This week on our startup series, we looked at Traega Entertainment, a video game studio based right here in Nashville. We wanted to see how the company interacts with music so we spoke with Jason Hayes, Traega’s Audio Director. See the highlights from our conversation below.
Hayes – I’ve been a composer in the video game industry for a little over 20 years. I spent most of my career at Blizzard Entertainment where I was fortunate enough to contribute music to their games set in the popular worlds of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo. I was the lead composer of the original release of World of Warcraft, and I’m happy to see that people are still playing it today. Before I got involved in the game industry, I wrote jingles for radio advertising. I also currently have a band called Critical Hit that plays all video game music at events all around the world. We even do a rollicking version of Angry Birds!
TNB – What about Traega drew you into it?
Hayes – I was approached by Dax Hock, who has a compelling vision for bringing the video game industry to the Nashville area with Traega Entertainment. He has assembled an amazing team that all relocated here from some of the top companies in the industry. I’ve been delighted to discover the vibrant music scene in Nashville. For several years, I’ve been hearing from colleagues about how great the players are out here, and what a fantastic area this is for music. As a relative newcomer, I couldn’t be more excited to explore this exciting community. Building a game studio here is a great fit, and it just feels like the right time.
TNB – You are the music director at Traega, can you describe what that role entails?
Hayes – As music/audio director at Traega, I get to help craft the overall audio experience for our games. This is comprised of three separate but complimentary disciplines that work together: Music: of course, here in Music City I don’t need to explain what a pivotal role music plays in creating a rich and immersive atmosphere for our games. This is the emotional center of our game worlds and helps transport the player to a completely new reality. Sound Effects (SFX): Someone once said that music makes you feel, and sound is what makes it real. From deafening explosions, to the subtle patter of rain on a windowsill, the SFX add power and detailed realism to the game experience. Voice-Over (VO): Many of the characters in games require actors to record a script in a studio to provide the content of the story and connect with players on a personal level. It is striking how attached a player can become to a favorite character and demonstrate empathy for the character’s plight and decisions.
TNB – What does your day to day look like?
Hayes – Every day is different, especially in the early stages of making a new game. On any given day I’ll spend a few hours working on early sound design work or jotting down musical ideas. I’ll also regularly meet with the team to strategize next steps for the game we’re making. Soon, we’ll have to make decisions on aligning the creative direction of the game and the music. That could mean we hire a full orchestra, some session players in a studio, or anything in between. I hear Nashville has terrific options for both routes, and I can’t wait to have our first recording session here!
TNB – What is one thing you wish the music industry understood/knew about the gaming industry?
Hayes – A lot of the time, people talk about music in games as if it’s some foreign world. While it is true that there are unique challenges to solve when making interactive entertainment, at the end of the day it’s all about the quest to make great music. For all media (tv, film, games) there’s a lot of common ground in the language used to communicate emotion. It’s just that with interactive entertainment you have to think through a lot of different scenarios that the player will find themselves in. Some of my colleagues in tv and film tell me that they are very interested in learning about the game industry, because there seems to be an abundance of great musical opportunities to create new worlds and exciting experiences for people. I agree!
TNB – Anything we should be on the lookout for from Traega?
Hayes – There is a lot happening at Traega right now! We moved into our new, custom-designed studio and have recently finished a state-of-the-art audio room. Like any good studio, this facility gives us a way to monitor the audio with accuracy and clarity in surround sound, plus it looks super cool! The team has been growing rapidly as we are now up to 25 people at the studio. We’ve been able to pull in amazing talent from all over the country and from some of the top game developers in the industry including Blizzard, Riot, EA, Rockstar, Microsoft, Ubisoft, Disney, and WB. We’re currently working on our first game as a complete team, and it’s been awesome to see the team come together. Of course, I can’t tell you anything about it right now, but stay tuned. I’m really excited about what we are creating!