I wanted to let some time pass before I posted this. I struggled with whether or not to add the humorous moments in it. But I think it’s something Ryan would have wanted.
It was a hundred degrees in Austin. I never understood why cities where it climbs that high temperature-wise have airports mostly made of glass, allowing the sun to magnify the heat. Airports where you can claim it’s air conditioned but the ambient temperature at any given point in the place is 78. I was standing outside the gate for my first leg of my trip home, to Dallas then on to Seattle, waiting for my boarding group to be called.
I was operating on about three hours of sleep having just finished a fantastic weekend at RTX 2013, and having just gotten the worst news possible for a gamer. I was trying to figure out how I was going to do 8 hours of travel without breaking down at least for a bit.
Ryan Davis of Giantbomb.com had passed away peacefully at home of natural causes.* I’d heard the news in passing just an hour before and had to call e to confirm it. Even after I hung up with him I still was not processing it.
The gate agent came on the speaker.
This is American Airlines service from Austin to Dallas now announcing boarding for all American Airlines Platinum Plus members.
My ticket read that I was in boarding group two. I thought back to the first time I met Ryan.
I had already been a Giantbomb fan for a long time when I got the opportunity to see their live podcast (heretofore referred to as its rightful name The Bombcast) at PAX 2010. I was especially excited because of all the people I knew who were on it in addition to people I was a fan of: Michael Pachter, Gary Whitta, Jeff Green, etc.
It was for me the first time I had gotten to see the Giantbomb crew in person. I’d seen their pictures of course and the occasional Internet video but those things were nothing compared to the real thing for a fan of a show that delved so honestly into gaming and gaming culture.
Afterwards I managed to catch Ryan. I introduced myself as the “Head of Enforcement for Xbox LIVE.”
He blinked a minute as he was shaking my hand. I explained, “Head Banhammer.”
He threw back his head and laughed and clapped both his hands on my shoulders.
“Oh my god you’re Stepto! You have the shittiest job in the world!”
When Ryan grabbed you liked that and laughed like that, *and* knew who you are, it was like feeling you made the big time.
This is American Airlines service from Austin to Dallas now announcing boarding for all American Airlines Platinum members, Platinum Alliance members, and One World Platinum Alliance members.
Over the next year Ryan and I would trade emails or twitter comments. There’s this weird world now where you can be a continent away from people you make a physical connection with friendship wise and that just carries through to social media. Ryan was well known for his wit and humor, but as a gamer he was someone who embodied the very concept I try to espouse of “Be excellent to each other”**
When Gary and I had problems with the new SimCity Beta in building our cities, Ryan immediately tried to help us:
When he tore apart a game he didn’t demean it, he honestly gave criticism on how it could be better. And if a game was bad, he tried to see what nuggets of good were in it.
How many people in the snark-filled festival that is our Internet commentary can say that?
This is American Airlines service from Austin to Dallas now announcing boarding for all American Airlines Ruby members, Flawed Ruby members, Premium Plus Alliance members, and Guild Navigators members.
Ryan and company asked myself and my friend e to be on the e3 Bombcast for the 2011 e3 which is where Microsoft announced a project e and I had been working on for quite some time: Kinect.
We were going to be on with Gary, and Jonathan Blow. This resulted in the infamous “Jonathan Blow vs. Microsoft” discussion. The thing I remember most about this was that A) HOLY CRAP BUCKETS OF CRAP I’M ON THE BOMBCAST and B) how Ryan and the Giantbomb crew were this bizarre and awesome mix of laid back and professional.
“Grab a beer, sit over there, oh we need a sound check. Ok remember the Internet is listening.”
The conversation devolved so totally into inside baseball. Jonathan had legit criticisms about Xbox LIVE policies and e and I had legit explanations. Everyone to this day thinks e and I hate Jonathan from that exchange. Truth be told, just afterwards we all exited the house where the podcast was being recorded and said “wow what a fun time!” and Jonathan gave e and I a ride back downtown.
While the fans and commentators devolved quite rapidly into calling e and I shills for a corporate monster that wanted to destroy all good and the entire episode the worst ever, later Ryan told me it was by far the most substantive and fun podcast for him he’d done yet.
“But your fans hated it,” I said.
“Oh those guys. I mean I love them, but I do this for stuff we would never get to do otherwise! I think it was one of the best discussions we’ve ever had. How often do you get to argue the rules of Xbox LIVE in front of both sides of the story?” he laughed.
Ryan’s laugh was his sincerity.
This is American Airlines service from Austin to Dallas now announcing boarding for all American Airlines Passengers who are Service Members in Uniform, First Class, Coach Class Plus Alliance members, and any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who may be flying today.
My last interaction with Ryan is the one that, if I had not had the privilege of knowing him, would break my heart. Instead it reminds me of how full of life he was.
He once again invited me to the Bombcast for e3 2013 and I invited e too since I thought it would be fun.
No, really, it was a building filled with rooms all done up in different styles of porn sets, from bedroom to school room to office (black couch included!) to where we ended up: a law office boardroom complete with a wall of law books. I mean real law books. At one point in the podcast I made some arcane reference and Ryan used one of the law books in the room to call me out on it and it was classic Ryan.
When Ryan made fun of you, he wasn’t demeaning you. He was bringing you down to size. He wasn’t belittling you. When Ryan made a joke about something you said, he made you feel like the center of the world. Like he was your friend and he was just talking to you not talking to the entire Internet just to be clever.
Ryan was about a week from getting married. We were all teasing his obvious excitement before recording. I shook his hand when I left and he said he wanted us on again soon. I congratulated him on his impending wedding, and that was the last time I spoke to him.
The curse of Internet friends is that we have this web that connects us and when we see each other in person it’s a big bright moment for us. But when those friends are taken from us we have a harder time believing they are gone because their physical presence is such an abstract and wonderful surprise.
I boarded my plane finally and struggled to cope with how much I’m going to miss that man. Our industry and the world in general is less without him.
*I’m sick and tired of the Internet speculation. Ryan’s family has made the statement it was natural causes. There’s no need to delve any further.
**Stolen from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but a mantra we need on the Internet so much right now.