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UDEN #9 - Meeting Recap, YouTube Panel

I'm going to try and get around to adding a recap of all of our membership meetings over these past 12 months... but don't hold your breath (sorry!).  

Here is a recap of our last meeting - feel free to add any additional notes that you took away in the comments!

Its at my website as I haven'y yet figured out how to add a photo gallery here! 

Also remember that we have our own YT channel that has a bunch of the prior meetings on there - we'll get the last couple added as soon as we have some time to finish the edits!

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UDEN - 1 Year On

It's hard to believe that the foundations for today's UDEN were sown one year ago!  On January 15th 2015, Drew Clark held the first Utah Breakfast Club meeting at the State Capital at the crazy hour of 7am!  A distinguished panel was set to speak that included:

  • Virginia Pearce, Director, Utah Film Commission

  • Clark Stacey, CEO, Wildworks

  • Marshall N. Wright, Director, Business Development, Governor's Office of Economic Development

  • Craig Caldwell, USTAR Senior Research Professor, Digital Media Cluster; and Arts Director, Engineering Arts and Entertainment, University of Utah

  • Drew Clark, Moderator, Founder, Utah Breakfast Club; Of Counsel, Kirton McConkie well as myself.  The theme for panel discussion was:

"Well-known as a high-tech haven, Utah also has a supporting role in independent film production, which is showcased each January at the Sundance Film Festival. Less well-publicized is the key role that Salt Lake City has played in computer graphics and digital animation, helping to build a digital entertainment nexus on the Wasatch Front. This panel discussion will assemble key leaders in film and video entertainment to explore questions about Utah’s accomplishments and its promise, about incentives for production, about cultivating talent and about the state’s branding. What do these important industries need to take the next step?"

Highlights from that meeting here:

The meeting was very well attended by those involved with digital media in the State of Utah (despite the freezing temps and early hour!) and a lively panel discussion ensued with some great and pointed questions being asked.  A few familiar themes emerged, which I'll paraphrase, including "Why isn't the State doing more to promote digital media?" and "There is no industry voice to represent the varied needs of this sector".  So I asked the room who would join an industry group, and what should it do?  Most of the participants were from the entertainment sectors of digital media, especially film and gaming.  Virginia posed the interesting idea of a group much like "Made in New York", a successful trade group representing the entertainment sectors of that State.  So I offered to start such a group here in Utah if everyone in the room would support it.

Made in Utah was born!  

First up was a Facebook page - which was created that very same day (visit to see how we started!).

Then I formed a committee - many of the panel members became committee members and most of them still serve one year later.

We held our first meeting in March which was very well attended.  Soon afterwards the collective decided we needed a better name, not least because 'Made in Utah' is also used to promote other sectors in the State, not least cheese!  Hence we transitioned to become the Utah Digital Entertainment Network.

Full meeting video here:

Happy birthday UDEN - and thank you to everyone that has and who continue to support this fledgling effort at becoming a community, the voice called out for at that Breakfast Club meeting!

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DeadRiot - Top 5 Player's Choice Award

Kinda cool.  Our Utah indie game, DeadRiot placed 5th out of 2500 game submissions on SlideDB for AOTY.  Just some more geek street cred for the talent that resides in Utah.  Full article:

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Being “Let Go” – Part III: The Manager’s Perspective

It is a fact of commerce in the 21st Century that if you are a manager, you are probably going to need to let some people go at some point.  It’s not pleasant and is the least enviable part of your job (hopefully!)  There are two ways this can come about – one, you fire them, or two you let them go because your company imposes some kind of reduction in force, layoff, downsizing, streamlining, skill realignment etc. (it gets justified in so many ways!)  However unpleasant, this is something that you, as a manager, need to be prepared to do.  The way you handle yourself at the time you tell someone it’s time to move on makes a big difference to them.  I’m not suggesting it will make you lifelong friends, but showing them courtesy and respect – and not making it about how bad you feel! – will go a long way.

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Being “Let Go” – Part II: The Employee’s Perspective

Being "fired" or being "let go" both end up in the same place -- you out of work.  In this blog, I look at this from the employee's perspective and offer thoughts on coping strategies now that you're "in the beach club"...


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Because I Love It

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the Game Developer's Conference. I remember the cool weather walking across the street from Check-In to the main entrance to the Moscone Center. I walked insider and felt a rush of inexplicable wonder and belonging. I needed to be here. I belonged here.

The previous months up until that point were a little rough for me. I was dealing with a bitter loss and felt numb for months. I struggled to get up in the morning and get to work. I didn't feel like myself. I felt like I lost my sense of oneness with myself. The only time I ever felt like myself was when I was contributing to the video game project I was working on. Even then, my heart wasn't completely in it.

GDC changed that.

After GDC, I worked on my game because I loved doing it. It wasn't because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn't work. It was because game development is my calling. It was because this is a job I would do for free. My work improved and I felt like I learned more. Whatever anxiety I had about deadlines and milestones was put aside.

That's not to say they're not important. Deadlines and milestones are very important to my work. They are like goals for me to stretch myself in my talents. Deadlines are not a problem. The anxiety I will feel with them can be. A little anxiety and pressure is natural. When anxiety becomes a problem is when it takes away from the love of the work. If I don’t love making games I’m not doing my job right.

So how do we preserve our love for our work while being under pressure? I don’t know. That said, here are some ideas that have worked for me.

1. Attend conferences/meet-ups for fellow professionals.

GDC helped me a ton, right? So did going to the last UDEN meeting. It was like a mini GDC to pump me up for my current project at the time. Donald Mustard’s Q&A was inspiring but so was just being there. With UDEN, the Utah Games Guild, the Utah Unity User Group, and the Salt Lake City Chapter of IGDA we have a ton of opportunities to network and give ourselves the inspiration when feeling worn out. I could have justified staying at home thinking, “Oh, I need to work on my project.” I didn’t. I’m glad I decided to go to the meeting. Though it was a sacrifice of time it was well worth it.

2. Mentor an aspiring professional/Seek a mentor.

When my friend Glen was experiencing self-doubt I encouraged him. He’s been someone I’ve mentored by teaching him drawing techniques, help with coding, and offered general feedback. By so doing I would find the inspiration and passion I would sometimes forget I had. Not only did I re-ignite my fire but I also learned by teaching. My understanding of principles and skills increased by mentoring and teaching.

Glen also told me that he needed that encouragement from me to keep going. I’ve found that when I’ve reached out to a mentor and sought advice I would be able to refocus and regain purpose. Mentoring is a win-win for both parties. It helps both to grow, learn and create.

3. Read books and watch talks.

Right now I’m reading a book called “Masters of Doom.” It tells the story of John Romero and John Carmack, how they created ID Software and made an impact on the video game industry. The book has been really inspiring to me. I can read a chapter or two and feel excited to work. I feel the same way when I watch panels from the GDC vault, listen to podcasts, read Gamasutra blog posts and watch relevant YouTube videos like Extra Credits. (Or Every Frame a Painting for my filmmaker readers.) Doing this regularly has helped me be consistently passionate and positive.

4. Play Games (Watch Movies)

Crazy, right? We spend so much time making games we forget to play and enjoy them. Enjoying the work of a fellow professional can be just the inspiration you need to fall in love with your work all over again. I find this is especially helpful if I know the history or an analysis of whatever game I am playing. Playing Super Meat Boy after watching Indie Game: the Movie doubles the fuel to my I-love-making-video-games fire. Anyone familiar with Jane McGongial’s TED talks knows how helpful playing a game can be to our problem solving and mental health. Giving ourselves a needed break helps our work.

At the end of the day, I ask myself why I do what I do. I could easily make more money and find more jobs as a graphic designer. I could have chosen “safe” career paths in engineering or computer science. I’m certainly not in the game design industry for money. I do it because I need to--but not out of fear. I do it because I find purpose in it. Ultimately, I do it because I love it.


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Being “Let Go” – Part I: Overview

In a series of three posts, I’m going to discuss what happens when employment is terminated, both from an employee’s perspective and from the manager that has to do the termination.  Neither are easy but both can be valuable if you are prepared. This first post is an outline.

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DEADRIOT - Eradicating the Hordes from Utah

Just a quick post.


We launched DeadRiot (mobile game) in September and it was voted today by SlideDB as a Top 50 App of the Year.  The game sits in the #1 slot for 3rd Person Shooters as well.  More here:


Thanks for reading and checking out DeadRiot.  This forum is fantastic!

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Dark Pixel collaborates with ChAIR

Utah YouTuber's, Dark Pixel, recently released a video they collaborated on with ChAIR Games. It's the first ever live action side-scroller. It turned out super nice! Check out the video here:

There are so many opportunities for creators and companies to work together. I know creators are always looking for content, and companies are always looking to get the word out about their product. This video is a perfect example of what can happen when these two worlds truly collaborate. 

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So You Want To Be A Game Designer / Programmer / Artist etc?

I'm frequently asked for the 'inside track' on how to break into the games industry.  Sometimes it's a parent whose teenage offspring wants to be a game designer and they want to know what to study; sometimes its a random person I meet at a party who loves (--insert name of mass market game here--) and thinks they could do better.  The following is a version of how I respond -- I hope you find it useful if you are pondering this also!

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