Ryan Davis has died.
Ryan Davis has died.
I have rattled that statement around my brain for the last four days, now, and yet there’s still a part of me that doesn’t believe it. There’s still a part of me that’s expecting to open a new Bombcast on Tuesday and hear his voice happily proclaim, “Hey, folks! It’s Tuesday!” Like this has all been one sick joke played on everyone. A very small part of me would be furious and angry and hurt at it, but the rest of me would just exhale in pure relief because it would turn out that the Universe is not a cruel and horrible place and that everything will be OK.
But, no. It’s real. Ryan Davis has died. He died on July 3rd and the news broke to the public on Monday. He’d been married barely a week. He was 34. There was pretty much no warning. He was perfectly fine one day and then gone the next. The news hit everyone hard, and not just his friends and family. Once Matthew Rorie dropped the bombshell on Monday, close to 100,000 people felt like they’d had a family member taken from them. It wasn’t the kind of sadness that occurs whenever a celebrity you admire bites the dust too soon, it was the kind of sadness that occurs when an entertaining and dependable friend of yours that you’ve known nearly your whole life suddenly dies without warning. It hurts.
Usually, any eulogy that includes the phrase “I never knew the man/woman personally…” is derisively written off as an attention-grabbing waste of time, but you really can’t attribute that dismissal to eulogies written about Ryan Davis. It’s true that he probably didn’t know very many of the Giant Bomb users and Internet folk that are broken up about his passing, but, and this is the crucial reason, it felt like he did. The crux of Giant Bomb, the thing that sets the site out from all other gaming websites on the Internet, is the way that it’s driven by the personalities that staff it. There are plenty of other sites that you can get your gaming news from, there are plenty of other sites that you can get reviews from, but there are none run by people you feel you know. Other websites feel like unified brands, Giant Bomb feels like a group of individual guys coming together to make a gaming site whilst giving you an insight into their lives.
I feel that there are few better examples of this, with regards to Ryan Davis, than the time that the crew worked at home on Memorial Day weekend 2009 and Ryan decided to, in lieu of being able to do any office behind-the-scenes videos, give us viewers a personal tour of his home.
It’s that kind of extra mile. Ryan may not have known a lot of us, but we felt like we knew him and him was a hell of a guy. Quick-witted with a great sense of humour, a highly infectious laugh, decisive (everyone who listens to the Bombcast remembers the time he shut down the GOTY 2011 discussions by voting for Skyrim, mostly for how much of a crushing betrayal it was for many Saints Row The Third fans), a great games writer with exceptional music taste. There’s a reason he’s called the Summer Jam king, after all.
Sorry, I’m tearing up again, give me a second…
Of course, you probably already know all of this, seeing as pretty much everybody and their grandma’s dog has posted some semblance of a tribute to Ryan Davis in the past week (with the Bombcast being the single hardest-to-listen-to thing I’ve experienced in about a year). It’s a testament to just how much of an influence Ryan has had on the lives of people, but it also leaves me sat here worried that I’m simply regurgitating the same eighty or so tributes but in a much more poorly-written fashion. So, instead, allow me to talk about what Ryan Davis meant to me and how he influenced my life.
I never met Ryan. I think one time I put a summer jam consideration before him, something by The Go! Team, but I don’t think he responded. But, to me, he was a sign of dependability. When I first ended up being exposed to the Internet, my most frequent stop was GameSpot (circa late 2005) and it was there that I started being captivated by the on-camera staff. People like Jeff Gerstmann, Rich Gallup, Alex Navarro and, of course, Ryan Davis. I’d waste hours away watching old site content with them in it (Button Mashing and On The Spot, in particular), I regularly tuned into The Hotspot podcast, I fought to be able to stay up to watch their E3 coverage… I admired those guys in a way that I used to reserve for fictional characters in cartoons. These guys were talking about videogames on camera to millions of people across the world… and the people were listening!
Gerstmann-gate happened later on and I followed Gerstmann and Davis to Giant Bomb, back when it was just a blog and had very little actual videogame content on it. Yet, it was still one of my first stops whenever I’d load up a computer. The pair had such a magnetic chemistry with one another that even a video of them planning out the finished site was must-see viewing for me. I kept visiting frequently after the site launched but, for some reason or other (likely teenage-y hormones that forcibly cause you to reject everything you ever loved as a kid), I eventually drifted away for a long while. I’d still visit occasionally, but I was mostly caught in the grip of other websites…
…until May 2010, whereupon I stumbled across Screened.com, a movie website home to Alex Navarro (one of my favourite writers, end of). I started interacting with its community, watching the site’s videos, stepping up my own writing to an extent that I started considering it to be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Then, the first annual Whiskey Media Big Live Live Show (Live) happened and there were the crew from Giant Bomb, including Ryan. That first Big Live Live Show (Live) fully opened me up to the Whiskey Media crew, re-introduced me to Giant Bomb and got me to be a far more active participant and viewer of both sites. I got back into listening to the Bombcast, I returned to viewing their Quick Looks, I got a premium account and bookmarked their fantastic mobile site to such an extent that it became the third most visited site on my phone.
And throughout it all, there was Ryan. Hosting all of the major Whiskey Media and Giant Bomb events with a combination of professionalism and laid-back easiness that managed to make everything he was involved in feel light and casual and personable without ever losing focus or control. It’s a hosting style that I continue to be astounded is possible to this day, one that I’ve tried (and failed) to bring to anything I feature on. He was a dependable rock, having been involved in my life in some way shape or form for almost the last decade. I was pretty certain that wherever I ended up in at least five to ten years’ time, he’d still be there hosting stuff and telling me what games were worth my hard earned cash and what weren’t.
Finally, on a much more tangential level, I’ve spent the last year frequently guesting on a podcast series called The Pupcast. What started as a random “sure, why the hell not?” guest appearance to talk about The Dark Knight Rises and other such movies (seeing as interacting with people that I don’t know terrifies me) has turned into a regular occurrence to such an extent that I class those that I do it with as my closest friends, more so than the friends that I interact with in real life. And I wouldn’t have discovered GameSparked, the website that, for some inexplicable reason, has given me a forum to spout whatever bullsh*t about gaming that I want to once a week, if it wasn’t for my making friends with a mutual acquaintance of ours on the Screened forums.
Most of us would not have discovered Screened if it weren’t for the Whiskey Media conglomerate of sites. We wouldn’t have discovered Whiskey Media if it weren’t for Giant Bomb. We wouldn’t have gone to Giant Bomb if it weren’t for GameSpot and we wouldn’t have stayed at GameSpot in those pre-Gerstmann-gate days if it weren’t for personalities like Ryan Davis. I know, I know, this whole Six Degrees Of Separation stuff sounds ridiculously corny and perhaps giving Davis too much credit, but the fact is that every single one of us on the Pupcast went through roughly the same process finding each other and every single one of us likely feel exactly the same way.
So, for that, I have to say: thanks, Ryan Davis. These people, and I know that this sentimentality that I’m expressing about them is probably going to be subjected to much derisive mocking come our next recording session, are seven of the most important people in my life right now and I wouldn’t have met them if your writing and hosting and overall person-of-being hadn’t captured every single one of our hearts way back when. You don’t know it, and you didn’t know me, but you set me on the path towards writing for a living all the way back in 2005 (where I lobbied, strangely successfully, for a gaming section in my Junior School’s very short-lived student newspaper) and the Bombcast had livened up even the crappiest Tuesday. You’ve been a constant presence in my life and if I ever got the chance, I would one day have hunted you down and told you all of this in person. Unfortunately, the Universe is a cruel and horrible mistress and conspires against such plans…
You were trending on Twitter worldwide when the news broke, you know? And even Hollywood Life wrote about your passing! You probably would have loved that.
My heart hurts.
Pump up your SUMMERJAMS, everyone. Life’s too short and too cruel to do anything else.
In Other, Actually Important News: No. No, this is the single most important story in this industry this week and if you think anything else then you clearly have your priorities wrong.
Callum Petch will be back for more.