Featured Employee: Jim Bonney

by on July 31 2012


Here’s why we think Jim is swell…

Patrick Balthrop, Audio Director: Crack the door to Bonney’s office on any given day and you will no doubt hear something you’ve never heard before. Jim is approachable and loves to field ideas from the entire development team. He brings to Irrational a broad spectrum of musical talent, relentless enthusiasm for his craft, and a passion for making games sound great. Jim’s instrumental expertise, knowledge of diverse musical styles, and passionate commitment to music direction enable him to tackle even the greatest challenges at Irrational Games. His music direction makes the game sound better every single day.

Your title on BioShock Infinite is Music Director. What does that mean?

Jim Bonney: Basically, I steward Ken’s vision for music in BioShock Infinite into reality. Sometimes he knows exactly what he wants from the get-go; other times I’ll do the exploration to find the right music, or to push it further. I act as liaison to license tracks, I give creative direction/translation to composers and musicians, and sometimes I’ll write and record myself to get the results we want. I’ve also done some sound design, directed voiceover sessions for bit characters, and I help out with the technical side of the sound department – speccing out gear and recording studios, making sure our recording sessions run smoothly, and producing both of Irrational’s podcast series.

What games have you worked on?

JB: Slugfest, Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, John Woo Presents Stranglehold, Ballers, Blitz: The League, and – like a lot of game developers, I’ve worked on a couple games that never shipped.

Describe Life at Irrational in three words or less.

JB: Constant creative challenge. (Which is a very good thing!)

What is your favorite game of all time?

JB: I’m going to say The Dark Eye. It was this odd game with a storyline based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It had clay puppet animation, the music was composed by Thomas Dolby, and voice talent included William S. Burroughs… It was strange and creepy and remains in my memory as a very unique game experience.

Name a game everyone should play once in their life.

JB: I was going to say Limbo, but I played Journey for the first time last week and was absolutely blown away. Both were executed so simply and so well, and they both have amazing music and soundscapes… but if I’ve got to pick only one game for everyone, it’s got to be Journey.

What is your favorite movie?

JB: It’s almost impossible to decide… but let’s go with Rear Window. Alfred Hitchcock was a genius, and I learn something new every time I watch that movie.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

JB: Honestly, I’m pretty much a giant music geek, so work and play are kind of the same thing for me. I compose music, and I still play guitar regularly. I’m trying to teach myself mandolin and clawhammer-style banjo. I still suck at both, but it’s an enjoyable challenge. And I listen to a LOT of music. In the summer I also like getting my barbecue on… though I bow before Irrational’s Senior Producer and resident grill-master, Adrian Murphy.

You’re a guitar player – did you play in a lot of bands?

JB: I’ve played a lot of gigs, but I’ve actually never been in a band that got past rehearsals or jam sessions in somebody’s basement or garage. The only gig with an actual rock band was a talent/no-talent contest in college. I played drums. We had one rehearsal beforehand, which was the first time I’d ever tried to play the drums. You can probably guess where we were on the spectrum of talent/no-talent.

Tell your favorite story about life at Irrational.

JB: Ken was producing a voiceover session with our two lead voice talents, Courtnee Draper and Troy Baker. I was there to communicate with the house engineer and make sure that everything technical ran smoothly. Ken asked Courtnee to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” – he had heard her sing and knew she had a beautiful voice. Troy asked if he could borrow a guitar – I don’t think anybody knew what an accomplished and versatile musician he was until he started playing and coming up with vocal harmonies on the spot. We were all gathered in the large main studio, and they sounded absolutely fantastic. Suddenly I realized there wasn’t a single microphone anywhere near them – all of these great takes were vanishing into the ether! Ken coached them on the style of performance he wanted to hear and then sent them into their separate isolation booths. They put on their headphones, and the engineer and I quickly positioned mics in front of them both. I was quietly freaking out, praying that we hadn’t missed their one magical take of the day. But Troy and Courtnee are both total pros, so it just came out sounding even better.

Posted this July 31 2012 12:52 pm, under Featured Employees
Featured Employees
  • japester | August 3, 2012 1:50 am

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    It’s employees like Jim that remind me just how many layers there are to a development team. It’s easy to think there’s just a composer on staff, but coordinating the team, finding existing tracks, acting as liaison–there are quite a few musical hats to wear.

    Kudos on mentioning Journey. What a fantastic experience. ^_^

    My stomach spasmed almost imperceptibly during the story when Jim said there were no mics aimed at the impromptu, magical performance. Most of us just get to enjoy the lightning, but you Irrational folks have to remember to snatch a bottle and try to capture it!

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  • felonious | August 5, 2012 7:58 pm

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    Another great employee feature. Can’t go wrong with either Limbo or Journey, people should play both!

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  • deaddoucher | August 8, 2012 8:01 pm

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    Awesome to see whose behind the music :} It is one of my favorite things about Bioshock. That guitar is super awesome too. :}

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  • v3nd3tta | August 11, 2012 6:45 pm

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    That’s a Dobro guitar, so i guess we’re gonna here some bluesy stuff.

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  • jpredhood | March 19, 2013 3:09 pm

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    u have to hand it to the man behind the music. it maes a game even graeter and more addictive with the right sound adding to the feel.

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  • isaiasa | April 10, 2013 1:16 am

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    I am so in love with that Barbershop rendition of :God only knows: by the “beach boys”. Thats sung by “The Mighty Wind” right? I would love to find sheet music for that piece. I have listened to it multiple times, and it is one of the more memorable moments in the game. I hear it ,and it brings me to Colombia. My life has always been shaped by musical moments. For me what makes the best stories pop are the crescendos of emotion that music can create. The sound scape for this game makes me melancholy and nostalgic for a beauty of an America that once was, Only ever really in our imaginations, never to come again. the mood is set so beautifully by the music. I have been listening to this song and the church hymn in the beginning which have brought back so many positive memories. This game and your part in it was something special

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