DSB: Ryan Davis, the Gaming Media and Me

In the wake of Ryan Davis death, perhaps its best to take a step back and consider how relationships of game journalists correspond to the communities they interact with and how they have become more impactful than any other time in gaming history.

I would not consider myself an emotional person, not akin to a John Wayne/Man Without a Name type, but I don’t cry at sad movies, or get choked up when I see a baby or ever say “I love you” to my family. This week however, I found myself deeply saddened to learn of Ryan Davis passing at the young at of 34. Giant Bomb is no stranger to tragedy as Patrick Klepek’s father passed away just weeks before his wedding and now Ryan has past just days after his own wedding. It’s strange to feel so devastated about a man’s passing when I have only minimal interacted with him in person. I had emailed him some podcast questions before and he always responded with sage like wisdom. I had met him in person at E3 a couple of times and had some good conversations with him. He was just as funny and warm in person as he was in his Bombcast persona. Yet, after learning of his passing, I felt like a family member had passed away.

For me when I hear that a celebrity has died, like for example James Gandolfini, I do feel sad and sorry for his family but I wasn’t all that devastated despite being a huge fan of Gandolfini’s work. Perhaps, it’s because I am also weary of all the faux blogs post and feigned heartbreak that so many people tend to have when celebrity dies. To me it always seems fake and disrespectful of their passing; I did not know Gandolfini personally, my only connection to him was through his acting. In his roles he portrayed characters that were written to behave a certain way, that was untrue to who Gandolfini was. Tony Soprano is not James Gandolfini, they are too entirely things and in essence, one is real and the other is not. So perhaps that is why I can mourn for Ryan’s passing without feeling a stint of hypocrisy.

Not too long ago, I can remember a time where I would go to GameSpot/IGN and read news/reviews and not recall or care who wrote the article. The text that was presented read much like AP articles, devoid of personality and only giving you the facts. We are at a strange time in the gaming media where users can consume things like podcasts, video blogs, video reviews and articles with the names and faces of the editors. The fine folks at Kotaku these days have their names and pictures clearly labeled on the site. Gaming media more and more has become about the faces behind the stories as they build a relationship with their audience that sometimes they are not even aware of.

Though he is one to better things having made Bastion, Greg Kasavin was one of the most passionate and professional game reviews ever whom I could listen for hours when he was talking about games.

At a party a couple of years ago, I got the chance to speak with Brad Shoemaker. I confessed to him that because of the podcast, I probably knew way more about his life than I have really any right to know to which he replied, “Dude, don’t say that, its creepy.” We laughed about it later and I can understand why it made him uncomfortable, but the fact is its true. On the Giant Bombcast, Brad often talks about his North Caronlina background, his family gatherings on holidays, Bojangles and many other things. Most of the gaming media these days is covered by people who reveal themselves through their coverage. Little pieces of their personality comes from the types of news stories they select, the voice of their writing, when they believe hard enough to fight for the issues they value and where their humor shines from things that entertain them.

Sometimes the content has nothing at all to do with gaming, sometimes the editors are just writing about something they find of interest; not unlike you might do with a friend. Sometimes on those very editors might respond to you when you comment and will have a discussion with you, sometimes they might read your email on a podcast or you may see them at a convention and say “hello” to them. For people who engage with gaming media and its editors, it’s easy to see how it’s very easy to feel close to these people. They are not random faceless AP editors; they are people we spend our time with and who influence and inform our thoughts about the things we love.

This brings me back to Ryan Davis and why his death left me personally so sad. I have listened to every episode of the Giant Bombcast, even their insane E3 specials and game of the year episodes that could last up to 6 hours. I stopped going to GameSpot after GerstmannGate and listened to the Arrow Pointing Down Podcasts until they became Giant Bomb. Ryan was always there from the begging, hosting the ship with this wonderful command over the show. This is why Davis’s absence was always felt when he was not there for a podcast on any given week. The show was not as crisp clean and had more awkward silences because when Ryan was in the room he kept the show going.

Ryan Davis at his best.

To me, Davis was like the Bob Barker of podcasting, the lynchpin that held that whole show together. You may not realize it, but podcasting is difficult and is hard to keep things on time, coherent and interesting. The host’s job is exactly that. The host of a podcast is like a point guard on a basketball team, keeping thing together, passing questions to the other members. Sure Jeff is the joker of the show and has the room rolling on the floor with laughter more often than not, but its Davis that usually provided the set up. Michael Jordan usually made his most thunderous dunks after Scotty Pippen past him the ball and Jeff definitely was funnier because of Ryan.

There was more to Ryan than just podcasting and let it not go unnoticed, that man had talent. Giant Bomb and Davis created content that was on par with big budget offerings like the Daily Show. TANG, was an excellent series that provided hours of content. GiantBomb also provided hours of comedy in the form of television show parodies for their execellent 2012 Game of the Year awards. Davis was funny, and funny is a hard thing to do. A man with a good sense of humor is perhaps the most important in the world as he gives us a reprieve form the stress of our daily lives.

My favorite episode of TANG..... MORTAL KOMBAT!

If you listened to all 281 episodes of the podcast (which last roughly 3 hours per episode on average) that totals 843 hours of podcast or 35 days of podcast that you could listen to and get to know Ryan on a very personal level. Not to mention all the other video content, articles and appearances on other outlets which offer even more insight into the man. Some of my best friends haven’t spent that much time with me. After spending that much experiencing all this content and getting to know him, I think it’s no wonder that I feel like someone I knew and have spent a lot of time with has died, because that is what happened.

Thinking about these things quickly makes me realize that I take for granted all the other gaming editors whom, without realizing it; I have formed this deep attachment too. That recognition may be equally unrealized by the editors themselves, as Brad Shoemaker was unaware how people were feeling attached to him through his participation on the podcast and Giant Bomb shows. We are all connected and grow more involved with each other as the content we create bears more of our humanity.

And so I mourn and will miss Ryan Davis but I am also more aware of this complex relationship that the gaming media has with its audience. I have come to realize how greatly my life is impacted by these editors. Maybe if we all realize this, editors and readers, we can have more civil discussions and treat each other with more respect. Maybe we can use the fact that we rely on each other to make one and other better. Ryan Davis’ death mattered to me, and I am sure I am not the only gamer that wishes that they had some more time with their friend.

DanimalCart’s Soapbox: 07/10/13