For our Gamer Girl exhibit, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Ripple, a.k.a. @pearlpixel.
Alex is a composer, sound designer, and session player for films and video games. She is also a student at Berklee College of Music, and plays the flute, oboe, and effigy flute. You can check out her work on SoundCloud.
While you read her interview, listen to her track, ‚ÄúOkay? Okay.”
So, on your website, I saw that you became a gamer pretty early in life. ¬†For our readers who may not know, can you tell us the story of how gaming became part of your life?
So when I was 5, my Dad got Donkey Kong 64 for his birthday along with a Nintendo 64. We were hooked on the first day of playing, and our family gaming just escalated from there! We‚Äôve moved through all the Mario Party’s, Animal Crossing, and a mountain of other Nintendo titles. One thing stuck with me throughout the years however and that was the Donkey Kong 64 soundtrack done by the one and only Grant Kirkhope. Yet I wouldn‚Äôt realize just how much that soundtrack was going to impact me until I hit middle school.
Why have you stayed a gamer throughout your life? ¬†Did you face any challenges, like bullying or sexism, in gaming?
I‚Äôve stayed a gamer because games have brought me smiles, tears, friends, love, and now even a career. I really couldn‚Äôt ask for more from games but in the end they always keep on giving, except when they take my money. On the plus side, I‚Äôve never experienced a negative impact from being nerdy or a girl gamer. I‚Äôve been lucky enough to be surrounded by those who support me and have similar interests, however, I‚Äôve seen bullying and sexism within in the industry and amongst players and in no way tolerate it.
When did you figure out that you wanted to be a game composer?
For the longest time I actually wanted to be a pastry chef, from grade school until I was in the 7th grade. I also came to the realization that I hated practicing my instrument as most middle school kids do. However, unlike other the others, I found a way to change my hate for practicing by finding the site ninsheetmusic.org. There I could download all of my favorite video game piano scores and practice my favorite tunes for free! I quickly became better at playing my instrument and realized I wanted to be like those people who inspired me to play awesome music. I wanted to be one of those composers, because that was and is still a surreal job to me!
How did you start in music? ¬†What really helped you start your career?
Oh dear, this is one hilarious instance in which peer pressure changed my life for the better. My elementary school best friends were joining band and I happened to not have any classes with them that year, but band was a potential way of having a class together. I took the opportunity by picking up the flute, and it was a typical beginning band class full of wrong notes and silliness. Fast-forward several years to my senior year of high school when I actually started to compose music. I still kick myself for having the dream to be a composer for music for so many years and not do anything to kick-start that dream until then. However, once I did start writing, I was hooked. It was so much fun, and I couldn‚Äôt stop writing. As soon as I finished one song, I‚Äôd start on another, getting better each time. That persistence is what helped really start my career in video games and continues even today.
What games have you worked on so far? ¬†Any favorites?
So far I‚Äôve worked on several tablet games, most recently a game called Age Linker for a Brazilian based game company. As for favorites, I can‚Äôt say I have any. Namely because when I write for each of them, they all ask for something different from me for the music. This summer I‚Äôve been working closely with music and sounds for 6 teams. They‚Äôve all asked for vastly different music, which sounds complex and admittedly scared me when I found out I would be working with the initial 4, but has been a huge learning experience and unbelievably fun.
What would you say is the best experience that gaming and/or sound design has brought to your life so far?
Both gaming in general and sound design have brought me friendship. And not some friendship that‚Äôll last through high school and dwindle after graduation, but friendship that‚Äôs going to last a lifetime. The people I have met in the industry have been so kind and willing to collaborate. We can collaborate to the point where collaborations become friendships, and even in my case one of my friendships has evolved and we‚Äôre getting married in 2016! So although I can‚Äôt say it‚Äôs brought me one distinct best experience, it‚Äôs brought me a lot of best’s.
What do you hope to do in the future?
Truthfully, I‚Äôd love to make a full-time career out of music. I know it‚Äôs going to be a hard road to get to that point, but I‚Äôm certainly going to put in the time and effort. As for my end game, I would love to be able to say that I inspired others to write and play video game music just like Grant Kirkhope has inspired me to do. That full circle would be incredible, and finally show those who told me that making it in the games industry isn‚Äôt possible, that the cake is totally not a lie because we can make our own cakes.
What advice do you have for girls who want to have careers in gaming?
Persistence and teamwork is key! This is a cutthroat industry no matter what gender, race, or brand of robot you are, you have to keep at it! Those who fall behind are likely those who aren‚Äôt in it to win it. Yet on the same note, you have to realize that those who work around you are the ones who are going to rely on you just as much as you‚Äôre going to rely on them, so you need to have a great attitude and be ready to work as a team to get where you want to go.
You can view more of Alex‚Äôs work on her website, http://pearlpixel.net.
Girl Museum Inc.