MAKETALKPLAY

Speaking With Woodpenny’s Pat King

Untitled3Today we were lucky enough to speak with the very nice local game developer and founder of Woodpenny studios, Pat King! Pat has lived and worked in the Valley for years, first with Hitpoint Studios and now with his own Woodpenny studios!

Woodpenny makes digital and physical objects and all of them are really neat. Right now, they’re working on a great VR music-video thing. Like, basically VR is a real functional interesting thing now, and that’s neat. So what Woodpenny did is team up with excellent musician Ben Sollee and create this awesome VR sort of music video/theme park ride called “Vanishing Point”. We got to try an early version and it is both trippy as heck and a heck of a trip!

You should fund it on IndieGoGo so that it becomes a Virtual Reality and we can all see how neat it is!

James Olchowski: Hello, thanks for speaking with me.Untitled4

Pat King: Not a problem!

James Olchowski: So, what drew you to our Happy Valley?

Pat King: Short answer – the mother of my 2 little girls.  Longer answer – My wife grew up in Northampton. I’m a Kentucky boy. When I was 25, I took on a short term contract as tour manager for a chamber orchestra in Ireland. My (now) wife was getting her masters degree at the University of Limerick. We met in Ireland through mutual friends and ended up kind of liking each other. My plan after Ireland was to attend the Vancouver Film School. Her plan was to do something other than that, preferably closer to New England.

At this point, I really liked her…and you know, Vancouver is really far away and it’s more school debt and Northampton has this place called Herrell’s Ice Cream. After weighing those options, I decided to move to the area! Now I have a beautiful family and a fantastic community. [This is adorable, readers – Ed.]

JO: Is it difficult to work on game development in such a relatively small area? I’m used to hearing about development shops being set up in major cities.

PK: Tricky question, from a studio’s perspective, there are key advantages to running a studio in both the Pioneer Valley and larger cities such as Boston.

Larger cities (especially ones with an established game, tech or other creative media presence) usually generate more resources for studios. Typically there are multiple established game studios, more experienced game professionals, more money and investment opportunities, creative agencies, culture, community, etc.

That said, the Pioneer Valley does have some stunning talent, longtime industry professionals and general resources that you find in larger cities. Game Industry Studios such as HitPoint, Anzovin, and HappyGiant have been chugging along for a number of years. Additionally, we have a huge tabletop game design community as well as numerous software, hardware, graphic, web and other creative development teams. There are other tech and software communities that offer networking events and forums. There are more colleges than you can shake a stick at that offer a constant flow of new talent to the area.

So far, I’ve found living in the Pioneer Valley works well with my style of game development. I’ve been lucky to have made some great contacts along the way that allow me to work away from the larger cities. Part of that is also attending larger events in Boston and New York and building those connections.

The most difficult part of game development is just knowing where to start. You could be a killer programmer, artist or designer, but without the experience of an active studio, it’s most likely very difficult to connect all the pieces and make a full studio.

JO: Is that why you set up the Pioneer Valley Game Developers (PVGD) group? To bring together people who might be too dispersed to meet up without an excuse?

PK: Exactly. After leaving HitPoint Studios, I found that those interested in game development were pretty dispersed throughout the Pioneer Valley. While I was able to connect with tech industry leaders, there weren’t many people being proactive in the gaming community at large. John Tuttle and I had both worked at HitPoint and wanted to find other developers interested in digital game development. We formed the PVGD in order to find others with similar interests to help make games and hopefully create the community that our area had been lacking.

JO: How do you make certain PVGD is a welcoming place for new people?

PK: Our format so far has been to offer monthly networking events called MAKE TALK PLAY. We usually host them at a “barcade” called The Quarters. We have presentations by local industry leaders covering a broad range of development topics in order to appeal to the largest range of developers in the region. Then after the presentations we hang out, talk about game development and encourage people to demo their own projects.

We’re also working on a number of events other than our monthly meetup such as our game jam we hosted at TopatoCon last month. Anyone interested should join our meetup group at www.meetup.com/pioneer-valley-game-developers or visit our webpage at www.pvgd.org

JO: You left work at a local studio to found your own – Woodpenny. Why did you set out on your own?

PK: HitPoint Studios was a beautiful place to grow as a developer. I was there from the beginning and it was probably one of the best work experiences of my life. I completely respect Paul Hake and Aaron St. John for all they have accomplished and the process they’ve gone through to create a successful studio in the Pioneer Valley. About four months before I left, my wife had started a full time job and we had been struggling to figure out how to balance our work and family schedule. The ultimate decision to leave wasn’t to start a studio, but to take some time off to let me wife focus on her work and be a part-time stay at home dad.

However…I’m not one to stay still. I had a couple days throughout the week to myself and started testing my skills as a woodworker recreating a game my father built when I was a child called penny basketball. This is where I came up with the name Woodpenny. Soon, I started taking on some graphic and sound design projects and then I was approached by an old friend about creating a simple mobile game for his marketing agency. I wasn’t really looking to start a game studio at the beginning, but at that point the work was just kind of finding me, so I decided to roll with it.

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JO: What has been your biggest challenge so far putting Woodpenny together?

PK: I think the hardest part so far has been trying to figure out exactly what to focus on. I really want to make wooden board games, but after about 9 months of experimenting, I realized that in order to make the boards efficiently, I would need a proper workshop. I’m currently working from my home basement, which is damp and dusty. This makes me constantly fear about inventory and my health. I have recently started looking into sharing space with established woodworking shops.

Since we also do the digital game development, I’ve been looking for opportunities that set Woodpenny apart from other studios. Lately I’ve been experimenting more with audio inspired digital media and games. I would love to build the studio with a focus on sound design and music which isn’t as prominent in the industry with the exception of a few great games, such as (but not limited to) Guitar Hero and Rock Band. I want to make games where music is what drives the game.

JO: What’s the most satisfying moment you’ve had working on building Woodpenny?

PK: Hard question because it’s all satisfying: Selling my first board, landing my first project, completing my first project, receiving my first paycheck and figuring out a team. All of this is worth a thousand years of education. Every project is satisfying in its own right.

I just love my work and the people I work with. I love learning new tools and playing with new technology and approaches. Probably the most satisfying aspect is that now I can still make cool projects and have a flexible schedule to spend time with my family. I’ve made that a priority from the start.

JO: Can you give our readers some hints about what Woodpenny is working on? I mean Digital AND Physical? Are you developing the Matrix?

PK: So after making the board for Ben Sollee, he ended up reaching out about game development and was interested in looking for ways to connect his music, merch or stage show with different approaches to gaming or interactive media.

Which brings me to my current project. I’m extremely excited about a Virtual Reality music app we’re making with Ben Sollee! Since August, we’ve been developing a Virtual Reality animated music video choreographed to new music by Ben called ‘The Vanishing Point’. We launched our IndieGoGo campaign about 2 weeks ago and deep in the crowdfunding campaign madness.

When we started, I thought developing the app would be the tough part, but it’s not! It’s the constant push of balancing social marketing, creating videos, tweaking the campaign, pestering friends and family and mainly educating people about what we’re actually making. Explaining VR is extremely difficult to people who haven’t tried it as it’s one of those things that you need to experience to “get”. It’s such a powerful medium for games, but also music and cinema. I’m really excited to see how VR (and Augmented Reality) will influence the various forms of digital media out there.

For those interested, please check out our IndieGoGo campaign! We need your help!

I am still working on the Woodpenny boards and hope to release them in a greater capacity at some point in the near future.

While we’re also just trying to get our act together, we just applied to the Valley Venture Mentors Accelerator program and are looking for recommendations and support. If you’re interested in helping us succeed please click this link and support what we’re doing!

JO: We got a chance to watch people play Woodpenny at a PVGD meetup. It was interesting, and the board was super pretty! We’re now getting the impression from your Facebook page (we are snooping but it is for journalism) that each board is unique. Is this a made-to-order board game?

PK: I make about 4 boards a year (again slow process). Each time I learn something new about the process. The game is called Woodpenny basketball. It’s based of a game my Dad made that my family had growing up. I still have and cherish the original board. The idea is simple, it’s a 2-player game where all you need is the board and a penny to play. Like basketball rules, players take turn flicking the penny toward their goal to score points (2 and 3 point shots like basketball). The first one to 21 wins.

About 6 years ago, I decided to make some as gifts for friends and family and realized just how much fun they are to make. Also, as a parent I realized how important it is to have non-digital or plastic toys and games. My goal is to make the boards attractive, durable and fun for families for years. I feel like I’m on the right path there, now just to figure out how to improve my process (and maybe take on less digital work for a few months).

JO: Wait wait you made Ben Sollee a custom game board? We just saw that. Ben Sollee is great, he’s so nice. Why did he want a custom Woodpenny board?

PK: Haha, yeah. I met Ben in March after seeing him perform at the Iron Horse. I brought one of my boards for our table to play while we waited for the show to start. After the show, Ben saw the board and we got to talking. He asked for my business card, I thought out of courtesy. Well about 3 weeks later, he reached out and asked about getting a board!

Here’s Ben’s board!

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JO: Is Woodpenny your sole project at the moment?

PK: Financially yes? I have a lot of hobbies. I have a family. I own a house. I have the Pioneer Valley Game Developers. I have a lot going on, but that seems to be the way I function best. Mainly just trying to make Woodpenny the most flexible and satisfying experience I can for myself, team and family.

JO: Do you remember what got you interested in playing games?

PK: Honestly, patterns & sequences. My brain loves searching for patterns that connect at an emotional level. Maybe it’s the rewiring of my brain that occurred playing Atari and Nintendo at a young age, and if so I’m very grateful. I know a lot of game developers / enthusiasts that like analyze the games they play. They like to pick them apart in a more academic approach to understanding the mechanics. Which is totally cool, but not how my brain works.

For me, I let the experience drive the games I play and develop. When working at HitPoint, often times our clients would request game designs that were similar to other popular games. We want Angry Birds, we want Bejeweled, we want a Hidden Object game like this, etc. So “for research” I would completely dive into these game examples that weren’t my usual cup of tea. But over the course of a week or two, I would have either completed the game or conquered the mechanics, again looking to connect to the emotional patterns in the design. After fully understanding the experience as a consumer, I felt completely comfortable designing a similar game, in our own style with subtle differences.

JO: Is there any one game you can remember that got you interested in the idea of making your own?

PK: Sam & Max Hit The Road – I’ve wanted to make a unique point and click adventure for a long time. I was blown away when I first played that title. The concept was so weird, the story and art so humorous and the puzzles at many times very frustrating, but super satisfying. I’ve wanted to recreate most of that experience since I started developing games.

JO: If someone was just getting into games, physical or digital, what would you recommend they play?

PK: I’d start them at Atari for a few years. Let them play Colecovision at their friends houses and the arcade once in a while. I’d move them up to Nintendo and run them through the standard titles. After a few years of blowing on NES cartridges I’d move them up to Sega and make them play Toe Jam & Earl and Earthworm Jim. They’d have to save up their money if they wanted the SNES also.

Then I’d sit them down and tell them not to invest their money in the Dreamcast even though it’s going to be wicked awesome. I’d move them on to the Nintendo 64 where they would play Golden Eye, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. When they were ready, I’d put them in a dark room at night and make them play Resident Evil by themselves on the Playstation while filming them poop themselves with a VHS camera when they encounter their first zombie or zombie dogs breaking through the windows in the effing hallway. After getting them into the Tony Hawk series, I feel like they’d be ready to fly on their own.

JO: Getting back to the PVGD, have there been any notable local games developed since you started meeting up?

PK: We’ve seen a lot of great projects under development and quite a few that have been released. The most prolific group putting out new games and being active in development has been from the members of the Owl & Raven. Hannah Shaffer, Evan Rowland and Joshua A.C. Newman have been cranking out so many great games among evangelizing their work.

It’s quite impressive to see. I’ve seen a number of great titles from other members mid-development, but am really hoping more people will start showcasing projects where we can start helping each other out whether it’s feedback, testing or collaboration. We have some great talent in the Pioneer Valley.

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JO: Are there any local creators you think more people should be paying attention to (besides yourself, obviously)?

PK: Same answer with the above group members from the Owl & Raven, I would love to see more support for what they’re doing. There’s also a few new experimental studios starting up in the area. One to keep an eye on is led by Isaiah Mann. He’s organizing a student run game studio to start in the Fall of 2016 that will be located at Hampshire College. They’ll be presenting at the next MAKE TALK PLAY on November 1st. People should definitely come out and see what that’s all about.

JO: Have you seen any collaborations develop between people who met at a PVGD event?

PK: I’ve seen some collaboration and heard discussions about people wanting to do more. For Woodpenny, we met Jess Winter who runs misclabs at one of our meet-ups early in the year. He’s the lead programmer for the VR project we’re working on. He’s been absolutely fantastic to work with and a complete surprise for finding a local game dev in the area who has been a vital part of this project. We’re working towards fostering more connections and opportunities to encourage collaboration throughout this next year.

JO: Do you have any advice for someone interested in creating games?

PK: Just do it. Use the tools available to you whether it’s Scratch, Unity, Unreal engine or just an analog prototype. Just start with a game mechanic that you would enjoy playing, give yourself some rules and just start exploring. Start talking to people. Ask as many questions as possible. Start thinking about why you like the games you play. Just start. If you want to do this, you have to be able to learn through experience and make great connections along the way. It’s Woodpenny’s philosophy and the Pioneer Valley Game Developers are here to help!

JO: Thank you for your time!

PK: Thank you James!

Remember, support Woodpenny’s IndieGoGo campaign and their entry into the Valley Venture Mentors program! They’re a nice local studio and we can never have too many of those. And be sure to make it out to a MAKE TALK PLAY event! They’re always good times, and there are a ton of intelligent people to talk to at each. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll make fast friends. It will be distressingly delightful.

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October 26th – November 1st

XMen39Int1The Valley Nerd Watch!


So last week we had the pleasure of playing a “hack” of the locally developed and quite roundly well-regarded horror-RPG Dread! In fact, we had the singular experience of playing it with the prolific promulgator of preternaturally purple prose himself, Epidiah Ravochol! It is because of this we were able to learn his darkest secret: when he says you need to make a “pull” from the Tower of Dread, about 40% of the time he says “pool” instead.

So first off: what’s a “hack”? Well, within the tabletop community it’s basically when you look at something that already exists and figure out how to tweak some of the rules and maybe the setting in order to turn it into something similar yet significantly different in feel or mechanics. So in this case, where Dread is kind of a “you are in a standard horror flick with like zombies or a wolfman and an old man who says you ain’t gonna find nothin’ at the old McAlister Place… leastwise nothin’ living” the hack we played is something entirely other.

“The Dread Geas of Duke Vulku” is Dread with a bit more direction and structure, and it provides an interesting contrast. It’s set in a world quite unlike our own, more Strange Fantasy or Fantasy Horror or Basically Like Lovecraft But Better Written Because Things Are Actually Described Using Words.

Because in each situation a player has a known quantity of moves, the many confusing and strange situations are a bit more approachable. Say you happen upon a friendly mill town in which all of the people have sewn-shut eyes. It’s a simple matter of one pull to find out what is dangerous about this, one pull to notice something important, one pull to silently remove yourself from the location, etc. And then, because it’s Dread, you inevitably die from a falling tower. It’s a really fun time and we can’t wait for it to be officially released! Also, buy Dread!

Also! The final ten days of the Woodpenny IndieGoGo campaign for the extremely cool Ben Sollee VR Music Video “Vanishing Point” are here! You should support them, and then get that cool Google Cardboard setup and stare into the awesomeness of the future!

As always, be sure to check out the Weekly Events page! There are a lot of fun things happening this and every week! And don’t forget to check out the updated Book Clubs List!

THIS WEEK


Art:

Tuesday, October 27th
Edwards Public Library [30 East St, Southampton, MA 01073] at 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Scary Fairy Houses!
Celebrate Halloween by creating a tiny house for tiny horrors to nest within! Which actually we guess if you left them out and they got all grody with rot and bacteria, that’d actually just fufill the purpose of the exercise. Neat! Bring your own box or base as a foundation. Call 413-527-9480 or sign up at the Library!
Wednesday, October 28th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 4:00pm – 6:00pm
NaNoWriMo Kickoff Party
National Novel Writing Month is this November! Forbes Library will be supporting people in the Valley who want to take on the challenge. The Forbes Writer in Residence, Naila Moreira, will host regular “write-ins” during November! At the kickoff party, best-selling novelist Jacqueline Sheehan will inspire writers and answer questions about the writing process!
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Write Here! Write Now!
Writing a novel in a month? That’s a tall order of fries if we’ve ever heard one! Well, maybe you can get motivated and meet that lofty goal with this writing workshop series! Ages 12+, including middle and high school.

Board Games:

Wednesday, October 28th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Family Board Game Night
Board Games and snacks hosted by the kindly librarian Tim Hayes! There’s going to be Carcassonne at the this one! Carcassone is super fun. Not interested in the featured game? Check out the collection!
Sunday, November 1st
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Sunday Heroclix
Heroclix! You get these little plastic miniature things that are so adorable you can’t even believe it and then you use some rules to fight other groups of little plastic figures and it’s great. It started with just Marvel stuff we’re pretty sure, but now probably has 14 variations of every character you like!

Books:

Tuesday, October 27th
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:30pm
Cammie McGovern, “A Step Towards Falling”
Cammie McGovern will read from her latest Young Adult title. Told in alternating points of view, this powerful novel is about learning from your mistakes and trying to forgive! Oh, and it’s about the bystander effect to some degree. Sounds like an interesting novel! Books will be available to purchase at the event.
Thursday, October 29th
Odyssey Bookshop [Mount Holyoke College, 9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00pm
Rita Zoey Chin, “Let the Tornado Come” & Mira Bartok, “The Memory Palace: A Memoir”
A pair of exciting memoir authors at the Odyssey! Rita Zoey Chin will discuss her book about the sudden onset of severe panic attacks. Over the course of treating them, she has to deal with her own past as a runaway. Mira Bartok confronts schizophrenia in a poignant literary memoir about family and mental illness.

Comics:

Saturday, October 31st
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at All Day
Halloween ComicFest
Comics! Comics are the best way to transmit information into your brain! Particularly information like “check out this totally sweet alien vista” or “wow, what an awesome fight!” Kids who show up to Modern Myths in costume will get a FREE comic! Delightful! Demand candy as well, kids.

Computers:

Thursday, October 29th
A MYSTERY? at 5:30pm
A regular meetup to discuss issues related to programming in PHP. We know little about PHP except that it’s famously horrible? Maybe other folks will help minimize that pain. This first meetup will be a place to discuss interests and plan topics for the next few months! Click the event link to join the meetup and see the meeting location!

Entertainment:

Thursday, October 29th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Anime Club
Anime! It’s animation, and it generally is a thing that you can watch, should you choose. Many enjoy anime, do you? If so, come hang out at Palmer and talk with fellow fans. Open to teens and young adults 14 and up.
Friday, October 30th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Forbes Library Halloween Party
The Forbes Library Children’s/YA Room will play host to a spooooky gathering of ghoooooulish dancing and distreeeeeessing crafts also there will be a bunch of candy and a surprise of some sort!

Movies:

Monday, October 26th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Movie Showing: Broken Brotherhood
The Northampton Committee to Stop War shows “Broken Brotherhood”, the story of a creation of a memorial to Vietnam Veterans at Colgate University. It’s primarily composed of interviews with people who attended in the 60’s, as well as their children. It provides an inter-generational view of a complex war and significant part of history.
Thursday, October 29th
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Halloween Fright Night: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds
Birds are terrifying enough without them actively attacking us. Those little hidden dinosaurs, biding their time. Their capacity for flight allowing them to conduct nefarious business in the skies, where we can’t follow… This screening is free and open to the public!
Amherst Cinema [28 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 7:00pm – 11:00pm
Science Fiction Double Feature Picture Show: Videodrome & The Thing!
Videodrome: a movie that while not always outwardly horrific is absolutely packed with distressing images and implications. The Thing: possibly the best “monster movie”? Tight, psychological thrills with a totally awesome set of practical effects for a totally awesome monster.
Friday, October 30th
Sunderland Public Library [20 School Street, Sunderland, MA 01375] at 6:00pm – 7:30pm
Gremlins Movie Night
Don’t feed them after midnight! Which, really, what does that even mean? Like alright magic shopkeeper, which midnight? Does it respect daylight savings? What if we travel? You’re ridiculous, magic shopkeeper.
Amherst Cinema [28 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 10:00pm – 12:00am
Ghostbusters
Special $5 admission! Ghostbusters, wow! A delightful romp about a team of unregulated capitalist monsters who re-kill our beloved gram-grams and shove them into a hell dimension. A heroic EPA agent stands in their way… but can he defeat these nefarious jerks?
Saturday, October 31st
Amherst Cinema [28 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 10:00pm – 12:00am
Ghostbusters
A second showing of Ghostbusters!

RPGs:

Sunday, November 1st
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Saga of the Icelanders
Iceland! It’s… almost the worst place in the world humans have tried to live? We definitely feel like they’ve managed to do a good job with the place but for real it’s one step off from living just in an ice cube. Tell your own story of the discovery and founding of this harsh land!
Thursday, October 29th
Palmer Public Library [1455 North Main Street, Palmer, MA 01069] at 4:00pm – 6:00pm
RPG Club
Create a character! Explore their adventures! Write a book, sort of, but it’s a really confusing to read book with a bunch of points where the protagonist behaves very oddly. Lots of fun, all ages welcome, no experience necessary!

Science:

Monday, October 26th
High Horse [24 North Pleasant St., Amherst, MA] at 6:00pm
SciTech Cafe: How to Navigate Environments with Toxins
How do we know what’s safe? When is a disease in a lab animal relevant to humans? What are we learning about the health impacts of flame-retardant materials? Why do we care about toxicity in snails? Sasha Suvorov, associate professor of Environmental Health Services at UMass Amherst, will tell you!
Thursday, October 29th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 2:00pm
Cookies with a Curator
Archivist Julie Bartlett Nelson will present “Genealogy Treasures” for Family History Month! And you’ll get cookies, how neat is that? Also “archivist” sounds like a fantasy-world occupation.

Video Games:

Sunday, November 1st
The Quarters [8 Railroad St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 7:00pm – 10:00pm
MAKE TALK PLAY: GlowLime Games
Did you know Hampshire College has a student run startup game-development studio? How awesome is that? Hampshire is awesome. Isaiah Mann will be discussing what makes this little studio such a neat idea! Students making real things outside of a classroom. Excellent, and interesting!

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!

June 1st – June 7th

IMG_20150531_175601059The Valley Nerd Watch!


Oh gosh oh gosh oh gosh a lot of people are coming to see James at Nerd Nite. Oooooh goodness.

He kind of forgot the creeping terror that accompanies public speaking! He kind of forgot that this was one of the nice bits about no longer being in academia! Well, we’re pretty sure he’ll manage. It’s a pretty good presentation, we think! Hopefully he’s not the only person in the room who’s interested in how many times Jean Grey has risen from the dead.

It might help, if you don’t mind, to just sort of all remain perfectly still and perfectly quiet, maybe hidden under some manner of tarp? Oh, or if anyone has a dog James could hold, that would definitely help! It’s impossible to be nervous while snuggling a pup.

The big news this week is that Hack for Western Mass is happening in Springfield over the weekend! It’s an opportunity to help out your friends and neighbors in the Valley via the use of whatever specialized skill you bring to the table! And we do mean whatever!

While most of the projects are in some way related to technology or web development, they desperately need people to help manage, promote, and guide projects in the right directions. You can be a big help whether you’re a dedicated coder or someone who feels more comfortable keeping a team coordinated and excited!

We’re going to be there, probably mostly contributing our skill at Twittering and taking photos of things and being very optimistic about the ability of other people to tackle important challenges!

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


Books:

Tuesday, June 2nd
Jones Library [43 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club
Introduce yourself to the good people at the Science Fiction and Fantasy book club! They welcome new members, regardless of whether you’ve read the book. And for the record we know we keep telling you to go to book clubs on a two-day notice and you don’t have time to read the books! We’re working on it! The book you don’t have time to read this week is A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab!
Wednesday, June 3rd
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Group: Small Gods
Introduce yourself to the good people at the Science Fiction and Fantasy book GROUP! They too welcome new members, regardless of whether you’ve read the book. The book you don’t have time to read this week is Small Gods by Terry Pratchett!

Computers:

Tuesday, June 2nd
The Foundry [24 Main St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00pm
Hang out with some real nice people who like to develop things for the internet. The Foundry is a really nice joint to hang out in as well! It’s got a great selection of the sort of interesting beer that fancy drinkers in the Valley demand, and it’s really comfortable! Have fun and introduce yourself to some fellow web developer people!
Saturday, June 6th – Sunday, June 7th
UMass Center at Springfield [1500 Main St, Springfield, MA 01115] at 8:30am
Like we said up top! It’s a big deal thing that you should check out. See how you can get ready for the event here, and plan out which of the challenges seem most interesting to you! You can also pre-register! 

Entertainment:

Monday, June 1st
Eastworks [116 Pleasant St, Easthampton, MA 01027] at 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Nerd Nite NoHo
Nerd Nite! We’re presenting! Or James is presenting, anyway! It’ll be a pretty great time! Thomas Schieffer will also be presenting a talk about stress. But, we’re pretty certain that we can say without a hint of bias that the most cool part of the evening will be seeing James talk about comic books and continuity! Learn what a “retcon” is, and why they’re so often deployed!
Wednesday, June 3rd
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Jeff Lord: Swords Through the Ages
Come see the man, the myth, the legend, the LORD of Jeffs! Watch in awe as he and Jeff Goodhind (arch-duke of Jeffs) of the Association for Renaissance and Medieval Swordsmanship demonstrate Western European Swordery of various ages! The truly brave amongst you can even challenge them to combat! Victor, as is custom, will take the throne of Britain. Sponsored by the Friends of Greenfield Public Library with the World Eye Book Shop!

Movies:

Saturday, June 6th
Amherst Cinema [28 Amity St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 10:00am
Willow
This weekend, head to Amherst Cinema to see a really strange family-friendly fantasy movie! Starring Warwick Davis, it’s about a little person who finds a magic baby, and is protected by a brave swordsman played by Val Kilmer. It’s… it’s not exactly a good film. But it’s an interesting, strange film. Plus, Warwick is charming! Also it was produced by George Lucas after Star Wars, beginning him on the path to realizing Star Wars was pretty much going to be his only hit.

RPGs:

Thursday, June 4th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Indie RPG Night
Hang out with the kind folks at Modern Myths and give some weird RPG a shot! They’ve got great taste, so you can rest assured that whatever you wind up playing will have you duly entertained for a couple of hours! Last time I played, setup only took a few minutes, and we got a good couple hours of play in with a system I would never have taken a second look at otherwise. A real worthwhile experience for people who love RPGs, and who might want to branch out from the old standards. A $5 day pass is required to attend, but it is as always converted immediately to store credit.

Video Games:

Sunday, June 7th
The Quarters [8 Railroad St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 7:00pm
MAKETALKPLAY
Hang out and grab a drink at The Quarters while talking to fellow developers from around the Valley and beyond! This month the event is pretty much just hanging out and networking, no presenter. Last time we attended the crowd was extremely personable, and we highly recommend that anyone interested in game development attend, so as to meet people with a shared interest and a willingness to lend a helping hand!

April 27th – May 3rd

20150425_125615

The Valley Nerd Watch!


This is your last week to sign up to exhibit at TopatoCon, coming to Northampton in September! It is sounding like it will be an extremely cool time, so by all means see if you can put on a show!

Get ready for Free Comic Book Day May 2nd! We grew up collecting comic books, and we can highly recommend amassing an enormous collection of comic books, because they are beautiful. Free Comic Book Day is a chance to get a bunch of previews and fun free books from the local comic shops, and it’s also a chance for those local shops to subtly shame you into then purchasing something you ingrate.

Don’t forget to pick up books and games by local creators!

Also remember that Free Comic Book Day falls on the same day as the Pride Parade in Northampton! So you will have a guaranteed fun time hanging out at the parade before or after picking up your books!

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


Board Games:

Saturday, May 2nd
Off the Wall Games [41 Russel Street, Hadley, MA 01035] at All Day
Hobby and Paint Day
We don’t have a ton of experience with hobby miniature games, but we’re consistently impressed with the absolutely amazing detail and beauty that hobbyists manage when painting models! Take an opportunity this Sunday to paint yourself, or learn from veteran painters at Off the Wall!

Books:

Monday, April 20th – Thursday, April 30th
Emily Williston Memorial Library [9 Park Street, Easthampton, MA 01027] at All Day.
Friends Seeking Book Donations
Emily’s Friends of the Library are seeking book donations for the big Spring Book Sale! Donations need to be clean! The library will also accept CDs and DVDs, but not magazines.
Friday, May 1st – Sunday, May 3rd
Amherst Town Common [Amherst, MA 01002] at 9:00pm – 6:00pm
Amherst Book Sale
The annual League of Women Voters book sale! That’s pretty much the long and the short of this event. You like books, right? Buy a bunch! Stack ’em up! Build a tiny, flammable house out of books! Whatever you do, don’t make the rookie mistake of buying a mysterious tome, reading the dead tongue within out loud, and unleashing a horde of demons!
Saturday, May 2nd
Odyssey Bookshop [Village Commons, 9 College St. South Hadley, MA 01075] at All Day
Independent Bookshop Day
A celebration of independent book stores! We’re going to go out on a limb and say that the basic way you celebrate this day is by purchasing books from this bookshop.
Sunday, May 3rd
Florence Civic Center [90 Park St, Florence, MA 01062] 2:00pm – 4:00pm
Are you a fan of either books or food? We hope you’re at least a fan of food or you’re probably having a lot of difficulty maintaining your body parts. Most of them really rely upon a steady supply of food. Either way this event has something to interest you! Books, baked! Or cooked, or displayed. Whatever works best, really. People have created some really neat displays representing books, and they’re all made out of food!

Comics:

Saturday, May 2nd
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at All Day
Free Comic Book Day
Free Comic Book Day at Modern Myths is a great opportunity to not only grab free stuff, but support the store! Pay particular attention to the works from local artists and writers! The more they sell, the easier it is for people to make comics in the Valley!
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at All Day
Free Comic Book Day
Get free comics! Support your favorite local store by then buying more comics from them! Preview various things you may not otherwise have found out were cool! Worry less about parking because Easthampton won’t be having a big Pride parade the way Northampton will!

RPGs:

Monday, April 27th
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Dungeons and Dragons
The new 5th edition, it seems decent? If you’ve not been introduced to it, might we recommend listening to the spectacular D&D 5e podcast ‘The Adventure Zone‘? If you HAVE been introduced to it, it’s basically 100% certain that you already have a very strong opinion about whether or not it is an acceptable thing to spend time playing. Grab a pre-rolled character and hop into some fun with local GM Neal Robinson!
Saturday, May 2nd
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Star Wars RPG
Star Wars! The thing you’re either way too into or haven’t been paying attention to for approximately 40 years. Either way, the RPG is a pretty fun time, and though it’s been underway at Modern Myths for a while we’re sure they could write you in as a mysterious smuggler who’s mysteriously really old and tired looking.
Comics n’ More [31 Union Street, Easthampton MA 01027] at 1:00pm – 5:00pm
Pathfinder Pirates!
We’ve never played Pathfinder, nor Pathfinder Pirates. But we’re pretty sure that it’s essentially like Dungeons and Dragons but set in a world where everyone has the same job: tour guide. Presumably these ‘pathfinders’ are pirates in the case of this particular iteration, or possibly they guide pirates? Either way, check this out and get back to us about what sort of salary package the Pathfinder guild has.
Sunday, May 3rd
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Pathfinder Society Organized Play
Join the friendly folks at Modern Myths in their ongoing Pathfinder Society Organized Play, during which players not only act as an adventuring party but also spend time working for secretive organizations with their own goals in mind! It sounds like a pretty fun way of splitting play incentives without making everyone just stab each other in the back or play obstinate for the heck of it!

Science:

Monday, April 27th
Amherst Brewing Company [10 University Dr, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:00pm
SciTech Cafe
Come learn about neat science things in a relaxed environment! Marko Lončar presents “Diamonds are a photon’s best friend.” Find out the answer to questions as varied as “Why are diamonds special?” and “Can we store information in diamonds?”
Tuesday, April 28th
Jones Library [43 Amity St, AMherst, MA 01002] at 7:00pm
Wildflowers of the Northeast
A presentation by naturalist John Root on the native and naturalized fauna of our region! Ha, get it? Root!
Friday, May 1st
Seelye Hall, Smith College [Seelye Dr, Northampton, MA 01060] at 12:15pm
The War of God in Addiction: The Psychodynamics of Addiction
Jungian analyst David Schoen gives the last lecture of the academic year for the Jung Association of Western Mass’s lecture series! As far as we can tell it’s something about Thor and Crom fighting over who gets to be in charge of addiction. There’s a $10 suggested donation, but a trick to get in free is to just not be capable of experiencing shame.
Springfield Museums [21 Edwards St., Springfield, MA 01108] at 7:30pm
Stars Over Springfield
The museum’s rooftop telescope opens for public gazing on the first Friday of each month. Do your part scanning the skies for potential invasions by alien craft! There is a $3 admission to the event!
Saturday, May 2nd
Our Lady Child Care Center [35 Pleasant St., Easthampton, MA 01027] at 11:30am
Young Scientists
Collaborative for Educational Services presents a workshop for parents of young children who are somehow already PhDs?!? Everyone, congratulations on your incredibly credentialed little ones!

Video Games:

Sunday, May 3rd
The Quarters [8 Railroad St, Hadley, MA 01035] at 8:00pm
MAKETALKPLAY Indie Game Bring Your Own Night
In preparation for the upcoming JiffyCon, the Pioneer Valley Game Developers are hosting a Bring Your Own Multiplayer Video/Board Game Night! All games are welcome, but designers are specifically encouraged to bring their own games! Emily Care Boss is going to kick things off with an introduction to JiffyCon, and then it’s off to play Nidhogg for 4 hours straight!