Words by: Jonathon Davidson
I felt if it was up to somebody other than me, that the person who it was up to ought not to be able to fulfill the role.
In retrospect this was a fairly poor idea and one which would come to bring me great grief, but it didn’t seem to be so selfish at the time. When I did what I did it wasn’t about the resentment. Obviously today it’s clear that resentment drove my actions, but at the time, it was simply the most logical option I could fulfill. In talking about it though, these days, I often find myself struggling to feel confident about the order of events. Some critics – particularly Kate, my late sister-in-law – have suggested that I promulgate a version of the story which has been carefully woven to make myself the protagonist, when perhaps a majority of secondary characters would infer that I was in fact the villain. But I’ve never agreed with this. I don’t believe I am able to.
Harvey joined the company well after its inception. I had worked with the brand since day one and after so many years of euphoric highs and ego crushing lows, periods of innovation and longer periods of creative stagnation, money made, lost, acquired, fined, frozen, released, withdrawn, deposited – after all this hard work had been made the founding legacy of the business, after me and the others poured in our entire lives for years without fail – it was as if another story began where mine ended and Harvey came waltzing into the picture.
Not particularly better looking or younger than me, no more skilled or possessing no considerable abundance of character, but somehow all the more appealing and competent, Harvey burned the floor where he walked across the office even on day one, almost like a hovering angel of death scorching the ground below him.
I always hated my brother, but for him just to walk back into my life after everything, and deciding to do so via the only enterprise I ever truly felt passionate about, was practically too much to bear from the moment it happened. Of course, I never particularly looked at it that way while all of this was going on, but at the time I was still vaguely aware I think, on some base level, that he’d turned this into a personal issue. But again, everything was just business, business, business in those days. Father never approved of Harvey and Kate’s relationship. While Harvey always made out that the reason he left for the great disappearance was a spiritual crisis – no doubt brought on by a particularly low exchange rate in the nation of Cambodia where he stayed for five years, surely – I’ve always suspected that it was his inability to deal with the death of our mother. What was exceptionally hard for him I believe was the way our mother passed, went without much grief from Father, and then became quickly replaced by Carol who from then on stood at our Father’s side; cold, alien and like a cruel ironic joke of a woman, somehow obscene in her Indian heritage calling pale young men from the suburbs her ‘sons’, at least in the first few months she bothered trying to talk to any of us. Even Dad.
Anyway, for Harvey, I think the weight of her death continued to underlie, permeate and nibble at Harvey throughout the rapid fire mills and boon that was his and Kate’s wedding, corresponding honeymoon, and final escape to the exotic expat experience in Phnom Penh.
Just him, Kate, and his problems.
Plus three million of our Mother’s inheritance funds.
The fact that he went looking for spiritual enlightenment in a nation driven half mad by its dark past was something that apparently never occurred to him. I remember when Kate first moved in, though. He was taken from day one. While I was locked in my room working, Harvey dealt with the death of our mother by fondling the dark breasts of her replacement’s daughter. Kate, despite her penchant for Harvey’s alleged charms, always disapproved of the fact that he never came to feel completely at ease with her mother Carol. And if she couldn’t come to terms with the deepest reservations in her alleged soulmate, she definitely never took to my displays of complete indifference towards her Mother in the short space of time before I moved out completely. I had made it clear relatively early on to Carol that while I did not necessarily dislike her for loyalty or territorial reasons, there was too much of a time factor to ever truly learn to feel comfortable around her. I had come out of childhood well and truly by then and when Carol came into the picture I had come to be quite mature and no longer needing what had always been half hearted acts of mothering I had received when I needed them.
But this is a different story. And when I look back on it today – by now you’ve probably gathered I do a lot – I can’t help but think that things would have gone very, very differently if we didn’t put Joseph in charge of HR. I would most likely not be here talking about this today, and my brother would still be breathing normally. Perhaps my replacement. On the other hand, I would not have all this money, though I’d probably have had far more privacy in my lifetime. It’s funny how these things come out of nowhere and get treated as such, but come to mean so much to us later down the line.
I really ought to discuss the money more in depth, as it’s fairly important to the entire situation. I’ve always looked at it – the money, I mean – as being in two parts, if that makes sense. Firstly, there was the money my family acquired before my birth and continued to make as I was raised, and this was the money from which three million went to Harvey upon my mother’s death. She had already been wealthy herself before marrying my Father, the gas fracking proprietor, and so when they came together there was never a co dependency issue with finances. My parents worked a lot, and as such were never present in excess. I’ve come to understand that this pattern extended into their relationship as well, and while he never admitted it, I feel that this always had a part to play in my Father’s hasty reuptake of a wife after mother had a fit in the swimming pool and drowned.
Secondly, there’s the money I made with the company.
To be fair, I would never have been able to start the brand at all were it not for the first batch of money I was born into. For many years I would tell people I got to where I was with hard work and determination, and I acquired my early wealth alone, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Such are the ways we craft our self image in youth. Father helped a great deal. In fact, that was ultimately his only redeeming factor: he took my visions seriously from their immediate infancy, encouraged me to build the business and was the only person who had any kind of idea at all what it was I actually did.
What you need to understand is that what I was doing was a product of the times. Things were different, then. It was an age of unique opportunity. It was the same period where you could make a year’s casual salary in three days trading in quasi bootleg digital currencies, or go from zero to six figures in five years with a webcam and something to talk about.
So while all of this with Father and my mother’s funeral and Carol and Kate and Harvey was going on, and I was a young man still at home; avoiding Father, my brother, my mother for some time and then later on, her replacement and its daughter; I designed applications for touchscreen devices.
Like I said, it was the times.
For the first two years, there was nothing. We were nobodies. Maybe twenty thousand downloads across the board – that’s for about three different games we released, if I’m being honest – and a sad sum of money to be holding after twenty four months of sitting behind a computer. But again, it’s not like I didn’t have support. Or money.
But it was always very important to me that I made my own. I still feel defensive against some invisible withholding force the moment I even think about it. Either way, the old wive’s tale about three being a lucky number came through as true because it was in our third year of business things started to change.
This is also when we hired Joseph. We went huge with Shnapple & Verbs, essentially a game of linguistic charades in which deliberately elusive prompts would serve as abstract clues for the player to select a word. Kind of like an extrapolated version of hangman. What we did differently was that we updated the servers a few times a week to keep the words directly relevant to what was happening in the world news, what the hot topics were. Everybody considered themselves a journalist, back then. We went viral.
This is when the first round of media coverage came. We were the indie software developers bringing literacy back to the disaffected illiterate. We were using innovative cloud sourcing software to run our operations and we were free with low intensity advertising – if I recall correctly we were running recruitment for the defense force – and as such we got attention from tech blogs, documentarians, the lot. Literally overnight, we were making more revenue than all of our previous two years earnings combined. And as we’re wont to do, the people wanted more. So we told Joseph to find more people, and he continued to do so without hiccup for the next five and a half years.
After those five and a half years were up, he hired Harvey who had returned from the East without any real forewarning and Joseph, unaware of the fact that I had a brother called Harvey because I hadn’t told him, never came to understand why he found himself made redundant shortly after. Although by that point I don’t think we’d hired anybody in almost a quarter so perhaps it truly was just the most logical option at the time.
But I was powerless. I was unable to do anything then, from within the human rights court where I had ended up with Chester, our CIO. It was like getting your hand stuck in machinery, trying to pull back but knowing that you are powerless to the whim and obese grace of clacking steel and torque that powders bone. My reputation was shattered. I don’t like talking about this, so I’m not going to linger on it much. You know the story. After Shnapple we went massive with a number of other games and then later general applications, breaking into the utility software market. But it was always the original innocence of Shnapple’s premise, and the work of our strong team of writers, that stuck with the public memory and our brand. Until India.
What Joseph had been good for was outsourcing development when it became apparent to us that there was a massive international market for Shnapple. We got translators at first and tried to keep it domestic, briefly, but focus group testing became too expensive and arduous so we decided to expand. There was some talk then of the type you’d expect; low-brow small business going corporate and what not, but obviously it was the kind of high-figure goal I’d been thinking of since day one. So Joseph saw to it that it all went well and it did, until India. And then everything started.
I don’t know why it became popular with students, and I still don’t know today with absolute certainty who was responsible for the coding. Shnapple was favoured, for some reason, in its Indian version, by young women aged 16-25. It went viral there, too. It’s my understanding that the decision to run with a pink hue in the interface coupled with the social media and brain teaser aspect somehow made the game incredibly appealing to the young women of India, which was the kind of thing we were extremely pleased about, until that other thing came out. Whoever did the coding failed to hide each user’s metadata on the cloud we were using to update that particular version. It only took one person who knew what they were doing.
In retrospect, there were in total only eighteen attacks. Eight – teen. Not eighty, not any other ridiculous number. Eighteen.
Of course, that didn’t put viewers on seats and eyes on advertisements. Once we got word of what was transpiring we did everything we could to handle the situation but it quickly went out of our hands and into the chaos of the public. Again, overnight, the company changed entirely. We were now the company who gave out the GPS location of young girls to predators. But I’m not talking about this anymore. We aren’t responsible for those hackers, we aren’t responsible for the fact our code could be exploited to deliver the real time location of each user to a third party. Blame lies with the development team in India, god knows where they are now, and I have said that from the start and I always will because it is the truth.
So while I became heavily embroiled with the human rights court, Harvey came back with Kate to join the company – my company – and become the handsome face of our damage control team. And what with Kate, his busty dark wife of Indian descent becoming part of that case at that moment in time, the media frenzy quickly changed tone and the company, while still bruised, came to signify something with integrity again. After a short while, anyway. We shut down Shnapple. I say ‘we,’ but the truth is nobody was particularly in charge at that point.
We ascertained early on that I couldn’t be the face of our struggles at that time. And that was largely my own decision, if I’m being honest – I was hassled by journalists for weeks. International numbers managed to find me each day along with emails and even a letter. And then, in what was clearly the most absurd precedent set by the court to date, they put me under house arrest for 12 months for negligence. Negligence. And then I was dead weight. The company rebuilt its image while I did my best to stay in charge, but it became clear that Harvey had replaced me even while I never left, even while I continued to receive paychecks, even while I still received royalties and communicated with my colleagues, I had become invisible all at the same time and vanished completely.
And it was around this time that Harvey had his accident.