This is a series of posts from my road trip in 2011 where I traveled around the US and Canada giving talks, attending conferences, visiting IGDA chapters, networking, hanging out with friends, and dog sitting an adorable pug named Thomas!

Hi all,

Wow San Francisco/Bay Area kept me busy! Here are all the things I crammed into a few short days during the week:

1) Had lunch with Heather Logas1. Another one of my mentee/proteges spanning over the years. I met Heather via the IGDA Women in Games SIG and stepped up to be a mentor when she was getting moved to a producer position temporarily at Telltale Games and had never really done that role before and I had. We continue to keep touch today and she’s part of the weekly GTD group that I participate in.

2) Had dinner with Melody Schaeffer2. Melody, who is currently in the market for a new job, I met at last year’s IGDA Leadership Forum3 as she was one of our volunteers for the event. She’s currently working with the other organizers at IGDA Silicon Valley and I believe I talked her into coming down and helping Brandii out as a volunteer for this year’s IGDA Leadership Forum as well. 🙂

3) Attended the IGDA Silicon Valley4 aka IGDA SV meeting featuring Brenda Garno (Brathwaite) and John Romero. When I went over to say hi to Brenda and John she invited me to sit next to her until they had to go up and speak.

Sorry, the lighting was bad when not on stage

I felt like I hadn’t seen Brenda (and John) in ages even though we had just all seen each other at GDC and last year’s Leadership Forum. The good seats (of course the chapter put them in the front row) also meant I had a good view for my camera phone. That’s what allowed me to take the famous ‘hair toss’ shot that’s now on several websites/Facebook albums seen here:

What a hair toss!

And to capture the spontaneous light show that erupted mid Q&A session:

IGDA SV appears more like your typical chapter where it’s all about a panel or speaker presenting information and then some time for mingling before and after. IGDA SV, like some chapters but unlike others, was charging 20 bucks a head for this event, though you could sign up for free and wait to see if there was enough room. I know a lot of chapters waffle on the charge/don’t charge but it didn’t seem to deter attendees for this meeting. Granted it was the meeting with Q&A with Brenda and John. 🙂

It was late when things finally wrapped up and we all headed out of the building, but I did get a promise to catch them later in the week.

4) Lunch with Michelle and a studio tour of Zynga. One of the many NDAs I had to sign on this trip, but it was worth it. I got to see where Michelle worked, have lunch, and meet some of her other old Disney pals who were now up here at Zynga as well. This lunch was actually supposed to include someone else but that was derailed…I’ll get into that in a bit. I’m not sure how much I can say about my time in the Zynga offices but it was great to take the tour and see how things roll there.

Zynga let me in the door

5) Studio Tour of Loot Drop. As promised Brenda had me over for a studio tour of Loot Drop out in the burbs of SF. I can’t really talk about anything I saw there, but I was happy to not only see Brenda and John, but meet several of their team members, and towards the end get a chance to say hi to Tom Hall whom I hadn’t seen since GDC Online 2010! Brenda and John and I also talked about what’s been going on with LD as well as their plans for their Four-Twenty-Six talk at this year’s IGDA LF Day 1 Keynote. I also got a nice Loot Drop coffee mug and what I’m calling the “collectors edition” Loot Drop coffee mug to take home. Thanks Brenda!

6) “Coffee” with Erin Hoffman5. Erin was actually the one who was supposed to have lunch with us at Zynga but wasn’t able to make it because she was recovering from a small car accident so we re-scheduled for just the two of us the next day. I headed up to meet her after my studio tour at LD and we walked to her favorite tea place only to find out they were only open during lunch and now they were closed. We ended up at the traditional Starbucks where we got to sit down and chat for a bit before her next meeting. Erin, who I met from the IGDA WIG SIG and IGDA Online Games SIG, had just wrapped up her term as an IGDA Board of Directors6 member in September. So it was nice to not only talk about her current role at Zynga but also what was going on with the IGDA and what our plans were with the groups we’re both really active in. I also got the chance to finally get her to sign my copy of her first book! Aren’t you all jealous now? 🙂

7) IGDA SF7 Meeting: This was a micro-talk event in the style of Pecha Kucha8 that a lot of chapters, like IGDA Orlando9, are picking up. (IGDA Austin10 often does micro-talks as well.) By this point I was starting to feel the wear and tear from the constant traveling and meetings and gatherings of my trip but I pushed myself to go and I’m glad I did. They had some interesting talks, got to see several people there that I had just met at the IGDA SV meeting, and see how another chapter ran things. This meeting actually reminded me of the original WIGI D-L-C events11 where they would meet in one place for the panel/presentation and then go have drinks and network at a nearby bar/restaurant afterwards. This meeting was held in one of the Autodesk gallery spaces and because it had to close at a certain time everyone was asked to walk down to a local pub for drinks. I used that break to cut out early and head back to Michelle’s because I was going to be heading out from San Francisco the next day and had to get some work done, finish preparing my next talk, and pack up all my stuff.

8) Lunch with Mark Gants12! Another person I worked with back in the day in Illinois, it had also been awhile since I had seen Mark. Mark, who couldn’t be a groomsmen in our wedding because he was not able to make it in from Germany at the time, had moved back to the states and had found a job with Bigpoint in San Francisco. I had managed to get a hold of him and work out a lunch date with him on my very last day. We met and decided to try out this Irish pub down the street from his work and catch up. The only downside to the lunch was that his semi-new wife Anja couldn’t make it (he met her in Germany) so I >still< haven’t met her yet – boo. Oh well, next time! I look forward to seeing him again when I come back out this way for GDC.

9) Chicago Game Jam Prep. This week I also managed to get NetherRealm13 on board with providing at least one judge this weekend for the Game Jam as well as confirm Eugene Jarvis for the Friday night keynote – what a huge win for the jam!

10) IGDA QoL SIG Communication Discussion. Got involved with a discussion on what channels the IGDA’s QoL SIG14 should use as a means of communication. I’ve been with this group since it was a committee doing it’s very first survey and whitepaper. I’ve also been with SIGs in the IGDA since 1999 so I’m pretty fluent on what makes SIGs work and what doesn’t. The group currently has a Yahoo group but not everyone likes Yahoo groups, so I’m pushing for at least a Google Group as there really aren’t any SIGs that can function well and complete a lot of projects and initiatives without an easy to use mailing list. It just has features you can’t get with Facebook or Twitter or a Meetup group (with Meetup groups sometimes being the choice of avenue for chapters, but generally not SIGs). I think that SIGs should consider whether or not to have presences on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn but mailing lists are a must in my book!

Once I finished meeting with Mark I started heading further south down California’s coast before heading inland to make a stop at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Fresno15! Fresno’s location was very special to me as it was not only my 33rd different RC location, but also the last one in California I had yet to visit, and my first time going to a Ruth’s Chris solo. RC Fresno, once I found it, took great care of me and of course the food was delicious. My server was very friendly and she even quizzed me on what I felt was the best Ruth’s Chris for ambiance (it’s really hard to beat the ocean view at sunset in Lahaina, Maui but I also really liked the outdoor waiting area of Scottsdale, Arizona and Irvine, CA is still one of my tops because Brett and I went there so much). The assistants were like ninjas as I’d turn my head for just a second, turn back, and my water would be filled. The manager, who also happened to be named Brett, also came over several times to make sure I was being treated well and to deliver my desert (which he comped!) and see that I had a great time – which I did. I guess it helps when you’ve been to 33 Ruth’s Chris and they know you know what experience to expect.

As soon as I was done there I made the rest of the drive back towards the coast towards San Luis Obispo where I’m now bunking for the night as I speak at Cal Poly tomorrow. With that being said – goodnight all.

Stay awesome!
Sheri

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