Burbank Game Hack Recognizes the Value of S.T.E.M.

Burbank Game Hack Recognizes the Value of S.T.E.M. Through Game Development

By Heather Martin


Another sunny weekend in Southern California and where were some of its best and brightest?  Hanging out, networking and hacking at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank the first weekend in May.
Pe_Photographic_elements_photographicelements_dot_net__MG_6841_5616 x 3744_140503_6Recognizing the important of S.T.E.M, also known as Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – and looking to engage veterans, women and minorities – the Annexx Group, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, the City of Burbank and Burbank Community YMCA collaborated together to produce a 3 day hackathon called Game+Hack 2014.  Participants were tasked with creating apps under two categories: 1.) YMCA  for Youth Development, Healthy Living, Social Responsibility and 2.) Nickelodeon & Annexx Group Open Creativity Challenges.


Creative Director Chuck Chugumlung of the Annexx Group added, “We really wanted to produce the event to reflect the theme of ‘Youth Development, Healthy Living & Social Responsibility,’ by serving healthy food & beverages during the 3 day event. Nickelodeon Animation Studio was generous enough to make it a true hackathon by opening their studio for 48 hours straight. This has never been done before at any studio of this caliber.”


Saturday’s event included an Annexx Group Google Hang-Out Powered by SPRINT, Microsoft Mobile App & Game Development trainings (Hack Boot Camp) and a compelling group of panelists hosted by Digital LA that was entitled “How I Got Into Gaming.”  It was a very candid conversation that allowed the audience to learn from the panelists’ journey to working in the gaming industry,


“We were excited that several judges and mentors from the Burbank Games+Hack could share their stories of how they got into the games industry with students and other attendees at our Digital LA panel at the Burbank Games+Hack”, said Kevin Winston, CEO and founder of Digital LA.  ”Attendees appreciated the panelists’ inspirational stories and practical career advice.”


Pe_Photographic_elements_photographicelements_dot_net__MG_6802_5616 x 3744_140503_2One of the panelists, Anne Toole, is a writer for games, television, web series, and short fiction. Her credits include the Emmy-winning web series THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARIES and the WGA-nominated dark fantasy game THE WITCHER.  She worked in TV for years and used all of her vacation time to travel to gaming conferences.  She had a small break when she met a game developer at a networking event. She emailed her TV spec but didn’t hear anything back. Then she got call from them asking if she could re-write a game script by Monday, which she did.  It gave her industry experience and increased confidence so that she could apply to and get a job opportunity in gaming.


Tamer Eskander, another panelist, is now Director of Engineering at Nickelodeon Games.  He grew up in Cairo, Egypt and wanted to do game programming and computer vision after getting his Bs.c in computer science. However, a decade ago in Cairo, there were no jobs in these fields (a minor detail).  Three years later, while developing an application for a US based company he says “I got a chance to make a game. The company had committed to develop a game for a major Hollywood studio. At the last minute, the developer who was supposed to work on the game left the project. I said to my manager at that time, give me 2 days and I can tell you by Monday if I can do it. Basically I got no sleep over the weekend, but I was able to break into my dream career.”


Pe_Photographic_elements_photographicelements_dot_net__MG_7060_5616 x 3744_140503_13Bennett (Ben) Bellot of Nickelodeon also shared that his big break was from his first failure to get into gaming. He had the opportunity to submit a writing sample for an RPG (Role-Playing Game) and he was told, “No,” and they passed on his work due to a lack of interactive dialogue. The guy they hired was his friend and Ben had a chance to read his writing sample. He then realized that his own linear writing style wasn’t right for gaming.  But Ben learned a valuable lesson, “It forced me to become a more dynamic writer. I sent stuff to my friends for feedback, and I got a chance to submit my new work, and that’s how I became a game designer. No only means ‘Not Right Now’!”


Other panelists included Keenan Mosimann of Maker Studios, a young prodigy who started as a YouTube content creator and has nearly 500,000 subscribers on his Criken channel; Brian Wright, Executive Director of Talent Acquisition at Fox Networks Group; David Humphrey, Sr. Analytics Developer at Sony Network Entertainment Int’l (SNEI); and Newton Lee, Adjunct Professor of Media Technology, School of Media, Culture & Design at Woodbury University.


There were numerous take aways for aspiring gamers, writers and professionals:

  • There is opportunity in the midst of chaos – whether it’s industry driven or self-created.
  • Go to everything, put yourself out there and something good will happen!
  • Show your passion – if gaming is a hobby and you focus on it in your free time that is valuable!


The Burbank Game+Hack was a fantastic event that pulled together people from many arenas in the gaming community, helping people understand how to break into the industry, with personalized stories that displayed how persistence and passion go a long way in helping one achieve their dreams.


For more detailed information about the Game+Hack event please visit these websites:


  • Official Site:  http://burbankgamehack.com, Post training is continuing all month long and NASA-JPL will be offering a private tour and mentor day; EVERY participant received a Nickelodeon Swag Bag, O’Reilly eBook, LootCrate gamer gift box and UBER $50 gift card.
  • www.Annexx.org: Annexx Group created Game+Hack to recognize the importance of STEM Initiatives in education and career development in a fun, creative, and engaging way for all the participants as well as the under-represented and non-technical individuals in our community. The success of the event wouldn’t have been possible without our great community supporters like the Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Nickelodeon Animation Studio, NASA-JPL, the City of Burbank, Sprint, Microsoft and others who stepped up.
  • Upcoming Event, The Windows Unplugged Tour - Thursday, May 29th 6-9pm: https://futureseries-losangeles.eventday.com/register/93fac248e30d4497bf94d6e96bbbe63c
  • How I got into gaming panel: http://dlabur.eventbrite.com
  • www.digitalla.net Digital LA is the largest entertainment startup networking group based in LA, reaching more than 50,000 people with its newsletter and social media.  Digital LA organizes weekly panels and mixers for professionals in the games, movie, TV, music, and startup industries, and is organizing the Silicon Beach Fest startup entertainment this June 18-21 in Santa Monica.



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