Monday, August 29, 2005

didn't composing have something to do with music?

For the next few days, I'm neck deep in some of the more tedious parts of my job. Can't really talk about it; I promised myself I wouldn't talk about anything work related on here that hadn't been officially released in a press release. Suffice it to say, it's dull.

And it had me thinking about the job of a Game Composer and what it is versus what I thought it would be. My business card says "Composer" but that's too simplistic. It implies that I just sit around all day, hunkered over a piano, scribbling Opus No. Y down. I would imagine that most people's perception of what a composer is/does hasn't really changed much since the 1700's.

But writing music (or editing, as I've been doing mostly of late) is such a small part of it all. Particularly for an on-staff game composer. There are so many meetings: meetings with my department, meetings with the project teams, meetings with QA, meetings with the project's Sound team, meetings with Producers/Directors/Assistant Producers, etc. Accompanying the meetings are all of the thousands of hours I spend doing documentation. Excel docs, Word docs, emails outlining what Excel and Word docs I'm working on, emails outlining what the completed Excel and Word docs mean, PowerPoint docs, etc.

There's the scripting and implementation time it takes to get the music into the game. There's the QA time involved in playing through levels making sure that everything works correctly. I swear, if I weren't as good of a gamer as I am, I doubt I'd know how anything sounded beyond level 1. I don't know how people can do this job if they don't play/like games.

There's archiving work to be done. There's meetings and Excel docs to create about archiving work to be done. There's so much stuff that just has nothing to do with Plagal cadences or Drop 2 sax arrangements.

I suppose meetings are a historical part of any creative job that mostly goes ignored. Hell, even Michelangelo had to meet frequently with The Pope. It's this weird thing that every Professional creative person must know, and yet I don't remember the subject ever really being taught in school.

Does any job ever live up to what we think it will be when we start it?


rooni said...

The meetings and communication (written and verbal) skills are taught in High School, refined in College. That's why you're set to work in groups in high school, why you present projects where multiple people are responsible for small sections, and why, in college, you're taught to make meaningful arguments that don't waste people's time.

I loved college, but I'm thrilled to be out. I'm much happier exercising those skills I learned, rather than still learning them. =P

In fact, more to your point, Mark (a guy I work with) read an email I sent out to a client (which had the purpose of saying "No, I won't do that for you, and this is why."), and he said, "Man, isn't it sad that this is how you're using the mad argumentation skillz that you learned in the Linguistics program?"

(Y'know, I'm not sure he spelled skills with a z.)

phobucket said...

I think there are uncreative parts of every creative job. Your tradeoff for the meeting time and excel spreadsheets is that you don't have to hustle up business. They feed you with a steady supply of work to be done.

If you were a freelance composer, that time you spent making Powerpoint presentations would likely be spent in meetings with clients trying to sell yourself to them. At the highest level, you may be able to hire a manager or agent to mitigate the amount of time spent on non-creative tasks, but you probably could never rid yourself of them completely.

Bug said...

No, I understand that. What's surprises me is how much of that I still have to do even being on staff.

"Does this project have a composer yet?" "Anyone look into the possibility of doing X with the music for Y?" Etc.

I still do a fair amount.

EmoRiot said...

I think "archeologist" lives up to what you expect. I know a friend who graduated as a anthropological archeologist and instead of a college degree, they gave her a hat, whip, and a one-way ticket to Egypt.

...wait... I think I need to revise the above statement...