Video Games

November 13th – November 19th

The Valley Nerd Watch!

We got to see John Hodgman and Monte Belmonte at the Shea Theater this past Friday! It was very nice. There was a lot of very good audience interaction and Monte was a fun interviewer. It’s weird seeing a famous person make in-jokes about very local things. We’re sad that John Hodgman is moving toward more time in Maine but we’re glad he has a lot of good stories about the wonderful Pioneer Valley!

Also! Check out Nerd Nite this week! We are 100% positive that the presentations will be excellent this month. It’s 7:00pm – 9:00pm at the World War 2 Club, 50 Conz St., Northampton!

Go check out the Valley Creators page! As always, be sure to check out our Patreon and 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!



Monday, November 13th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Warrior Writers
Local writer and veteran Eric Wasileski will lead a writing workshop! Military veterans and their families are very welcome, though the event is also open to the public. Warrior Writers works to build a community that allows for artistic expression and helps people witness the full range of military experiences.
Tuesday, November 14th
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Screening of Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World
From the producers of A Quiet Passion, a 2016 film about Emily Dickinson, comes a documentary narrated by Cynthia Nixon! Spend some time getting to know a spectacular local talent better!
Wednesday, November 15th
Amherst College [Bassett Planetarium] at 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Poetry in the Planetarium: A Reading with Dara Wier and Bianca Stone
Listen to the first reading of Dara Wier’s new book ‘In the Still of the Night’ by both Dara and poet and artist Bianca Stone. As they read, the planetarium will display the starscapes of the nights of Emily Dickinson’s birth and death! Which like, we didn’t realize we wanted to happen for us after we die but now we really want it to happen for us because it sounds really cool. We’ll need to get way better at poetry before that happens though we suppose.
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Artist-Poets Performance and Panel Discussion
The poet-artists in ‘Of Soil and Tongues’ will discuss and perform their work! And they will also make you think of a really weird mental image whenever you read or hear their name!
Thursday, November 16th
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon
For about 14 hours, all of Emily Dickinson’s 1,789 poems will be read out loud in the home and landscape where she wrote them! Everyone can help out too, no need to sign up if you’re an individual but larger groups should email!
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Nature Poetry Writing with New England National Scenic Trail poet-in-residence David Leff
Poet, essayist, and person forced to live in the scenic trails of New England David K Leff will teach some nature poetry! Lively readings, discussion, observation of nature, sharpening of the senses, the ability to speak to the Ents and learn their secrets, all the necessary parts of becoming a good nature poet!
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | The Poet, The Artist, The Printer: Book Arts and the Small Press with Slate Roof Press
How do you go about figuring out how to make a real physical book look and feel nice to read? Readers like books that are cool, how do you use artwork and the physical aspects of a book make the end product more than just a printout of the text? Poets, writers, book lovers, art lovers, bookmakers, and generally nice people from Slate Roof Press will discuss and showcase the work of local artists and bookmakers!
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Jennifer Firestone and Marisa Crawford
Jennifer Firestone has written a bunch of books and poems and so has Marisa Cawford and they’re both from Brooklyn, the Cool Place, and they’re going to read poems and we’re going to assume the poems will be really excellent.
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Kaveh Akbar with Sahar Muradi
Kaveh Akbar writes poetry that appears in a ton of places and is the recipient of a lot of prizes. He was born in Tehran, Iran, and begins teaching at Purdue University in the fall! Sahar Muradi is a performer, writer, and educator who was born in Afghanistan and raised in the US and has written a ton! Also we want to make this clear: dearly believes in the bottom of the rice pot. Deeply!
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Poetry Festival Party!
It’s a party! Celebrate the literary legacy of Amherst with a bunch of friends and the featured readers! Music! Foods! Fun! It’s a party! Delightful!
Emily Dickinson Museum Garden [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
Amherst Poetry Festival | Calling All Poets! A family writing workshop with Burleigh Muten
Write poetry in a nice garden with your pals! All prompts will be related to Dickinson’s poetry or life, and led by children’s author and museum tour guide Burleigh Muten. Children need to be accompanied by an adult!
Friday, November 17th
Jones Library [43 Amity St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Amherst Poetry Festival | jubilat/Jones: Caryl Pagel, Kevin Gonzalez, and Emily Pettit
The jubliat/Jones series involves six readings at the Jones Library! They’re followed by a Q&A with the poets, and all readings are free and open to the public!
Emily Dickinson Museum [280 Main St, Amherst, MA 01002] at 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Emily Dickinson Poetry Discussion Group: Emily Dickinson as a Second Language Part 2
The second part of an exploration of the more personal and specifically local language of Dickinson! Learn to better appreciate your most famous local poet!
Saturday, November 18th
Sunderland Public Library [20 School St., Sunderland, MA 01375] at 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Jewelry Making Workshop: Wrap Bracelets and Charm Bracelets
Learn how to make a wonderful wrap bracelet or charm bracelet! This is geared toward adults but you can bring a kid if you’re going to help them out with the creation process!

Board Games:

Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Board Game Night
Play board-games with friends and soon-to-be-friends as well as some of the friendly staff at Modern Myths! It’s a great night to try out something you may have been meaning to check out! We really recommend Istanbul or Photosynthesis if they’ve got those. Chill, entertaining games of friendly competition.
Off The Wall Game Store [41 Russell St – Hadley MA, 01035] at 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Dark Age March to Immortality Tournament
We suppose this is some sort of competition to see who can age the slowest? The Pioneer Valley is a fascinating place. Rules are: 750 pts. + 150 reinforcements, 3 rounds, 75 minute rounds, break for pizza lunch between rounds 1 and 2. The $15 entry fee includes pizza! The event is open to all skill levels and experience, new players are always welcome!


Tuesday, November 14th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Andrea Lawlor, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
From the site: “It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a fleur with a rich dating life. But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter.”
Wednesday, November 15th
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Not in Our Town Event: Gretchen Gerzina, Author of Mr. and Mrs. Prince
Dr. Gretchen Gerzina, the author of ‘Mr. and Mrs. Prince’ will speak about the research she did in writing her historical narrative about two slaves who met and married in Deerfield, MA before eventually freeing themselves.
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Writing Critique Group
Writers of picture books, middle grade, and YA books meet to read and get some feedback! The group is facilitated by following SCBWI guidelines but you don’t have to be a member to participate.
Thursday, November 16th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Elif Babül, Bureaucratic Intimacies: Translating Human Rights in Turkey
From the site: “Human rights are politically fraught in Turkey, provoking suspicion and scrutiny among government workers for their anti-establishment left-wing connotations. Nevertheless, with eyes worldwide trained in Turkish politics, and with accession to the European Union underway, Turkey’s human rights record remains a key indicator of its governmental legitimacy. Bureaucratic Intimacies shows how government workers encounter human rights rhetoric through training programs and articulates the perils and promises of these encounters for the subjects and objects of Turkish governance.”
Friday, November 17th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Archer Mayor, Trace
From the site: “In cases that lead the team all over Vermont and nearby, Archer Mayor once again shows why his novels featuring Joe Gunther and the VBI team are among the finest crime fiction today.” Is… there really a Vermont Bureau of Investigation? Is that a thing?
Saturday, November 18th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Ruth Lehrer, Being Fishkill Book Launch
From the site: “Fishkill Carmel fends for herself, with her fists if need be — until a thwarted lunch theft introduces her to strange, sunny Duck-Duck and a chance for a new start. Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers.”
Sunday, November 19th
Odyssey Bookshop [9 College St, South Hadley, MA 01075] at 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Gerald A. Cohen, Beyond the Images: The Insightful Memoir of a Life in Medicine
You get to eat some recipes from the memoir at this event! … all of these recipes sound extremely odd to eat at the same time but we are not going to judge you. Two-Fork Tuna on a Triscuit really doesn’t seem like it goes well with Jujyfruits and whatever Shmoo Sauce is. But, anyway, learn about Dr. Cohen’s life as a radiologist and also eat some food!

Card Games:

Friday, November 17th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00 PM to 10:30 PM
Friday Night Magic: Iconic Masters Release Draft
A limited booster draft featuring the newest set: Iconic Masters! Use some of the most potent cards from Magic’s history to deliver a real high-powered draft! It’s a tournament with Swiss-style pairings and a hard cap of 16 players, so sign up early to get a seat! There’s a $50 entry fee, and every player gets at least one booster pack of Iconic Masters and you can win a lot more, as well as promo cards! Maybe you’ll get a … Black Lotus?!


Monday, November 13th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Emotional Self-Care and Well Being during the Holidays and Always
The holiday season is a time when a lot of people feel a ton of pressure to put themselves in really difficult situations! It’s hard for everyone and very few people are on board with our “Just stay inside and play video-games” method of dealing with the holidays. Learn how to practice supporting your emotional well-being during a real tough time of the year!
Saturday, November 18th
Sunderland Public Library [20 School St., Sunderland, MA 01375] at 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM
Adulting 101 – Present the Best YOU to the World!
Teens and young adults ages 14-22, get some tips on how to make good first impressions! Diane Massey of the Berkshire School of Etiquette will have a fun interactive session to help you get past the handshake. Here’s our hot etiquette tip: everyone’s impressed if you trade glasses with them, and never trade back. Just give people your glasses, and buy another pair later! They’ll remember that.


Thursday, November 16th
Northampton Community TV [380 Elm Street, Northampton, MA] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
WordPress Developers and Admins
Talk about your current projects, get some insight into your problems and help others, and then there’s a round-table discussion! This time it’s going to be about SEO, discuss your best and worst experiences making sure that our all-powerful compu-controllers at Google allow people to find you!
Last Call Media [136 West St., Suite 01, Northampton, MA] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Western Mass Drupal Users Group Meeting
Learn about how to use Drupal more effectively! Tips, talks, modules! Meet fellow users and talk about your experiences! Eat pizza!


Wednesday, November 15th
Springfield Symphony Hall [34 Court St, Springfield, MA 01103] at 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Michael Steele: The New Political Scene
We assume this speech will just be him staring at the audience in mute horror as screens behind him play the 24-hour news channels.
Greenfield Public Library [402 Main St, Greenfield, MA 01301] at 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM
Apple Palooza
Ben of Clarkdale Fruit Farms will talk about everything apples! There’s also an apple tasting! It says it only goes until 7:30 but we assume this event will extend into the infinite future, as who can say they have truly finished explaining EVERYTHING apples?
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
The Gray Divas Residency Concert
Join the Gray Divas for some music from Hawaii in these cold times! There’s also going to be oldies and jazz and some new stuff!
Saturday, November 18th
MYSTERY LOCATION at 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Game of Thrones S2E1 & Potluck & Fire Pit
One episode is scheduled, but you can stick around to watch more if you like! Bring food and drink to share, and if the weather allows you’ll get to use the fire pit! Check out the site for more info:
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Doctor Who Club
Wait what’s this doctor they’re discussing? Why are people so interested in this doctor. Which doctor? Wait, doctor… whom? Anyway go hang out and watch Doctor Who and eat snacks, it’s a good time with cool folks!


Tuesday, November 14th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Ages 5 and up can enjoy an afternoon playing with LEGOs!
Thursday, November 16th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Rainbow Makers LGBTQ+ Group
A creative bi-weekly discussion group for people ages 13-17! The goal is to publish an annual magazine featuring a wide variety of artwork, writing, opinion pieces, reviews, and much more! If you have interests you want to share, they want to help you share them!
Friday, November 17th
Sunderland Public Library [20 School St., Sunderland, MA 01375] at 4:30 PM to 5:00 PM
The Oxbow Quartet Presents: A Children’s String Concert
A half-hour of music that bounces from Shostakovich to Joplin, as all children demand! Dance, enjoy some beautiful music, and have a good time!


Wednesday, November 15th
Forbes Library [20 West St, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
Baby Driver Screening
A movie about a getaway driver who uses music to be the best in the game!
Sunday, November 19th
Yiddish Book Center [1021 West St., Amherst, MA 01002] at 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Film: Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana
A documentary exploring the importance of connections, as the Sefwi Jews reach out to others worldwide. The film bears witness to their ongoing struggle for acceptance and their growth. Find out more and purchase tickets here:


Wednesday, November 15th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Youngbloods Adventure Guild
A D&D club for players 8-12! You can become a member of this club by paying $50/mo. That gets you help with creating a character, a mini, a custom D&D session, and a set of dice! It’s the perfect way to play a fun game with friends! We recommend you play a bard. Actually everyone should play as a bard and you should be adventurers by day and a traveling band by night!
Thursday, November 16th
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Youngbloods Adventure Guild
A D&D club for players 8-12! Play a god trapped in mortal form so whenever you need to retire the character you can explain to everyone that actually you were the toughest and best all along, notwithstanding that time you rolled three critical fails and tripped over your armor into a lava pit.
Modern Myths [34 Bridge Street #4, Northampton, MA 01060] at 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Dungeons and Dragons
Play one of the classic RPGs at Modern Myths! New players are always welcome, and there’s a friendly crowd there every week! We recommend playing fast and loose, since it’s a drop-in drop-out game, so worst case you can come back in a few months with your bard’s ‘long-lost twin sister who’s also a dragonborn and much cooler’.


Monday, November 13th
The World War 2 Club [50 Conz St., Northampton, MA 01060] at 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Nerd Nite NoHo: Skeletons and Socialism
Nerd Nite! Nerd Nite! The Best Nite! You’ll see Constance Hildreth present “My Skeleton is Full of Bugs!” about rigging errors in video-game animation, as well as Sanjiv Gupta giving a talk about “Socialism, the Radical Future of Capitalism”!




The Mass DiGi Open House

We went to the Mass DiGi open house yesterday! It was really cool and we want to tell you about the games we saw. They’re not all available to play for you yet, but you can see some of the excellent games of past years here!

Slime Break:


  • Adorable
  • Like Breakout
  • Also an infinite runner kind of
  • High scores!
  • Very pretty

We had a ton of fun trying this out, it’s an idea we cannot believe hasn’t been done a hundred times because it works so well. Basically it’s like Breakout, the game where you hit a bouncy ball with a paddle to break blocks at the top of the screen, but the blocks scroll in infinitely from the right-hand side of the screen.

This basically turns it into the best version of Breakout ever, because it removes the worst part of breakout which is trying to get like 2-3 little leftover blocks on a screen you’ve mostly cleared. The one thing we didn’t love is that there are often “bombs” that clear a bunch of stuff instead of allowing you to watch the ball bounce around a bunch and the levels are a bit short and a bit repetitive. With even a tiny bit of tweaking though, this could be a really amazing game instead of just a fun one!

Comet Cats:


  • Cats
  • Sticky cats
  • Collectible cats
  • Physics!

We were very bad at this game but it was clearly a very neat game. It’s about tossing a bunch of cats into a box and trying to build your stack of cats high enough to grab sparkles which give you more time to stack more cats to grab more sparkles!

The cats stick together if they’re the same color, and the magical nega-cat can stick to any cat, making it an exceptionally useful kitty. The gameplay is straightforward and moreish, with just enough control to make the odd accidental toppling of a precarious cat-stack hit that much harder. It needs a little bit of tweaking with the cat-generator, though! They said that the reason we were terrible might have been that too few nega-cats spawned in our games, in addition to our just being bad at it.

Takeover Trail:


  • Realpolitik
  • Clever plans
  • A map

We lost this one real bad without completely noticing which maybe points to the win/loss condition being a bit more hidden than it needs to be. The basic play is you’re on a 4-color map where every country has a number, you start as one country generating a bit of money, and you takeover others by basically buying the “propaganda” that allows you to take over countries if you have an equal or greater amount of propaganda than they do… countryness? So buy 1 yellow propaganda, take over any yellow country with a 1 on it. Buy 2, take over any yellow 1 or 2 countries, etc.

As you take over countries you generate more cash and you occasionally need to squash rebellions. The thing that caught us out was that there’s never really push-back on the map itself to your takeover, you just keep advancing. The opposing forces are represented by a steadily ticking meter in the top of the screen, which is a bit of a difficult thing to focus on while you’re tapping about. Still, this is an interesting take on the map-takeover genre, we were a fan of the idea of doing away with combat-type stuff entirely.

Colosseum Coach:


  • Monsters
  • Gary
  • Sunglasses
  • Flirting

We’ve got a real thing for games where you put together a little team of people, regardless of whether there’s any real effect of their being individuals on the action. Colosseum Coach lets you build a little cadre of gladiators and outfit them in cool clothes to fight monsters.

The game is absolutely charming at the moment, with evocative artwork that really gets you into the mindset of how cool sunglasses look with gladiator sandals. Unfortunately it’s also a little basic. You basically just fight/block/do an effect that lasts the entire fight. There’s something here, and we’re interested in seeing where it goes, but at the moment it definitely feels a little too much of a foregone conclusion that your fighters either win or die, because you’re kind of just going -5, okay monster did -2, we’re winning this thing in a couple taps. Still there’s a lot of room to grow in terms of adding some equipping or positioning tactical stuff, and it does look practically perfect visually.

So that’s that! The open house was fun and the folks were all really nice and we got to pet a dog. It was amazing to see what these hard-working young people managed to put together in 3 danged months, and we absolutely can’t wait to see what these games become and see what else the people on these teams make! Check out Mass DiGi for games from prior years or to get involved yourself!

Local Podcasts!

Ever since the invention of podcasts – when all radios in the Northern hemisphere intercepted a panicked discussion between a group of survivors of the Great Hiveship Anaximanious who had accidentally flipped their escape pod’s internal tele-speak on “broadcast” during a panicked hunt for the SOS transmitter before having an enlightening conversation about comedy, music, movies, board games, and oddly enough the American penal system – we’ve all been fans of this on-demand radio for the internet.

There’s a podcast for everyone! And now that’s truer than ever, with LOCAL podcasts diving onto the scene like majestic eagles. Each of these podcasts is the recipient of a special award that we definitely did not make up on the spot.

Top One About Games Featuring Two Friends Bickering: Chairmen of the Boards

  • What it’s about: Board and video-style games. Mostly the sort of bickering back-and-forth you get after completing a game and thinking about what you liked or did not like about it. Organized into loose themes like “open-world games” and “betrayer games”.
  • Who’s on it: Jesse Mayhew and Arvid Nelson. Arvid is an author, co-created and currently writes the comic Rex Mundi for Dark Horse, and works on video games. Jesse Mayhew performs labor in exchange for remuneration.
  • Why you should give it a listen: It’s only a few episodes in, but they’ve got a pretty solid rapport that’s easy to listen to. They’ve also managed to focus much more effectively than a lot of the chatty podcasts we’ve listened to. The discussion is on-topic and usually about a half hour. Because they don’t drift too much, you usually get a better understanding of the topic in less time than you might from a 3-hour “let’s talk about whatever in games” podcast.
  • If you’d like to be a guest: Contact them! They’re interested in speaking to local game designers and probably interesting and charismatic local folks in general.

Top One About Psychosocial Games Featuring Two Sisters Pleasantly Discussing: Games People Play

  • What it’s about: Games, but not that sort of game! Based on an old psychological theory proposed by Eric Berne about how social interactions are “games”, this podcast examines various social “games”. Things like “the 30-life crisis game”, played by both 30 year-olds and the sort of people who ask “so when are you settling down?”. Or the Christmas/Holidays Game where you try to achieve a Good Holiday without feeling horrid. It’s super high concept for a chatting podcast and we’re totally into it.
  • Who’s on it: Local game designer Hannah Shaffer and her sister Alanna, a local comedian and writer.
  • Why you should give it a listen: The high-concept premise is worth the price of admission in our opinion. Hannah and Alanna get along well and are easy to listen to. The structure of the discussion allows them to bounce back and forth between discussing more standard game design and discussing social structures that we tend to think of as invisible rather than designed.
  • What’s the theme music like: It’s totally awesome.

Top One About Comics and Games and Movies and Everything By A Local Comic Shop: Mythspoken

  • What it’s about: Basically all of the stuff that people working at Modern Myths are into! It covers a really wide swath. Talking to creators, talking about how to use Kickstarter, talking about comic movies, talking about race in gaming, talking about lots and lots of things. It is currently defunct, but the Modern Myths newsletter has said that this year it’s going to be back in business! We await it excitedly!
  • Who’s on it: The friendly folks at Modern Myths! It varies, and in particular the next set of people will be different from the current set of episodes since the staff has changed in the meantime.
  • Why you should give it a listen: Freewheeling discussion of a wide variety of topics that holds up even years later! The folks at Modern Myths are nice and also well-versed in the nerd stuff they’re discussing.
  • When’s it coming back: IT IS A MYSTERY but we’re hoping it’ll be soon.

Speaking With Pioneer Valley Games Founder Jesse Bemben

We’re lucky enough to have some talented, interesting people in our happy valley, and the Valley Nerd Watch wants to introduce you to as many of them as possible.

That’s starting today, with an interview of local video-game developer and artist Jesse Bemben of Pioneer Valley Games!

James Olchowski: So first of all, why start your own studio instead of getting into the industry?

Jesse Bemben: That’s mostly because… even if I were offered to work with EA or Blizzard or something I wouldn’t do it. I spend a lot of time watching online lectures and stuff, I recently finished a lecture series by Warren Spector, and he had a bunch of people come in and talk for hours at a time, Richard Garriot and a bunch of others.

Hearing people talk about it just completely turns me off of working in the industry. The reason I’m working independently is because I want to make my story. It’s selfish but I think most people want to tell their story. If you work for a company, you’re never going to make your story. You’re always going to be working on someone else’s idea. And some people might like that but… I just am not interested. It’s also an extremely tumultuous industry.

JO: So do you do this for a day job?

JB: I actually do graphics, I’m working for a guy who does mobile games. So I put a contracted amount of hours into that each week based on my own schedule. I wake up whenever I want and work the hours that work for me. Everything else is just working on my own projects.

JO: Is there a reason you chose to make your company Pioneer Valley Games? Why you chose to specifically highlight the area?

JB: No, I mean I’m from the area and I love the area and it started in the area… so it seemed natural to me.

JO: The Valley has really built up a community of craft and artisans, have you found that it’s a good community for something digital?

JB: I haven’t had a huge amount of interaction with artists in the community. I only know a few to be honest, many of them in this building [Eastworks] itself, and one of the people I worked with was an artist, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I think I found it more inspirational when I was a writer, actually.

You could go up to the mountain and sit down and write and it was awesome. Digital work is a bit different, I spend a lot of time hanging out at my house with my dog, I’m not connected to many people face-to-face.

JO: Interesting. Part of the reason I started the Nerd Watch, and something I’ve found as I’ve spoken to people, is that if people in the same area are doing something similar and it’s amenable to the internet you just don’t meet each other.

JB: Yeah, I’d say this area has a lot of… real artists I guess. Sculptors, painters, and they’re great and there’s just a difference between the physical and the digital mediums and how they interact.

JO: So did you get this position in part or in whole because of the Pioneer Valley Games work that you’ve been doing, and the RPG Maker assets you have for sale on Steam?

JB: Yeah, he saw that I had some stuff for sale on Steam and got in touch with me.

JO: Have you had a lot of success selling asset packs on Steam?

JB: Enough success that I don’t need a job so *laughs*, yeah.

JO: Do you think that the 3D-rendered models you’ve made [link] have something to do with your success? They don’t look much like other RPG Maker stuff.

JB: Yeah, when I started doing this about two and a half years ago there was only one additional pack that you could buy. RPG Maker came with a base set of very cartoony looking graphics. Then, they released another completely different set that was just graphics, from someone just in the community, not on staff. When I saw that I figured well if this person can do it why can’t other people do it?

So I sent a message to one of their staff asking if they’d be interested in selling something if I made something. The 3D rendering stuff I had was the fastest to work with at the time, and I was into experimenting with it so that’s where I wound up making most of the assets. And for whatever reason, no one else has been really making RPG Maker stuff in that style.


April 27th – May 3rd


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!