From Tiny Acorns

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.

Thank you, Edward Lorenz

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.

It's all your fault, Molyneux... you and your... doing stuff!

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.

The first annual meet for writers, July 2010, when we were still in our infancy

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.

PAX East... a truly incredible experience

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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19 Comments

  1. Rook says:

    If I think back to different events that eventually led me here and to be friends with yourself and Lorna even before GL existed I would beng going back to 1989 after I left school and my sister told me about a college course called Quest. Turns out it was a YTP scheme which led me to join members of my team there to visit the local model shop that also sold games and met a guy who has been one of my best friends since. That in turn led me to more gaming and getting some consoles as I enjoyed playing games on his consoles. This led to broadband connection, Xbox Live, a video on the 360 dashboard leading to Ready Up to knowing Lorna and yourself and then onto GL.

    It is strange how one thing in time can have an affect on how things in life will develop, I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t check out Quest. Of course, this will lead on to another meeting of the GL crew soon and more fun, laughs and memories to be made.

  2. Toffer says:

    Awesome article Mark. The cause and effect idea is a baffling one. My own story has took one swift turn when I decided to go to university, almost on a whim because the thought of the big wide world at eighteen was too much to bear. Low and behold that was now seven years ago, and from it I have found my partner, my house, my job and in some way’s this site and you people. That decision changed everything in so many ways. I don’t doubt that had a not made that choice I may still very well have a partner, a house and a job, but the what if scenario is a dangerous one to considering especially if you think the grass maybe greener on the other side.

    I know of no other place on the internet like this one, and it’s not often that you can say that, considering how vast the internet is. It’s a fantastic place to be apart of and somewhere that I honestly felt welcome from day one.

    Top article dude

  3. Ben says:

    It’s like the Fellowship of the ring in many regards.

    *fist bump*

  4. Ste says:

    I found this site almost completely by accident on twitter. COD:MW2 had not long been released and I was longing at the then top trending hashtag on twitter #MW2. The first or second tweet that came up on my screen was from someone pimping an article titled COD: Modern Whorefare 2. I was intrigued and so I clicked on the link. Apologies to the stiffer as I can’t remember now who wrote it but I thought it was a great piece and so I bookmarked the site.

    If I had not searched that hashtag then or even left it a few minutes later I probably never would have found the GL site. I’d never had found the forums either or eventually pluck up the courage to write my first article. In a sense that hashtag search was the flap of the butterfly wings for me and I’m fucking grateful for it.

    I wish GL every success in the future and I’m bloody proud to be part of it!

  5. Knikitta says:

    My butterfly flapped it’s wings and allowed me to fly from an abusive marriage to Milan where I became a TV Presenter for a Games company and I hosted my own show for an MMORPG.

    Even though the caterpillar stayed cocooned for far to long, if that day had not arrived and propelled me into more than just being a gamer, I have no idea where I might be this day, but I am beside myself with happiness that I am where I am right now. I might not own a house, or be rich, but my life is filled with the love and support of my fiancé, we have two beautiful and remarkable boys that have smiles to make any day bearable in the hardest and darkest hours, and I have proven to myself that with a little patience, your butterfly does eventually emerge from that cocoon, and it will flap it’s wings…

    But I do occasionally wonder… What If?

    A fantastic article Chief!

  6. Kat says:

    *group hug*

  7. Samuel says:

    I honestly don’t know where I’d be now without the site. Not sure I care to contemplate the various scenarios to be honest. But I didn’t expect to be at this point a year and a half ago.

    I suspect this journey is still very much in its infancy. Who knows where it might still lead some of us in the months and even years to come.

  8. Lorna says:

    Weird when you put it quite as you did. I suppose it is rather sobering when you piece together specific chains of events, ideas, and whims that lead to something big, important, or unusual in life. This was no different really, but it says a great deal about choice and risk, about taking chances and exploring those ‘what ifs’ that may otherwise be regretted. I suppose it is always worth the gamble, with anything in life.

    After all, I try now to think ‘would I rather take the chance and risk failure or disappointment, or spend the next ten or twenty years wondering what might have been?’ I’ve taken a few of those chances now and they’ve come good, even when they’ve been problematic or hard at times. More will be along soon, no doubt, but it keeps things interesting :)

    What is scary though, is that one missing chink in any chain and the whole thing dissolves… when I think back to the imprtant choices I’ve made and the twists of fate that have led there, it all seems so fragile and precarious. Scary.

  9. Mark_S says:

    *Group hug* *Wandering hands*

  10. Adam R says:

    ………. :)

  11. Tania says:

    When I first joined the site I was pretty nervous, It was my first forum and I’d never ventured beyond the virtual social realm of Facebook. What gave me the courage to make the plunge was the fact that it was Lorna and Mark’s site and this made me feel both reassured and proud. It was small and the people were friendly, and even though I felt a little out of my depth sometimes, I managed to stay afloat. Mostly thanks to the encouragement and support of my wonderful sister, who was also responsible for persuading to join the writing team.
    Now the forum may be bigger but so is my confidence. I’ve grown right alongside the site that I am so proud to be a part of, and even got quoted on a game box!
    GamingLives changed both me and my life for the better and I thank whatever twist of fate, small happenstance or pretty little butterfly that inspired Markuz to create that little acorn.
    Viva La GamingLives!

  12. Joeydale13 says:

    Pretty inspirational stuff there. And it shows how much improvement I need to do as a writer. But even though I haven’t participated in the site as much as I would have liked to (gaming nights, meets etc) I still know that pieces I submit and that are put up I will get honest feedback from a group or like minded individuals who are interested in the same thing.

    The site is awesome and the people, whether it’s sharing a few tweets, commenting on a FB status or actually meeting someone face to face, you know you will feel welcome.

    Looking forward to seeing what the future brings.

  13. Victor says:

    This article, it brings a tear to my eye. Great stuff

  14. Lee says:

    God knows what I’d be doing now if it wasn’t for this place, wouldn’t of happened if it was for some loud mouth mother…. Oh hai Victor. :P
    Seriously though made some bloody good friends here and an adequate nemisis with Samuel. Wouldn’t give this place up for anything.

    It’s been emotional.

  15. Samuel says:

    Only adequate? You cheeky wee fucker.

    Love you too, man.

  16. rich says:

    Acorn Electron?

    Que?

  17. MrCuudleswick says:

    ;)

  18. MarkuzR says:

    I’ve changed my mind; you all smell of old lady

  19. Edward says:

    This is actually something that preys on my mind a lot whenever I consider myself how lucky I am to be a part of this site; if I hadn’t gone through an uncertain summer due to being dicked over for IB results (any teenagers reading this: Never do the IB ever, do A levels instead, I implore you) and having the sense of uncertainty about my future which meant I ended up completely screwing some really important stuff, but luckily getting to a Uni which I wanted to go to and have had a good time at since, but I decided to do a radio show there because it would help me pick up some new skills and keep my mind busy, and saw something on Destructoid abou the Eurogamer Expo which was happening a weekend after I started doing Uni Radio. So I went, met the people at PlusXP.com purely by chance, started writing for them and then found and started reading Gaminglives at around the same time.
    I still remember the moment when I sent the email off, and when I got my first reply from someone who was a total stranger, and in just over a year has become someone who I consider an amazing friend and who has helped me become a better writer and a better person, along with an amazing bunch of writers who are also great friends and who I also thank for helping me become a better person too :)
    I love the people, I love the site, and here’s to a longer and more amazing future for all of us! :)

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