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 😀
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.