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Sad Day for the Hokies

By now, you’ve probably heard of the shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech, the bloodiest such incident in American history. This struck closer to me than you might expect because Pinnacle Entertainment Group, the gaming company I co-founded with Shane Hensley back in 1996, is based in Tech’s hometown of Blacksburg, Virginia.

I lived and worked in and around Blacksburg for more than three years. It’s a beautiful place, quiet, isolated from the rest of the world, just the way you might think a classic college town should be. It was a hotbed of tabletop gaming for many years. At least four different companies were founded there, including Pinnacle, Charles Ryan’s Chameleon Eclectic, Joe Cochrane’s Wireframe Entertainment, and Greg Porter’s Blackburg Tactical Research Center. Many other gaming professionals lived or went to school there, like Green Ronin’s Hal Mangold, Wizards of the Coast’s Rich Baker, and John Hopler, Zeke Sparkes, Angel Leigh McCoy, and other’s I’m probably forgetting.

My son Marty was born when we lived in Christiansburg, Blacksburg’s sister city. Some of the wounded were treated at the hospital in which he was born, in nearby Radford.

I’m shocked, stunned, and numb. Most of the people I knew in the area have since moved on. It’s a college town. That’s how it works. But I still loved the place and remember it well.

Here’s to the Hokies and everyone else in Blacksburg. May the healing begin soon and go fast.

Comments 6

  1. Hi, Matt,
    In the aftermath of the shootings in Blacksburg, I find myself thinking of all the folks I knew in Blacksburg, and it was one of the reasons I decided to take a poke at your site again, to see how you were.

    I’ve been thinking back to all the good times I had and all the fantastic people I met there. I find it so hard to believe it’s been 8 years since I left Virginia. Time flies.

    Maybe our thinking back to happy times in Blacksburg is one way of helping to heal the wound there now, in a cosmic sort of way. I hope so.

    I’m so saddened that things like this happen anywhere in the world, but it does feel a little more personal because I once called Blacksburg home.

    Now, Seattle is my home, but I could never forget Blacksburg or my friends there. My career has evolved, though I haven’t strayed from games. I’m working for Microsoft Game Studios now, managing websites for them and writing freelance for fun, in my spare time. I just finished a project for ArenaNet’s Guild Wars.

    Life is good, and I feel guilty saying so in the face of the tragedy in Virginia. Perhaps that’s a little survivor’s guilt. My heart definitely aches that this happened though. And I thank you for opening the door with your post, so I could touch base with someone from my time there in Blacksburg. I don’t have contact info for so many of those people. I’m a terrible correspondent, despite being or perhaps because I’m a writer. Please say hi from me to anyone you talk to from that era. If they want to get in touch, you’re welcome to share my email address with them.

    Love and best wishes to you and your family!
    Angel…

  2. Hi, Matt,
    In the aftermath of the shootings in Blacksburg, I find myself thinking of all the folks I knew in Blacksburg, and it was one of the reasons I decided to take a poke at your site again, to see how you were.

    I’ve been thinking back to all the good times I had and all the fantastic people I met there. I find it so hard to believe it’s been 8 years since I left Virginia. Time flies.

    Maybe our thinking back to happy times in Blacksburg is one way of helping to heal the wound there now, in a cosmic sort of way. I hope so.

    I’m so saddened that things like this happen anywhere in the world, but it does feel a little more personal because I once called Blacksburg home.

    Now, Seattle is my home, but I could never forget Blacksburg or my friends there. My career has evolved, though I haven’t strayed from games. I’m working for Microsoft Game Studios now, managing websites for them and writing freelance for fun, in my spare time. I just finished a project for ArenaNet’s Guild Wars.

    Life is good, and I feel guilty saying so in the face of the tragedy in Virginia. Perhaps that’s a little survivor’s guilt. My heart definitely aches that this happened though. And I thank you for opening the door with your post, so I could touch base with someone from my time there in Blacksburg. I don’t have contact info for so many of those people. I’m a terrible correspondent, despite being or perhaps because I’m a writer. Please say hi from me to anyone you talk to from that era. If they want to get in touch, you’re welcome to share my email address with them.

    Love and best wishes to you and your family!
    Angel…

  3. Thanks for the note, Angel. Not so coincidentally, I went poking around for you too. I’m glad to hear you’re still doing well in Seattle. If you worked with ArenaNet, perhaps you ran into my pals Jeff Grubb and Ree Soesbee. It seems like a good crew.

    I don’t see too much of the Blackburg gang these days, except at conventions. Hopler and Zeke are at Cryptic Studios these days, and Shane’s moved on from that to Cheyenne Mountain, along with Michelle and their boys. Hal’s a part owner of Green Ronin. I saw Tice back in January, in North Carolina. Charles works for Esdevium in the UK these days, and he married Tammie and has two kids with her.

    I figured I’d always know someone back in Blacksburg, but there are less than a handful these days, and I don’t know how to reach them any longer. It’s sad, but those I do know of seem happy and are either doing great things or working toward them.

    Thanks for getting back in touch. I hope Seattle continues to treat you well and that we get to catch up with each other in person before too long.

  4. Post
    Author

    Thanks for the note, Angel. Not so coincidentally, I went poking around for you too. I’m glad to hear you’re still doing well in Seattle. If you worked with ArenaNet, perhaps you ran into my pals Jeff Grubb and Ree Soesbee. It seems like a good crew.

    I don’t see too much of the Blackburg gang these days, except at conventions. Hopler and Zeke are at Cryptic Studios these days, and Shane’s moved on from that to Cheyenne Mountain, along with Michelle and their boys. Hal’s a part owner of Green Ronin. I saw Tice back in January, in North Carolina. Charles works for Esdevium in the UK these days, and he married Tammie and has two kids with her.

    I figured I’d always know someone back in Blacksburg, but there are less than a handful these days, and I don’t know how to reach them any longer. It’s sad, but those I do know of seem happy and are either doing great things or working toward them.

    Thanks for getting back in touch. I hope Seattle continues to treat you well and that we get to catch up with each other in person before too long.

  5. Oh goodness, I really do need to update my website. πŸ˜‰ It’s a sad old bit of vanity. Next time you go poking, I’ll be sure to have something less “high school” up. πŸ˜‰

    I did see Mr. Grubb, and it was a pleasure. Though we only passed briefly, it was good to see him. I worked with him at Wizards when I first came to Seattle, and though I wasn’t sure he’d remember me, it seems he did. πŸ™‚ The folks at ArenaNet are awesome. Some of my best friends work there now. It’s a hub of amazing creativity.

    I didn’t know Shane & Mitch were in Phoenix. I’ll have to try to contact them next time I go down there. It seems people I know keep migrating down there. Must be some cosmic magnet for cool people or something.

    I saw Charles briefly as he moved into my desk, and I moved out of it, at Wizards, several years ago — an interesting moment of serendipity.

    I’m glad to hear everyone is doing so well. Thanks for the update! πŸ™‚

  6. Oh goodness, I really do need to update my website. πŸ˜‰ It’s a sad old bit of vanity. Next time you go poking, I’ll be sure to have something less “high school” up. πŸ˜‰

    I did see Mr. Grubb, and it was a pleasure. Though we only passed briefly, it was good to see him. I worked with him at Wizards when I first came to Seattle, and though I wasn’t sure he’d remember me, it seems he did. πŸ™‚ The folks at ArenaNet are awesome. Some of my best friends work there now. It’s a hub of amazing creativity.

    I didn’t know Shane & Mitch were in Phoenix. I’ll have to try to contact them next time I go down there. It seems people I know keep migrating down there. Must be some cosmic magnet for cool people or something.

    I saw Charles briefly as he moved into my desk, and I moved out of it, at Wizards, several years ago — an interesting moment of serendipity.

    I’m glad to hear everyone is doing so well. Thanks for the update! πŸ™‚

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