Develop talks to VGM founder Andrew Barnabas about a defining audio hit list

Heard About: The VGM list

[This feature was published in the April edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

The VGM list
What is it?
A hub for professionals across the games audio section

The VGM list, or in full, the Videogame Musicians List, encompasses a veritable who’s who of professional composers, audio directors, sound designers and dialogue specialists working in the now
seriously-respected arena of audio for games.

Where do you turn to with the technical conundrum preventing you from progressing your project? Who do you ask about the audio software in which you’re considering investing mega-bucks? Where can you chew the cud with like-minded audio practitioners about industry trends?

In the first place, the answer for many is the VGM list .


Andrew Barnabas explains how it all started: “When I began VGM in 1998, I was an in-house composer at Sony Cambridge – formerly Millennium Interactive. It may be hard to imagine now, but a lot of game audio folk were really quite hermit-like, so the original plan was simply to have a network of other composers I’d met in the eight years I’d been doing it at that point.”

Back then, the first PlayStation was in full swing, and Barnabas and his team had ‘pestered’ management enough to hire their first audio programmer, when the catalyst for the VGM list emerged.

“Before going in-house in 1995, I worked pretty much exclusively with home computers, scoring Amiga and PC titles, and any conversion work to the SNES and MegaDrive were either handled elsewhere or I did it in-house – largely because dev kits were prohibitively expensive and it wasn’t easy to integrate audio off-site.

“So it was a bit of a shock to find my first project was being developed on five platforms – four of which I’d never worked with before – PlayStation, Saturn, 3DO, PC and Mac.

“I was on my own. Middleware? Hell, the word didn’t even exist. I already knew a few folk, so just rang round and asked people to help me figure it out. After a while I realised I was becoming something of a conduit. People knew me but didn’t know each other, so I had people call me and say, for example: ‘how do I do X and Y on the Sega Saturn?’. I didn’t know myself, but knew a man who did – so I’d pick up ‘other’ phone to ask for input. Richard Jacques, for example, who was then working in-house at Sega. ‘Rich, how do you do this?’ etc. It got a bit silly.”


After former industry publication Computer Trade Weekly published his call for interest, Barnabas purloined the services of Sony’s IT to host a mailing list which quickly went bananas – with the SCEE IT manager later reporting that, at one point, 50 per cent of all email carousing their server was VGM-related.

“I sheepishly apologised and cheekily suggested he get a faster server,” confesses Barnabas.

Inevitably, in 2001, VGM’s founder decided to host the 200-strong (and rapidly growing) list himself. The rest is game audio history, with the VGM list now boasting over 500 members across the globe – and still growing. The feedback speaks for itself.

“VGM is one of the few places with a true community of your peers, where you know that whether it’s an answer to a specific technical question or just general conversation, the calibre of discussion will be stellar. I can always count on a top-notch exploration of whatever game audio issue is raised.” – Brian Schmidt, Game Sound Con and all round game audio legend

“VGM is the most helpful, informative, supportive professional community I have ever come across. The most talented folk in the game audio industry willingly share their thoughts, tips and inspiration with an unwarranted freedom, and friendliness.” – Tom Colvin, Audio Director, Ninja Theory

“VGM is sort of like a perpetual GDC audio meet-up. Everyone on the list is a professional, and has been down many roads before, so is able to contribute from an informed and unique place. And most importantly, that instinct to share and build is there as well – that by contributing, we all become a little richer. It’s one of the few virtual communities that I look forward to hearing from every day.” – Zak Belica, Audio Director, Ritual Ent.

“Quite simply, if other disciplines had anything like the open, vibrant resource of VGM, our industry would be light years ahead of where it currently is artistically, ethically and, in many ways, commercially.” – Dan Bardino, Senior Manager, Creative Services Group, SCEE

I’m proud to say I was one of the first 15 members to sign up so have the utmost pleasure, on behalf of Develop magazine, in saying ‘happy birthday, VGM list’.

To read more of Develop’s comprehensive Heard About audio profiles, visit our archive

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