Author Archives: Shahid Ahmad

Arend Stührmann

Arend stührmann

Name / Twitter handle:

Arend Stührmann / @Whispertron on twitter although I’m not that active.

What do you do now?

I studied advertising and marketing but managed to get into the games industry about six years ago. My escape through books, writing and video games resulted in me having a very good background in gaming and the creative arts which still helps me in my job. I’m a project manager, one of the people who quietly (sometimes not so quietly) keeps the projects moving. It requires me to be able to build good working relationships with a diverse group of people, keeps me on my toes and continually offers up new challenges. So in some ways my job is a form of therapy, drawing me out of myself and helping me build up a lot of self-confidence in my abilities. The self-questioning side of me is still there, but I’ve reined it in to where it is actually a tool that helps me do my job better.

Where were you born?

Germany

 

And whereabouts in the world do you live now?

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

 

What’s your favourite game of all time?

Monkey Island 1 through 3. I’m a big adventure game fan who lives in the hope that the genre will experience a renaissance someday.

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

Dishonored is my game of the year 2012. Amazing environment and level design that encourages exploration, tight game mechanics, an art style to die for and really clever audio design. It’s a game where time was spent getting all the little details polished up and that really sells the experience.

Please describe a little of the bullying you experienced.

My life has been spent moving around a lot. By the time I turned 18 I had lived in six countries and attended nine different schools. There was a lot of being the new kid in class and because I was definitely on the portly side with glasses I was an obvious target for the bullies to pick on. It’s difficult coming into a new social group as a child and trying to find room in the established pecking order. My bookish nature also didn’t help. I’d rather spend time reading than running around in the playground. So I experienced all the stereotypical bullying that the geek with glasses gets in school. From physical shoving around and having my stuff taken away to be thrown on top of semi-unreachable places to the psychological bullying through snide comments, cold shoulders and having people discouraged from becoming friends with me.

When did you manage the bullying?

From an early age on I hid myself away in books. Eventually that expanded to books, video games and music. My last two years of secondary school were the point where things finally turned around. I got into a school environment was a lot more positive and in which I was able to develop group of friends who were on my wavelength. My self-confidence rebuilt itself a bit and I learned to let myself be friends with people again.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?

Thanks to the various negative experiences I had some very big trust issues and became a lot more withdrawn. To this day it is still difficult for me to actually form true friendships where I trust the other person as a confidant and source of support. My self-confidence was very low as well and I constantly belittled and criticised whatever I was doing to the point where I was actually bullying myself. Schoolwork suffered as a result, much to the frustration of my teachers and parents. I didn’t want to engage with my studies at home because it was a link to the environment in which I was suffering. In school itself I didn’t apply myself because being good in class would just have painted an even bigger target on my back. To top it all off I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, because I was already having a hard enough time integrating. Bullies tend to be at the top of the social food chain in school so I always felt like trying to get help would do more harm than good when I really should have tried to go to my parents or teachers for help and support.

How is your life better now?

My life, in a word, is awesome. Won’t pretend that I bound out of bed every morning with a smile on my face but once I get to work I have fun at my job, which is something not everyone can claim with total conviction. My career has taken me to some amazing places in the world and while perhaps not every title I’ve worked on has set the world on fire I am still very proud of what the teams I worked with managed to achieve. Being in a creative environment at work means that I’m motivated to be creative outside of work. In the past years I’ve become a better cook and carpenter as a result. Gaining self-confidence meant that I picked up archery as a sport, something I’d dreamed of since I was a small boy but never pursued because it would have made me stand out. I get to talk about video games, books, movies and music at work and have nobody look at me strangely. I’m definitely the ‘cool uncle’ in the family.

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

If there’s one thing I wish I could do it is to go back to my younger self and show them how awesome my life will become. I’m working in one of the most creative industries, surrounded by cool people and creating products which entertain thousands of people. I’ve worked with some of the most intelligent and creative people in society. I’ve met the game creator legends who were the equivalent of rock gods in my teenage pantheon. In the darker moments of my childhood I definitely didn’t think my life would work out as well as it has.

 

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

You’re not being picked on because you are worthless, stupid, ugly or weird. You’re being picked on because the bullies see the worth in you and are jealous of it. They see something that they can never be and so they do what ignorant people so often do: Try to destroy it, grind it into dust and make it vanish. But the bullies will not hound you forever. Someday you will leave them behind and let yourself be the amazing person you are. In the meantime you shouldn’t shy away from developing your skills and talents.

Don’t think you have to study games design or programming to get into the games industry. I’ve worked on games with people who have PhD’s in Biology or who spent the first part of their adult life working as construction workers. There’s a wealth of information about what goes into making games on the web. Look it up, read it and decide where in the constellation of roles you would like to see yourself. Try making your own game using one of the free toolkits to be found. Sign up for betas and be a productive member of the beta community, contributing constructive feedback and discussion of how the game is developing. Find some like-minded souls and take part in competitions like the Global Game Jam to get some first-hand experience in making a game to a deadline.

Above all: Don’t give up. The games industry is a hard one to break into but it is also one of the most rewarding careers you can pursue.

Stewart Gilray

Stewart gilray

Name / Twitter handle:
Stewart Gilray @stewartgilray

What do you do now?
CEO of Just Add Water (Developments), Ltd. & Development Director of Oddworld Inhabitants, Inc.

Birth place:
Paisley, Scotland.

Where are you based nowadays?
Otley, West Yorkshire, UK.

What’s your favourite video game of all time?
It’s probably got to be Journey by ThatGameCompany, yes it’s new, and yes I’ve been doing this for 26 years, but there’s something about it that’s just magical.

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?
The Cave by Ron Gilbert and the team at Double Fine Productions. It was a weird mix of modern gaming and a classic adventure/puzzle gaming.

Describe some of the bullying you experienced.
I was always a shy quiet kid and still am to a degree, and because of that I was picked on, I didn’t really mix well with others in that I liked my space and my time, I was also incredibly gullible and naïve so would easy believe people and situations. So at school some of the usual suspects would deliberately pick on me because of that.

When did you finally learn how to manage the bullying? How?
I didn’t really, it just sort of stopped when I left education. When I was at school, especially in the last year I’d just do a bunk and hide outside of school to avoid certain lessons where I knew particular bullies would be, just to avoid them. But back in the mid-80s your parents weren’t informed if you were off etc.

What effect do you think bullying had on you?
I still suffer from massive self-esteem and self-confidence issues and I do get panic attacks when I’m put in situations I’m not comfortable in. As such until relatively recently I deliberately avoided public speaking, but now I try to do as much as I can to prove to myself that I can do it, not just others.

How is your life better now?
Life is cool because I get to create some awesome video games and I get to play with amazing technology. The people I have around me are all very special to me, and yes ok so I’m the boss of the company, but I do NOT like the company to have that perception that we’re all on different levels or we shouldn’t talk. When I was younger you never spoke to your boss, and it was always a bit of a “yes boss” type thing. I completely hate that view point so we don’t have that here. So I have friends and colleagues and we get to work on some great stuff.

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?
Never, I had the perception that I might be making games for about 4-5 years then I’d have to get a “real job™” but here I am 26 years later, all that’s changed is I have people working for me now who are HALF my age and they are very clever people. Don’t get me wrong, we should always strive to improve life, so right now it’s good, but it will get better!

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?
If you’re into video games and you love video games and you’re already playing around with ideas etc. then keep at it, as long as you have REAL determination and ambition to make games then you will make games. Make sure you know everything you need to know about and want to know about, and most of all don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t, as they’d be wrong. We can do anything we want as long as we apply ourselves to it. As for the bullies themselves, it’s all well and good saying ignore them, but it’s true, by reacting to them you are giving them what they want, which is a rise out of you, they want others to see they have power over you. Don’t let me, ignore them, they will soon get bored.

 

As for the bullies themselves, it’s all well and good saying ignore them, but it’s true, by reacting to them you are giving them what they want, which is a rise out of you, they want others to see they have power over you. Don’t let me, ignore them, they will soon get bored.

Alasdair Evans

Alasdair evans

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

Birth place:

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!

Martin Caine

Martin caine

Name and Twitter handle:
Martin Caine  / @MartinCaine

What do you do now?
I’m now a professional games programmer working for a small but highly talented Games Studio (TickTock Games) working on titles for most mobile platforms and some other devices. I also work on games of my own design in my spare time (as Retroburn Game Studios) and plan to release those over a bunch of platforms too.

Birth place:
Wakefield, England

Currently residing where in the world?
Still here in Wakefield :)

Favourite video game of all time?
That’s a tough one, there are games I absolutely loved as a child but no longer class than amongst my favourites. I’d have to admit to being a huge CounterStrike fan having been playing in clans for almost 10 years (but not so much lately). CounterStrike Source I think is an awesome game, I still prefer it over the new CounterStrike Global Assault!

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?
Pudding Monsters on iPad. It’s made by the guys that created Cut The Rope and uses a pretty common core game concept but adds cute graphics to it and a few special moves that make you think. I especially liked how I played the game and got three stars on every level then realised to fully ‘complete’ each level you have to figure out how to finish the level with 0 stars, 1 star and 2 stars too! Really had me scratching my head on one or two of the levels.

Describe any of the bullying you experienced.
When I was younger I was pretty shy and reserved, had ginger hair, wore braces on my teeth and wore glasses too. Most of the bullying directed towards me was in the form of name calling which used to happen to quite a lot of people when I was younger!

When did you manage the bullying?
I mostly tried not to let it get to me to be honest but I don’t think it helped with my shyness, if anything I’d say it made me even more reserved and I only had a few select friends during my school days.

What effect do you think it had on you?
I think by trying to limit my exposure to the bullies and only playing with the friends I trusted meant I had very few friends and I also learnt to be rather insular, rarely sharing anything personal with friends. I would say I ‘grew up’ faster as throughout my teens I would not engage with others in immature behaviour and I think it’s made me quite a serious person and sometimes still find it hard to talk to new people and open up.

How is your life better now? (Feel free to touch on every cool thing about your life now)
Five years ago I met the my Wife and now we have four amazing children together. I’m going to work each day knowing ill be working on something really cool that I enjoy. I’m also super excited to be part of one of the most creative industries in the world and its amazing how small the UK games scene really is as almost everyone knows one-another or has some indirect link to one-another. I’m looking forward to a really exciting future with both TickTock and Retroburn in 2013 and beyond too :)

Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?
To be honest no. Before meeting my Wife I was content with my job (I worked in Digital Marketing and Web Development) but had very few friends and just spent most of my time playing online games! The past five years has seen so much happen to me both personally and professionally and I see a really bright future for both myself and my family.

What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?
All I can say is based on my experience really. If you’re wanting to get in to creating video games just consider what your strengths are and focus on those. Not everyone is cut out to be a programmer, we need artists, designers, writers, sound engineers, composers, testers… The list goes on! Tell people about the bullying, when you talk about it you’ll get help from your friends and they’ll also support you with achieving your dreams and goals too. Most importantly I’d say good luck to anyone wanting to make it in the industry. It’s pretty competitive but if you are determined and work hard there’s no limit to what you can do. Also consider reaching out to people who work in the industry, we might be able to help with information, mentoring or simply just answer your emails when you have questions. We’re a pretty friendly bunch and having given talks two two groups of school children on Game Design last year I think that direct link is really important.

Gillian Helman is Beyond the Final Boss

We received this beautifully written email from the brave and eloquent Gillian who gave us her permission to reproduce it. 

To the geek/nerd on the other end of the wire,

I have been a fellow geek and supporter of geeks since I was old enough to understand why I was being bullied. The pain and rejection I felt throughout my life in school paved the way for a damaged, depressed and insecure person. But in this culture, this digital and tabletop world that I immersed myself in saved me from what would have been a terrible and unfulfilled life dominated by fear and regret.

So many years later I have found that some people, including myself still bear very real emotional scars from their years of abuse and torment. They may have made it out into the real world, but they are broken and uncomfortable in their own skin. I believe that what I lacked, what many of us lack, is confidence in yourself. I am trying to change that. One person at a time. 

Your platform is inspired and does so much more than I could ever do by myself. I wish there was more I could do to reach out to other gamers, geeks, nerds, LARPers, and general outcasts and tell them that they are gifted. They are special. From the person who knows every Batman villains backstory by heart, to the one who has just reorganized his six boxes of MAGIC cards again, to the person who has taken down the final boss in Molten Core more times than he can remember. 

Gaming, and geekery has traditionally been a solo act. Sure you have had some LAN parties with your friends, but all of us, need to come together. Solidarity in our awkwardness. Confidence in our mutually odd and unique talents. And the indisputable knowledge that our lives are not defined by what other people think and say about us. That our lives are defined by the value we place in ourselves.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving me and so many others a forum to express our individuality and uniqueness.

Love, Gill

Sarah Wellock

Sarah wellock

Name / Twitter:

Sarah Wellock / @SarahWellock84

 

What do you do now?

Community Management in Video Game Development


Where were you born?

Warrington


Where do you live nowadays?

London


What’s your favourite video game of all time?

Silent Hill 2

 

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

Ni No Kuni. It’s the perfect combination of  one of the greatest animation studios and top game developers. The result is a beautiful world that is rich in imagination and top notch design.


Describe any of the bullying you experienced.

From a very young age (primary school) I received increasingly cruel and violent verbal bullying due to my ‘unusual appearance’ – being tall, skinny and later in my teens a ‘goth’. This carried on until I left college to go to university as unfortunately I went to the same high school and college as a lot of my bullies. No matter how good my grades or how much I tried to fit in more I would never belong which sadly let to me getting an eating disorder for some time. The point I remember most included me refusing to leave my home to go to school forcing my father to drive to one of the bullies houses and confront their parents.


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

When I started college I managed to find a likeminded group of friends who helped me realise that I wasn’t alone and what they were doing WASN’T normal, by that point I had convinced myself I deserved the abuse. The biggest step for me in managing the bullying was to become comfortable with who I was, and friends/music was  huge help with that.


What effect do you think bullying had on you?

It has taken many years to rebuild my self-confidence and the saddest part is when I look back on a good 10 years of my life I have only very unhappy memories. The positive side is that I am very comfortable and confident in who I am and am much more determined to make my life the best it can be – the best revenge is to live your life well.


How is your life better now?

I’m not the same person I was back then which make me incredibly proud, I feel like myself, my true self. I am blessed to have a really fantastic circle of a friends, a job with a top gaming studio, chances to travel and to have new adventures. In a nutshell I am living the life I always wanted to but was too afraid to dream possible.


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

Absolutely not, there were certainly dark days when I thought I was doomed to constant abuse and that no one would ever welcome me into their social groups/ careers. In my darkest hours I remember not even imagining still being here.


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

People bully because they don’t understand and will always be afraid of what they don’t understand but know that there are hundreds and thousands more people out there who will understand you and embrace you. I have found a second family in my industry friends and community, I had to work hard to get here but it is worth it trust me. Never let ANYONE tell you that your dream is wrong, keep chasing it.


Sam Hulick

Sam Hulick

Name / Twitter
Sam Hulick / @SamHulick
 
What do you do now and how is your life better today?
Life is about a thousand times better today! I’m a composer working mostly in the video game industry, and have had the pleasure of working on games such as the Mass Effect trilogy, Red Orchestra 2, and Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. I’m married to a wonderful woman and have the coolest in-laws in the world, I live in the great city of Chicago in a cozy condo, and I get paid to stay home and write music all day. I have a pretty large and enthusiastic fanbase, and have won or been nominated for several awards, been featured in various interviews, a book, and a few major mainstream outlets such as MSNBC, The Guardian, etc. I list these accolades not to boast (many of my brilliant peers share similar successes), but to illustrate to people reading this who are being bullied that you have NO idea what the future holds for you. To go from being a kid who is made fun of and pushed around, to someone who is well-respected in the industry you work in is surreal, and that can be a reality for you. It’s a fantastic feeling, and I want younger generations to realize that anyone can have the life they want. But you have to endure, and you can never let anyone break you.
 

Where were you born?

Indiana, USA
 
Where do you live nowadays? 
Currently I live in Chicago, Illinois, with my wife and two cats.
 
What’s your favourite video game of all time? 
I can’t pick just one. There are way too many great ones!
 
What was the last game you enjoyed and why?
Sleeping Dogs! The open world is really cool, and it reminds me of GTA except my character has some badass martial arts skills. I think anyone who’s ever been bullied can understand the appeal there. ;)
 
Can you describe some of the bullying you experienced?
Junior high and high school were the worst of it for me. I was the weird kid who didn’t have any friends, save for a couple kindred spirits. I was bullied not just verbally, but also physically. Kids punching me in the arm while the teacher’s back was turned, that sort of thing. I never fought back. I’m not sure whether it was the fear of getting physically hurt that stopped me, or just not stooping to their level. Probably the former. I was a smart kid and realized I would’ve gotten seriously injured and so it wasn’t really worth it. My grades suffered horribly (low Cs and Ds), because I couldn’t focus on classes. I had friends turn on me. I had a “friend” steal something when he was over, and then he got caught red-handed, and after that he would hit me whenever he saw me at school. I realize now, looking back, that he did not have a very happy or healthy life at home, and probably bullied people to get his aggressions out. You don’t think about that stuff when you’re a kid, you just know that it sucks and you want it to stop. As an adult, you gain the insight that tells you that bullies are sometimes miserable themselves, or they’re insecure and feel the need to knock down others to make themselves feel better, or they’re doing it to be accepted in certain circles. Some of them even regret their bullying later in life.
 
When did you manage the bullying?
It got a little better towards the end of high school. I suppose kids just started maturing a bit more and realized it wasn’t cool to pick on people. Once high school was over and I started college, things got better. I also went through some physical changes: lost weight, got contact lenses, grew long hair (grunge phase, man!) and so I got a bit of a confidence boost. People were more accepting of me, and I was dating a lot more. I realized that it had nothing to do with me, but it was about the environment I was in. I was around the wrong people. When I surrounded myself with the right people, life was so much better. And peaceful.
 
What effect do you think bullying had on you?
I think bullying has made me a little more socially closed-off than I’d like to be. You develop negative/incorrect thought patterns about yourself that aren’t true. Constant bullying can send a message that something is wrong with us, that we are rejects. Reversing that can take a long time. Even well into my 20s, I was someone who had a hard time saying no, or standing up for myself. Now I have no trouble with either of those things.
 
Did you ever think life could be as good as it is for you today?
Never. If you had told me all this was going to happen, I would not have believed it. I still have to pinch myself once in a while, actually! Always be grateful for what you have, and to those who have helped you get there.
 
What would you like to say to those youngsters thinking about a future in video games who might be getting bullied now?
I have a lot to say. This goes directly to those who are dealing with the traumatizing effects of bullying:
 
I know it’s hard, and sometimes it seems impossible to deal with. It can feel like no one is on your side. Stay strong and do what you can to get through it, because it absolutely does get better. In so many cases, the unique qualities that make you a target when you’re young are the very same traits that are appreciated as an adult: thinking differently than others, dancing to the beat of your own drum. Focus on what’s positive. Focus on your hobbies and interests, and think about how great the future will be. You are not worthless, you are not undeserving of respect, and there ARE people out there in the world who will love you and appreciate you. If you can’t find a strong, supportive group of people or friends in your local area, try Facebook and Twitter, or online games or chat. The possibilities are endless there, and you’re bound to find like-minded people who can help make your day-to-day existence easier. Back in my high school days, we didn’t have social networking, but I spent an extraordinary amount of time on IRC, and I have to say that it was completely instrumental in helping me get through hard times. Stay the course, and do whatever you can to get through it, because this is such a small portion of your life. The best is yet to come, as they say. I hope these words and my personal story provide some level of reassurance and comfort to those who need it. Take care of yourselves.

Andrew J. Smith

Andrew smith

 

Name / Twitter?

Andrew John Smith / @SpiltMilkStudio

What do you do?

I run Spilt Milk Studios, an independent game developer. We make games for mobile, tablet, and eventually any digital platform we possibly can :D

Where in the world were you born? 

Harlow, Essex. Grew up in a nice little village called Hatfield Heath though. Nothing like TOWIE, I promise.

And where do you live these days? 

Clapham, south London. And loving every minute of it.

What’s your favourite video game of all time? 

A tough one as it depends on my mood, but the one that most frequently comes to mind is Super Mario World on the SNES. Just… peerless joy, fiendish level design and puts a smile on your face from start to finish.

What was the last game you enjoyed and why?

New Super Mario Bros WiiU, funnily enough! I’m a big Nintendo fan, but this – the first HD Mario – really hammers home how talented everyone at Nintendo HQ really is. The game plays as brilliantly as it always has, and the extra pixels they get to show aren’t wasted. In fact Mario’s world has never seemed so alive, so vibrant. It’s a wonderful game.

Can you tell us about some of the bullying you’ve experienced?

During my formative years – 14/15 years old – I was bullied at school very heavily for being gay. I’m not, but the people involved chose to believe that I was. As a kid coming into puberty at a school that had until then been a boys-only establishment, the particular focus on my sexuality was very traumatic. I felt very alone, was isolated by former friends, and of course became incredibly difficult around girls. The whole puberty thing is tough enough on a level playing field, but the whole thing became impossible to figure out in my head. Eventually it erupted into violence when I confronted one of the bullies, breaking his guitar (and very little else) and I was punished, made an example of by the school. Meanwhile, some of the bullies were punished, but nobody knew how. That was kept private, and to this day I have no idea what they had to do to atone. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as bad as mine – forced to sit in a chair in full view of the whole year for the duration of any free time or free periods I had, and amongst the sixth formers two years ahead of me.

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

I never really did. I essentially went home in tears most nights, the school went deaf on me and my parents, and eventually I confronted one of the bullies. I punched him once, then broke his acoustic guitar. It felt pretty good!

What effect do you think bullying had on you? 

I don’t think it is incorrect to say that it definitely had an effect on my social development. That it occurred at such a key point in any young person’s life, and was indeed about the very thing that is the focus of that whole period of any person’s development – sexuality – meant that echoes of can still be felt now.

How is your life better now?

It initially made me very distrustful of friends, keeping them somewhat at arm’s length – purely because a lot of my former friends ‘turned’ on me, joining in and ignoring the bullying. But after a while that changed. I realised that you have very little control over how people behave towards you or react to you, so in new social situations – say for example the first few weeks of university – I made a point of just relaxing. If I had no control, then why sweat it? I’d also been through so much for so long, how could anything be worse? It made me relax, and I made an effort to be the funny guy. I also learned how to own embarrassment. If you laugh at your misfortunes before anyone else does, then it totally takes the sting out of anything anyone can say, and I have to say it’s a pretty great way to deal with everyday mistakes.

My life now is fantastic, if you’ll forgive the self-indulgence. I’m running my own games company, working with amazing and talented people all day every day. I live in London, one of the most vibrant and exciting places on earth, and I’m enjoying being single. I work out, I read, I enjoy the things I love without reservation and without worrying what anyone else thinks of me for doing so. Comics, music, movies, games, writing, skiing, whatever. I have a ton of really great friends all over the country and the world, and am able to call upon any number of people who I feel truly love and support me. I’ve never been happier.

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

Not really. I’m a bit of a daydreamer, so I always have something to work towards, but objectively I’m amazed at how fortunate I’ve been. That said I believe you make your own luck!

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

Do your best to ignore them. I’d be more specific, but I think every case of bullying is different, so anything more than that could be poor advice. Know that whatever they say or do to you, you’re in control of your life. You will become whatever you want to be, you just need to set your heart on it. Bullies are sad, pathetic people who are more often than not hiding their own inadequacies behind their aggression. They’re often driven by jealousy and insecurity. Before you know it you’ll soar past them, and they’ll fall by the wayside. The games industry is a wonderful place, full of talented, passionate and friendly people. I can’t emphasise enough how much like a big, happy family it feels.

Hang in there, talk to the people you love about it, and do what you can to take control of your life. Don’t let them win. 

The very fact they’re picking on you means you’re worth picking on. It’s pretty simple – they’re bad people, and they wish they were more like you. Fuck ‘em.

 

More from Antonio

Antonio sent us this after his last message:

Steps away from the end game

The tired hero raises his sword

They’ve been battered and broken

The enemies harping on every chord

The Final Boss makes his stand

Oversized, tough to overcome

With veteran allies this feat is possible

A tale of victory has been spun

The hero walks away

No longer at a loss

Others have shown them the way

To move Beyond The Final Boss.