I’m sitting here nursing a Jack Daniels and Pepsi reminiscing how I got to be writing about videogames, and more recently recording myself playing them with my own poor attempts at insightful commentary. I’ve always been fascinated, passionate and outspoken about videogames but it’s only in the last three to four years that I finally found the courage to channel that energy into writing about them. My influences will be obvious to anyone who grew up reading UK gaming magazines in the 90s, yet the impetus to actually do something about my passion began much later and came from across the pond. It has been a gradual process but I can pretty much pinpoint exactly when that particular ball shifted before starting to roll.
It was when I listened to my first episode of the Giant Bomb podcast, and first heard Giant Bomb co-founder Ryan Davis announce “Hey everyone it’s Tuuuuuueeeesday!”
I was working as a temp filing clerk at the time, which as jobs go was a decent enough gig. I was pretty much left alone to my own devices in the filing room and one of the perks of the job was I could listen to podcasts on my iPod (later my iPhone). When you’re stuck in a filing room for around eight hours a day with nothing else to occupy your mind they’re necessary to stop yourself going insane. Countless podcasts drifted in and out of rotation during those times but the “Giant Bombcast” was one of the few permanent fixtures. Many people would step into the filing room to find me laughing myself stupid over classic Bombcast moments like “David Cage’s ‘Don’t Shit your Pants'”, “I’m a Wizard,” “Silky the Fairy and The Saucepan Man”, “Ryan is a Narc” and “NEVER!” Via the podcast I discovered GiantBomb.com itself and became a regular reader/viewer. Not long after that I began to give serious thought to writing about videogames, taking a greater interest in the industry and channelling my energies into something creative. Ryan Davis played a key part in that.
So I was gutted to hear earlier this evening, via twitter, that Ryan had passed away on July 3rd. He was 34 years old – only two years older than I’ll be later this month – and had recently got married.
Ryan Davis was the man tasked with the near-impossible duty of metaphorically herding cats every week on the Giant Bombcast. Whenever Brad began talking about Starcraft 2 or Dota 2 like someone desperate to confess to some unspeakable crime. Whenever Jeff went full-on about numbers stations, Nintendo downloads, Easy-E from NWA or any of the countless other crazy things he loves to talk about (and I love to hear about). Whenever Vinny discussed his primal drive to complete every single god-damned sidequest he can find in games like Dragon Age 2 or The Witcher 2. Whatever the situation and however mad it all got, Ryan was there to make sure things stayed roughly on-topic and covered as much of the broad spectrum of gaming as possible.
Ryan and the rest of the crew at Giant Bomb taught me I didn’t have to lock my passion for gaming up in some closet somewhere, never to see the light of day again. That it was not only okay but totally cool to discuss and write about games at length while still remembering to have fun doing it. It’s because of Giant Bomb and Ryan Davis that I began writing my own stuff about videogames, firstly for a site that sadly no longer exists and later for this one right here. From there I branched out into video content, inspired in part by Giant Bomb’s Quick Looks and Video Reviews. After I wrote my own Portal 2 review I immediately read Ryan’s review of it and winced at how mine paled in comparison. His write-up was humorous without being tiresome and informative without being boring, and was another barometer added to my already impressive collection of standards to try and live up to. In particular his solo video series’ “TANG” and its successor “The Wonderful Universe of TANG“, examining videogame-related/inspired movies, was insightful as well as entertaining.
One of the internet’s greatest virtues is how brilliantly it connects people, almost insidiously so. It makes this piece insanely difficult to write because like thousands of others I’ve never spoken to or met any of the crew of Giant Bomb. Yet thanks to the internet I and thousands like me have come to know Brad, Jeff, Vinny, Drew and Ryan through their podcasts, their writing, their Quick Looks and other work. The first ever Giant Bomb Endurance Run I watched was Ryan and Brad’s playthrough of Deadly Premonition on the Xbox 360, which gave me hours and hours of entertainment. One of my most favourite Ryan moments is him and Jeff’s hilarious “politically-incorrect” demonstration of Babysitting Mama for the Nintendo Wii. Few other people could get away with gleefully shaking a toy baby on camera, nor make it so bloody hilarious.
I can’t speak for other Giant Bomb fans, but when I listened to the Bombcast it felt like sitting amongst a group of friends. Ever had those moments when a bunch of your friends are having a conversation, and all you can do is sit and laugh your arse off? Unable to contribute anything yet still loving every minute of it? That’s what it felt like for me listening to the Giant Bombcast every week. Now imagine one of those friends isn’t there anymore. You all still meet up and still have a laugh. You still sit in the background, invisible and laughing your arse off, yet at the back of your mind you’re thinking “I wonder what so-and-so would say? I wish they were still here. They’d have loved this discussion.” That’s how listening to the Giant Bombcast without Ryan is going to feel like from now on.
The outpouring of sympathy and love on twitter amongst the gaming community, games journalists and the gaming industry as a whole, is a wonderful testament to how Ryan Davis’ loss has affected everyone with a passion for games. Those who were fortunate enough to know him personally, such as Jhonen Vasquez, Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, Polygon’s Justin McElroy and countless others have been sharing their own memories of the man across the internet, and doing a damn sight better job of it than I am. As ham-fisted and incoherent as this piece may be, and as difficult as it was to write, I felt compelled to at least say something about a man who has influenced my life and indirectly inspired me with the courage to write about what I love.
During the intervening years since listening to my first ever episode of the Giant Bombcast my life has taken my places I never thought it would go, but one constant has been that once almost every week I would plug my headphones in and sit back with a smile on my face as Ryan announced “Hey everyone it’s Tuuuuuueeeesday!” As soon as I heard those words I knew I was in for a fantastic, hilarious, ultimately entertaining two to three hours. It breaks my heart to know I’ll never hear him say those words at the start of a Bombcast ever again.
My deepest and most profound sympathies go out to his friends, his family and his loved ones.
Image Source: GiantBomb.com