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Phil Gaskell

Phil gaskell

Name and Twitter handle:

Phil Gaskell @ripstoner


What do you do now?

Creative Director and Co-Founder of a digital publisher called Ripstone.


Birth place:

A small town about halfway between Liverpool and Manchester called Leigh


Currently residing where in the world?

A small town about halfway between Liverpool and Manchester called Lowton…next to Leigh.


Favourite video game of all time?

I’ve been playing games for over 20 years and in that time there are many that have influenced me and impressed me but only a handful that I regularly went back to play over and over again, particularly as a boy. System 3’s “The Last Ninja” was probably the one that stands out the most; full of mystery, adventure and awesome kicks-ass ninja moves. I was particularly proud of my private rendition of the box art in DPaint that I toiled over, and I still enjoy listening to Ben Daglish and Anthony Lee’s soundtrack in the car now and again.


What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

“Papers, Please” by Lucas Pope. I had quite low expectations given the monotony the core game loop (stamping passports) might bring and the relatively low rent visuals, but all that melted away into glee and admiration from the moment I heard the imposing Eastern Bloc title music. Within a few minutes I was beginning to feel drunk with power as I rejected one immigrant after another, and then the game started plucking on my emotional heartstrings. No spoilers, it’s a brilliant game that is both a poke in the eye to the way border control procedures and immigration are handled by countries, and at the same time very much not about stamping passports. All hail Arstotzka!


Describe very briefly any of the bullying you experienced. 

There were three main periods in my life when I experienced bullying, each lasting a number of years. The first time was when I attended primary school; a kid with an amputated arm would hit me over the head with his prosthetic, it actually hurt more when he didn’t wear it and I got clobbered with the boney bit! I was removed from the school by my parents fairly quickly but not for the reasons I thought. I was under the impression it was for retaliating and pushing the kid down some stairs after he attacked me from behind and I’d had enough. Only later in life did I find out that it was due to one of the teachers excluding me from the classroom for something trivial, and I was found stood outside the door in floods of tears by an aunt that worked at the school. I don’t recall that event, but this led to my mother having a huge fallout with the headmistress. I do recall that though!


The second time was during my secondary school years, so I would have been aged around 12, and this period was the longest and most upsetting. It lasted pretty much the length of my secondary school education so I don’t have any fond memories of those times. There were several sets of bullies that targeted me. One kid would greet me every morning as I came into the form-room before school began and get me in a headlock, drag me out and demand I stay outside. Another kid lost his father when we were around 13 years old which must have been very traumatising and difficult to come to terms with at that age. His frustration and grief was channelled at me and I hated attending the lessons that we shared. Mostly name calling, and threats of violence if I didn’t do exactly what he said. Another kid targeted me with taunts about my mother being a prostitute (probably stating the obvious but she wasn’t), and unfortunately for me the girl next-door shared a tale in her English class about one of her earliest childhood memories which involved us both being found hiding in a wardrobe when we were aged about 4 or 5 innocently swapping clothes with each other, and this led to further taunts of me being a transvestite. Physical abuse never bothered me that much, it’s rough and tumble and never hurt me badly, but the mental torture was harrowing. It was the fear and anticipation I hated, my stomach would tie itself into knots knowing the name-calling and threats were going to happen and that it was just a matter of time each day.


The final time was in my late teens when I worked at a local McDonalds to earn weekend party money. There were a couple of alpha males in the group that I started hanging around with that liked to tell me how to behave and belittle me. One particular event sticks in my mind when some of us went for a short holiday to Minehead and I was ‘kangaroo courted’ by them for making friends with some younger kids. That was a particularly intensive mental battering that almost broke me. Although I did get my own back on one of them when we returned by letting his girlfriend know he’d shagged one of the chalet cleaners!


When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?

Advice like ignore it, or report it didn’t seem effective when I was young as the issue didn’t seem to be taken anywhere near as seriously as it is today. I did report it once in my early years when the kid who lost his dad started bullying me, but it didn’t stop him (however it did stop his accomplice). I developed coping strategies for it, although when it got very bad I did once run home, only to be marched back by my mother to pick up my cooking that I’d left! Right at the end when the whole prostitute thing flared up I did retaliate and stand up to the bully, which worked. But I would look forward to the time I could leave school for good and forge a new path away from the bullies. This led me to work hard in lessons and make sure I achieved good grades. It focused me on being better than them.


What effect do you think bullying had on you?

I have a younger brother and I’m ashamed to say that I behaved in a very controlling way with him due to how I was being treated. I also focused on playing video games a lot during that time (I got my first computer aged 10) as games were the perfect way to escape for me. I could control the situations I was in; I could be heroic, strong, and victorious. All the things I wasn’t being in real-life. Nowadays I’m pretty good in my own company, I’m not the type of person that needs people around them but I’m also not always easy to work with for that reason. I can sometimes appear cold and distant with people for no reason. I’m a very driven person with strong ambition and determination, a hatred for being wrong (or should that be an obsession for being right?), and I’m very strong mentally. I’ve developed quite a thick skin so criticism is something I can deal with. I also have a strong morale sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, so I will often not stand by and let bad behaviour go unchallenged.


How is your life better now?

My dad would often say to me that, when the time came and I had to go to work for a living, I would look back on my school days with envy – I guess he thought school was much easier and less stressful than work. He was wrong. I have my dream job, and because it’s a hobby it’s never once felt like work. The icing on the cake is I get paid to do it!  What’s not to like? I’ve travelled the world, I’ve eaten some of the craziest things, I’ve made some amazing friends and gone from being a geek in the 80’s to chic today. My name is forever immortalised in some fantastic entertainment products (and some stinkers too!), and I’ve enjoyed every single moment, even the tough ones. Today as I write this I’m proudly supporting lots of young and new game companies through Ripstone, and hope to help even more realise their artistic visions before the year is out. I’m a Games Ambassador and a mentor to young students studying video game courses in schools, and I still love sitting with kids and talking about the games they’re playing. Like most 7yr olds my eldest son is obsessed with Minecraft and I get a kick out of sitting with him and giving him tips, challenging him to think about what he wants to build, to plan it out, and to be creative with it.


As you grow up and mature you’re able to reflect on the past and come to terms with it more easily. When you’re being bullied, and perhaps the age you are when it happens, you often aren’t well equipped to deal with it. I don’t blame any of the bullies that tormented me, I still see some of them and I pity them because they have to live with their actions. Some of them had tough lives when they were growing up, much tougher than I did at home, and some of them haven’t really made much of their lives today. Some turned to hard drugs, some have low paid unskilled jobs and struggle to get by, and those I met and spoke to later in life are clearly ashamed of how they behaved. Particularly the ones who have kids themselves now and realise how much they would hate it if their kids were the subject of the things they said and did.


I have two adorable young sons in whom I try to instil good values, I help them avoid the mistakes I made, and be better people than me. My life is fantastic, my work is fulfilling and exciting, and I believe I’m a good person who is respected and loved.


Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?

There were dark times when I was growing up, when I thought things couldn’t ever get better, and being raised in a religious family my thoughts crossed over to the dark side more than once. I certainly didn’t think I would be working in games and having so many good times with so many fantastic, talented, and kind people. As you get older your life gets better, because as you mature you see better what life is really about, what is important, and what isn’t. There is more goodness in this world than you might at first think.


What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

First of all tell someone, share with your friends what is going on. We all have the strength to rise above the situation we find ourselves in and conquer it in our own way, but we don’t ever have to do that alone. I bottled it up and it really didn’t help. Tell a teacher, tell your parents, tell any of us on this site. This can be really hard, I know I would have found it hard, I would have been fearful of the reprecussions and of making it worse. So if you find it hard to talk to someone then write them an email or a letter. In this day and age of electronic mail a hand written letter actually is a very powerful and personal way of communicating. Most of all stay strong, it might not feel like it but it will always get better.


A career in a creative industry is hard work, but also incredibly rewarding. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing something you’ve created appearing on a shelf in the store, or hearing someone you’ve never met saying positive things about it. In particular the indie scene is a wonderfully supportive and positive place to be, and the games that spring up from this are often very personal. Look at Ryan Green’s “That Dragon, Cancer” for a fine example of how sharing a personal story can be powerful and moving for the player, and perhaps even cathartic for the creator. So work hard at school, play hard at home, and be inquisitive. Ask questions of yourself when you play – “Why did I behave that way in the game? What made me do that?”, feel free to ask questions of the people making the games you play and I think you’ll be surprised how many get back to you with answers, and most of all keep creating. 


The famous French artist Henri Matisse said “Creativity takes courage” so be brave!

Chris Payne

Chris payne

Name and Twitter handle:

Chris Payne, @qixotl

What do you do now?

Senior Game Mechanics Programmer, Traveller’s Tales

Birth place:

Coventry, UK

Currently residing where in the world?

Cheshire, UK

Favourite video game of all time?

Ultima Underworld II

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

Skyrim. I have gone back to finish off the DLC, but honestly I could bimble around that landscape indefinitely going “Oooh, the Northern Lights!”. What I love about Bethesda’s work is the attention to every detail of the world.

Please describe any of the bullying you experienced

There was one particular boy who decided I made an easy target, halfway through secondary school. He would make a game of punching me in the arm or back with the teacher as nearby as possible, but looking the other way. I was often completely unaware of him until he struck.

When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?

I think I mentioned it to my parents, who gave me what advice they could. But one day my mum was horrified when she spotted the bruises, and spoke to the head, who spoke to the bully. It stopped dead. He would still taunt me, but never laid a finger on me again. So in a sense I never really learned to manage it…just endured until it passed.
I don’t know why I never spoke up to any of the staff or talked more openly to my parents. I suppose I felt embarrassed, and that I had to figure out how to cope on my own, because I wanted to be grown-up and solve my own problems. Which was daft, because life is all about accepting what help you need and giving what help you can.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?

At school I was an eccentric loner who didn’t much care what other people thought of me, so I shrugged off most verbal abuse by the following day. At worst I would walk home fuming and thinking up scathing retorts hours too late.
But the physical abuse made me twitchy and paranoid, obviously distracted me from schoolwork when it happened, and would sometimes leave me unable to write properly. The bully liked to punch with an extended knuckle to dig right into the nerves of my upper arm. At worst I would get a literal red mist of anger and shame, but I always bottled it up rather than lashing out. I still feel that occasionally, when I get angry (very rare nowadays), but I’ve never acted on it.

How is your life better now?

I now have a wonderful wife and delightful daughter, which is the coolest. I’ve spent many years working on all sorts of great games, and made loads of friends at university and then at work. I have occasional frustrations, but for the most part I am obscenely happy :) I haven’t thought about the bully more than once or twice since I left school, and then only because someone else raised the subject.

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?

I honestly never really had any expectations for my life – just ambitions, many of which I have now fulfilled. I knew that everything would change once I left school and took responsibility for myself, and indeed it did.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

Talk to your parents or teachers, because they want to help you, and they CAN help, even if the bullies don’t give up as easily as mine did. I recall that a term feels like forever when you’re apprehensive about something, but others can help you get through it. And pretty soon you and the bullies will part ways forever – and then, free of them, you will truly shine.

Nic Watt

Nic with Virtual Boy square

Name and Twitter handle:

Nic Watt

What do you do now?

I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Nnooo an indie developer/publisher based in Sydney, Australia

Birth place:

Edinburgh, Scotland

Currently residing where in the world?

Sydney, Australia

Favourite video game of all time?

The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, Pikmin and World of Warcraft (if I’m only allowed one then erm, Pikmin)

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

Loved Pikmin 3 mainly because the world, the goals, the pace and the beauty/cuteness of the game. I just love breeding as many Pikmin as I can, exploring the world they live in and finding all the treasures!

Please describe very briefly any of the bullying you experienced

From about 9 years old, when I joined a different school, I was called a girl and gay. It started on my first day when the boys decided to test me to see if I was ‘manly’ enough… I had to hold my hand out straight, which I did but because I knew what they were trying (IE if my hand went down I would be called gay) I held my hand so taught that it bent upwards a small amount, enough for them to decide I was still gay…

When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?

It got better towards my final years of school, particularly as I was pretty good at art and our school allowed you to spend your free periods and spare time in the art department. There I found a lot of like minded people who were focused on enjoying life and making great art and not about peer pressure and status (well not as much at least).

I think I finally managed to over come it when I was in a summer job during university as a waiter. One of the kitchen staff had decided to bully me and would belittle me at any opportunity in front of the other, junior, kitchen staff. One night we were in the kitchen and he really let loose one of my colleagues stood up for me and afterwards asked why I put up with it. I didn’t really know much better and said as much. She suggested we speak to management and so it escalated, there were a lot of interviews with myself and other members of staff and the bully was eventually let go.

This was a turning point for me and made me realise that it is not acceptable for people to treat you like that and that you need to be firm, stand up for yourself and believe in yourself.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?

On the good side I think it has made me stronger in myself as I have had, from a young age, learnt to only rely on what I can do. This means I drive things forward, and take on work and projects that I believe in and can achieve. On the bad side it has made me less reliant on others and more of a lone wolf in that I enjoy the company of others but don’t plan or rely on them doing exactly what they say they will or delivering things when they say they will.

How is your life better now?

Life has been better since leaving school to be honest. As soon as I went to University you realise there are a lot of like-minded people out there and you start to gravitate towards people who like what you like, do the things you do and are as open minded as you are. I have focused on getting into the games industry and from University I wanted to set up my own games company. I am really happy that I have, finally, managed to do that and; despite the pressure, the lack of money and time; really enjoy what we do!

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?
When I was at school no I probably didn’t. There were lots of times I enjoyed myself but I don’t think I ever thought I would be making games for Nintendo and Sony machines two things I idolised as a child!

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

Bullies are just weak people who need the affirmation of others to feel loved and wanted. Learn to love yourself and enjoy others for who they are not who you want them to be and you will always be stronger and more independent than those bullying you. If you are at school focus on the skills you need to get to where you want to go in life. So if you want to get into games be the best programmer, artist or designer and before long you’ll be racing out of the school gates to a great career while the bullies are still trying to be cool, trendy and work out which girl/boy is the sexiest/most popular.

Aj Grand-Scrutton


Name and Twitter handle:

Aj Grand-Scrutton, @dnost

What do you do now?

CEO, Dlala Studios a small independent game studio I formed with my friend Craig Thomas

Birth place:

Bas Vegas (Basildon, Essex)

Currently residing where in the world?

Witham, Essex (Can’t escape)

Favourite video game of all time?

Day of the Tentacle by LucasArts (R.I.P)

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

The Last of Us, it’s one of the most complete entertainment experiences I’ve played in a long long time. I got so immersed that I ended up completing it less than 24 hours after buying it.

Please describe any of the bullying you experienced.

I actually got bullied quite a bit through both primary and secondary school. I’ve always been large both in weight and height and this really meant two things. Firstly I dealt with fat comments a lot and secondly, and probably worst, due to height and build there were twats who saw it as a challenge to fuck with me. Secondary school i had phones stolen and friends then text horrible messages from them, my bag was ruined, lunch box repeated taken and smashed up all just cause it was some fun for a bunch of idiots.

When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?

I had an amazing head mistress who I befriended and she had zero tolerence for bullying. People often view opening up to teachers negatively as if its ‘telling’ on people but quite often you need that external support to get through it.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?

It definitely had both positives and negatives, negative wise I suffered from anxiety in my late teens early twenties. Positive, as cliche as it sounds, it made me a hell of a lot stronger and made me appreciate those around me who care. It also gave me major empathy and a real desire to not see people trodden on through those who think they are stronger, that could be viewed as positive or negative due to some interactions that caused with teachers, managers etc… haha

How is your life better now? (Feel free to touch on every cool thing about your life now)

Ah man my life rocks now. From a personal perspective I’ve had the same best friend for like 15 years, been with my lady nearly 4. I’ve toured the country and had music videos on tv with my band “Who’s Driving? Bear’s Driving!”. From a work perspective I won a BAFTA as a programmer on a game called ‘Monstermind’ then in 2012 started my own game studio. In our first year we released a Windows 8 launch title in 9.5 weeks, were cover story of Develop magazine, got nominated for 2 Develop awards, made the top 100 UK developers list and are currently making a game with Microsoft.

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?

I always knew I would push to make it good, cause at the end of the day only you can do it. But I never dreamt it would be this good.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

Don’t let bullying define you, it’s your accomplishments in life that make you you. Games are there to allow you to express yourself and vent to the world, find something you love and put something out there for the world to love with you. People are good so don’t let the few taint the whole for you.

Ryan Simpson

Ryan simpson

Name / Twitter:

Ryan Simpson / @TheCodeTroll

What do you do now?

Game Engineer at SEGAs Hardlight studio

Where were you born?

Wiltshire, near enough to Bath

Where do you live nowadays?

Royal Leamington Spa

What’s your favourite video game of all time?

Of all time? Thats too hard to actually put…

The one thats had most of my time devoted to it however, is either World of Warcraft or Pokemon.

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

The last game I enjoyed was probably Animal crossing: New Leaf.

I’ve always loved the Animal Crossing games and this one is, as usual from Nintendo, a very good iteration on something solid. Why? Because It gave me a reason to specifically pick up a 3DS other than Pokemon, and I really love how its so non demanding as a game. I don’t feel like I have to spend a hundred hours to get through it all and absorb it all within a few days or weeks. I can spend an hour a day checking in with the villagers and digging up some fossils during my lunch break or before I go to bed.

Describe any of the bullying you experienced.

The bullying started pretty much from the get go at secondary school.
It started pretty much off the bat because I wasn’t friends with certain people, and those people had lots of friends. I wasn’t and am still not, a person to be bothered by how many people like me. I was a bit of an introvert which didn’t help, as these people were already singling me out anyway. As time went on the bullying got worse, because the friends I made were similar to me, we had the same tastes in music, and like the same kind of style of clothes, liked nerdy things etc. By my 2nd year at secondary school I was growing my hair (and continued to do so until post college). The friends I had, the music and hobbies we liked, and the way we looked, wasn’t what these kids decided was good enough or normal enough, so they picked on us. That is where it started getting continually worse.

As the guys who picked on me got older and bigger, they found it more fun to not just annoy me or poke fun at me but to abuse me and physically harass me. I wont go into detail of every single scenario, but to name a few, there was a time when 5 or 6 of my friends and I were hiding in a class room, unable to leave because there was 20- 30 people outside, rounded up, expect a fight or anything really. We couldn’t leave and no teacher did a thing. Another time, a similar scenario occurred except there was a FAR larger amount of people, following a smaller group of people around the school grounds.

The smaller group, leading the larger group were looking for me, and a couple of others, because 1 guy wanted to beat me up because I’d apparently ‘said something about him’. So with probably close to 100 kids roaming around a fairly large school ground looking for me, I ran out of school and hid at a friends house… That was twice then I’d been forcefully threatened and scared into hiding.

Multiple times I was beaten up, cornered and harassed, even in the classroom to which the teachers either did nothing, or sent me out for disrupting the class by yelling at the kids. I have countless stories from 5-6 years of almost non stop bullying. Which is extremely depressing when you think about it.

When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?

I learned to manage it by accepting it would happen, and starting standing up for myself, I thought it would be better to try and do something about it and have it keep happening than do nothing at all and have it keep happening. I learned to deal with it by telling myself that one day I’d be out of there and people will have grown up and grown out of this kind of thing. Which sadly we all know isn’t exactly true, I just ceased to be the minority that gets bullied :(

Being around friends and having people that understood what was going on and were probably going through similar things helped too, you are never the only person being bullied, and you can atleast try and laugh it up with friends to try and brush yourself off.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?

It has had a lot of effects on me, I think… Mostly it affected my character development, I wouldn’t be me or act the way I do or think the way I think if I’d had a different life.
I learnt not to care about what people thought of me too much because not everyone is going to agree, so only worry about the opinions that genuinely matter to you, if someone else has something to say, well then they can say it, big woop. What effect should they have on your life or the way you think about yourself? NONE.

How is your life better now?

Well for a start I don’t get beaten up regularly. That alone is better haha. truthfully my life is better now, in every possible way. I have a job doing the things I love to do, for a great company. I live independently. I have a wonderful girlfriend, and loving family. It’s the kind of thing you think about and want, when you don’t have it.

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?

At the time, no. As time went on, and I learned that if I want something, fuck everything else and go for it, yeah. I knew I could make my life what I wanted it to be.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

If you want to get into video games, start now, start yesterday! Its a brilliant industry, and it continually needs new fresh perspective, which could very well be you. There are tons of resources out on the net for aspiring coders / artists / designers to jump right into game dev, so get started on making your life what you want it to be :)

About the bullying, if I havent said it enough, you just have to know yourself what you want and that is entirely all that matters, if you can get help from friends, family or teachers to help sort the bullying out and stop it, try doing that. But if it doesn’t stop, like it didnt for me at school, then just keep your eyes on the horizon, and keep going for what you want, and sod the people that make you feel like anything less than awesome. One day, it WILL stop.

Steven Barber

Steven barber


Name / Twitter:

Steven Barber / @igotmy9milli

What do you do now?

SCEE Developer Relations / Game designer / Blog writer / Beer drinker

Where were you born?

Harlow, Essex boy.

Where do you live nowadays?

Planet Earth.

What’s your favourite video game of all time?

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I’m an adoring fan….

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

This is a tricky one; I’ve recently started writing a blog and will not be playing any console games from after 1995…. My favourite title from that experience would have to be Alcazar – The Forgotten Fortress on the Commodore 64 which released in 1985 when I was only one year old. It has some really great game design features, awesome graphics and for me some truly memorable nostalgia points.

Honourable mentions – Night Sky (Android), Seaman (Dreamcast), Legend of Grimrock (Steam), Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon (Steam) and Super Hexagon (Android), plus too many more to mention….

Describe any of the bullying you experienced.

My bullying experience started in early secondary school. I was a little eccentric as a young teen and decided I wouldn’t get a haircut for a few years; I had a crazy long curly mess on my head! Unfortunately this made me stand out a bit and that’s when the bullying started. It was mainly just name calling which I wasn’t too bothered about but there were a few times where I had my hair pulled and got into various fights for no real reason. My hair was pretty extreme and even random people in the street would sometimes comment on it.

In my later teens I started to dress a bit “Goth” or “Greebo” and listened to Marilyn Manson and had six inch spikey hair, I didn’t make it easy for myself! But I found being part of a group of people similar to me definitely made life easier. I’ve never really been a fan of mainstream culture whether it be music, games or whatever. And that always makes you an easy target or stand out.

When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?

At the time you think the bullying will never end but you just get through it, usually with support from close friends (who tend to be in the same situation). Just be yourself and don’t worry what other people think about you.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?

It made me slightly more introverted, but looking back it helped me make tighter bonds with the friends around me and makes you stronger as a person for getting through it. If anything I might not be where I am today without going through those situations. Turn the negatives into positives.

How is your life better now?

I wouldn’t say life was bad as a youngster, not having to go to work, spending everyday with your mates; there was definitely some good times. I would say try and enjoy this time because you only get one shot at it. Don’t let bullies ruin this time for you. Life now is pretty good though, working with people with a passion for video games is great. Everyone has the latest games, gadgets and technology it’s a really fun environment!

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?

At the time definitely not, I think as a kid it’s very hard to know what you want to do when you grow up. Yes I had an interest in games but no one ever said I could work in that industry, in fact no one ever told me what I could or couldn’t do. I’ve had to work very hard to get where I am today and I think being bullied as a youth has given me that extra drive to succeed. My gaming career started as a warehouse box packer, packing PS2 games and I’ve managed to work my way to where I am today.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

Video games are a great industry to work in. My advice would be work hard and focus on what you want to achieve, that goes for whatever you decide to do and not just video games. Just remember with hard work and focus anything is possible, just map out a plan, do your homework on what it will take to tackle the plan and then tackle it.

Keith Andrew

Keith andrew

Name/Twitter handle:

Keith Andrew / @tweeting_keith

What do you do now?

That’s a tough one to describe, really. Currently, I’m editor of, which is a business-to-business site for firms working in the mobile gaming arena – developers, engines, platform holders, monetisation experts etc.

That, I guess, makes me a ‘games journalist’, though my muddled path to such a profession – starting off doing a degree in Advertising and PR and only venturing into writing while waiting for the job that never came – means it’s sometimes hard to track what I do now.

The long and short of it is, I write about games. A lot. Go to some nice events. Meet some lovely developers. And tweet. Too much.

Where were you born?

In a hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, in the UK, which I’m told no longer exists and is now a block of apartments. And they’re not even named after me. Oh well.

And whereabouts do you live now?

‘Oop north’, as they say, in lovely Manchester, just around the corner from Piccadilly Station. Indeed, if you’ve ever found yourself waiting on the platform for a (late) train there, I’ve probably spied you from my window.

What’s your favourite game of all time?

Shenmue II. By some distance. I was saying to a friend last week, in fact, that, as much as I’d love to see a sequel, there’s something brilliant about leaving the series half way through. It’s given it this legendary status that the game as a whole totally deserves. Some of the latter stages served up some of the most magical moments I’ve ever encountered in a game.

(We’re talking about the original Dreamcast version here, of course.)

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

Eek. ‘Enjoyed’ is a wide definition. I’d say, actually, that the last game I got massively into for a short burst was Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing Transformed on Xbox 360. Some simply brilliant levels, and Sumo Digital really have that franchise down now – it’s almost quite Project Gotham Racing in places, bizarrely.

Also, The Walking Dead made an impression fairly recently. I’m reluctant to finish it, though, as I don’t want it to be over.

**Please describe a little of the bullying you experienced. **

It’s a little difficult to remember now. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve ‘blocked it out’ or anything that dramatic, but my mind has certainly managed to file it away somewhere that means it’s not that easy to access.

Specific instances are hard to pin down, but essentially, the bullying with me was never physical. Funnily enough, had it been, that would have been far easier for me to manage. Rather, it was a gradual but consistent chipping away at my confidence to the point where I genuinely had none left, and I was putty in their hands.

Funnily enough, until it started – midway through high school – I’d go so far as to say I’d always been quite popular with a nice base of friends. To cut a long story short, however, my best friend at the time was diagnosed with ME, which meant he couldn’t really run around or exercise without becoming ill. As a result of that, he was forced to spend breaks and lunch periods inside, and the school allowed a select band of his friends to stay with him so he wasn’t on his own.

As the weeks went by, it was only me that stayed with him while everyone else went outside as normal. A year later, his family moved away to the US, and suddenly I found that all the friendships I had before weren’t really there anymore, and I’d lost touch with everyone. People I’d previously been friendly with then saw me as ‘the weakest link’, as it were, and I quickly became the butt of all jokes. When they saw I didn’t take too well to it – I’ve never been mister confident – things expanded, the jokes became direct attacks and I started to fear being around them.

It’s very easy to think of bullies as stupid people who thump other kids or somesuch, but in my case, that wasn’t true. The chaps who began to circle round me were actually well regarded in the school, and they were very clever to make sure that the taunts, the snipes and the general wearing of me down only went on when no-one of influence was around. Kids can pick out a particular weakness very quickly, and having always been concerned about my appearance, that quickly became their target.

I’d never been especially good at sports either, bar running, and so P.E. lessons – which tended to split boys and girls at that time – were pretty much hell. Not only was I surrounded only by people who hated me, but I also forced to do things I couldn’t do in front of them, which only added to their jibes and increased my isolation.

I ended up putting on quite a bit of weight as a result – rushing home off the bus to, essentially, stuff my face while crying – and making myself rather ill. Such was the fear of going to school during the peak of the bullying, that I would spend most days feeling sick as a pig – even if nothing actually happened that day.

When did you manage the bullying?

I don’t think I ever did, really.

As I say, my solution was to try and crawl into a corner and to stuff my face, both of which were things that only set me apart further. In the end, I went on antidepressants, which – while they didn’t solve the problem – certainly stopped me sinking low enough to contemplate doing anything stupid.

Things calmed a little when my mother confronted my form tutor during a parent’s evening. Such was the crappy nature of my school, that the kids who were bullying me – at this point known by the school – were about to be made prefects, and I was not. As I say, bullies are clever, and these chaps were very pally with prominent teachers, who I suspect had subconsciously marked me down as a weakling deserving of the taunts.

It was only my mother’s fury – and I mean fury – that eventually began to sort things. I was made a prefect, I was isolated from this particular group of lads as much as I could be (not a longterm solution, but certainly a quick fix which needed to be done), and I was allowed to find my feet.

Things only really stopped, however, when I left to start sixth form college. Luckily my high school didn’t have one attached, so I had to travel 10 miles in the other direction. Some of my former bullies went there too, but the combination of having a fresh start and it being a really brilliant, open, tolerant and liberal sixth form saved me.

I came out as gay at sixth form, and not only was this accepted, but it also made me something of a tourist attraction for a few weeks. Bizarrely, I’d never actually been bullied for being gay – not something the bullies had ever picked up on – and the confidence I drew from my whole sixth form experience carried me through university and beyond.

What effect do you think the bullying had on you?

I think it’s important to acknowledge that, with all things in life, it’s swings and roundabouts.

At the immediate time, it had a devastating effect. I was worn away until I was paper thin, and I was about as unconfident and weak as anyone can be. I’d go so far as to say that I came close to becoming a recluse – I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I was only safe by myself, in my room.

That’s ultimately something I still have to fight now, and I’ll forever be someone who worries about everything and makes themselves ill over the mundane of things. Maybe that’s just in my nature, but it’s something that was certainly amplified by my experiences at school.

I’m also overly concerned about my appearance and weight, and it has no bearing on whether I’m actually in shape or not. Even when I’ve been at my thinnest – which I’m certainly not now – I’ve hated how I look and been convinced that I look around 50 stone. That said, that’s not a cross that only I have to bear – half the world thinks that way these days.

There have, however, been positives, too. I think for anyone being bullied now, it’s important for me, standing on the other side, to admit that.

It made me quite quick-thinking and witty. You have to be, essentially, to get yourself out of certain situations. Sometimes, if you can make the person bearing down on you laugh, they’ll give you a break. Just for that one day. And – though I’m certainly not a comedian – I like to think that I have quite a quick wit even now, and that’s a useful tool in the job I do, meeting people for the first time.

I think it’s also helped make me quite a sensitive person, and I think that’s a good thing, overall. I know I value friendships more than a lot of people, and I think the whole bullying experience has humanised me in a way that I wouldn’t have been if left to my own devices. (If that doesn’t sound too cheesy.)

How is your life better now?

It’s better now in that I actually have one. Back then, even getting through the day sometimes seemed impossible, but now I’m the same as everyone else – working to earn money to pay the bills. Heh.

I think it’s also important to note that, many of the qualities I had that made me a target back then are things that people are actually drawn to me now for.

The sensitive, different part of me then is the same part of my brain that does all the creative stuff. Bizarrely, I’d say I’m a better writer because I’m a little sensitive, a little paranoid, a little over analytical. Everyone is the product of what they’ve been through, good and bad, so naturally, the things that happened back then still have an impact now.

Did you ever think your life was going to be this good?

I think for many kids being bullied, they don’t even contemplate the future. It’s not that they think they won’t be alive, but it’s hard enough worrying about what’s going to happen the next day at school, let alone what you’ll do when you leave.

You can’t see beyond the next day. There’s a big dark wall in the way, effectively.

But no, I don’t think I thought I’d be capable of living the life I do today. Lets not be dramatic – I don’t do anything amazing. But, back then, even leaving the house became an ordeal, let alone – most recently – hopping on a few planes to fly to San Francisco for GDC, or talking to people I didn’t know without turning into a shivering wreck.

I do things now almost on a daily basis that, to me, are like climbing Everest. And I think the best thing about it is, most of the time, it’s only me that knows that I’m struggling through something. If I look composed on the outside, the eventually – at the fifth or sixth time of asking – I’ll be composed and calm on the inside, too.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

It’s hard to know. Everyone’s experience will be different, and it’s unlikely that anything I went through matches exactly anything anyone reading this is going through now.

What I would repeat is, many of the things people seem to hate about you now will genuinely set you apart from the rest of the crowd in a couple of year’s time. It’s also certainly true that those who bully – physically or, as in my case, more mentally – do so because, they too, have certain issues.

Bizarrely, I’ve since spoken to one of the chaps behind my bullying, and he genuinely had no idea the impact it had on me at the time. We have to remember that, children aren’t the finished article, and the do all kinds of crappy things that, as an adult, they’d be ashamed of.

You just need to do what you need to do to get through it. That’s not an empty statement – there’s no one size fits all solution. My school was crap and, for a while, actively made things more difficult. But maybe yours is a good school. Maybe you should tell them.

I was lucky in that my parents were brilliant, but that won’t be the case for everyone. But is there anyone else around that, in some small way, can help pull you through?

The best thing I can say is, it won’t last forever. School proves to be such a short period of your life that, in a few year’s time, you’ll find yourself looking back and wondering how time flew by so quickly.

Also, be funny. Genuinely. You’ll be surprised what situations a bit of humour can get you out of.

Gavin Harrison

Gavin harrison

Name / Twitter Handle?
Gavin Harrison / @GharrisonSounds

What do you do now?
I am a composer and sound designer for games, TV and film.  I have to date been fortunate to work with some fantastic people and companies within the games industry, as well as recording with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for my TV work.

Whereabouts were you born?
Ipswich, Suffolk

And which part of the world do you inhabit nowadays?
Currently residing in a little village called Stoke by Clare, still in Suffolk!

We’re going to put you on the spot here, but what’s your favourite game of all time?
Always a tough question, so much depends on the mood you’re in doesn’t it?  I’d have to say Pilot Wings on the N64 is up there.

What was the last game you played and enjoyed?
I have to admit to having a slight Temple Run 2 addiction at the moment…it’s that just one more go thing isn’t it?  I actually also love the simple but effective audio design on it, especially the background music.

Please describe some of the bullying you experienced
I was one of those people who always seemed to get along well with most people at school, and to many I doubt I was seen or regarded as a victim of bullying.  However, my experience was that of being bullied by those closest to you.  During my time at middle school (so around the ages of 9-13) I was the butt of many jokes and name callings from those I considered to be friends, the people I would hang out with on a daily basis and go to class with.  Initially something that could start as a little banter would quickly escalate and each day I would find myself extremely upset and asking why I should always be on the receiving end of the jokes, why everyone would laugh at me.  I think maybe I was always the quieter one of the group and never fought back in any form, which made it easier for others to pick on me in such a way.  Whilst I’m sure it looked as if I was a happy child with friends at school, I felt very isolated within that group and didn’t have a way of talking to any one about it for fear of more name calling.

If you managed to handle the bullying, how did you do that and when?
I guess as I grew older and found a little more identity and confidence the name calling started to bounce off me, and once this started happening and I showed little or no reaction to the insults people soon moved on.  Also moving to upper school (or high school) at the age of 13 was a large help, I met new people and formed a new circle of friends away from my previous bullying group.  It was also around this time that my interest in music developed…I had always enjoyed ‘attempting’ to play the piano and guitar, but now I was taking it seriously and had something that was mine!

What effect do you think bullying had on you?
It would be hard to pinpoint one particular area, but I am quite sure it had a knock on affect regarding my confidence in myself and I would say to this day I can still be perhaps oversensitive when interacting with friends.  However, I would also say it made me more caring to the plight of others, indeed I worked in mental health for sometime before going full time into audio and it is still an area that is close to my heart.

How is your life better now?
I’m doing the thing that I love to do most, composing music and designing sound for games, TV and film, what could be better! Within the last couple of years I’ve been privileged to meet and work with some amazing people within the music / games industry who I now consider to be good friends, people who I respect and admire for what they do.  I am also pleased to say I am still close friends with all those I met when changing school at 13!

Did you ever think your life could be as good as it is now?
I never dreamed I would be able to forge a career doing what I love doing, it is a lot of hard work and you will have to put yourself on the line a lot but it is this that makes you feel alive and what makes life so fantastic!

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying today?
Every case of bullying is very different so to give specific advice would be hard.  However, trust yourself, stay confident and know that you are good enough…hold on to those things.

Life does and will get better, the bullies will fade to be a distant memory.  If you find things becoming too much talk to someone you trust, a parent, a teacher, someone who will respect and listen to what you say.  If you are thinking of the getting into the games industry…DO IT!  It is a fantastic industry to work in and the community is one of the most friendly and welcoming I have ever experienced.  Study hard, stay committed to your interests and above all else have fun!

Michael Hicks

Michael Hicks rocks the house

Name / Twitter handle?

Michael Hicks / @michaelartsxm

What do you do now?

I am currently perusing my dream of being a full time independent developer. I get to do every single thing I’ve ever loved to do…. program, design, make music for it, and even do some video editing work for the trailers. How cool of a job is that?

Where were you born?


Which part of the world are you in nowadays?

Orlando, Florida

What’s your favourite video game of all time?

The Movies… that’s a tough question though!

What was the last game you enjoyed?

Super Hexagon – the most rewarding game I’ve played in a long time!

Tell us about some of the bullying you experienced…

I wasn’t picked on as bad as some kids, but the times that I were are still very vivid in my mind… freshman year of High School was the worst really. I remember one time where a kid told me that I should go kill myself so he could come to my funeral and laugh. It was mostly a lot of verbal stuff I went through… being told I suck at music (I played trumpet in band, and recorded stuff on the side), and so on. I was a super shy kid up until my later years at High School; I didn’t know how to talk to people which made me a bigger target I think.

When did you manage the bullying?
I hid in music and video games when I would come home. I remember listening to In Rainbows by Radiohead every night for a long time… it’s still my favorite album, it gave me a lot of comfort. It was like one social rejection after another and listening to music that was heartfelt and sincere like that made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I also would play games like Oblivion to escape for a bit. I wrote a lot of songs back then, and it more and more became a catharsis type of thing, which I think helped me make better stuff and grow as an artist.

What effect do you think this kind of treatment had on you?

Being picked on taught me two valuable lessons. It made me see how fake a lot of people are and how easily they are persuaded by crowds. I remember a couple of popular “Christian” kids making fun of me early on because others were, but after I started playing in a band and had a few big shows these same kids wanted to associate with me and would always tell me how cool I was etc. Secondly, I learned the true “power of art” and how games/music/film can really be a positive force in people’s lives… this is a big motivating factor in why I publicly release the stuff I make.

How is your life better now?

Senior year of High School was really the best year of my life, everything started to go up hill from there. I made some really good friends and released my first published Xbox 360 game. I’ve released two more games since then and 25,000+ people have played them in the last few years! Considering all I’ve done with my life is make stuff, it’s the best feeling in the world to think about that many people checking out something I’ve made! I was recently interviewed for Official Xbox Magazine, Wired, Ars Technica… and my latest game Sententia was featured on the front page of Xbox Live last week!

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?

Nope, not in the slightest. Everything that I value in my life “just happened”, which is ironic, since I have a tendency to obsess over a lot of things trying to ensure that they do! Things get better, but it’s likely when you least expect it… if you spend every waking moment trying to force something to happen, it just makes time go by slower.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?

There are some great online communities (like Newgrounds) that will help you along every step of the way; heck, I met my best friend and current roommate online! Also, be yourself and make games that you would want to play! Don’t be afraid to show the world who you are in the process of making games. Chances are you if you’ve been bullied then you have some unique perspectives on life and people in general; video games desperately need honest things like this expressed in our medium…. we need you! =-)