Sound for Games & Apps graduate Virginia Leo has had an impressive two years since graduating. We sat down to discuss her work on the hit game, The Baby in Yellow, her growing notoriety as a video game composer and a very exciting panel appearance at this year's PAX West.
Hey Gin! It’s been a long time since we last spoke to you for the blog and so much has happened. Let’s start with The Baby in Yellow. Tell us about how you first came to be involved with the project…
"Firstly, thank you Chris and dBs for following and supporting my career! It’s been a while since I graduated in 2021 and there’s certainly lots of exciting news.
"Honestly, with 'The Baby In Yellow' it all started quite randomly only a few months after I submitted my final dissertation. I woke up to an email from Team Terrible stating that they came across my profile on Soundlister.com (which I highly recommend creating a profile on because you never know!) they liked what they heard on my SoundCloud and noticed my participation in many game jams over the years.
"The Baby In Yellow actually came from a game jam, so it was probably important to them that we shared that passion. We scheduled an online meeting, got along famously and it’s truly a pleasure to still be working with them to this day."
In the almost two years since you announced joining the project, you’ve composed music and sound design for multiple content updates; seen Markiplier react to the game on his YouTube channel and started live streaming to showcase your work. How did it feel hitting those milestones?
"When the developers reached out to me for the first time, they already had 10 million downloads, so funnily enough I thought it was a fake email. I couldn’t believe I was being asked to work on such a popular title and it’s absolutely mind-blowing how since I started working on it the game has accomplished over 150 million downloads on Android/iOS/PC and it recently released on Steam as well.
"I was the sole composer and sound designer on their latest Black Cat update, so it has been incredibly rewarding not only noticing the game's audience growing but also seeing my own fanbase sprouting from the fans.
"I’ve received covers of my soundtracks and even full arrangements! 'The Baby In Yellow' community is very passionate and wholesome. It was surreal to say the least, seeing Markiplier and Jacksepticeye make content for a game I worked on since I used to watch those YouTubers growing up."
With regards to live streaming, what was the motivation behind this?
"I started live streaming on the day of the Black Cat release date to celebrate what me and Team Terrible worked so hard on. Also, I thought it would give the fans a chance to interact with the developers and ask me questions about the audio.
"The motivation simply sparked from wanting to support the game, I deeply care about the project and the community around it. I thought that live streaming would be the perfect way to strengthen that connection with the fanbase and I think it definitely has.
"I recently did another livestream playing through the first update I worked on, the White Rabbit. It’s also just a ton of fun experiencing the game through a new lens alongside the fans! These are all available to watch on my YouTube channel and I’ll be doing more in the future."
In addition to all that, you’ve started to move into the world of panel talks at games conferences, and will be live at PAX West this September. How did this opportunity come about?
"This year has been incredible for me in terms of conference opportunities. I also received the Stan LePard Memorial GDC Scholarship and was able to attend the most influential game audio panels of the year along with meeting some of the leading composers of this industry.
"I found the PAX West panel opportunity through another panellist I had the honour of talking alongside at the ASMAC Video Game Composer Forum: “Specialization” vs. “Versatility” which was held online in May this year.
"If I wasn’t a panelist for ASMAC, I wouldn’t be a panelist for PAX West I guess, and who knows what opportunities will arise from that. Everything is like a domino effect, as soon as you set it off you will notice the chain reaction! It’s all about setting it off first."
Tell us a little bit about the panel you’re appearing on and why it’s such a special opportunity for you?
"The panel is called “Let’s Make a Video Game: Live on Stage” and it’s happening on the 1st of September at this year's PAX West event.
"The panel is essentially a game jam, meaning a team has to create a video game from scratch within a time limit. The team consists of 6 panelists including myself, some are award-winning developers from across the industry involved with over 30 games from indie to AAA.
"The event is held live on stage in front of an audience so interaction is also a part of it. In previous editions, since this panel has been held annually at PAX, sound designers have recorded the audience and implemented that into the video game so it’s a very unique experience.
"It will definitely be chaotic but that’s part of what game jams are about! It’s a special opportunity for me because I owe a lot to game jams, they have shaped my career since I started my journey in game audio and I couldn't recommend them more especially if you are looking to pursue this career."
Do you have any advice for recent graduates who are struggling with the idea of saying ‘yes’ to as much as possible?
"Personally, my advice is to say “yes” to the things you actually care about. I understand there is the concept of being a yes-man when you are starting your career because we are told to showcase lots of work to prove our experience which in return makes us worthy.
"However, I like to think of my career as a sculptor. Every time you embark on a new project, you are shaping your career and each step has a consequence for better or for worse. I believe working on projects you care about allows you give the best of your ability, so when it comes to showcasing, it will really shine because people's instincts are able to tell.
"We can all tell when the quality of a product has been neglected or rushed, especially in the entertainment industry. I believe in quality over quantity in almost every aspect of my life, whether it’s personal relationships or job opportunities. That’s just my personal philosophy."
What’s on the horizon for you in the next 12 months? Any exciting updates you can share with us?
"I am currently on a few different projects, I haven’t had much of a break since I finished working on The Baby In Yellow’s latest update! Unfortunately, I cannot share any details but I am incredibly excited especially since all of my newest opportunities are solely focused on composition.
"I feel like I’ve been primarily a sound designer for quite a while so I’m just very excited to be back in my element as a composer. I’m extremely grateful for all the good things that have happened to me and I cannot wait to share what I’m working on because it’s honestly the type of video game I could only dream of working on!
"I’d like to share my final thoughts and say that it may take a while to get there, but patience and persistence are key, stay motivated and whenever you lose your way remind yourself why you chose this path in the first place."