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Mac Bowley (9th May 2016)
Sup Internet People, how are we all doing? It’s been a mental 6 weeks here in the HackLab office since I last wrote one of these, not only that but we all seem to have a lot going on outside of the workplace too. Personally I have been looking at moving house and spending a large amount of time thinking about the past because I am working on a project that will incorporate all of the pop-culture things I have liked since I was knee high to a grasshopper. This research has me thinking a lot about my origin story, and all of ours, we may not think about them very often because they didn’t involve radioactive chemicals that enhanced our senses, or gamma radiation that made us indestructible, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t still awesome. So I have decided to discuss my origin story with you and how I think my surroundings have led me to be a member of HackLab, I don’t think it was a coincidence.
So to start lets set the scene, I was born in Edmonton AB Canada, and had the extreme luck to have two of the most awesome parents anyone could ask for. My dad is English and my mum Canadian, long story short my mum worked as a bartender in the west side of London, where my father was a patron, they met, they fell in love, they got married (once my mum finally caved and said yes on the 6th asking), moved around a bunch and then had me. I was the first grandchild in my family in Canada (I have two older English cousins, but they were 4200 miles away so it’s safe to say I was essentially the only one) and was everyone’s baby, it was great!
My parents both worked when I was a toddler so I was babysat by my Grandparents on my mother’s side. One of my earliest memories is of playing football (or as we would have called it at the time Soccer) with my Grandpa in his back garden, under a tree, with a little Pluto (Mickey Mouse’s canine companion) ball he had bought for me. This memory means so much to me, it’s hard to put down in words, unfortunately both my grandparents passed away after I moved to England and this is the first thing that pops into my head when I think of them. It’s a happy memory from a time when the world felt like sunshine on a crisp spring day, warm and full of potential. Some of you who have seen me at camps may have seen the Tree tattoo on my arm, this is why I have it, to remind me of them and how much love we had for each other. Woah that was hard to write, I am gonna move on to a happier subject before I go full cry baby.
This time of my life is not so much continuous but more a smattering of images that link to one memory or another, but when I started really thinking about it there are parts that are clear as day, me sat on the sofa on a Saturday morning with my mum watching cartoons. Now there are many reasons why I love my mum, mostly for keeping me alive for 23 years and counting, but the first thing I ever appreciated about her that wasn’t her mothering me, my mum LOVES cartoons. Even now I am sure she puts them on in the morning on a Saturday and reads her paper with them in the background. So me and her would curl up every weekend and watch whatever was on offer on the kids channels we had. Never once did she complain that I wanted to watch something, not once did she tell me she didn’t want to talk about which Power Rangers Zord (Big robot thing) was the coolest, she would always get into with me and encourage me to be into whatever I wanted. That has stuck with me to this day, no one should ever be afraid to be themselves and if you love someone you have to love all of them and encourage them to be who they want to be. So I think we should all thank our mothers for putting up with our incessant Zord talk and allowing us to be ourselves.
Let’s not forget about my dad, the funniest man I have ever met, even if he finds himself much funnier than anyone else does (and we all think he is pretty funny). My dad has worked tirelessly since I was born to make sure we had all the things he didn’t as a kid. If at all possible my dad would never say no to us. He did of course but I could always tell he didn’t like it, and usually as soon as payday came around he would surprise us with the thing we had been waiting for. So he was always at work while I was young, that’s not to say I still don’t have memories with him. We would recreate WWE moves in the living room, I still miss the times I was small enough for him to throw around and carry, now I am 6ft 1 and he is 5ft 7 even with the best will in the world. It ain’t gonna happen. Once again he never made me stop being myself for a second, he taught me how to think critically, how to argue with the best of them, and how to be funny. All in all my daddio and I are the same person, and this got us into many arguments over the years, but it’s now what makes us so close. Honestly there isn’t anyone in the world I have more faith in to point me in the right direction when I get lost stumbling through life. Love you pops.
When I was 4 my whole world came crumbling down, my sister was born. Even now I look back and think I must have been ticked off at losing my spot a top the cuteness podium, but my family assures me I was the most excited big brother there has ever been and I couldn’t wait to take her shopping because my mum could buy the little girls clothes she had always liked. Propaganda to keep the sibling rivalry low I am sure. Ah well she was there now. At least it was only one and I could deal with that because she couldn’t talk and so I had that on her. Nope. My Aunt had different plans, and no less than 6 months after my sister was born we were introduced to my cousin Elaine. The three of us continued in relative bliss, I was now outnumbered but spending a lot of time with my aunt and mum meant that most of my early experiences are of girly days spent shopping or going to the local Tim Horton’s (any Canadians out there will most likely have similar childhood memories), a fact my father still uses to explain why I was always more into clothes and music than sports, so I was used to it. Then when I was 7 my little brother was born, he was really premature due to complications with the pregnancy and he developed Cerebral Palsy. He is in a wheelchair and that is all I have to say about it because in my opinion that is the only difference between him and me, I walk and he drives. As you can imagine I was over the moon at the prospect of having a little brother, finally another boy for me to hang out with, I forgot to mention but my bro and I are the only boys on either side of our family. It was around this time that the wheels were set in motion for our migration across the Atlantic Ocean but I wasn’t aware yet.
Now as some of you may know, I studied Video Gaming Technology at ARU and graduated last year. Now I can’t regale my origin story without talking about video games at least a little. The first video game I ever played was Super Mario Bros on the NES, a little before my time I know but we weren’t exactly rolling in the dollar when I was little so the NES at my babysitters was the first console I ever saw. Instantly I was hooked, playing constantly with my close friend Josh (babysitters son), it was his console so he was always Mario and I was Luigi. Luigi is my favourite Mario character and he is my go to Mario Kart racer. We also played Duck Hunt with the IR Gun and I remember having my mind blown that we could point a thing at the TV and it knew where we were pointing, amazing!!!. After this I would ask constantly for my own console that I could play on weekends, this was one of the times my dad had to say no for a while but eventually I got my very own N64, with Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. The latter is my favourite game of all time, not because I think it is the best, or funnest, or even that it was graphically amazing for the time. It was the dedication I threw at that thing trying to get all 150 Stars. It took me months, I would rush home from school to get as much time as I could as well as setting my alarm for 6 o’clock on weekends to maximise play time. It became a quest for the whole family, my mum didn’t stop watching things with me and she would sit and watch me play and point out things I was missing. It was like a drug and it was my obsession for a long time. I’m gonna stop there for the time being but I am definitely considering doing another post all about the games that genuinely effected me over my life time. Pop me an email (Ill leave the address at the end) if you are interested in me doing that.
It may seem strange that my origin story revolves so heavily around my immediate family, and to explain this I have to talk about the biggest shake up my life has ever experienced, moving 4500 miles to the sleepy town of Dorchester, Dorset. When I think back over my time on this big blue marble it is undoubtedly a story of two Acts, Canada and England. The only constants for me are my immediate family. My whole life was turned upside down when I was 9, my parents told me this would be my last year of school in Canada and in the summer we would be moving to England. Of course at first I was furious, I had friends and a life here (or as much as you can at 9!) but I quickly got excited to start a new adventure, oh how naïve I was. Through this whole thing I wonder if people who have met me have been thinking “I know Mac, he speaks in a very English accent where is the Canadian tang?” well here is the answer. Bullying. In a small town like Dorchester, a kid coming into school with a Canadian accent was the biggest deal ever, still to this day people I met that first day in year 5, will shout “MacAllister!!!!” in a very poor impression of a Canadian accent when they see me. To say the least I was not prepared for the great British tradition of ‘Taking the Mickey’ and I took every impression, comment or whisper directly to heart. It was a tough time for me, I had no friends for a good 2-3 months. In what can only be described as the best split second decision of my life, my plan for popularity was to be the smartest kid in school (good one Mac) but it was there in that year 5 class that my love of learning was born, so in a way I have to thank all of those ignorant bullies for steering me on a path that led me to be here writing this now. Eventually I made friends with the other ‘Nerds’ in my class and life started getting better.
So that is my origin story (if I go much further this will turn into an autobiography), and the main points I wanted to get across were the support I got at home to be myself and not let other people dictate who I should be, and the fact that my family were willing to sit with me while I did things I liked that perhaps they weren’t interested in but it was a way for us to bond and for them to teach me things I am still using to this day. I mentioned Extra Credits in my last post about how YouTube is making kids smarter (Link) and they have done a video in a similar vain to this post, it is titled “Not a Babysitter – Why Parents Should Play Games with their kids”, it’s all about the benefits of playing games with your kids and how showing an interest in the things your children are into can lead to some of the strongest family bonds imaginable. I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment in this video, but I didn’t know how to express it as I don’t have kids and so it felt a bit shallow of me to tell other people how to parent. So I went about it another way, because this is exactly the point of my origin story, my family encouraged me to pursue the things that made me happy, and not only that they loved me enough to not let me do them on my own. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank them enough for that, so I am gonna do the same with my kids if I am ever lucky enough to have them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it makes you think about your origin story and maybe even make you think about all the people that have made you who you are, even the bad ones, because they led you to be you. I would be interested to hear your origin stories, people of the interwebs, if you want to send an email through to firstname.lastname@example.org and I can compile them and maybe make a new blog post about the HackLab community and their stories. We may not be superheroes, but we are all awesome and we couldn’t have made it alone.
“My childhood spat back out the monster that you see”
Mac is a lover of the Flash, the KingKiller Chronicles and the ladies. He used to make video games, but now he makes developers instead and is finding it fairly rewarding. He appears on the HackLab podcast with MrC, as well as appearing in random places that nobody expects from time to time... but usually appears incredibly tired.