Video gaming racking up big business along Wasatch Front

Feb 27, 2018, 6:29 PM | Updated: 8:55 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The high technology industry is sizzling right now on the Wasatch Front, according to an economic consultant for Zions Bank.  Utah currently employs 65,000 people in the technology sector, which includes software development and the video gaming industry.

“The quality of life here on the Wasatch Front is what draws people here,” said Clark Stacey, WildWorks CEO and Co-Founder. “I think it can draw a lot more of the talent that is currently in Silicon Valley to grow the tech sector here.”

Zions Bank economists highlighted the local business success as part of its monthly consumer price index reporting.

“We specialize in games for kids,” said Stacey. “While they are entertaining, and a lot of fun to spend time with, they also have some educational DNA in them as well.”

You may not recognize the name WildWorks, but young teenagers likely know the name Animal Jam, a video game played on PCs and mobile devices by 90 million kids worldwide, in six different languages. Animal Jam has grown to include toys, clothing and art supplies. An animated series comes out next year.

Animal Jam is played by 90 million kids in six different languages and includes toys, clothing and art supplies

“It originated here in 2010, and has grown to become a worldwide children’s IP of some significance in the intervening years,” said Stacey.

Stacey co-founded the business 15 years ago with ten employees. In the coming few months, the business is expanding, moving to Draper with 120 workers.  He’s always competing for top talent to fill good jobs.

“We find a lot of that talent here in Salt Lake. It’s a great place to grow for that,” he said. “There are opportunities here for artists, for animators, for designers: a lot of the same talents that are sought in the film industry are sought in the video game industry.”

“I’ve always been an artist since I was very young,” said Emily Vincent, a 3-D developer, who once feared she would never earn a living with the skills of a fine artist.

“The fear of being an artist is that you’ll always be a starving artist, kind of thing, right? So, once you find a job, it’s like, ‘Oh I can actually do this for a living?'”

When Vincent discovered 3-D production in college, she found her career.

“It blows your mind when you find that you can do that,” she said.

Today, Vincent builds 3-D models on her computer that go into Animal Jam.

“It’s a team effort, and I really love just collaborating with others,” she said.

She also likes sharing her work around the world.

“Jobs don’t have to be super boxed in, in a corporate environment,” she said.  “They can be fun and exciting and creative and all over the place.”

Last year, Forbes named Salt Lake City the next large tech Mecca in the United States. Zions Bank cites 7,000 technology focused companies already operating in the state. According to the Entertainment and Software Association, the video game industry added nearly $12 billion to the U.S. economy two years ago.  And Utah was named one of the top five areas for growth in video games.

“You can actually live here and not feel like you’re trying to survive,” said Vincent.

The competition for tech jobs in Utah is not as cutthroat as other parts of the country in Vincent’s opinion. She moved here for college, and likes the lifestyle. She said good job opportunities may keep her here.

“You never want to stop becoming better at what you do,” she said.


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Video gaming racking up big business along Wasatch Front