiny.  Sound familiar?

My antidote to this is the optional step 2.  I only do one thing, and I put it down.  This actually makes me quite antsy, but it works to my advantage.  I usually won’t be able to stop thinking about all of the work I want to put into the project, which will cause me to complete more steps the next day.  Because I restrained myself the first day, I will do similarly the second (but completing more steps).  Eventually I won’t even think about how much to do, but I’ll keep working consistently and manage my energy wisely most days.

Most importantly, I’ll get the project done.

That’s exactly how I ended up finishing Begin Audio Scripting and The Instant Take Suite.  It’s exactly how I’ll finish Quit Aspiring too.

Give it a shot – I bet it can work for you, with your own twist on it.


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Announcing QUIT ASPIRING, a new book

What would it feel like to be called back by a game studio that you admire?  What would it take to walk into an interview nervous with excitement, but confident that you would be an asset to their team?

What if you could stop being overwhelmed by reading every article, tweet, and Reddit post online?  What would it take to transfer that energy into wisdom and confidence such that you didn’t even feel the need to “sell yourself” in an interview?

It might take some work, but it’s nothing you can’t do.

Presenting
QUIT ASPIRING, a book to go from wanting, to being prepared for a job in game audio

What you will learn:

  • If game audio is actually a good career for you
  • Why you should never be “aspiring”, but you’re free to be a student
  • Finding where to start when you have no idea where to start
  • How to win the war of attrition and overcome your own mind through hustle
  • What I’ve learned about the differences between AAA and and Indie work
  • Some of the different roles and needs in game audio
  • Why linear editing and design (film and non-interactive music) doesn’t necessarily translate to working in games
  • Important software you need to learn before even applying for a job
  • A primer on source control and why it’s important to at least have an idea of how it works
  • How to build your network in ways that actually benefit you and others
  • How an online presence might actually be keeping you from a job
  • What things are truly helpful to clients and hiring managers
  • How to write a useful resume
  • How to get noticed when nobody’s looking for you
  • When working for free can be beneficial for you, when you should stop, and how people will take advantage of your kindness
  • A great starting project to learn foundational principles and make a demo reel

All of this information will come from me and multiple game industry veterans, all of whom have gone through their own variations of the same journey.

While there is no “one right way” to get prepared or get a job, this book will lead you to learn things that are actually helpful and avoid time wasters, with the goal of putting you a step above your peers.

Click here to reserve your copy!


Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.