Girls in the Video Game Industry #4: Fryda Wolff

July 11, 2010 at 11:14 am | Posted in Girls in the Video Game Industry interview series | 7 Comments
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Hi everyone! Hope you’ve been enjoying the series so far… And if you got a chance to check out the M11 pre-release, hope you did better than I did. I had a weird and unexplained brain lapse that caused me to play the entire tournament as if my Fireball were a Blaze (both of those being cards I’m quite familiar with)… many board wipe opportunities were missed… onlookers facepalmed in disbelief…

Ahem… enough rambling, it’s time for the next interview… 🙂

Girls in the Video Game Industry #4: Fryda Wolff
Independent Sound Designer

People often ask me what they can do to become a video game musician or sound designer. Although there are a lot of steps you can take, being prepared to showcase your abilities at the right time and place will go a long way towards helping you meet your goal. Fryda’s story about breaking into the industry is a great example of this (and it was really fun to read). Currently working as an independent sound designer for Behemoth, Fryda has been active in the industry since 2001 when she landed a job at Sony Online working on such titles as Everquest II and Untold Legends. Her website can be found here.

1.) Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I’m a Sound Designer, a voice over actor and have recently become brave enough to compose music for games. I’m current working on The Behemoth’s BattleBlock Theater.

2.) How did you get into the video game industry?

As a Las Vegas native, I was super excited to hear the very first EverQuest fan convention, or Fan Faire, would be held in my hometown. As it turns out, the 2 day event hadn’t been gauged for the gamer turnout. While over a thousand people had registered, the first night’s event was held on the second floor of the Planet Hollywood in Caesar’s Palace, which could only hold about 200 people. Seeing this as an inconvenience for everyone who had already booked their travel and stay and would have nothing to do on the first night of the convention, I rallied on the Fan Faire forums for those who couldn’t make it to the first night’s event to hang out across the street at the megaplex arcade Gameworks. I made it my mission to let everyone at Planet Hollywood know to hop across the street whenever they wished to meet their guildmates and the rest of the fans that had made it out for the event. Word got to the Sony Online Staff, and the head of the Customer Service department located me and asked “Are you the one that got on the forums and asked people to come over here?” “Yep, that’s me!” “Do you want a job?”

I was hired as a Customer Service Representative, or Game Master, for Sony Online Entertainment in 2001. I spent 2 and a half years as a Game Master and 1 year as an Administrative Assistant. By that time, EverQuest II was in full swing development. It was a very ambitious project, and some 100,000 lines of dialogue from AAA actors were being recorded and implemented for the game. An Audio Department was created for the first time at Sony Online in San Diego because the audio requirements for the game were so demanding. The Audio team realized they needed help implementing the incoming voice over lines, and opened a position. As someone who wanted to become a Sound Engineer in high school (but gave up the dream because colleges required upper level credits of math and chemistry in order to receive the degree), I immediately went for it. I got the job and spent the rest of EverQuest II’s development implementing dialogue, eager to do more whenever I could.

After EverQuest II shipped, there was little for me to do, and I became very nervous. I asked one of the Lead Sound Designers to give me a chance and allow me to learn how to create audio. He graciously agreed, and because of him I was able to cut my teeth on several projects and received my first Sound Designer credits on Untold Legends, a PSP series of games, as well as Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, a PS3 launch game. I’ve been a Sound Designer for 6 years now, and in the video games industry for 9 years.

3.) What are some of your favorite games?

Warcraft II and III, Diablo I and II, World of Warcraft, Peggle, Plants vs Zombies, Castle Crashers, Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, Deadspace, Bioshock. Left 4 Dead and Deadspace are particularly good to take note of to see value of audio in gameplay when one can’t exist without the other. Both are beautifully executed games via sound!

4.) What were some of your favorite projects to work on and why?

I love anything that challenges me, particularly when it’s something I’ve never worked on before even when it makes me uncomfortable. Once you force yourself to do something new, with practice it always gets easier. There’s no scientific formula to creating audio, it’s a matter of taste and one particular animation could work well with any hundreds sounds. It’s even better when I’m presented with the challenge of creating audio for something that doesn’t exist, like fantasy or sci-fi games. Spell effects are play time and the hardest thing is knowing when to stop. You can turn a sound to mush if you tweak it enough, the way perfecting a haircut will result in a bald spot. Giant mechanical monsters is another love of mine because there are no rules to what they should sound like. Compare films like the Terminator, Matrix or Transformers series and you’ll notice sound designers went nuts with their personal interpretations. That’s beauty of audio, there’s no wrong answer. Only great sound design! (And when it’s bad, everyone will tell you so, so don’t worry.)

5.) What are your thoughts on being a female in the video game industry?

The only challenge I’ve had to face is the same as everyone else: Doing the best that I can and proving that I’m capable of whatever I set out to do. Women are outnumbered, but not outranked. Portal’s Kim Swift for example is a Cinderella story proving that any female with the right talent and work ethic can be noticed for being great and now the world is her oyster. Stick to your guns, and present yourself the way you feel women should be represented in games. Sometimes men don’t understand that women want to play basketball because they love basketball, not because the ball is pink. So bringing a female perspective to the table is sometimes awkward but helpful and I think necessary if game studios really wish to close the gender gap and attract all potential gamers, new or old school, male or female.

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