Name and Twitter handle?
Alasdair Evans (@ev4nac)
What do you do now?
I’m Producer for the mysterious Essex-based developer Laughing Jackal. I also produce the majority of our game designs, which is easily the best part of the job. Although we’re a little-known outfit, we’ve produced games I’m really proud of. People can check us out at www.laughingjackal.co.uk
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK
Currently residing where in the world?
Bishops Stortford in Herts. It’s very nice.
Favourite video game of all time?
A year ago I’d have been torn between Super Metroid and Super Street Fighter IV. Now it’s easy: Spelunky (particularly the XBLA version.) It’s the perfect desert island game and as solid a game design as you could ever hope to find. I have nothing but admiration for Derek Yu.
What was the last game you enjoyed and why?
I’ve been on a real Roguelike frenzy of late and Cavern on iOS was awesome (plus the first Roguelike I’ve ever completed.) I’ve also enjoyed Sleeping Dogs a huge amount, plus Far Cry 3 and was the shizzle.
Describe very briefly any of the bullying you experienced.
I was a popular kid in my primary school, but already a massive nerd. The moment I encountered my first video game I knew what I was going to do with my life. However at secondary school things changed. I went from being one of the bigger kids in my old school to one of the smallest, and from day one I was targeted by kids who wanted to make themselves look tougher. It’s kind of like prison that way – jump a small kid and make yourself known to be a tough guy.
Things actually got worse the further through school I got, as I was something of a late bloomer and one of the shortest and lightest boys in the school. 😉 Add to that some Roland Rat glasses I had for a while (yes, really!) and a pudding bowl haircut and it was a perfect storm. I really ought to have know better! :S
The bullying was mostly physical. I would regularly get forced into fights that I just didn’t want any part of and I remember one particularly nasty afternoon trip home on the bus when 12 boys tried to beat up my brother and I. The bus driver just ignored it. They were really going for it too… Not nice.
We had older parents and that was something that was singled out, as was taking an interest in lessons. Worst of all we were also in several choirs, which was like a red rag to a bull and solid gold bullying materials. We were often asked if we were going to ‘queer practice’ of an evening.
Things went on like that for the first four years of school, but never stopped entirely. The most distressing part was having to watch people fighting my brother. He was even smaller than me and very mouthy, which didn’t help. We both understood that openly objecting to someone fighting your brother would have resulted in even worse bullying for being ‘gay’, so we both resolved to take our licks individually and just be there for each other afterwards.
There was occasional bullying outside of school – if I saw any of the bullies on a trip to Shrewsbury it’d be a question of getting away without making it look obvious or plotting a course back to the bus station that’d mean I was less likely to see them.
When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?
I don’t think bullying is an easy thing to manage quite honestly and every one will deal with it differently. A good family around you certainly helps. Unfortunately for me I’m naturally a very private person – certainly not a sharer – so I didn’t really speak to anyone about it other than my brother, who was right there with me. I just sucked it up, which was completely the wrong thing to do…
In the end I resolved to be strong about it. I read ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley a lot, that’s for sure! It’s still one of my favourite poems. It sounds very harsh and Victorian, but I think there’s a lot to be said for creating a sense of self mastery within you. Whatever happens, it’s up to you how you deal with it. Make sure you deal with it well.
The tipping point for conquering the bullying was when my former best friend, who was significantly larger than me, gave me dead arms for an entire double Social Studies lesson (it’s actually funny writing that down!) He made it clear that we had a fight arranged at lunchtime. I felt betrayed and sick with fear for the rest of the morning. I knew there was no way out of it.
When the hour came I went to the arranged spot and as soon as it things formally started I popped him smack on the jaw and knocked him straight out. You could have heard a pin drop and – I assure you – no one was more surprised than me. I was so scared I just put everything into it and was very lucky.
After that – and another similar incident with a big kid a year below me a couple of weeks later – things eased off for me, and also for my brother, which was the best part.
Bullying kind of continued when I moved to Sixth Form as it was a whole new set of ‘cool’ lads with a brand new easy target, but it that was only verbal and towards the end of the last year I shot up in size. Once I reached 6’3” and began shaving my head that was the end of it, thank God.
What effect do you think bullying had on you?
It totally knocked my confidence. I am still pretty slow getting to know people – much more so than I’d like to be.
However, once I went to Uni I realised that no one knew me and that I could be the person I wanted to be: my true self. I reinvented myself honestly, and from day one resolved to be more outgoing and in control. Straight away I made some lifelong friends and turned things around. I really feel disconnected from my younger self. I feel like I’ve lived two separate lives in a way.
I’ve really let go of the past and don’t have any bad feelings towards the people who bullied me. My beliefs mean that I am very conscious not to judge other people. You have to always try and see the other side of things. People are so quick to dislike others over how they perceive them to be. It’s important to remember that very few people truly want to be horrible. There’s a story behind the story.
The best thing is that it made me one hundred per cent determined not to let anybody else affect how I want to be. That makes it all totally worth it.
How is your life better now?
I have a lovely wife, Emma, who’s been with me for fourteen years, plus a great little son called Noah who’s 3. Watching him grow into a confident, outgoing child is so rewarding. I was afraid he’d be shy like I was, but so far quite the opposite!
I’m working in a job that I love and helping create things that interest me every day. I get to play around in my everyday clothes, while other people I know are stuck in a shirt and tie, reading endless spreadsheets and forever in and out of mind-numbing meetings. That’d be hell for me!
I never expected to be in the position that I am now. I think if you stay true to yourself and never give up you’ll reach your goals. Anyone who can’t handle you as you are isn’t worth worrying about. As long as you’re not a dick, obviously. 😉
Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?
No chance! I grew up in the middle of nowhere and had a fairly miserable time at school. I did none of the courses or subjects that you’d expect nowadays. I thought I’d be an office drone for sure. I never expected to get a job in this industry as I am not the best at maths, have an illogical brain and am famously unprofessional. I do have a lot of ideas though, and that’s been the biggest asset to me in my career so far.
I have a pretty great life my most measures. I feel very lucky.
What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?
Go ahead and DO IT. There’s never been a better time to get started. Try not to worry about other people’s opinions.
I know from experience that it’s not always easy to get past bullying, especially the physical stuff that you literally can’t avoid, but you will come through it. Just keep going as you are and try not to let it change you too much. Also, don’t be like me: share your experiences. That seems to be a lot easier to do nowadays.
Above all, remember that you’re being singled out because you’re different to the regular kids who’ll end up doing the regular jobs. That’s a great thing! Never let them win. Invictus!