From Tiny Acorns
by Mark R
There are those who would have us believe that the minute atmospheric change caused by a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil could have somehow been responsible for a tornado in Texas, but this is something that I’ve never personally subscribed to. While I find the idea to be incredibly romantic within the chaos, the thought of something so insignificant growing to the point where it could impact the lives of so many is one that I would tend to shy away from. Until recently, that is.
It wasn’t until the last week or so that I’d actually considered how much of an impact the tiniest little things could have on the world around us, whether it be those who populate our immediate day to day or those that would remain a stranger to us, and how it was possible that but for one single moment in another’s life, theirs may never have collided with yours. It is those moments of reflection where we tend to find the most clarity, and overly-simplified pure maths equations start to appear as crudely drawn icons on the whiteboards of our minds, scribbling timelines with arrows from one point to another, branches reaching here and there, twisting in the wind until finally it all makes sense; it all comes back to one moment in time where everything changed and our paths were suddenly re-routed.
There have only been a few such moments in my life, the most notable of which was when I threw an extreme amount of caution to a potentially devastating wind and bought a flight to London so that I could spend some time with a ridiculously awesome female geek who would eventually turn out to be my raison d’être, and who has continued to be so for the last eight years, as well as the person responsible for who I am today. Were it not for that one decision, I would never have become a programmer, a drummer, a confident singer and would likely have gone another thirty years without ever reading a book, forever ignorant to the skewed observations of one Terry Pratchett. Whichever oblivious butterfly flapped its wings at that moment should drop by our garden some day as it would be treated like a god.
It was more recently, however, that the tiniest acorn of an idea was planted in my head after hearing that certain people around me were dissatisfied with the way their lives were progressing and wanted to bring about change. I mulled an idea over in my head several times before finally deciding on December 19th 2009 that I needed something more rewarding and substantial to occupy my mind in the evenings, and that I could kill two birds with one stone by creating a site that would not only give me something to do but would also allow those around me to have their voices heard. The intention was never for it to grow beyond a minor distraction though; it was, after all, going to be about opinions and thoughts… how people felt through gaming and what inspired them, and so the thought of it ever gaining any sort of widespread audience was out of the question.
Looking back now at those last sixteen months, however, I see a very different beast before me than the fragile baby bird that first stumbled its way on to the web on December 23rd. A natural evolution has meant that the opinion pieces are no longer the only content on the site as we’ve now broken through the barrier and into the unnerving territory of reviews, and the day that the first Fable III developer diary video from Lionhead was released, we broke another self-imposed boundary by writing an impromptu piece covering the progress and hosted the video on the server, making it the second article published that day – a move which was supported by numerous writers and spurred us on to the point where we now actively cover gaming industry news throughout the week.
But it’s not just the site itself that has grown into a mighty oak, it’s what we stand for. Our open door policy on article submission has allowed us evolve to the point where we now have a strong writing team, covering many different aspects of gaming, stemming from those with a passion for the end product or enthusiasts for whom gaming has become a way of life through studying the development process itself. Yet from that pool of writers, so many strangers have gone on to become friends. Whether it be an online relationship volleying between Facebook and Twitter, those who frequently participate in regular co-operative gameplay with real-time chat, or those who have crossed the virtual territory and formed a “genuine” real world relationship with actual physical contact, the fact remains that, for some, the site has grown beyond being nothing more than a form of escapism to having a legitimate attachment for those involved.
As well as existing friendships that have become reinforced through the camaraderie of writing on the same team, I can think of at least three, personally, that would never have existed had it not been for the near-insignificant instances that initially led them to GamingLives and, ultimately, resulted in some of the strongest connections and certainly the most fortuitous outcomes. Being part of the team has allowed individuals to take part in many activities that they wouldn’t normally have had the opportunity to, from a ride-along in a Seacrest County Lamborghini Murciélago during a high speed police chase, or tearing around a pitch black Silverstone in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage right through to a 7500 mile round trip from London to cover PAX East in Boston. In around forty days time, that experience will be extended to attending the 2011 E3 conference in Los Angeles and, with it, some very tired individuals.
We’ve seen a couple of writers come and go, whether it be from a simple lack of available time or they’ve just lost the enthusiasm for writing, but we’ve also watched some incredible growth in writers’ abilities. There is nothing quite so satisfying as reading an article submission and having it take your breath away for a moment as you realise just how far they’ve come and how their original hesitancy and lack of confidence has grown to the point where they truly feel like a writer. It is a feeling of pride, knowing that this would never have happened had they not taken that first step to submit an article to a faceless email address and step from the mumbling shadows and into the spotlight, braving the all-too-familiar venom of the opinionated horde with their keyboard bravado in the hope that some will relate to their thoughts.
This site is both the greatest and the worst thing I committed myself to in the last sixteen months. With one murderous hand it took hold of my freedom and squeezed its throat hard until it could no longer gasp for mercy and yet, it also breathed more life into me than I ever thought possible. It is both my nemesis and saviour. It is my acorn.
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