Surviving Audio Layoffs Asbjoern Andersen


Working in game audio offers fantastic opportunities for audio professionals, but game development is also a volatile industry where mass layoffs and sudden studio closures are all-too-frequent. How do you deal with a layoff in game audio? What are the crucial next steps to take? How do you bounce back? That's what we're looking to help with in this new series.

We're looking at it from a game audio perspective, but the vast majority of advice in this series will apply to anyone working in audio:


By Jennifer Walden and Asbjoern Andersen
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Part 1: Insights from Damian Kastbauer

Damian Kastbauer
In this first installment, we talk to Damian Kastbauer — a Software Product Manager at Audiokinetic who is currently working to grow Wwise audio authoring with help from the interactive audio community. He spent years as a technical sound designer bridging the gap between content creators and game engines, striving towards a realization of dynamic sound.

He is the co-founder of the Game Audio Podcast and author of a two-volume collection of articles titled “Tales of a Technical Sound Designer”

Here, Kastbauer shares his experience of and advice for surviving a layoff:

 

Change is Good


You hear it all the time, coupled with the realization that change is also: difficult, stressful, transformative, and ultimately a good thing. When a layoff comes around (as it has for me twice over the last 5 years since making the jump from freelance to in-house), it’s been equal parts frightening and exhilarating. Many of us have felt that “fear of the unknown” and been sent spiraling out-of-control towards dark places where employment and happiness don’t exist.

Meanwhile, the excitement of what challenges await are often enough to send the mind reeling in a million directions all at once towards a choose-your-own-adventure of possibilities that may exist in the real world. How one passes through this maelstrom of mega-meta-heaviness is a personal journey. Here are a few things that have helped me in my time.
 

Slow Down Time


Every moment counts, but you won’t get through a layoff by counting the moments. Whatever you can do to slow the feeling of time passing will be to your benefit. This doesn’t have to mean idleness and deliberation but you should recognize the opportunity to re-frame the flow of time now that you’ve been forcibly removed from the normalcy of the working-week. Watch the foliage sway for longer than you’d usually feel comfortable; take a prolific walk; build a routine around savoring the moments between being productive at job hunting.

You should recognize the opportunity to re-frame the flow of time now that you’ve been forcibly removed from the normalcy of the working-week

The first layoff I experienced found me rewiring my guitar effects pedalboard. The second afforded some time to give the upstairs bathroom a long-overdue glow-up. These focus-opportunities operate on two levels — they provide a space to work through the thoughts in your head in-between accomplishing a task and, if you’re lucky, the successful completion of said task will help reinforce your feelings of ability and competency.

When you look back at your time in between jobs, there should be some space where you allowed yourself to embrace the change quietly and contemplatively while also feeding a feeling of tiny victories and accomplishments.
 

Get Outside Your Head


Flooded with ideas, concerns, opportunities, potentials, and fear you might find yourself reaching a saturation point. There is only so much that a one-sided conversation inside your own head can advance these things during the process of finding a new way of life. Find people who can allow for your internal process to unfold in whatever way you’re able to express it.

There is only so much that a one-sided conversation inside your own head can advance these things during the process of finding a new way of life

These conversations might dead-end on a moment’s notice once spoken out-loud or more often be lent a valuable perspective from someone outside of the situation. Within the art of conversation there lies a delicate dance between output and input; make sure you’re spending as much time actively listening as you are translating the words rattling around in your head to speech. Find the right moments to jump off the deep end into these discussions and leave space in between for processing.

Regardless of what you take away from these conversations, be sure to honor the process by bringing your honesty into the equation and valuing the contributions of those you involve both personally and professionally.
 

Recognize Your Value


It’s difficult not to take a layoff personally. The feeling of rejection and being unneeded by an employer can strike a blow at a person’s vitality. While a business arrives at a layoff for a myriad of reasons, they are not often personally directed — which is to say that their decision to lay people off is not usually a reflection of the persons affected. Find a way to acknowledge and move through the feelings that accompany the change and recognize the contribution you bring to the industry. Take time to catalog your successes and use them as a jumping-off point in the direction of your next endeavor.

While a business arrives at a layoff for a myriad of reasons, they are not often personally directed — which is to say that their decision to lay people off is not usually a reflection of the persons affected

These accomplishments might just lead the way towards the next fulfilling opportunity, or at least help the healing process as you move forward.

A layoff doesn’t change the good work that you’ve done or the path that you’re on professionally; it is a moment of destabilization in a long-running career that stretches out before you.
 

Dream the Big Dream


Unshackled from the day-to-day, let your mind wander in the direction of pure bliss. Entertain the what-if scenarios you may have set aside while gainfully employed. Breathe life into the dreams that have been waiting in the wings for a chance to fly and imagine the possibilities. Build bridges to those desirable futures in whatever way you’re able; talk about potentials with colleagues and find clarity towards paths that might motivate your pursuit of these dreams. A layoff is a moment to employ the concept of radical acceptance; embrace the circumstances, look at your immediate surroundings, quickly come to terms with the current state of affairs, and be ready to meet the road as it rises to meet your feet.

Sometimes knowing the “what” can help shed light on the “how” when it comes to lining up the next thing. The more clarity you have on the question of where you want to end up, the easier it can be to chart a path to it.

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

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Always be Preparing

Every conversation resonates. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is always a value to sharing your experience with other people. If you recognize the value of your contribution to conversations in the community, or within your personal relationships, you begin to build a support system that can help unlock some of the suggestions expressed throughout this article.

If you were at Game Developers Conference this year, there’s a high likelihood that I shared my process with you during a time when the unknown loomed like a cloud over my San Francisco experience

During my last layoff, I called on family, old friends, new friends, colleagues, and strangers to help me understand my career aspirations and job intentions. If you were at Game Developers Conference this year, there’s a high likelihood that I shared my process with you during a time when the unknown loomed like a cloud over my San Francisco experience. I valued being able to share my experience, and folks shared theirs’ in exchange, working towards a better understanding of how to align my dreams with the reality of a paycheck (which isn’t to say that any of these conversations resulted in a paycheck, necessarily). Sometimes timing doesn’t align with a person’s ability to help in a measurable way. Engaging with folks in these kinds of discussions should come with no expectations. It’s sometimes difficult to see the wheels turning behind-the-scenes and it’s important to value every discussion and bring your best self.

Recognize that your professional (and personal) journey with people doesn’t just happen between jobs; it’s a skill that needs to be cultivated throughout your career (and life) towards a better understanding of the world.
 

 

Start Right Away


It’s my hope that in years past I’ve been able to help support others on their quest for job security — whether this is by being a good listener, providing honest opinions and encouragement, or by putting folks directly in touch with others who might help them on their personal journey. Building a support system for a future destabilization starts by providing that support to others when they’re in need. Ideally, this support is easier to give during times when the stability of your own situation is well established, but even in the midst of upheaval, there are opportunities to be the quiet in another person’s storm and give them a lift towards their future.

Nothing about these suggestions suggests that any of this is easy; as they say, nothing worth doing ever is. In the long campaign of any career, the successes are measured by a single step in the right direction arriving eventually at one’s goal. Taking the time to understand where you’re headed when life gives you an opportunity to slow down, check-in with yourself, and read the signs will make the journey more pleasant and hopefully land you on-target. The people you involve along the way, how you engage, and how you honor and respect their perspectives can make all the difference.

A big thanks to Damian Kastbauer for sharing his insights and experiences on this oftentimes difficult subject! Meet him on Twitter here, and stay tuned for upcoming episodes in this series.

If you’ve got any input on how to cope with layoffs in game audio (or audio in general), please share your thoughts in the comments below:

 

 



Succeed in sound:

• How to Set (and Get) the Right Price for Your Audio Work

• 10 Essential Tips for Game Audio Freelancers

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• Rebuilding your studio: Goals, tips and lessons learned

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The sound success series:

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• Courses: How to network and get paid for your work in the game industry – by Akash Thakkar

• How to Craft a Perfect Cover Letter for Audio Industry Jobs
 
 
Finding those audio jobs:

• Get the weekly Audio Jobs newsletter

• Join the Audio Jobs Facebook group
 
 
Showcasing your work:
 
• Get a free profile on Soundlister

• Upload your demos to Soundcloud

• Upload your demos to ReelCrafter
 
 
Networking:
 
• Find game audio community groups around the world

• Find interesting audio events around the world

• Find other audio pros around the world
 
 
Coping with a layoff - and how to bounce back:

• How to prepare for – and power through – a layoff in the game audio industry, with Brian Schmidt:

• How to Survive a Game Audio Layoff – insights from Damian Kastbauer

• What it’s like to be laid off from your video game studio

• What To Do Before and After Being Laid Off

• Facebook Group: Survival Skills for Creatives
 
 
Education and knowledge:
 
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• Read the 100s of sound stories and guides on the A Sound Effect blog (search for stories here)

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• Sound effects survey results: Here are 90+ ideas for new SFX libraries

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    TH Studio Production presents the Epic Cinematic Vocal Library VANDRIA 2 – New Dawn, featuring the voice of the Bulgarian singer Megi Angelova.

    Born in Bulgaria, Megi Angelova is a singer/songwriter based in London, UK. Coming from a background of musicians and artists she always has been fascinated by art and music which inspires her to look beyond the frames and to experiment with different styles of music, vocals, lyrics, musical instruments and sound effects.

    [Please note: The full Kontakt 5 plugin is required to use the Kontakt instruments, and is not included. The stand-alone .wav files can be used without Kontakt]

    23 %
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    All atmospheres are recorded at 96kHz/24Bit with condenser ambisonic microphone Rode NTSF1 and Zoom F8, in FuMa format.

    You can convert ambisonic FuMa format in real time with free SoundField plugin to stereo, 5.1, 7.1, 7.1.4, or any other surround format. You can also change the panoramic view of the sound because they are 360 degrees recordings, as well as automate the panoramic perspective.

    All recordings have metadata.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1582844399
  • This sound pack features the perfect transition and movement sounds for any film, tv or animation project. With 91 sounds in total, they have all been carefully sound designed using a variety of top class plugin processors.

    All files are meta tagged in Soundminer so you can easily find them with simple search terms. See a full list of the sound pack below:

    • Ambient Sub Movements
    • Downlifters
    • Flybys
    • FX
    • Gleams
    • Risers
    • Shutter Oscillations
    • Whooshes & Swishes

    62 High Quality WAVS (8:30 mins)
    Size Unpacked: 540MB
    Sample Rate: 96kHz/24bit
    Gear Used: Sennheiser MK416, Soundtoys, Altiverb, Pro Tools
    Other Info: Meta-Tagged

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    ROOM TONES USA – 3D SURROUND AMBIENCES
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    As you’d expect from a library labeled “room tones”, the sounds come without much action in the foreground but with a very detailed acoustic image of each room, giving you the perfect basic noise layer to break the silence in your post production project. The recorded rooms vary from hallways and warehouses over cafes, offices, basements, apartment rooms, laundry and boiler rooms to industrial rooms and even an underground bunker. ROOM TONES USA covers all different scenarios you could possibly need, delivered fully surround with unprecedented precision, spatial impression and clarity. Undoubtedly, this can be easily used in stereo productions as well. Either chose the angle yourself or use the stereo version (included in 3D SURROUND).

    20 %
    OFF
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    This library was developed in cooperation with our partner VAMIFY.

    31 %
    OFF
    Ends 1583103599
 
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3 thoughts on “Guide: How to Survive a Game Audio Layoff – insights from Damian Kastbauer

  1. Thank you for sharing this Damian, that was a refreshing outlook on a difficult situation that many of us can relate to. If anyone reading this has never gone through it then especially take this guidance to heart.

  2. Thanks again, Damian.

    There are two kinds of people, and I don’t like to finish this sentence. Nonetheless, you, Damian, are distinguished by your willingness to offer a heart as well as an ear, and even sometimes a hand, and this lovely article is an illustration of that.

    My favorite bit:

    True and happy news that the layoffs aren’t often personal. Time the Great Healer shows that over and over, and we can waste energy on bitter and ungrateful thoughts. We’re actually very likely in an excellent position, with Life taking care of us in ways we can’t possibly understand. But something inside fights the recognition of that; some lurking idea as kooky as it is that we “ought to have kept that job.” And probably every job we’ve ever had. And car. And significant other. And pet. And guitar. And t-shirt. And think of what a mess our houses would be _then!_

    “Acceptance of insecurity is Wisdom.” –Alan Watts

    “May they be healthy, happy, joyous, and free” –a nice little prayer to free you from any lingering anger at “Those People!”

    Thanks, Sir.

    -George (having a little moment of asking myself if I am actually telling the truth when I click in the “I’m not a robot” box…) :D

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