Name and Twitter handle?
Rami Ismail / @tha_rami
Where were you born?
In which part of the world do you currently reside?
What’s your favourite video game of all time?
Metal Gear Solid.
What was the last game you enjoyed (feel free to list more than one!)
Dishonored, Antichamber and Clairvoyance.
Can you describe some of the bullying you experienced?
Bullying was constant – as it seems to be for most creative and intelligent kids. My things would be hidden, I’d be shoved around and told I was weird. I taught myself to bury emotions away as deep as I could. Of course I did not want to show I was ‘weak’ or ‘bothered’. That’s the way a young mind works, and all I really wanted was to fit in with the cool kids. The most vivid memory I have is one of the few friends I had back then walking up to me and telling me I’d no longer be invited to his birthday party, because we were no longer friends or the other kids would find him lame.
When did you manage the bullying?
By the time I turned fourteen, I had enough of pretending to be strong, or wanting to fit in. I had hoped college would be better, but things just continued to be terrible in general. I decided to intentionally flunk most of my tests so that I wouldn’t pass the year and I could start over in another class. When that worked out and I went to school for the first day in that new class, I decided to no longer take any abuse and instead of trying to adapt to what people felt was cool, just to be myself. When I wrapped up college, I was the honor student that got to do the final speech on behalf of my year.
What effect do you think bullying had on you?
Managing the bullying was such a relief. I learned to never adapt to societal norms, never yield to anyone you don’t want to yield for and never take any abuse. More importantly, I learned to be myself. I sometimes look at a picture of my younger self and wonder why I ever thought I was doing something wrong. I was just being me – and they couldn’t deal with the way I wanted to learn, work and explore the world. Ambition is scary to those that do not have it – and seeing someone achieve something through hard work is terrifying to those who believe they will achieve great things through being lazy.
What do you do now?
Nowadays, I am the Business & Development Guy at Vlambeer, an award-winning two-man indie studio in the Netherlands. Besides that, I developed presskit(), a tool many indies use for their marketing and I spend my time equal parts working at Vlambeer, giving talks around the world and with my friends and my amazing girlfriend.
How is your life better now?
My life is great. It’s busy, it’s stressful and I work long days, but I do what I love without compromise. I spend my days making games I am extremely proud of, I’ve won awards on national and international levels, I’ve given lectures at universities, I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve been in the New York Times, on national television, in magazines I used to read as a kid.
Did you think your life was ever going to be this good?
I still don’t quite believe it.
What would you like to say to a youngster thinking about getting into video games who is experiencing bullying right now?
The reason you’re being bullied isn’t because you’re different – it’s because your bullies can’t deal with that. You’re most likely smarter, more creative or more ambitious than those that bully you. You, unlike them, have the ability to see the world through a perspective most people could never see. That gives you the capability to do amazing things, to see the world in a different way, to achieve things no one would ever think of. It gives you the power to create things – whether those are games or anything else. Spend your time honing those skills, finding people like yourself and reaching out to people you respect. You’re different – but that’s actually something amazing. It’s something to be proud of. Just don’t forget that you’re not the only one – that you are not alone.