I feel like I’ve lost a friend I’ve never met.
Ryan Davis, co-founder, columnist and chief raconteur of video game news website Giant Bomb died last Wednesday at the age of 34. The news of his passing wasn’t released until this morning on Giant Bomb, and as of yet no cause of death has been mentioned. I respect the late Mr. Davis too much to speculate on the circumstances of his untimely death, so I’ll avoid the subject. Instead I just want to express my sincere condolences to his wife, whose name I unfortunately do not know and who tragically was only married to Ryan for a few days before his sudden passing last week.
Ryan was crucial to that sense of inclusion. As the Bombcast’s discussion moderator and the de facto ringleader of the crew, he kept the group’s spirits high, illuminated the best jokes with a belly full of laughter and, of course, began every episode with an enthusiastic “Heyeverybodyit’sTuuuueeeesssday!”
I found out about Ryan’s death around one o’clock this afternoon, and it shook me, as though I hadn’t heard about the passing of a video game critic whose work I liked but a genuine acquaintance. I realized his voice, which I’d heard on a weekly basis since November of 2011, would never grace another episode of the Giant Bombcast. While Ryan wasn’t a celebrity except amongst nerd circles his death has affected me more than John Ritter’s or Roger Ebert’s did.
And so I spent much of my shift wondering how this had happened, how some chubby, bearded dude from San Francisco, who spoke giddily about the old arcade machines he was amassing in his house, who I had never met or even exchanged words with online, somehow felt like such a friend. An answer, if only a partial one, came to me in an article SB Nation’s Jon Bois wrote about sports commentators.
“As I watched Jim Palmer follow up a superhuman evening of broadcasting with a heartbreakingly human moment, I thought of who sportscasters really are to us. We knock them all the time for their factual errors and their biases and all sorts of things, and I think that's okay, because that will always be a component of our relationship.
“But it is a relationship. Collectively, sports announcers hold an enormous amount of real estate in our lives. Suppose you watch four games a week. That's, what, 10 hours of sportscasters extemporaneously talking to you.
“It's a startling realization: do you listen to anyone else in your life for half that long? It's a one-sided conversation, of course. But surely there's a friendship in there somewhere.”
That’s the essence of it right there. While I had never listened to Ryan provide running commentary for a basketball game—even a virtual one, for that matter—I’d become accustomed to his tastes, his opinions on the gaming industry, and every nuance of his voice. He was a friend to me, even if he didn’t know it. That sounds creepier than I intended but it’s the best I can verbalize this one-sided familiarity.
The news of Ryan’s death hit the games journalism industry hard today. Even ignoring the fact that he helped found the most singular gaming news site on the Web, he was a great, big, loveable bear of a man, a point on which his coworkers, compatriots and competitors all agree.
Have a good journey, Ryan. You were pretty awesome while you were with us.