GANG SIGNS – Jesse Harlin (November 2008)

The Audio Club Climbs on the Networking Wagon 

OF ALL THE IDEAS THAT HAVE SPRUNG from George Sanger’s annual barbeque/ think tank, perhaps none has achieved as much notoriety as the Game Audio Network Guild, more commonly referred to by its acronym GANG. Originally designed as a means for game audio professionals to network between trade shows in a manner similar to the Film Music Network, GANG quickly expanded into educational partnerships, gear discounts, and an annual awards show for all things interactive audio.

Seven years on, however, the grand vision of GANG had started to atrophy. The web site was sparsely updated, the forums stagnated into a handful of devoted regulars engaged in little more than demo critiques, and networking get-togethers dwindled to annual events that coincided with GDC. With member retention declining, something had to change.

VERSION 2.0

GANG president Paul Lipson, in partnership with colleague and Sun Microsystems veteran Steve Years, labored in secrecy for months on a massive redesign of the entire GANG site that would better reflect his vision for the organization. At its core, Lipson wanted the site to “support the needs of the global community in terms of communication, social interaction, and resource sharing.”

When www.audiogang.org relaunched on June 6 this year, GANG had been transformed into a social networking site along the lines of Facebook or LinkedIn. While the structure and function of the organization remain the same, the new GANG site now offers each member his or her own profile page complete with space for credit lists, their own blog, and 60MB of storage space for a 10-song, Flash- based demo player.

It’s essentially MySpace for game audio professionals. Users can now browse the contacts of other members and send connection requests, personal messages, and comments to members. There are also communal areas for posting photos and video, as well as an arcade of open source games. Originally added simply as a nod to gaming past, the site recently held a gaming tournament to award all-access passes to Austin GDC to high scorers. The site’s forums have been revamped as well.

So far, the reaction to Lipson’s “labor of love” has been very positive from the GANG membership. Since the reboot, users have also been making use of the site’s improved communication tools to organize and hold GANG Hangs, smaller regional get-togethers across the globe for the purposes of networking. The profile-based audio player has been a hit with many members commenting on how they simply surf through contacts listening to demos. Others have mentioned improved access to resources such as contract and invoice templates.

The biggest criticism of GANG is still the same one that has been levied against the organization for years, namely that while the organization is a great networking tool for those looking to break into the industry, it offers little to GANG’s more experienced members. This in turn leads to a lack of involvement from high-end audio professionals and therefore dissatisfied lower-tier members who hope to network with the bigger name members. In this regard, GANG still fights a battle for attention with forum-only sites like GameAudioForum.com or the gameaudiopro Yahoo! group.

VERSION 3.0 AND BEYOND

For Lipson, though, the new version of GANG’s homepage is a starting point rather than an end result. Organizationally, GANG is expanding with what are being called “professional branches.” The first such branch is  the Interactive Entertainment Sound Developers branch, or IESD, an off-shoot of GANG geared specifically towards Sound Designers and Sound Implementers that came about to combat the charge that GANG had become too composer-centric. Further plans exist to create a branch specific to game voice talent issues, as well.

Additionally, plans are afoot to overhaul the GANG Advisory Board structure. Lipson’s goal is to “engage and energize the global Guild community.” He intends to create Advisory Boards for North America, Europe, and Asia, which will help insure that the needs of the regions are respected, understood, and translated accurately online for the benefit of the entire membership. Regional directors are being established, such as the U.K.’s Richard Jacques, to create content and events specific to GANG members in those various global markets.

As for the site itself, Lipson isn’t content to simply rest on recent additions and let GANG atrophy again. He envisions a whole host of improvements over the coming years, such as podcasting capabilities, “geo-targeted email blasts and newsletters,” and functionality that will allow users to share their profile pages with the public as content-rich calling cards.

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