The world can be an incredibly miserable place sometimes. Case in point: a recent assault on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya resulted in multiple deaths, which served to underscore all manner of related violent conflicts that have been going on for ages. That’s simply nauseating to even think about – let alone be a part of in any way, shape, or form. One of the now-deceased victims, US state department official Sean Smith, was an integral member of the EVE Online community. But, in an unlikely turn of events, that fact gave rise to something positively incredible.
It began with a heartbreaking, fantastically heartfelt post from Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco, who praised Smith for his skills as an excellent diplomat both in real life and as a member of EVE’s Council of Stellar Management.
“I’m clearly in shock as I write this as everything is buzzing around my head funnily and I feel kind of dead inside. I’m not sure if this is how I’m supposed to react to my friend being killed by a mob in a post-revolutionary Libya, but it’s pretty awful and Sean was a great guy and he was a goddamned master at this game we all play, even though a lot of people may not realize how significant an influence he had. It seems kind of trivial to praise a husband, father, and overall badass for his skills in an internet spaceship game but that’s how most of us know him, so there you go. RIP, my friend.”
But that was only the very, very tip of the iceberg. CCP employees and former CCP staffers alike chimed in with tributes of their own, as did countless members of the Something Awful forums, which gave birth to much of EVE’s gigantic Goonswarm faction. Something Awful proper, meanwhile, is organizing a full-blown fundraiser for Smith’s wife. And then there’s one of the more amazing bits, which saw hundreds of in-game outposts – many of which belonged to rival corporations – change their names to honor Smith’s untimely passing.
Kotaku’s done an absolutely wonderful job of cataloging the whole movement, and I can’t really do their write-up justice here. So go read through it for yourself, and take a moment to reflect on, well, all of this. Oftentimes, it’s easy to look at online gaming communities and see only the negative aspects. Anonymity, insults, sexism, racism, exclusion, rage, isolation. But it’d be a tremendous mistake to lose sight of the incredible good they can do. Smith’s friendships spanned years, careers, continents, and, well, life. He’s gone, but people he’s likely never even met face-to-face won’t let him or his loved ones be forgotten. That’s beautiful. That’s one of the most powerful things I think any game’s ever facilitated. To all involved, you’re amazing.
So rest in peace, Sean Smith. At the very least, you deserve that much.