Monday, an article on giantbomb.com announced the passing of Ryan Davis, the site’s cofounder and one of the most well-known personalities of the video game media community. Not soon after the article was posted, literally thousands of loyal Giant Bombers took to the comments, some of them asking if it was all just a tasteless joke. Many had to come to grips with the fact that the site, which is renowned for its humor, was not kidding this time.
Word of Davis’s death spread like wildfire among a gaming community that is arguably more connected than any other commonly interested group of people. Industry journalist, including many friends of Davis who knew well in advance of the announcement, took to twitter to make Ryan Davis one of the most tweeted about topics.
His is a death that will scar the gaming community for a long while. It resonates not just with his colleagues and the editors of other websites alongside whom he attended countless video game conventions, but also with the people who tuned in to every “Giant Bombcast” and “Quick Look” to see him crack jokes about games that often have no business being otherwise entertaining.
When a famed actor or film writer dies, many of us pay our respects by clicking on and skimming over the obligatory CNN article, and muttering a quick “hmm that sucks” under our breaths. For us, the passing of Ryan Davis cuts deeper and the need for a catharsis is much, much greater.
Davis was 34, putting him just about even with the multitude of studies that say your average gamer is in his mid-thirties. It’s not too large an assumption to think that your average game developer or journalist is the same age. The industry is young, and so are the people who work within it, so we’re not used to hearing stories of industry veterans dying.
Almost all the top tier game creators and commentators are not only still living today, they are in their prime. This fact is key to knowing why cinema fans spend little time dwelling on the death of their favorite actor. Most of the great revolutionaries of film have passed on, and there are entire website devoted to placing bets on which of today’s celebrities will be the next one to die of a drug overdose.
This industry is not prone to dramatic, untimely demises, nor are its best people approaching the later stages of life. Even if that were the case, Ryan Davis was no celebrity. He’s not a household name, nor will he be getting a CNN article the likes of Michael Jackson or James Gandolfini. To anyone outside the very specific video gaming culture, he was just some guy, and that “just some guy” persona is part of what makes this so hard to swallow.
What separates Giant Bomb from its contemporaries is its style of presentation. Where other sites might put an over-bloated, hyper-produced intro graphic, videos on Giant Bomb start off with a joke or a greeting that makes you feel like you were right there, joking with the crew hosting the show. Like no other audience, Giant Bomb’s feels a much more personal connection that’s been carefully handcrafted in no small part by Ryan Davis. Bleak and uninteresting games were made entertaining by Davis and the crew’s wisecracks, and every Tuesday, Davis lead the discussion in an especially conversational podcast that could easily trick many a giant bomber into thinking they were on a couch among gamer friends.
Today, you don’t need to look hard to find out the Davis was a much beloved person. You need only check your recent twitter feed, if you at all follow gaming news, where you will find his friends and industry colleagues reminiscing about a man who exuded happiness.
Ryan Davis’s sudden passing hits us hard because it was literally his job to be infectiously funny and honest to the many thousands of people that make up the Giant Bomb audience, and he was very good at it.