Category Archives: Profiles

Nic Watt

Nic with Virtual Boy square

Name and Twitter handle:

Nic Watt
@Nnooo_Nic

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

Aj

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.

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 PocketGamer.biz, 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!

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.

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.