Mourning Ryan Davis

Ryan Davis

“Giant Bomb co-founder Ryan Davis dies at 34”

It couldn’t be true. I re-read that headline and the rest of the story (several times). I checked Twitter. It wasn’t that Ryan Davis. Couldn’t be. It must be a different Ryan Davis. It had to be another Giant Bomb.

But it was real.

On July 3rd, Ryan Davis, former GameSpot editor, co-founder of Giant Bomb and host of their weekly podcast, the Giant BombCast, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 34 of natural causes. He had been married for just one week.

When I realised that it was true, I also realised something completely unexpected: I was feeling a profound sense of loss for someone I had never met or interacted with…and I started to wonder… why?

It’s true that, every week for the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve heard Ryan say “Hey everybody, it’s Tuuuueeeesday” (albeit on Wednesday in Australia) followed by 3 to 4 hours of him and the rest of the Bombcast crew talking about their lives, random shit like numbers stations—they’re fascinating—making silly jokes and laughing about anything and everything while sometimes remembering to talk about video games.

I still felt a profound sense of loss from across the internet. As it turns out, I wasn’t alone.

Ryan's WeddingI’ve listened to him tell countless stories about the industry and the crazy shit he got up to and was still getting up to right ’til the end. He and I shared the pain of planning a wedding around the same time and his was one of the few opinions that I valued when it came to video games, the gaming industry & life in general.

In fact, our paths almost crossed at PAX Australia this past weekend, as he was scheduled to host one panel and guest on another, but that wasn’t meant to be. Neither of us ended up making the trip.

At the end of the day, Ryan wasn’t a family member, a friend or a colleague. He really was just some guy on a podcast that I like, who’s views I shared on occasion. Who was in a similar place to me in his own life.

And yet, I still felt that profound sense of loss. As it turns out, I wasn’t alone.

Ryan was a prolific tweeter, as are most of the team at Giant Bomb, so naturally his friends and fans took to Twitter to share their favourite memories of Ryan with industry friends and members of the Giant Bomb community.

The outpouring of grief and support both from people in the video game industry and from fans site was immense and dominated my Twitter feed for several days.

The guys at Harmonix, creators of Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance Central, put together a live stream honouring their friend. The guys at Idle Thumbs did the same, Justin McElroy from Polygon wrote an amazing piece that summed up who Ryan was and numerous threads sprung up on the GiantBomb, NeoGaf and Idle Thumbs forums.

There was also a period of time where the news was private to his friends and loved ones. Working out how you break the news to his fans, while honouring the wishes of his family and giving them time to grieve must have been stranger still.

In fact, the team at Giant Bomb discussed this very topic on the podcast following his passing. Listening to the guys discuss having to simultaneously grieve his loss, prepare the website for the announcement and ensure that the story didn’t leak, in amongst their favourite memories of their friend, was both morbidly fascinating and heart breaking.

The fact that they even managed to record a podcast at all was astounding. It sounded like talking about it made them feel better. I know it made me feel better.

Personally, I couldn’t find the right words to contribute. 140 characters was both too many and too few to express how I felt, not just for my own sense of loss but for his family, friends and, most of all, his wife.

And still, I couldn’t articulate why I (and everyone else who knew him as a guy on a podcast), felt the loss so deeply.

Ryan Davis

The closest comparison I have is the passing of Steve Jobs. I’m a self confessed Apple fanboy, but I didn’t tear up when I heard the news. I remember thinking “Oh, that’s sad” and wondering what it meant for Apple. I didn’t feel a sense of personal loss, it was a more abstract feeling of the loss of someone I admired but didn’t know at all.

And therein lies the difference. I didn’t know Steve Jobs, but in a way, I knew Ryan Davis.

Ryan, like everyone else on the BombCast—and every podcast that really grabs me—was himself, both online and off. When he spoke, what you got was what Ryan Davis thought…not what Game Spot or Giant Bomb or CBS thought. He wasn’t selling you anything, he was just a funny dude on the internet who had the ability to bring the funny out in everyone he spoke to.

Like so many others, I never met the man, but I knew who he was. I knew what he was about and I liked him immensely because of it.

It’s one of the strange realities of living on the Internet.

Despite being on the other side of the planet and never actually interacting with someone directly, you can get to know and like them, to the point where their passing goes beyond the abstract and actually punches you in the gut as soon as you find out.

There honestly will be a Ryan-shaped hole in my Wednesdays from now on. I’m always gonna be a little sad when I say “Hey everybody, it’s Tuuuueeeesday!” to myself on Tuesdays (yeah, I do that sometimes, I have no idea why).

I’m also never going to get the chance to meet him awkwardly at a video game conference and mumble incoherently about how much I love the podcast before taking an even more awkward photo with him and slinking away; something that I would have simultaneously cherished and been mortified by for the rest of my life.

Instead, I get to marvel at the tremendous impact he had on those around him and those across the world who listened to him every week.

Above all else, I’m thankful for the fact that we both lived in a time where technology allowed me to get to know and like a funny, thoughtful dude on the other side of the planet who always managed to make me laugh no matter how bad my mood, all while making me think differently about the world.

R.I.P. Mr Davis. Clearly, you’re already missed.

Image credits: Giant Bomb Forums & Giant Bomb (CBS Interactive Inc).