It's graduation day at Hartfeld! Now that the finale chapter of The Senior -- and the whole Freshman series -- has wrapped up, it's time to toss your graduation cap in the air and say your goodbyes. Here to send off the series is The Senior writing team:
It's truly the end of an era. What's your mood right now? How did you feel writing the very last chapter of The Senior, and by extension, the entire Freshman series?
Sara: It's a solid mix of being very tired and very relieved. We brought the series home, and I can only hope we did it justice. I feel like I'm closing this particular chapter of my Choices writing at the perfect moment; it's a good time to let something go when you are almost but not quite ready to say goodbye!
What was the most challenging part of wrapping up the stories of so many beloved characters within this book? What about the most rewarding part?
Sara: I want to shout out our QA testers for this one! They were truly heroes for how much time and effort they put into testing our chapters, especially as the chapters got more and more complex near the end with all our lovely love interests and possible futures! The vacation chapter was truly a champion-tier quest for our intrepid QA team. They often messaged me while testing to say how invested they were, and that meant so much to me. Whether it was people in the Pixelberry team or Choices fans at large, hearing that people cared so deeply about the story made it all worthwhile.
While I'm talking up people, our art team is absolutely incredible! I love everything they've created, including but not limited to the rainbow hairstyle and blue velvet suit. I may have dressed up in that very look on one or two occasions. :P
What's been your favorite moment out of all of The Senior? (The rest of The Freshman series is fair game, too!)
Sara: Nothing will ever top Hartfeld Horror Story for me. In the words of Caitlin, "Chad, for the love of god, I'm tired of looking at your man body." If this is really confusing to you, go play the Sophomore Halloween special!
Shayn: My favorite moment was our long, dark night of the soul, in which Emily (the main character) has lost one of her most important relationships and is alone in London. It's a bleak moment, but it gave us an opportunity to speak to the struggle of adulthood.
Elizabeth: I loved writing the scene The Senior in which Abbie and Tyler show off their first video game, Dragon Jest, and tell off a bully who thinks it's "not a real game." I've always loved games with brightness and romance in them. Mobile games, romance games, games about fun and relationships -- they're real games, too! And I loved that I got to express all the pride and excitement I've felt in making these games through Tyler, Abbie, and Emily in this scene.
Where do you imagine The Senior main cast will go from here?
Sara: To follow up on the question from earlier, it's both challenging and rewarding to leave some parts of these characters' stories untold. Emily's future is headed in a definite direction at the end of the series, but her final destination remains a mystery. I'd love to create a spin-off about Madison researching volcanoes, or Aaron and his hamster's grand adventures (what if they were detectives?!) or Kaitlyn's musical hijinks... But I know that this story is meant to end, and the rewarding part comes in remembering that each of these characters has an inner life and a wide-open world that every player's imagination can fill in.
Shayn: I see the cast all gathering regularly for get-togethers! After everything they've been through, there's no way they'll become the kind of friends who talk only on occasion. I definitely see Becca flying in for Kaitlyn's birthday bash, and Zig clearing his work schedule to go to Zack's wedding...
Elizabeth: I would say.... wherever the player wants! We all worked hard to give players different options at the end as to where their MC and their love interests end up. However, in some alternate future, I do picture Edgar Lucas as president, using his pizza-box zither to stave off the robot apocalypse and bring about world peace. Obviously!
What advice would you give to students about to graduate high school or college?
Sara: In college, I angsted a lot about not knowing what I wanted or where precisely life would take me. Along the way, I discovered a performance arts group, amazing friendships, a study abroad trip to Northern Ireland... and spent a couple of post-grad years jumping from city to city and barista gig to barista gig before finding a professional home here at Pixelberry. Not knowing what's next can lead to a lot of unexpected wonderfulness! Don't worry about knowing everything that will come right away.
What's next for The Senior team?
Shayn: We're all moving off onto new projects now, but I'm excited for what's next! Thanks to The Senior fans for all your true love for the characters.
Elizabeth: I'm heading off to amp up the drama on America's Most Eligible, Book 2!
Sara: Speaking for myself... Whatever it is that’s next for me, I imagine it's very different from this...
Time to open this up to The Freshman writers of the past! Do you have any favorite memories from writing The Freshman during the early days? Any favorite story moments?
Max: In Book 1, I was really proud of the scene where you're completely overloaded with your first assignment from Professor Vasquez, and your friends pull an all-nighter to help you out. To me, that's the moment that first crystalized the key strength of this book: the wonderful, supportive friend group that sticks together, helping each other out through college life's various challenges! That's a theme that subsequent writers have carried through the whole series in a beautiful, heartwarming way.
Jennifer: Even though I know it's a crazy plot point, I always enjoyed the moment we decided to have you be James' fake fiance; it's one of my favorite romantic tropes. As for favorite memories... I remember when we were first brainstorming the right name for the college. I wanted something that sounded like 'heartfelt,' and ended up at Hartfeld!
Wendy: Basically anything involving Madison was my favorite to write. She's just so wholesome. I also have a huge soft spot in my heart for Snowed In, the holiday special. I was still fairly new to the team at that point, and figuring out how all your suitemates would react to being caught in a blizzard was a great way to get to know the characters. Plus, the end result was pretty darn fun to play, if I do say so myself.
Saran: Honestly, we’ve all shared so many laughs and good memories over the course of the series that it’s hard to pick a single highlight. I wish we had a blooper reel for all of the goofy typos and outtakes that never made it into the game, because there are some true gems! To this day, I still keep a screenshot of a development bug where Zig’s hair showed up wrong, and it came out as an accidental mullet. But you know what? He still looked great.
Chelsa: I worked on The Freshman series for so long that it's hard to pinpoint an exact favorite moment. The main team I worked with was Saran, Maya, and Sara, and we had (still have) some really good times! Honestly, getting through brainstorms were a struggle, because we were cracking too many jokes to stay on track. My favorite book that we worked on together was the Hartfeld Horror Story. The original version was so gory and crazy, we weren't sure the fans could handle it! My favorite scene I ever worked on was in The Freshman: Book 3 when Kaitlyn and Emily join the D&D club for a session. Writing all the classes and outcomes was a blast. Also, Zig4Life.
Maya: Working with Chelsa, Saran, and Sara was a blast. The entire brainstorm process for The Sophomore and The Sophomore’s Halloween special was wild from start to finish -- and writing the Halloween special is hands-down my favorite memory. It was so much fun getting to satirize the characters we loved so much. I got more than a few stomachaches from laughing so hard.
Any parting words for The Freshman fans?
Chelsa: I guess all I want to say about this series is that it's the very first thing I worked on when I moved to Choices after Hollywood U. It's really special to me, and so are all of the people I've had a chance to work with on it. I don't think I'll ever forget the good times and hijinks we got up to. I also can never eat rosemary chicken again, thanks Saran.
Jennifer: Thank you so much for playing the series! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
Wendy: It's been a whole journey. Thanks for sticking with us. And if you're looking for more school-related adventures from Pixelberry, check out High School Story (wink wink).
Maya: The Freshman characters became like friends to me as I was writing them, and I hope they became the same to you. I hope you’ll always look back on your time at Hartfeld with a smile!
Sara: I gave the abbreviated version of my parting words for our lovely readers at the end of the book... But I will add that I'm so grateful that you all love these characters and their stories as much as we at Pixelberry do! Thanks for sticking with us until the happy end. <3 Also, I love Kaitlyn Liao. xoxo
That about says it all. After over two years, this really feels like the end of an era in Choices, and we're so thankful for all of you who read The Freshman series from the very beginning. Choices wouldn't be what it is today without you.