Month: July 2015

July 27th – August 2nd

XMen96CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!


Kind of a light week this week! As always, be sure to inform us about events if we’re missing anything! We’ll carry the shame with us for eternity, but it is no more than we deserve for failing you in your time of need.

Big-time news in the world of TopatoCon! The con is now going to be September 25th – 27th in Eastworks! Which frankly makes sense, nice as the Clarion is. It seems that there’s just not enough room at the proveribal in and literal hotel, so the vast open spaces of Eastworks will be a more functional area to host things! Should be a wonderful time!

To get sufficiently hyped for TopatoCon, why not check out this extensive and excellent exhibitor list?

This past Friday we had the pleasure of hanging out at Comics N’ More for their sign-lighting party! It was a time and a half, with free champagne (Well, Brut. Comics N’ More isn’t MADE of money. It’s made of comics.) and crackers and cookies and chips. It was a really nice opportunity to speak with the owners and meet new people.

The owners, Christian William Zax Reader and Phoebe Rasmussen Reader Zax, are really great comic shop owners! They’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to improve the shop since they moved to Easthampton, and it’s already wonderful! They’ve painted, cleaned, and renovated the heck out of the place. And that’s just the start! Thanks to a successful IndieGoGo funding campaign, they plan on creating a delightful little lounge area for gaming, and expanding their selection board game and RPG products!

Also nice about Comics N’ More? A really solid subscription plan! If you’re a regular comics reader, you can’t really do better than what they’ve got on offer! They’ve got three tiers:

Tier 1 – 9 or fewer books a month, 10% off cover price for new comics and collected editions

Tier 2 – 10+ books a month, 20% off cover price

Tier 3 – Previews orders, 25% off cover price

If you’re interested in reading comics, it is a good idea to go check out Comics N’ More in Easthampton! Also there’s this real nice bakery right across the street, so you could make it a whole thing.

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! Also check out the book clubs on our Master List! Get a heads up on cool books to read and talk about with other people!

THIS WEEK


Entertainment:

Tuesday, July 28th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Superhero Training Academy
Do you want your child (grades 3-5) to become a vigilante without all the hassle of having yourself tragically murdered in an alley? Check out Rich Clark’s training academy! Guaranteed to turn your child into an engine of justice! Pre-registration is required, as space is limited! Contact rclark@palmer.lib.ma.us!
Thursday, July 30th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Anonycon
Join some fine people at Palmer Public Library for their second annual fan convention! Snacks, games, a cosplay contest, a panel by Sarah Hodge-Wetherbe! It sounds like a great time. Though oddly short!
Sunday, August 2nd
Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation [300 Sugarloaf St., South Deerfield, MA] at 4:00pm – 7:00pm
Pioneer Valley Game Developers: One Year Anniversary Cookout & Potluck on Sugarloaf
Free food! But also you need to bring some food or you’ll be considered a big jerk. Join the PVGD to celebrate a year of good times by heading to the top of Mount Sugarloaf to eat, drink, play games, and climb a real cool tower! Note that the park charges $5/vehicle to drive to the top! Bring a side-dish, no alcohol, games, family and friends, sunscreen, and a good attitude!

Movies:

Wednesday, July 29th
Forbes Library (lawn) [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 8:30pm
Cinema Northampton Presents The Goonies on the Forbes Lawn
Come to the library to watch the classic film “The Goonies” on a screen that you’re a bit too far away from to see clearly because you didn’t come early and you feel weird about walking over people! It’s a really fun time for all. Important: you can pee at Pizza Amore. Tip them to show your appreciation!

RPGs:

Monday, July 27th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Public RPG: Dungeons & Dragons
Neal Robinson is hosting a game of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons at Comics N’ More! This time, throw him for a bit of a loop and play as an adorable golden retriever! There’s nothing in the Dungeon Master’s Guide that says you CAN’T!
Thursday, July 30
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: D&D 5th Ed
A special little one-session adventure! You and your companions have been shipwrecked during a terrible storm, and washed up on a desolate shore! Is the island uninhabited or is it more than it seems? SPOILER: IT IS PROBABLY MORE THAN IT SEEMS. New players welcome, pre-made characters provided! Hosted by Lex Mandrake!
Saturday, August 1st
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Star Wars RPG
Star Wars! We know you’ve probably never heard of this obscure 70’s film but trust us it’s worth a look! Sure it’s a bit cheesy-looking now, but we think it’s had a subtle but noticable influence on later works! If you like it, why not continue the adventure by playing the RPG with friends? There’s a $5 entry fee that’s immediately converted into store credit!
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Public RPG: D&D Planescape
Join host Christian Haining for a spectacular 5th Edition D&D adventure through the planes! It’s for 5th-level characters, and you’ll be provided with pre-built ones if you like OR you can build your own with 800gp starting wealth, one +1 item (purchased with the gold). NO AARAKOCRA! Whatever that means! Don’t you dare make Christian angry, don’t bring up Aarakocra!
Sunday, August 2nd
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060]  at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Pathfinder Society Organized Play
Pathfinder! You’re an adventurer in the classic mold, seeking fame and fortune across the face of Golarion! We like to think that Golarion is just a very very patient person, who’s alright with adventurers plotting routes across their face. Join in an epic adventure by participating in a short scenario this week! There’s a $5 entry fee that is immediately converted into store credit!

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July 20th – July 26th

XMen100CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!


A Late Nerd Watch but for a super great reason: we had stuff to do that was mysterious! Okay mostly it was the mystery of procrastination, same as every week.

But THEN we had to take some time to see Ant-Man! Important nerd stuff. The Official Nerd Watch Review of this Official Nerdy But Very Much Within The Framework of Current Popular Culture film was that it was quite nice. It’s smaller than most of the Marvel offerings, Paul Rudd is a charmer as always, the character was played as legitimately interesting which was nice, and there were some pretty funny jokes interspersed with engaging action.

It was a nice come-down from Age of Ultron, which felt kind of over-stuffed at a lot of points.

We’re going to have some pretty interesting things to talk about probably this week or next, so stay tuned, people who we’re going to presume already do pretty much read these once a week! We take our reader loyalty on faith. We totally wouldn’t mind frenzied exhortations of our usefulness though. Feel free to light up our Twitter with how great we are if you’re so inclined! Also please share this newsletter!

We know everyone asks you to share everything and it’s always a bit mercenary and weird but look here is some straight talk: we really just want to make sure we’re useful. We know not everyone finds something in the newsletter they want to go to every week. But we’re pretty sure at least something appeals to the people reading this or friends of theirs reasonably often.

We also know that there are people out there sitting at home feeling left out of a community that would welcome them if they only knew about it, and we want to reach them. We’re not in this to figure out a way to turn your views into money and spam you with nonsense. We’re in this to inform, and to see how long we can keep making new jokes based around roleplaying formats. We appreciate any help you’re willing to give!

Also we are going to be going to D&D Encounters this week with a friend! They’ve never played an RPG and were wondering what they’re even like! It’ll be neat and we’re going to have a great time and probably we’ll do a small feature about it on the page afterward where we discuss introducing D&D and roleplaying games in general to a totally new player.

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! And the Book Club List!

THIS WEEK


Art:

Friday, July 24th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Hero Wristband Craft
Children! Create a unique and customizable hero wristband! We can only assume that children are aware that wearing the wristband in public might lead to super-villain fights, so be prepared to step up when the time comes! Warn your friends!

Board Games:

Sunday, July 26th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
PEN: Puzzle Enthusiasts of Northampton
Puzzles! We’d count our level of puzzle enthusiasm at the Nerd Watch somewhere between Professor Layton and Dr. Watson. No, not Holmes. Holmes was compelled to solve mysteries, but he didn’t really seem to find them enjoyable. Watson had fun though, he was the cool one. YES HE WAS. Anyway! Word games and puzzles in a pleasant setting, $5 Day Pass for admission, which is also immediate store credit! It’s like a drink minimum, but for taking up tables at Modern Myths.
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Sunday Heroclix!
Heroclix! A fun miniatures battle game, basically bashing action figures together for those of us who always felt the experience needed more rules and math before it could really take off. Settle the age-old argument of who would win in a fight: Ant-Man or Aunt-Man!
Greenfield Games [228 Main St Greenfield, MA 01301] at 1:00pm – 4:30pm
Star Trek Attack Wing Op: Q Continuum Month 2, “Deja Q”
Man, remember Q? Q’s fun. Annoying, just the worst, and absolutely should not work on a show like Star Trek, but generally a good time we think. A testament to good acting and surprisingly decent trickster-god writing! Anyway! Play an awesome Attack Wing operation with special rules based on “Deja Q”! Entry is $5, and the special rules are here!

Books:

Wednesday, July 22nd
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 11:00am – 12:00pm
Hero Story Time
Oliver and Ellen will talk to elementary school children about magical objects, and then they’re going to read some super stories, and then they’re going to think about what makes someone a hero! It sounds like a packed event that is also excellent for budding heroic youngsters!
Thursday, July 23rd
  Packards [14 Masonic St., Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:30pm
The Warrior’s Apprentice Book Discussion and Dinner
Join the friendly nerds of the Western Mass Sci-Fi Meetup Group to discuss a fun space opera! You can tell it’s cool because there are spaceships on the cover firing lasers. That’s never not fun. It’s about a manic space con-man, too! That’s great! Lots of fun. Even if you don’t have time to read it, go talk space books with space nerds! It’ll be fun.

Comics:

Thursday, July 23rd – Sunday, July 26th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060]  at All Day
Sidewalk Sale
Modern Myths is participating in the Northampton 2015 Sidewalk Sale! Come grab great old comics for a dollar! We at the Nerd Watch feel it’s important to tell you: just read the danged things. Read them and give them to other people to read and just don’t worry about preserving them. The boom is over, they’re printed on paper, and you got them for $1.

Movies:

Wednesday, July 22nd
Amherst Cinema [28 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 7:00pm
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Yeah yeah yeah you’ve either seen it and quoted it WAY too often, or you’re tired of hearing it quoted so danged often. But it’s funny and it’ll fun on the screen. Swear to GOODNESS GRACIOUS though if the Nerd Watch catches wind of you yelling quotes for weeks afterward we’ll be very upset.

RPGs:

Tuesday, July 24th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Public RPG: D&D Planescape
Planescape, of Torment fame! It’s this neat setting that basically is “what if we just mashed everything into one, but also had complicated metaphysical rules that made everything super weird and fun?” and it’s a great idea. Try playing in this cool setting with friendly GM Christian Haining and some pre-made 5th-level characters!
Thursday, July 23rd
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: Mutants and Masterminds
Crispy/Nola, who we believe is some form of cereal golem(????) is hosting this great superhero/villain RPG! Play around with powers beyond the ken of mortals, invent your own colorful origin story… or more likely just sort of tweak one from a superhero you love it’s okay we all do it. Maybe be Wolverine but if he was a cool dog from space?
Saturday, July 25th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Star Wars RPG
Star Wars! That movie you saw once and appreciated but just never really felt like re-watching. Star Wars! People like it. Star Wars! It’s all well and good to bad-mouth the Prequel Trilogy, because it’s bad, but deep inside you know that when you see children love it makes you question everything about your fandom. Anyway! Play around in that universe we all like, creating fun stories. The GM will gladly help you get in on the action if you show up midway through a storyline!
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Public RPG: Pathfinder Pirates
Pathfinder! The also-ran, the runner-up, the actually-we-don’t-have-sales-figures-so-who-knows-maybe-it’s-the-one-in-the-lead anyway it’s like D&D but not exactly for reasons that either matter to you not at all or a LOT. Come grab a seat at the table to play as a dastardly probably magic pirate! We recommend that you play as a vampirate! Sailing eternally to avoid the harsh light of day.

July 13th – July 19th

IMG_20150622_215113655

The Valley Nerd Watch!


It’s not strictly in the purview of the Nerd Watch, but we’d like to express a deep, deep envy of the people who were at Green River Festival this weekend. We were unable to attend and danged if that is not a fun time for all and sundry. Also wait it might be in our purview, we remember seeing the extremely nerdy Cosmic Wimpout there last time we were in attendance!

While we’re stuck at a mysterious location far from the Green River festival, we figured we might as well tell you about yet another awesome local hero creative type! Have you perhaps heard of Joshua AC Newman?

He’s done a heck of a lot! The first we heard of him was the runaway success that was the extremely neat Kickstarted tabletop miniatures wargame Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack. He worked on the project with yet another local gaming luminary: Vincent Baker of Lumpley Games. Together they managed to raise over $80,000 from eager backers to make the game a real thing!

The neatest part of Mobile Frame Zero is that it has the world’s cheapest cool-looking miniatures! Instead of purchasing little plastic and metal bits to paint, players are provided with instructions for assembling really cool little mini-robots out of leftover LEGO parts! Obviously you COULD use expensive models, but the LEGO ones just look real neat. Also the rules are extremely streamlined and approachable while being deep enough to encourage thoughtful play. A real awesome sort of a thing!

We’re pretty sure his current standing magnum opus is the sci-fi RPG Shock: Social Science Fiction, though. It’s a big, cool looking book full of interesting concepts like having players create a world together, and play both protagonists and antagonists! It’s also, not for nothing, basically the reason local creator Hannah Shaffer started making really interesting RPGs! The slightly pared-down Shock: Human Contact, is more directly focused on the idea of making contact with new worlds, and you play as Black Ops Anthropologists working for a future Federation-style utopia.

Joshua is also currently drawing weird aliens and talking about their various interesting cultural facets on the website Xenoglyph! If you’d like to help him keep coming up with fantastical concepts and making them a reality, support his Patreon!

Or buy his stuff at those previous links. Click those links, we can tell when you don’t and we get disappointed in you. Not angry! We just expected better is all.

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week!  And check out our new Book Clubs section! useful for those of you who read books and want to talk about them!

THIS WEEK


Art:

Friday, July 17th
The Platinum Pony [30 Cottage St, Easthampton, MA 01027] at 6:00pm
Dr. Sketchy’s: Teddy Roosevelt, Zombie Slayer. Feat. HP Loveshaft.
Are you an artist? Why not practice your figure drawing in the most awesome possible manner? You’ll be able to pick up supplies from Dr. Sketchy’s, although you should also bring your own! Model HP Loveshaft will be dressed as famed Zombie Slayer, Teddy Roosevelt. This might be digging slightly too deep into the nerd zeitgeist, everyone. Don’t stare too long into the abyss! You can also win prizes from Topatoco, Oh My!, and FOE Gallery. It costs $7 if you’re 21+, $10 if you’re 18+, and you can’t come if you’re not at least 18.
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Decorate Your Own Library Bag
Do you get so many books from the library that you have difficulty carrying them? You sound great, we should hang out and talk about books. BUT ALSO you should head down to Forbes and decorate a little library bag! You get one just for showing up, and when you inscribe your own eldritch runes upon it, there will be no power on Earth with the will to stand against you!

Board Games:

Friday, July 17th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035]  at 6:00pm
Pioneer Valley Geeks and Gamers Meetup Tabletop Game Night
Join the PVG&G as they play board games! Mostly they do Euro-style strategy games, which mostly are distinguished by having tiny abstract pieces of wood representing absolutely everything. Bring your own game if you’d like, beginners and veterans welcome!
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035]  at 6:00pm
Heroclix Academy
At this 400 point constructed event, you’ll be restricted to fielding only Rookie heroes! The Heroclix Academy teaches some harsh lessons, folks. Laser blasts DO have recoil, super strength doesn’t mean you can pick up a plane so much as it does that you can punch through it, glasses are not a sufficient secret identity, and so forth. Put you rookies through the wringer for an entry fee of $5!
Sunday, July 19th
X9 Games [Hampshire Mall, 367 Russell St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 1:00pm
Dice Masters Rainbow Drafts
Dice Masters! It is a game we’d never previously encountered, but seems pretty neat. Basically it’s a deck-building game where your deck is composed of collectible dice! So you try to build up a powerful team of people with unique dice, and then combat your opponent via dice rolls. The tournament will have a $12 entry fee, and you’ll get 12 packs to draft with!
Greenfield Games [228 Main St Greenfield, MA 01301] at 1:00pm
D&D Attack Wing: Tyranny of Dragons Month Five Tournament
Two armies meet on a windswept field. Humans, elves, dragons, vulcans, normans, the personal assistants to the tyrranid horde, sea cucumbers orcs. Everyone’s there to fight a big old pitched battle and you can win prizes if you lead your team to victory! It’s $20 to enter.

Books:

Tuesday, July 14th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:30pm – 8:00pm
To Kill a Mockingbird: The Long Silence of Harper Lee
So hey you know how Harper Lee pretty much wrote one enormously important novel and then dropped the mic? That’s been a mystery for a while! Why’d she do that, and why is the new novel Go Set a Watchman being published after such a long silence? We’re kind of concerned it’s a weird publisher cash-grab. Come see Barry Deitz explain this book mystery if you too are intrigued!

Card Games:

Saturday, July 18th
Lost Harbor Games and Hobbies [61 Southwick Road Westfield, MA 01085] at 1:00pm
Magic: The Gathering Origins Release Draft
Magic The Gathering, the game of wolves. Head over to Lost Harbor for an opportunity to draft with the newest cards! A draft tournament in the standard Swiss format, so everyone plays 3 rounds. Three wins means you get 6 booster packs, two wins and a tie means you get 4, two wins and a loss means you get 2! It costs $12 to enter.
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at All Day
Magic: The Gathering Origins Release Weekend
Ahhh, Magic: The Gathering. The game of jet-setting retirees. This event costs $25 to enter! We’re not certain the format or literally any other details. We assume it means you’ll get some brand new cards and a chance to play against other great people!
Sunday, July 19th
Lost Harbor Games and Hobbies [61 Southwick Road Westfield, MA 01085] at 1:00pm
Magic: The Gathering Origins Release Standard
We’ve always said Magic: The Gathering is the game of sommeliers. You can head to Lost Harbor this weekend to play with the newest cards! It costs $5 to enter, and all participants get a free release day promo card! First place gets 9 Origins booster packs! Standard deck format, which means only the newest cards!
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at All Day
Magic: The Gathering Origins Release Weekend
No one knows better than us that Magic: The Gathering is the game of presidents. Again, $25 to enter this mystery tournament. It’s entirely possible that Off the Wall Games holds their tournaments in Outworld, and that they decide the fate of our realm. So play your best!

Comics:

Thursday, July 16th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Queers in Comics and Games Discussion
Are you interested in comic books and/or games? Then this discussion group will probably make you pretty happy! It is full of extremely nice people, and moderated by the great as heck staff of Modern Myths. It’s a great place to go for media recommendations and just for hanging out with people who are awesome!
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Make Your Own Superhero/Supervillain Mask
Pretty bold allowing child SuperVILLAINS into your library, Palmer! We suppose the presence of heroes might keep them from causing too much of a ruckus, but it still seems very unsafe. We suggest for your own safety that if you attend this event you ask each of the children there what powers they have, to get a lay of the land.
Sunday, July 18th
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 10:30am – 12:00pm
Drawing Super Heroes
Illustrator Lahri Bond leads a workshop about drawing superheroes! Get those frantic imaginings out of your brainscape and onto the page! Registration is required, so contact Sondra Radosh at radoshs@joneslibrary.org!

Computers:

Thursday, July 16th
Amherst Media [246 College St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:00pm
Western MA Drupal Meetup
Join fellow Drupal developers and talk about things related to Drupal! Mostly we assume many of those discussions revolve around the fact that Drupal is a very silly name. Also, if every interaction with everyone in the CS field we’ve ever met is any indication, probably a great deal of talking about how other methodologies are just the worst.
Friday, July 17th
Packard’s Bar – Library Room [14 Masonic St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 8:00pm
Northampton Webdive – After Dark
Do you code, create, develop? You’ll probably have a fun time drinking and talking with this group of lovely people who meet regularly! Plus we’re pretty sure the After Dark Webdive is the one where they show you how to righteously hack the Gibson.

Entertainment:

Tuesday, July 14th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Ed the Wizard’s Magic Workshop
Allow Ed the Wizard to introduce your children, grades 3-5, to the wonder of the Subtle Arts! Manipulate the fabric of reality to conform to your fickle whims, children! You must pre-register, but think of the power at your command once you do! Contact Rich Clark at rclark@palmer.lib.ma.us.

Movies:

Monday, July 13th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Northampton Committee to Stop War presents film “Harvest of Grief”
Forbes will present a film that is a labor love and compassion by Ms. Rasil Basu. The filmmaker herself will attend to speak to the audience! Harvest of Grief focuses on Indian agricultural politics and the wave of worker suicides sparked by the impossible burdens placed upon them by the globalized agricultural trade.
Wednesday, July 15th
Cinemark at Hampshire Mall [367 Russell St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 6:30pm
The Western Mass Sci-Fi Meetup Group Spaceballs Viewing
Join the fine folks of the WMSF meetup group as they view the comedic classic that combines dad jokes and Star Wars! You can RSVP on their page, and meet up before heading into the theater. Get tickets ahead of time! Discussion and drinks will occur after the film.

RPGs:

Monday, July 13th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Public RPG: Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons & Dragons, the Old Reliable, the Bog Standard, the Was Innovative, the Easily Made Fun Of But Still Very Comfortable. For real, the nice part about D&D is how comfy it is. Everyone kind of gets it, because it plays the way people expect RPGs to play. And that’s kind of great a lot of the time! Join this game with pre-rolled characters whenever you like! They’ll slot you in and out of the adventure on your schedule.
Thursday, July 16th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Public RPG: Edge of the Empire
Are you a fan of Star Wars? Then we imagine you mourn the loss of the Extended Universe canon. Start rebuilding that vast world with your own stories! You can use pre-rolled characters to hop in and start having your adventures in Space Past!
Saturday, July 18th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Questlandia Demo
Questlandia! A local game by local creator and all-around wonderful person Hannah Shaffer. Players construct together the story of a decaying fantasy empire in this innovative GM-less RPG! It’s a great time and EVEN BETTER this demo is going to be hosted by Questlandia expert Hannah Shaffer! So you know it’ll be a fun time!
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 4:00pm – 7:00pm
Night’s Black Agents RPG
Spies! Secrets! Guns! Intrigue! Vampires! Basically you play as awesome secret agents who find out they’ve accidentally been doing dirty work for dirty bloodsuckers. Then… comes the Action Revenge! Thrilling supernatural spycraft, with what sounds like a quite fun system underpinning the whole thing. Sneak into Modern Myths this weekend to see for yourself!
Sunday, July 19th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Pathfinder Society Organized Play
Pathfinder Society seems immensely, impossibly gigantic. So many hours! But then, if you get to have awesome adventures every week, it’s probably less a burden that a super cool time. Are you interested in playing a member of a treasure-hunting team? Join up with the crowd at Modern Myths!

Science:

Monday, July 13th
Union Station [125 Pleasant St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Nerd Nite
The first topic: Climate Change presented by Julie Brigham-Grette, professor of geosciences at UMass Amherst, chair of the US Polar Research Board. Probably sad and scary, but also accurate! Next topic: Unexpected heroes of your rivers. How Nixon’s clean water act helped clean up water. Presented by Andrew Fisk, Ph.D., Executive director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Learn about environmentalism! Become smarter than you were!
Wednesday, July 15th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:30pm
Backyard Wildlife with Jennifer Ohop
Join Jennifer Ohop from the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary as she talks about tips on attracting and identifying species that use backyard habitats! Expose yourself to the natural wonders nearby, and marvel at the fact that there are actually more creatures out there than Deer, That One Bear, and Birds.

Trivia:

Tuesday, July 14th *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
The Platinum Pony [30 Cottage St, Easthampton, MA 01027] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Trivia Tuesday
Trivia is back at the Platinum Pony! Teams of 1-5 can compete for cash prizes! There’s an open kitchen, too. So you can have snacks and such. Get together your most widely traveled friends and get some money by answering questions! If you’re under 18 you need to be accompanied by adult, and it’s $5 per person.

July 6th – July 12th

XMen123CoverThe Valley Nerd Watch!


So the big deal this week was the 14 Days Kickstarter kicking off and by that we mean starting. Local creators and Noted People Who Were Previously Interviewed By The Nerd Watch Hannah Shaffer and Evan Rowland as well as Not As Notable As He Hasn’t Even Been Interviewed By The Nerd Watch Yet Joshua Yearsley spent a lot of time putting together a game that’s worth a look. It’s a small RPG about dealing with migraines and chronic pain in general.

Not only is the Nerd Watch super into this game on account of our well-known zeal for promoting local creators, but because our founder has migraines! We feel like it’s a solid way to give people who suffer from migraines a chance to explain their situation to others. It’s also a great way for people to just practice putting themselves in the shoes of someone who has to work around a certain set of challenges. It’s a game that encourages real empathy for other people, and that’s a nice thing for a game to do.

In other news, there’s apparently a month-long Where’s Waldo hunt going on in the Valley! Sponsored by Odyssey Bookshop, you can find Waldo in many local businesses, like Thornes Marketplace and the Jones Library. Find all 25 Waldos contact Odyssey about the prizes available!

Also! This weeks sees the debut of the long-awaited Valley Nerd Watch Book Club Master List! No longer will we inform you about book clubs in the weekly newsletter only for you to realize you can’t read 500 pages by Tuesday. Now you’ll be forewarned!

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week!

THIS WEEK


Art:

Friday, July 10th
Smith College Museum of Art [20 Elm St, Northampton, MA 01063] at 4:00pm – 8:00pm
Smith College Museum of Art Free Second Fridays
Smith College has a really wonderful museum! It’s got a lot of interesting pieces, and though the lower levels are still being renovated, there’s more than enough to see on the upper levels! Not the least of which is the spectacular ancient art exhibit by Friend of the Nerd Watch Maggie Kurkoski, who worked there while preparing to get a PhD and is a wonderful genius. Free Second Friday is your chance to see this all for free, and also there are family art activities!

Board Games:

Tuesday, July 7th *NEW WEEKLY EVENT*
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Chess Club (Grades 4-7)
Somewhere convenient and comfortable to play and learn Chess provided you are in grades 4-7. No need to sign up, drop-ins are welcome! Chess, the game of dragons, is a great thing to learn young! That way you’re always better than everyone you know and we all secretly envy you.
Sunday, July 12th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Sunday Heroclix
Heroclix! The miniatures fighting game that allows you to stage your own comic crossover event! Though now that we think about it, why not really hammer that home? Have a tournament where the goal is for teams of two to have a fight that will sell the most books! Though that would always lead to two teams of 12 Wolverines facing off, we suppose.

Books:

Wednesday, July 8th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 4:00pm – 4:45pm
Teen Advisory Board
Surprisingly, not a board that gives you advice about teens. No, this is a group of teens who are involved in their community and work with Forbes to created teen centered programs. They meet regularly to discuss books, plan events, and share ideas! If you are a teen, and working with a library to plan event sounds fun, and you’re not already on this board, what are you even up to? Go talk to these teens!

Card Games:

Friday, July 10th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060]  at 11:59pm – 4:00am Saturday morning
Magic the Gathering: Origins Midnight Pre-Release
Come to Modern Myths to experience the origins of the Planeswalkers! They apparently used to not have glowy eyeballs, but over time their eyeballs began to glow a lot. This is your first chance to play the latest ‘core’ Magic set, a week before it goes on sale! This is a sealed deck tournament, all players start with the same number of cards, build their best 40-card deck, and compete for prizes! It costs $27 in advance, and $30 at the door to attend!
Saturday, July 11th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at All Day
Magic the Gathering: Origins Pre-Release
Come to Off the Wall Games to experience the origins of Magic: The Gathering! Finally, we’ll get to see how the murder of Swamp’s parents turned it into the dark vigilante we all know and love. We’ll see how after being frozen in ice for decades, Black Lotus was revived to fight for the America of today! The event costs $25 to enter, and a pizza lunch is included.
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Magic the Gathering: Origins Pre-Release
Come to the more sensibly timed Magic event at Modern Myths! Midnight releases are for those of us who can stay up until 4:00am without our very beings coming unwound from the universe of solid matter. Again, this event costs $27 in advance and $30 at the door to enter. Build your deck and compete for prizes!
Sunday, July 12th
Off the Wall Games [41 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at All Day
Magic the Gathering: Origins Pre-Release
Come to Off the Wall Games and play Magic: The Gathering during the Origins Pre-Release! It costs $25 to enter, and a pizza lunch is included. Find out how and why the Serrah Angel’s bones were laced with adamantium! Can you tell the last time we played Magic was 20 years ago?

Comics:

Sunday, July 12th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 3:00pm
Comic Creator’s Jam
Are you the sort of person who enjoys writing? Or drawing? Also comics? Any combination of the above? You will probably get something out of this friendly monthly discussion about the process of creating a comic. It’s open to writers and artists of all skill levels and experience! Hosted by Kat Cahill, who is nice.

Computers:

Tuesday, July 7th
The Foundry [24 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Northampton Webdive – After Work
Meet up with your fellow coders and web designers! Talk about what you’re doing, what you need help with, and just chat about whatever is on your mind with some like-minded people. All skill levels and interests welcome!
Wednesday, July 8th
Common Media [84 Russell Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Project Management Meetup
Do you manage projects of some sort? Then you can probably use this! Speak to local management folks about how you handle putting together a long-term projects. Get to know other project managers! A good time for all.

Entertainment:

Tuesday, July 7th
Divas Nightclub [492 Pleasant Street, Northampton, MA, 01060] at 10:00pm
Games N’ Geeks Night
This Tuesday, dress up in your finest cosplay and come dance the night away with your fellow nerds at Divas! This night in particular is putting the emphasis on glowy, with free glow bodypaint available all night!
Thursday, July 9th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 2:00pm
Cosplay 101
Learn how to put together the sort of awesome costume you need to make a splash at Divas, maybe! Or just pick up some tips on how to create neat cosplay because it’s a fun time full stop.
Sunday, July 12th
The Quarters [8 Railroad St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 7:00pm – 10:00pm
MAKE TALK PLAY – A Puzzling Group of People
Puzzlehunts! They sound… not quite like any of the other game categories on this list, so. So they’re here. Anyway, they’re basically these extremely interesting social games that require you to think through a lot of interesting puzzles presented without the aid of screens or boards! Terrifying. Come see Kristin Lieber, a local nerd and puzzlehunt enthusiast/designer, speak about how they work! Then, play Metal Slug while drinking.

RPGs:

Thursday, July 9th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 4:00pm
RPG Club
All ages and experience levels welcome! Come play an RPG! Might the Nerd Watch suggest playing one of our excellent locally-produced RPGs, such as Dread, Questlandia, or Shooting the Moon?
Saturday, July 11th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Public RPG: Pathfinder Pirates
Piracy! The high seas, rollicking adventure, swords, lots of clothing that’s all ripped up but still looks really cool on everyone! None of the actually boring parts about being on the ocean! Pathfinder is a solid system for veterans and those of you who’ve never rolled a die. Hosted by Good GM Tim Shields, you’ll find this an easy game to jump into!

Science:

Thursday, July 9th
Barstow’s Dairy Store & Bakery [172 Hockanum Road, Hadley, MA 01035] at 1:00pm
Anaerobic Digester Tour
A free tour of the anaerobic digester! Open to the public every second Thursday of the month in spring, summer, and fall. Tours meet at the store and are lead by a representative from Casella Organics, no reservations required! Who doesn’t want to see how a farm can power itself with bacteria?
Friday, July 10th – Sunday, July 12th
Northfield Mountain Environmental Center [99 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA 01360] at 6:30pm Friday – Sunday Morning
This sounds amazing! There are too many events to list, but basically if you’re at all into astronomy, this is a chance to get a lot of astronomy fun times in a single weekend. There are lectures, discussions, viewings, and it all seems like a great time to get together with people who share your passions! It’s $22 to register, though the fact that this is now last-minute means you’ll need to contact Dave Gallup at (413) 525-4697!

Speaking With Rebecca Slitt of Choice of Games

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Rebecca Slitt currently acts as both a writer and editor for Choice of Games, a small company dedicated to creating innovative interactive text adventures. They’re pretty neat!

She joined the company in 2013 and her first game, Psy High, came out in December 2014. You can even play the first few chapters for free! How’s that for service?

Rebecca has also written many tabletop RPGs, mostly D&D and Call of Cthulu, as well as LARPS, though not professionally. Before coming to Choice of Games she was a history professor! She has a PhD in Medieval History.

We caught up to her to ask about her current job, the travails of being an academic, and what inspired her to pursue game writing in the first place!

James Olchowski: Did you grow up in the Valley?

Rebecca Slitt: No, but I grew up nearby, in West Hartford, CT.

JO: What drew you to the area?

RS: I love the combination of the small-town environment, an active arts scene, and progressive attitudes. It’s also close to my family, most of whom are in CT and MA, and I’ve got a lot of friends here too.

JO: Is there anything about working in the Valley that you don’t think you could find elsewhere?

RS: There’s an amazing community of indie game designers here! Tabletop RPGs, board games, digital games – there’s a surprising concentration of all sorts of game-makers in the area. It’s great for networking and mutual support. I’ve joined Owl and Raven, a co-working space for game designers, writers, and artists, and it’s been one of the best things to come out of my time in the Valley.

JO: You mentioned to me prior to our interview that you’ve written non-professionally for tabletop games and LARPs (Live Action Role-Playing games). What exactly do you mean by non-professionally? Were you a DM, or were you contributing to published works?

RS: I was writing for my friends and for cons, not for publication. For several years, I was one of the co-organizers of AnonyCon, a con in Connecticut that’s mainly focused on tabletop RPGs, with a little LARP thrown in. I wrote a lot of games that ran at the con, including a series of Call of Cthulhu games that eventually developed into a continuous story.

I’ve just recently made my first foray into professional tabletop game writing by contributing to one of the supplements for the forthcoming RPG Timewatch. I hope that I’ll get to do more in the future.

JO: What was it that kept you writing for games, before you were getting paid for it?

RS: It was fun! I loved that I was participating in an art form that was inherently collaborative: the whole story can only be told when the writer, GM, and players are all cooperating to tell it. I loved that I was helping to build community through my writing: I wrote several big games for AnonyCon, and it was wonderful to see people coming together to share the story that I’d written.

Then as time went on, and I realized that my Call of Cthulhu games were growing into a continuous narrative, I loved the combination of creativity and uncertainty that went into creating an ongoing story told through RPGs. As an author, you don’t often get to wonder what will happen next in your own story! Not all authors would like that, but I really did.

JO: The two pen-and-paper RPGs you wrote for were D&D and Call of Cthulhu, which seem pretty diametrically opposed. What drew you to writing for those games in particular? What was different about writing for each?

RS: Do you know, I didn’t even think of them as opposites until you asked me that? But you’re right: D&D always assumes that the PCs will win, and Call of Cthulhu always assumes that the PCs will lose.

But when I started, I didn’t really choose D&D. It was the game my friends in high school played, so that’s what I learned first. It was 1992 and there weren’t nearly as many options as there are now – or at least, what other options existed were harder for me to discover. My local game store wasn’t really welcoming to me – it wasn’t easy being a girl gamer in the 90s! So I never felt comfortable browsing the store or trying new game systems, and D&D was the default for me for a long time. Eventually, D&D just became a framework to hang a story on, especially after 3rd Edition came out and the system became much more flexible. Whatever story I wanted to tell, I could find a way to tell it using those rules. Now, of course, there are many more options for rules systems out there – the rise of indie games has been one of the best things to happen to RPGs in the last ten years.

Call of Cthulhu, I chose more consciously, but its appeal for me was much more about the setting than the rules. I loved that it was set in our world – the idea that there were these ancient mysteries just out of our reach, that there were secret causes for unexplained events in history. The rules system was flexible enough to tell the stories that I wanted to tell, and modular enough that I could leave behind the parts that didn’t work or were overly complicated for my purposes.

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JO: What exactly is the writing process for a LARP?

RS: I should start by saying that there are a lot of different kinds of LARPs, and I’ve only written a few kinds. Writing a freeform LARP (which I haven’t done) is very different from writing for a theater or boffer LARP (which I have), and even within those broad genres there’s a lot of variation.

The initial process of writing for a theater or boffer LARP is the same as writing for a tabletop RPG: you come up with a story and some potential ways that the PCs can travel through the story based on the gameworld and rules framework that you’re working in.

But there are a lot of other considerations, too. First, you have to be aware of the physical resources that you have when you’re writing the story. In a tabletop game, you can have your PCs fight a battle against a giant swamp monster, or be part of a thousand-person crowd at the queen’s coronation, or visit an elven city built in the treetops. But you can’t do that in a LARP – you’ll never have a thousand people to make up that crowd scene, and you’ll never be able to build a city in the treetops. So you can only write the kinds of scenes that you can realistically represent with the actors, props, and spaces that you have access to.

You also have to think about the rules and gameplay differently because you want to keep the players immersed in the setting as much as possible. In a tabletop game, there will always be moments when the players are communicating as players rather than their characters: rolling dice, looking up rules, describing the actions that their characters are performing. In a LARP, you want to minimize those moments as much as possible. So you have to make everything as intuitive as possible: making props look like what they’re supposed to represent, clarifying new rules before game-start so that nobody will have to break character to ask.

You also have to consider more contingencies than you do when you’re writing and GMing a tabletop RPG. When you’re a tabletop GM and the PCs do something unexpected (because they always do!) it’s easier to roll with it because you have full control over the world. When you’re writing and GMing a LARP, there are so many other people involved that it’s very hard to redirect the players once they start going off in a wacky new direction, and even harder to shift the plot around to accommodate the PCs’ unexpected new ideas – possible, but hard. So you have to plan for as many wacky directions ahead of time as you can so that you can make sure that all of your NPCs know what to do in all contingencies.

Finally, in LARPs, one of your best resources is other people. You can solve plot problems by adding NPCs who have the information that the PCs need; you can establish atmosphere by bringing in a crowd of NPCs; you can draw a new or shy player in by giving them a special one-on-one scene with an NPC. Depending on that has actually tripped me up a few times when I went back to writing tabletop RPGS. In one of my Call of Cthulhu games, I wrote a scene set at a college mixer, with a huge crowd of NPCs that the PCs could talk to. That would be great in a LARP, but it turned out to be very difficult to GM in a tabletop game, because I had to try to play every single NPC at the same time!

So when you’re writing a LARP, you’re not just a writer and game designer, you’re also a director, producer, and stage manager. You write the beginning of the story, make your best guess at what the PCs will do, make sure your NPCs are well-prepared, and then hold your breath and hope.

JO: You have a PhD in Medieval History. First of all: congratulations, PhDs are hard as heck. Second, what drew you to Medieval History, and do you feel like it has an effect on your current work?

RS: Thank you! It was hard as heck, but also incredibly rewarding.

My initial interest in medieval history was sparked by reading historical fiction when I was a kid. As time went on, I learned more about the realities of history, and still loved it. I think that’s a journey that a lot of professional historians take, actually, and we remain very conscious of how the time period that we study is perceived by others. My academic work ended up concentrating on a few areas of medieval culture concerned with self-presentation and self-perception: I studied the culture of chivalry, which was very much about performance; and medieval chronicles, which were all about how medieval authors wanted posterity to remember themselves and their contemporaries. So I’ve always been interested in storytelling and story construction, even before I was a professional writer.

Now, as someone who’s written games in a medieval fantasy setting, I feel that I need to present even a fantastic medieval world in a historically responsible way: not just making sure that the armor and weapons are right, but also making sure that characters’ worldviews are true to the time in which they lived, and that medieval ideas are represented accurately.

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JO: What made you decide to leave academics?

RS: It was a hard decision, because I loved academia. But the academic job market has changed a lot since the start of the recession in 2008. It’s shifted away from permanent tenure-track jobs to temporary and part-time jobs with no benefits. So it’s very very hard to find a full-time permanent job with benefits. I spent the first six years after I got my PhD traveling from one temporary job to another, going on the job market every year and never getting anything permanent. Eventually I just wanted to settle down, have a permanent job, and not have to constantly worry where I’d be living a year from now.

I’ll always love history and always stay involved in the medieval studies community, just not as a full-time academic.

JO: Were you interested in working in the videogame industry specifically?

RS: It hadn’t occurred to me at all! When I decided to change careers, I started out by searching for jobs in fields that were closely related to what I’d been doing before: academic publishing, academic advising, things like that.

But while I was “between jobs,” as they say, I did some contract work for Choice of Games, and I discovered that I loved it! I was actually able to draw on a lot of my experience as an academic: writing and editing, giving feedback on other people’s writing, figuring out how to break down a huge writing project into small manageable tasks.

After a couple months, they offered me a permanent job. I wasn’t sure at first – working for a startup game company didn’t exactly sound like the stability I’d been looking for! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I loved the work and was willing to take a little risk to help build a company that I really believed in.

JO: What made Choice of Games appeal to you?

RS: It’s a small company, so my voice can get heard, and I can really play a role in shaping where the company goes next. It’s explicitly feminist and progressive in its approach to games: every game allows the player to choose the gender and sexuality of their character. That kind of representation in games is extremely important today, and I’m proud to be part of a company that’s helping games become more progressive and egalitarian.

Plus, working for Choice of Games lets me work with friends. The company was founded by two of my friends from college, which is how I initially found out about it – I’d played and bought the games to support my friends long before I ever dreamed I’d be working for the company myself.

So I get to build a company whose principles I support while doing creative work with people I like. It’s a pretty excellent combination.

JO: Choice of Games is a California-based company, has it been hard to transition into the Valley?

RS: Actually, I’ve never lived in California. Choice of Games is incorporated in California, but only one of our core members lives there. The rest of us are scattered around the country, so we all work remotely. We’re in constant contact by email and IM, and we have weekly meetings by Google Hangout.

Which doesn’t mean I didn’t have a big transition when I moved to the Valley, because before this, I lived in Brooklyn! But the change has been a very happy one for me. I love living out in the country where it’s quiet and I’m so close to trees and nature. There are a few things I miss about New York, but I’m really happy where I am now.

JO: Your game, Psy High, is about a high school where some kids have secret psychic powers. What made you decide to write about high schoolers?

RS: One of my favorite TV shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and one of my favorite things about it is the way it uses the supernatural to turn the metaphors of adolescence into something literal. The girl nobody notices actually turns invisible; the pushy parent actually relives high school through their child; the school bullies actually turn into a pack of hyenas. Because that’s how you feel when you’re in high school – everything is so intense that there are no metaphors. You feel like you could literally disappear when people ignore you, and your first love feels like it could literally change the world. I wanted to capture some of that intensity of emotion.

But I also wanted to go against some of the teen-drama tropes – mainly, the idea that grownups are the enemy. Far too many YA stories have absent or incompetent adults. It makes sense on one level, because it provides a narrative explanation for why the teens have to be the ones to save the day, but it still didn’t sit right with me. So, yes, the villains in Psy High are adults, but there are also adults who are friendly and supportive, especially the PC’s parents. I wanted to tell a story about a teen hero whose parents were present, loving, and on their side.

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JO: If you could develop any one of the psychic powers you wrote about, which would you pick?

RS: Oh, good question! The main character has the ability to read other people’s thoughts, which on the one hand is useful, but on the other would be a horrible temptation. Do any of us really want to know what other people are thinking? I think telekinesis would probably be the most useful, so I’d pick that.

JO: How much freedom did you have in writing Psy High? Were you pretty much solely responsible for the content?

RS: I wrote all of it, but I got a lot of input and feedback from the editorial team, especially at the beginning of the writing process. They had much experience with writing in Choicescript than I did, so they helped a lot with figuring out the initial plot and making sure that the game mechanics were balanced. They also gave feedback on the story, prose and game mechanics, and helped with debugging. But all of the actual writing was mine.

JO: How does writing a branching narrative change the way you approach a story?

RS: Writing for tabletop RPGs and LARPs prepared me very well for writing a branching narrative like the one in Psy High. It felt very natural to think of a story in which I didn’t know exactly who the protagonist would be, and which could have any number of paths depending on someone else’s actions.

Also, over the years, Choice of Games has developed several ways to manage branching narratives so that the branches don’t become infinite, such as making sure that multiple branches lead back to the same place, and using character stats to guide the action.

That said, it was still a big challenge for me as a writer. I had to make sure that all of those potential personalities and paths could produce a story that was both logical and emotionally satisfying. Writing character arcs is very different when you can’t be sure which order the character is going to be going through the scenes.

JO: Is there anything you wish you had done differently during the writing process?

RS: The main thing I would have done differently is the way I managed the PC’s relationships with their friends. I started out with this great idea for how to make the story more dynamic: having stats that tracked how well the PC treated their friends, so that if a friend’s relationship stat dropped below a certain point, that friend wouldn’t help the PC anymore. On top of that, I gave the PC the option to include or exclude their significant other from certain scenes, which let the player shape the strength of their character’s romantic relationship as well as their character’s tendency towards being either secretive or open. It would be great! Dynamic character interactions! Customizable gameplay!

But what that meant in practice was that for a few scenes, every friend or potential romance interest (because there were several different options for the PC to date) could be either present or absent depending on the PC’s decisions. So there were tons of potential combinations of characters who could be there – which meant writing many many different versions of each scene, and many many versions of each conversation based on who was there and what comments they’d make. In the end, I had to make those scenes much much simpler than I’d originally hoped, and even decided that one of the PC’s friends would never abandon them so that there would always be at least one other person there. Now I know the limits of dynamic character interactions in Choicescript – or, at least, the limits of my patience in writing infinite variations of the same scene!

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JO: How closely do you follow the reaction to your game, reviews and user comments and the like? Is it something you feel comfortable about, or is it hard to see responses to your work?

RS: I’ve made my peace with reviews. Obviously the positive reviews make me happy – it’s great to hear that something I’ve written resonates with other people, and I’m very pleased that Psy High has, on the whole, gotten good reviews. And I freely admit to doing a lot of obsessive reloading of the iTunes App Store in my opening weekend to track my game’s ratings and its progress up and down the Top Sellers chart!

But not everyone is going to like everything you write. This is another area in which being a professor was good preparation, because user comments are a lot like student evaluations. On the one hand, it’s easy to take those words very personally because they’re about something you’ve put a lot of yourself into; on the other, it’s easy to let the negative ones roll off your back because they’re so often more about the reader than about you. Some people were looking for a different kind story; some had a different sense of humor and didn’t appreciate the jokes, some hated that I embraced teen-drama tropes and some hated that I rejected teen-drama tropes.

So, just as I did with student evaluations, I’ve learned to take user feedback and reviews in the aggregate. If there’s a big consensus among all the reviews about a particular thing, either good or bad, then that’s something that I should take a harder look at. For instance, there was a character in Psy High that a lot of people didn’t like. Thanks to their comments, I understand why that character didn’t work, and I know how to avoid making those same mistakes in the future.

And, of course, when there’s something that a lot of people did like, then that’s something that I’ll try to do more of in the future.

JO: Is there anything you’re working on right now that you can tell me about?

RS: We’ve just started development on Choice of Games’s first multiplayer game, which I’m co-writing with Adam Strong-Morse. It’s a medieval-fantasy setting, so I’m getting as much medieval history into it as possible. It’s a huge project: the word count will probably end up being somewhere around 600,000, and we don’t expect it to come out until late 2016 at the earliest. But it’s going to be a ton of fun to write – and to play, too, I hope!

JO: Thank you so much for your time!

RS: Thank you for having me!

Rebecca is a really neat, really well-rounded person who’s done a lot of interesting stuff. We’re excited that we had the chance to talk to her!

You should definitely keep an eye out for this interesting new Choice of Games thing she’s working on, and in the meantime pick up Psy High to support a really great local developer keep writing more interesting games!