I’ve been sitting here for a while thinking if I should really, actually write something, because that’s my instinct whenever I’m sent into a sort of dizzying emotional state. Part of it’s because I run a small-scale video game website, and this is decidedly large-scale news. The actual, most important part has to do with me staring at my Twitter feed for the last two hours, alone in my house.
I hesitated because it feels incredibly pretentious and presumptuous to even begin writing this article, scattershot and disorganized as it might be. One of the things about writing is that it’s inherently narcissistic: you can always claim you’re writing for yourself, but it’s all fucking pointless unless someone’s listening.
In this most perilous and unique of circumstances, I can assure you I’m writing for no reason but to calm myself. That might be the most narcissistic thing of all, actually.
When I started this site two years and one month ago, I was fourteen, and like most decisions fourteen-year-olds make, it was born out of a desire to be noticed. I’d holed up in the still-active Game Informer fan group on Facebook, and I had this neat idea: I wanted to start a blog, where myself and other like-minded individuals could talk about video games. It was a level of communication and criticism I’d been deprived of, both due to obscure school circumstances, and a general disinterest from the people that were around me.
The idea was solid, but sticking the landing was tricky. We signed on more people than we could sustain, and didn’t really know what to focus on content-wise. By our first anniversary, we’d gotten better. A lot better. Now it’s the second anniversary, and the gulf is widening.
I mention all this because our site is, at its very best, a sort of half-assed impression of Giant Bomb, from our consolidated size to our focus on personality-driven content, not to mention our lengthy, weekly podcasts. We’re trying our best by trying to be like the best. And the best just lost a key player.
The general reactions I’ve been seeing, on Twitter and Facebook and even Giant Bomb itself, somewhat mirror mine, though those people are admittedly much braver and attuned to themselves than I’ll probably ever be. Among the obituaries and consolations I see one defining thought echoed: why am I sobbing about the death of someone I’ve never met?
The answer, in case you hadn’t guessed, is that you have met him.
Giant Bomb was a site born out of rebellion. After Jeff Gerstmann was fired from GameSpot for, let’s say, unconvincing reasons, several editors quit in protest. Then, in 2008, and from an office in Sausalito, California, they presented a counter-argument. Why get tangled up in the flavorless news cycles and spreadsheet-based 100-point scoring of years past? Their content was unique. A simple, 5-point review scale. An informal, 2-3 hour weekly podcast. Video content in place of written previews. A subscriber-model that was fair and beneficial to all parties involved. Giant Bomb is the single most important video game website ever created.
Part of me wonders how the site will rebound from such a devastating loss, but the rest of my fiber informs me that those guys are just straight-up too talented to ever stop doing something worthwhile. That’s comforting, if nothing else. The spirit of the site that he co-founded won’t die. Everyone’s too invested to let it come screeching to a halt.
Calling Ryan Davis a “celebrity” is a bit misleading, and the response to his death confirms that. This wasn’t a person we were ever even remotely detached from. The site he helped build is based upon what we hope to accomplish here, as well: these people aren’t just bylines on reviews. You know them, and you know what they like, and in a practical sense that should help you decide whether or not to invest in a computer game they recommend. But it also amounts to something greater. You understand these people. You’ve watched and listened to them for hours, days, weeks, months. You’ve attended a PAX panel, or you’ve wished you had. You’ve sent them things (in my case, a Novint Falcon) because you love them, and you want to see them happy, because that makes you happy, too.
In a way, this piece is incredibly selfish. I, like many others, got into this business to be someone like Ryan Davis. To write like Ryan Davis, and talk like Ryan Davis, and make people laugh like Ryan Davis, and meet Ryan Davis, and work with Ryan Davis, and be best friends with Ryan Davis. Writing this, now, is as close as I’ll ever be able to get to a good chunk of those goals, but it doesn’t tear me up as much as it might, because I, along with thousands of others, had the supreme privilege to know Ryan Davis.
Ryan Davis passed away on July 3rd, at the age of 34. He will be missed.