This was a memoir I wrote a few months ago for my university course. You may have heard me talk about my friends the Rocket Minions before in my why I will mourn for MGO post. Well, this is mine, and their, story. I hope you enjoy it.
Turning 21 is weird. You would think it makes no difference, just another day that passes by. As I found out, it’s not. It makes you reflect on your life, on those past 21 years, what you’ve done and what is to come. Marriage, a career, raising a family…these are all things I look forward to, though they may scare me. So I sat there, on my 21st birthday, crying in my boyfriends arms. Not because I was sad but because I couldn’t believe what all my friends had done for me and how much they love me. I realised I am so lucky. A large number of these friends I know for a very odd but special reason. Weird stories deserve to be shared although I warn you, it’s a bit like a sitcom. There’s love stories, break ups and fights. Are you prepared for the journey? Then press start.
Leaving school and starting college was one of the best parts of my teenage life. Suddenly I was in an environment where people, more or less, wanted to learn. There was still the odd person who tried to bully me like they did in school. One boy called Stuart thought it would be funny to get his female friend to turn to the table I was sat at with my friends and ask me for my number.
“My friend really fancies you,” she said. She was your typical chav girl, I didn’t believe her for a second and when I turned round to see who she meant, I saw Stuart and ignored her. She tried to keep asking me so I told her to fuck off. It didn’t bother me in the slightest, I found it hilarious that he was basically the only person still acting like a kid. I had lots of friends and he’d lost most of his, as they’d gone to other colleges. I took pride in being more grown-up than him. Yes, I wanted a boyfriend and didn’t have one, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a girlfriend either…
I enjoyed college, it was tough but I worked as hard as I could. I still felt there was something missing though. I’m a big geek and even bigger gamer. None of my friends shared this passion. My dad had just bought a PS3 from where I had a weekend job at, Currys. Which I hated, by the way (the shop not the console). I was thrilled. We were also subscribed to Official PlayStation Magazine, a monthly magazine all about PlayStation, we’d been reading it since the PS2 was released. One day, I was reading through it and saw they had a Facebook group. I joined and starting talking to people on it, little did I know I would be friends with some of the people on there for life.
I wanted to find friends who would play with me online on my PS3 because I knew no one who enjoyed playing video games. Everyone was welcoming and helpful, especially a guy called Alex who threatened to kick my ass at Unreal Tournament 3, ha! Fat chance. The people who posted every day got to know each other quite well. We added each other on Facebook and spoke on MSN to each other too. A group of them enjoyed playing Metal Gear Solid 4′s multiplayer mode which is called Metal Gear Online. I got the game as I wanted to join in. I had no idea how to play though, so Alex and I did some online private sessions together, teaching me how to play and he trained me up well. They decided to make a clan, we all thought of names for it. Eventually we became the Rocket Minions. As for my characters name? I came up with RocketMinx, hence I am now known by most of my friends as “Minxy” or “Minx”. It’s very weird to hear people, who know me well, call me Laura now.
Our Metal Gear Online characters all saluting. (We do that in real life too).
Many people will say negative things about meeting people you know via the internet. The media goes nuts for stories about young girls tricked into meeting up with men who rape and kill them. Yes, this does happen and it is easy as a young girl to get drawn into things. It’s happened to me before when I was 15/16. Luckily I was sensible enough to know when to stop, some girls don’t and terrible things happen. But, I believe, this is far from the majority of cases. Alex, who I’d gotten to know very well over Facebook and we’d even gone as far as talking on the phone, wanted to meet up with me. He was going to be in Portsmouth, my home town, as he was seeing his friend Rob, who lives there, the night before and was staying over. I agreed but was very nervous. My parents were okay with it and on the day drove me to the seaside where we were to meet. They were going to walk the dog there anyway.
I was very scared in the car on the way there. What if we didn’t get on in real life? I was fairly sure he wasn’t going to be a creep or anything but that worry is always in the back of your mind. My mum reassured me, I was surprised at how fine she was with it all. I guess we were meeting in a public place and she knew all about Alex.
“Have fun! Call us if you need anything.” She said as she let me out of the car. I walked down the seafront, searching for someone who I’d only seen in pictures, how was I going to recognise him? Then I thought I saw him. We walked towards each other, trying to suss if we were the people we were looking for. My phone rang and that’s when we looked at each other and smiled, we were looking at the right people after all.
Your princess is in another castle
“Hi, I thought it was you,” I said in a quiet, nervous voice.
“I thought it was you too,” he said with a smile, much more confident. We walked along the seafront, the way I’d came. We begun talking about the stuff we usually spoke about: games. We never struggled for conversation, although I felt a tension between us, a good tension. Maybe it was a sign. Alex was shorter than I expected, sporting a Danger Mouse t-shirt and slightly hungover. It was a chilly July day so, like a gentleman, he kept trying to keep me warm. I was slightly apprehensive about how close he was getting to me, it’s not that I didn’t like him. He knew that I liked him and that he liked me. It was a dangerous situation since Alex was not single.
“How about I drive you home? I promise not to rape you,” he said, smiling. I burst out laughing and nodded. I shit you not, he actually said that.
As we walked back towards his car, he put his arm around me. I kept my arms crossed. Partly I was just trying to keep myself warm but I also felt slightly uncomfortable. I’d only just met him yet I was being treated like I was his girlfriend. We reached Alex’s car, I loved his old car. It was a classic, British Mini. British racing green in colour with a union jack roof. Plus, a small car for a small man seemed very fitting indeed.
Pretty soon, the Rocket Minions decided we’d like to meet up in London, in real life. I was excited by this idea, I felt like I knew them well enough to meet up with them. However, there was the small task of asking my parents permission.
We sat round a table together for dinner. My parents already knew about the minions but I would also be the only girl going. In reality, anything could happen. I told them the date we were planning to meet and where.
“Alex is going too and I’ve met him, his best friend, Matt, is one of the minions too, so at least I know two of them are okay.” I said, trying to sound as reasonable as possible.
“Well if that’s what you really want to do then of course you can go,” my dad said.
“Really?” I was relieved but surprised. They were really going to let me go to London by myself? I know they had let me meet Alex but meeting up with a group of six men in the capital city is quite different.
My friends however, we not so relaxed. They thought, for some weird reason, it was a very bad idea.
“What if you get raped?!” Alice and Bex, my two best friends, said.
“ I won’t! I’ve met up with one of them at least and he was fine.”
“Yeah but he could have been pretending, to lure you into a trap?” Alice said, concerned.
“I know, we’ll text you asking if you’re okay BUT you have to use a code word otherwise someone could have stolen your phone and just SAID you’re okay when actually you’re not.” Bex said in a serious tone.
I rolled my eyes and laughed. This was ridiculous, they were joking, right?
“Okay, if we text you ‘Are you ok?’ you have to text back ‘yes’ if you’re not and ‘red banana’ if you are.” Bex stressed the importance of it.
“Okay, okay, fine!” I said, laughing. Although coming away from that conversation, I wasn’t sure if they were seriously worried about my well-being or if they were trying to wind me up.
Then came the day to finally meet them all. I should probably introduce them to you, it’s a lot of names to remember, so sorry in advance. There was: Stewie, Iain (AKA Bossman), Alex, Johnboyy (or JB), Matt (or Moo) and Martyn (M). We were all so different yet so similar. Stewie and I were the youngest, I was 18 at the time and Stewie was 20. The oldest members, Johnboyy and Martyn, were in their early thirties, an age gap that didn’t really matter – we were all as childish as each other!
It was a cold December morning. I was up and ready to go London. I was worried if I looked okay, if we would get on, if everything was going to be okay. I was so nervous I couldn’t eat my toast. I felt sick, so I skipped breakfast and just stuck to tea. My dad drove me down to the station for the hour and a half long train ride to London. There were butterflies in my stomach the whole way there. Alex rung me when I was nearby, everyone was there now. Shit.
I had nothing to worry about.
When I arrived I met Alex and Stewie under the clock of Waterloo station and went downstairs with them to meet the others who were waiting in a coffee shop. I said hello to everyone, they were already getting on well with each other. We decided to get a move on now we were all there, we headed to the Trocodero, a huge arcade, perfect for us gamers. Johnboyy had bought a camera with him and was documenting the event.
The very first photo taken of us (JB took this pic). Alex, Stewie, me, Martyn, Iain and Matt (left to right).
Within a few minutes my nerves were forgotten about and I was chatting and laughing away with the boys. I realised, for the first time, I was actually surrounded by people like me. My two best friends are lovely, but they don’t get my hobby, okay, obsession. It was nice to have friends who shared my interests. We spent the day bowling (I was so bad, it was embarassing), playing arcade games (including dancing games and an awesome racing game where you sat in a car) and driving bumper cars. I think the bumper cars were the highlight of the day. We drove around, laughing like maniacs, ramming into each other. JB filmed most of the event whilst pissing himself laughing. I still look back at it and giggle. Martyn even found a dog-tag machine. We all made our own dog-tags, our MGO names enscribed into them with “Rocket Minions” underneath. Some of us never take those things off. We’d known each other a few hours but it felt like a few years. I did spent most of the day with Alex and Stewie, as I knew them the most and they were closest to my age. When evening time came, we sat down for a meal at O’neils before most of us had to start heading back to our home towns. We were sad to leave each other, I think. We all hugged goodbye and would definitely be seeing each other again.
I asked my mum later why she let me go to London to meet them by myself. My parents freedom has always amazed and shocked me. She said to me:
“I know this sounds terrible but if anything was going to happen to you, it would happen. We can’t protect you from everything.”
I agree with what she says. You can’t prevent terrible things from happening unless you are neglecting your child. My mum is so relaxed with me and my life because her mother was so strict and she hated it. She didn’t want to end up like her mum. At least I want to end up like mine.
As I said before, there were 7 minions. A lucky seven? No. We were missing someone and that person soon became clear. We started talking to and playing with a girl called Jen, also known as Jenivere. Jen had gone through a tough time. She’d been in a tough relationship which she had the courage to eventually end, even though that led to having to run away and move house, after being threatened with an air gun. She is one of the strongest women I know. I love her to bits.
Martyn had invited us all to stay at his house in Bath. We all accepted of course and planned it months in advance. We were all so excited about seeing each other and Iain was trying to arrange a meet up with the writers of Official PlayStation Magazine, as the magazine is based in Bath. It was going to be a weekend of games, food, drink, bowling and singing.
I was on the train on my way to Bath. Jen was supposed to be getting on the same train as me. It came to her stop where she was meant to get on. I looked around the busy carriage, trying to spot her. Then I noticed a tall woman with long dark brown hair, wearing a long leather coat and carrying quite a few things in her arms, one of those things was a double-ended lightsaber.
“Jen!” I called out and waved at her. She spotted me and came and sat next to me, struggling to fit all her bags everywhere. We were both nervous and quiet during our first face to face conversation. Then the boys rang us. Alex, Matt and Stewie were on a different train to us. We answered the phone and put it on speaker. Before we knew it, we were talking dirty to each other and making jokes about Jen’s “Double-ender”. The rest of the carriage looked at us like we were nuts…
When we’d all arrived at Bath station, the plan was to wind Martyn up. He was a very gullible man and fell for it hook, line and sinker. We got to his house and he showed us around and where we would be sleeping. We were all stood in his newly painted baby room, the baby at this point was still in his wife Michelle’s belly.
“We’re sorry Martyn, OPM said they couldn’t come down to see us this weekend.” Iain broke the news, we all attempted to remain poker-faced.
“Aww for fucks sake! That’s sucks, oh well…” Martyn said, upset.
Then we all started laughing.
“Not really mate, they’ve invited us to have a tour round the office!”
We were all super excited, I had no idea about the tour, I thought we were just meeting up with them in their local pub.
The plastic drum kits and guitars were set up and we played some Rock Band before heading into the town centre of Bath. I had never been before and was taken aback by its beauty. I would love to live there someday if I could ever afford it. The old Roman Bath houses and cobbled streets somehow fitted into a bustling town centre. It was the perfect combination for me. Beautiful but busy. We made our way from Martyn’s place of a work, where he makes expensive model cars, to the main offices of Future Publishing.
A very confused tourist took this photo of us outside Future Publishing. Probably thought we were a bunch of weirdos.
We walked into reception. Martyn walked up to the desk and said:
“Hello we’re here to see Official PlayStation Magazine.”
“Who are you?”
“The Rocket Minions”
The receptionist still looked confused but rang OPM anyway.
“Hello Tim, there are some people here to see you, one second, who are you again? The Rocket…Minions…?” She put the phone down and smiled. “Okay guys, they’re expecting you. They’ll be down in a minute”.
A collective sigh of relief filled the room.
You have unlocked a new level…
The editor in chief, Tim Clark and editor, Ben Wilson, came down to shake all of our hands and take us up to where they all worked. Ben was fascinated in us as a group, where we all came from, what we do when we meet up, etc. We were a novelty, I mean that in the best sense possible of course. Maybe I mean we’re unusual, people are often surprised by us but it’s always a good surprise not an “okay you guys are fucking weird” sort of surprise. Anyway, they took us round the office and showed us where all the different gaming magazine and websites worked and who was who, then they took us into a small room.
A small room with a huge TV. Yes, they let us play a game that hadn’t been released yet on a 70” TV. It was so big in fact, the screen took up the whole of one wall. It was an incredibly huge privilege to be given. When we’d all played a little part of it (expect JB who doesn’t play games before release for some odd reason), we said our goodbyes and were going to meet them all at their local pub in an hour or so’s time when they’d finished work. We couldn’t believe our luck.
Later on in the pub we had a good long chat with some of them, we got to know them quite well and the fact they were interested in us too was lovely. The evening ended with a photo of us all and giving them a salute goodbye before starting to make our way back to the cars. JB had had a little too much to drink and was stumbling about. He started shouting at me (in a joking way) about how I should be looking after him otherwise he’s going to walk into a car or bus. Oh dear. We all laughed and laughed, still on a high from meeting some of our idols. We walked down Queen Street, “Hey JB! It’s your street!” Alex shouted. JB smiled, “Yeah get the fuck off my street you breeders!”
Something was telling me tonight was going to be interesting and boy, was it.
A very blurry photo of us with most of the OPM team!
That night included many games and much more booze. Alex, Matt and I stayed sober, each for different reasons. JB had already peaked, his body was pretty much 80 per cent alcohol by now. I took a break from the awful Singstar singing, or should I say, screaming, to take out my contact lenses. I was crouched down by my bag, looking for my lenses stuff when Alex approached me. He looked sad, “What’s wrong?” I asked, looking up at him, concerned.
“It’s my girlfriend, she won’t leave me alone, she keeps ringing me and texting me, asking where everyone is sleeping and stuff. I just wish she’d let me hang out with my friends without calling me every five minutes.” He looked like he was going to cry, I’d never seen him or heard him like this.
He sat down on the floor next to me and I gave him a hug. His girlfriend had depression, Alex spent his time looking after her and putting up with mental abuse, he barely had time for himself. We spoke some more when we heard a loud thump on the stairs.
It was JB. Crawling up the stairs.
“JB what the fuck!?” I laughed as he continued to crawl up the stairs bit by bit.
“I fell up the stairs!” He giggled, and continued to crawl on his hands and knees to the bathroom.
“Do you know what he did?” Alex said, “He threw a condom packet at me and said ‘well we won’t be needing this tonight will we Alex!?’ I’m a little bit scared!” Before we knew it we were laughing and smiling again. I disappeared when Jen appeared to have a serious talk with Alex.
Whilst upstairs I missed a lot of weird stuff that went on downstairs, luckily Matt filmed it all and stuck it on Youtube later. Jen had boasted she could lift JB up onto her back. Earlier that day, JB made it clear no one would be picking him up, he’s a big guy, way over six foot and although Jen is tall too, it was impressive task to pick him up. JB got drunk enough to be allowed to be picked up and sure enough, Jen got him on her back for a few seconds. Martyn declared everyone had finally let themselves go and now we were truly bonding. Some of us, more than others. We all sat round to watch “Anchorman”, Martyn, bless him, fell asleep on the sofa, Alex eventually told him to go to bed. JB had crashed hours earlier, he now laid in bed, fast asleep, with a condom on his face. The condom had miraculously disappeared by morning…
The next morning Alex had to leave because of work, and probably because of his girlfriend. We took him to the train station and sadly said goodbye before heading off to go bowling. We travelled in two separate cars. I was with Martyn, JB and Michelle was driving. I enjoyed my car journey, Michelle had been very quiet the whole weekend, she was probably fed up with us taking over the house and keeping her up at night, but during the car journey, she played Nightwish and sang along. She sang in a quiet voice, so you could hardly hear her, but I found something about that quite beautiful, I’m not sure why. JB was hungover. He wore sunglasses and kept quiet for most of the trip.
“McDonald’s will make me feel better, it always does,” he grinned.
When we arrived, it seems the other car had a much more fun trip than our quiet car ride. Iain had put on some crazy pirate music and they’d all been singing along, it was good to see everyone was enjoying themselves, apart from poor JB.
We did indeed go to McDonald’s for lunch. However, it didn’t make JB feel any better. In fact he felt worse. During bowling he spent most of his time outside. I was worried he was throwing up or worse but when he finally came back inside, he said he’d just been smoking. I am awful at bowling as you now know but we all had good fun, even Michelle seemed to sort of enjoy herself.
The rest of the day moved at a slow pace. We went back, played more games, a few of us suffering from lack of sleep. I think I slept a total of 5 hours across the whole weekend, although it didn’t seem to affect me too much. That evening we were singing “Never gonna give you up” together on Singstar as a group, two people sharing a verse each then we all sang the chorus together. I sang along with Stewie, we did an awesome job together. The video got recorded and we put it on Youtube to use later to “Rick-roll” our friends on the OPM group. We were all, apart from myself and Matt, very drunk. A few of us stayed up to watch Team America until it was just me, Stewie and Jen downstairs. They were cuddled together on the floor and I was lying on the sofa. I was going to fall asleep, my back was turned to them, when I heard something.
They were kissing. There’s no sound quite like it, I didn’t even have to turn around to confirm my suspicions. I felt weird being there now. I did a fake moan and stretch.
“Mm guys I think I’m going to head to bed now.” I rose up from the sofa and stretched again.
“Aww okay, night then Laura.” Stewie said, smiling.
I went upstairs to bed. I couldn’t tell anyone else about what I’d just seen.
Jen and I spoke about Stewie the next morning and when we all had to get our different trains that afternoon, Jen ran after Stewie’s train like in those old love films. I was worried where this was heading. Jen and I got the same train for half of the way, when we parted ways Alex phoned me.
I was seeing him next week.
“I’ve got something to tell you when I next see you.” I said.
This was probably the first, but not the last, time I cried on a train.
This was also the last time we all saw Stewie in person. Stewie had been suffering from an old rugby injury, meaning it was hard for him to walk for long periods of time because his hips hurt. He had to stop working and was bitter about it and his ex, who he still had feelings for. I was close to Stewie, I hated seeing him sad and insecure. He was a good looking guy yet he thought himself unattractive, I have no idea why he thought that. Jen and Stewie met up outside of our friendship group, they got together but at the same time didn’t. Stewie decided very quickly he wanted nothing more to do with Jen, he accused her of saying things she apparently didn’t say and they fell out big time. He also fell out with Alex, claiming he’d made fun of his injury and laughed that he was going to end up in wheelchair. I have no idea whether Stewie lied or not, if Alex did say something like that, he wouldn’t have meant it in a horrible way and it would have been a mistake. Alex tried his hardest to figure out what he’d done wrong, he apologised, he text him, tried to call him but Stewie ignored him. I tried my very best for everyone to start liking each other again but it was too late.
The minions at Thorpe Park, posing with our favourite mag.
Before most of the above happened, the next trip we had together was Thorpe Park. Only Stewie didn’t turn up. We had a fantastic time and we said we missed him. Although I suspect Jen was happy he wasn’t there.
Friendships fell apart and I was unable to rescue them, Matt sided with Alex and the others just didn’t want to get involved. Stewie stopped talking to all of us one by one, he deleted me off every one of his social networks. Which I found odd, because JB said that Stewie said to him: “I really don’t want to lose Laura as a friend.” Guess he didn’t care that much after all.
Rumours went around that Stewie fancied me and that’s why he suddenly flipped. I don’t believe that’s true, I think he was just bitter from his accident and decided to take it out on us. I was angry at him but missed him at the same time, it’s hard losing a close friend.
A girl called Holly started getting heavily involved in the OPM Facebook group. She joined in MGO with us, her character was a huge black man by the name of “CooperPrick”. Thus Holly became Coops. The first time she joined us in a full meet-up was a comic/video game/film convention in London by the name of MCM. She’d met a couple of the minions at a beach party Jen held, but most of us couldn’t make it. I’d just started University by this time and had to find my very first news story (I was studying Journalism) so MCM provided some great info about 3D technology, which was just starting to really develop. Holly had a great time and fit right in with the rest of us. Stewie earlier that day had sent a nasty message to Bossman about going to MCM without him. Even though we’d invited him and he said he didn’t want to come. There was no pleasing him. We put him to the back of our minds and Holly soon became our newest member.
After MCM, we went back to our beloved Trocodero. Alex and I snuck off to go make Holly some dog-tags. Then, over dinner, we presented them to her.
“We would like to welcome you into the Minions!” Alex announced, giving her the tags. Holly opened her mouth in shock and then smiled. She was very happy to join our team and we were happy to have her. Then there were 8 minions again. Back to normal.
The Rocket Minions have had many meet-ups since. From birthdays, to cosplay events and getting drunk on a beach, we’ve done it all. We’ve had our dramas, but true friends stick together, or so I like to believe. We don’t just stick to us 8 either, we’ve met up with many other people from the OPM group and we’re just as close with some of them! It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like without them, they are some of my best friends and I love them all. See? Meeting like-minded weirdos on the internet isn’t always bad.
Martyn’s wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Wren and they still live together in Bath.
Bossman is now “Mr Trophy” for a different PlayStation magazine and is soon moving to bath to work for a video games website. We’re all very jealous he gets to write about our favourite hobby for a living!
Jenivere is now with a man called Wez. She’s very happy and though she’s still dealing with a lot she’s still the life and soul of any party.
Johnboyy got together with my (ex) university house mate, Matt. Matt dropped out of uni and now lives with JB.
Moo is engaged to his girlfriend, Kelly. He’s enjoying life and shouting “MOOOOOOO!” at every opportunity.
Stewie has married a girl in America and seems a lot happier now. He talks to one or two of us and has since put the argument between him and Alex behind him.
Holly has finished university with a first (clever girl!) She’s currently traveling around the world and having a great time, though we miss her.
Finally, Alex and I have successfully got together, officially. We’re very happy and our friends have always given us the best support through some very difficult times.
I couldn’t have asked for a happier ending. Though, this is not the end.