"Aw C'mon! Your Shit Is Weak! Where's Your Grouping?"
With some downtime at PAX East 2012 I decided to check out the arcade freeplay area. The week before PAX, Ryan tweeted about almost nothing but his damn Ms. Pac-Man machine and I thought I'd indulge myself and give it a try. See what the fuss was about.
Soon after playing (and not being very good mind you), I hear those words shouted from behind, cutting through the noise and music of the ACAM room. It was a moment in a PAX full of the greatest moments when who but Ryan Davis himself arrived at that very instant, saw two Whiskey member shirts, and decided to say hey in the way only he could. It's been said already many times but it bears repeating many times over: Ryan was masterful at bringing loving sincerity and a larger than life sarcastic wit wherever he was. My time with Ryan in that arcade (the first 6 minutes of the embedded video below) is something that almost immediately came to me after hearing the news.
How could it not? It was such a quintessentially Ryan moment. Swearing profusely at the machine, giving it the double middle finger by the end, and telling us that he knew he could approach us as a friend once he spotted our member shirts. If nothing else, then with my drop into this magnificent pond of love and respect from friends and community members, I can at least give 6 more minutes of Ryan Davis being Ryan Davis.
I followed Ryan for something around 9 years. That's somewhere about half of my waking life. I remarked to myself how long I've been following Jeff, Ryan and the rest but it wasn't until Ryan passed away that number somehow took on a different meaning. Somehow became hard, concrete, meaningful in way it was only a badge of honor before. Those who knew him or of him far less are having a devastated time of things all the same, which only speaks to the quality of person that gave so much of himself for people to enjoy.
But even so, 9 years. It was then put into sharp relief not only how much Ryan and his friends mean to me, but how constant they've been a part of my life. How for the past 9 years, I haven't gone a week without them. I've loved video games since I was very young but as soon as I began visiting GameSpot in earnest so many years ago, my love for video games, and why I know so much, and care so much, cannot be separated from the weeks, months, years, I spent taking in everything Ryan and the rest had to say. More than just his amazing personality and intelligence, his passion for games was something I was more than proud to follow along, to be a part of, however small, for as long as I could. For as long as 9 years sounds, I never thought the ride would end so soon. Too soon.
It would be one thing if I was an enthusiastic viewer and community member, week in, week out, happy and proud to be part of Giant Bomb as soon as the doors opened. To see the truly special things that this site has done in the past unfold. Being in that position for so long even then, my chance would come to close the loop and finally meet them. Talk with them, thank them and show my support. Little did I know I would have Ryan to thank for so much more.
Now Ryan was not exclusively responsible for all the great people who have become friends of the site but if the wonderful Harmonix Livestream about Ryan hit home with anything, it's that Ryan was central to so much in that regard. Hearing John Drake tell it, John knew of the chuckleheads supreme Johnny V and Adam Boyes before but Ryan made sure they were close friends. Ryan's enthusiasm and wit brought in the unflappably :D Brad Muir which, as a result of Ryan's handiwork, has now become friends with Giant Bomb, the Chicago posse, and the Harmonix crew. In particular it was when John said that he "got to meet Max Temkin because of Ryan" that I instantly said to myself, "I met Max Temkin because of Ryan" and it made me realize what I need to talk about in remembrance of his passing. What for me, someone so lucky and grateful to know the likes of Eric Pope, John Drake, Dave Lang, Jeff Green and many more as friends, made Ryan's passing that much harder and the love and sense of community after the announcement that much more meaningful.
It was the very first year I attended PAX East, the first year it was made available, that things were more than just about the staff. Sure, I waited as best I could in a panicked state to make Jeff's panel (he was the only one from the staff that went in 2010) after the seats got filled. To my relief, they had some extra chairs in the back. It was then I shook his hand and finally got to meet someone I followed for as long as I've recounted here. It was also the year I bought the full run of Penny Arcade books, which included a rather large hard cover book I decided would be good enough in the moment for autographs. More on that book in a bit. For that year however, it was a damn dream come true, finally meeting Jeff and more importantly, some other people I recognized. My favorite being Paul Barnett, who not only drew me a great Ork in my book but I saw freezing near the front door of the Hynes Convention center. From that point on, PAX became more than just seeing Giant Bomb. It became about meeting and giving love to the people that Giant Bomb considered its friends. The least I could do, I thought, was make them feel welcomed and know the community is right there with them.
I'm not going to recount the full story of 2011 and 2012 because I already wrote up those up in another long blog post but in brief, as the years went on, each PAX East became another year when I finally got to personally meet a new staff member or a friend of the site. In the first few years I would shake hands and chat with everyone from Giant Bomb and get to know John Drake, Eric Pope, Dave Lang, and Jeff Green among others. Sure these were first meetings but each year would build on the last and of course bring new people. As time went on, PAX became less and less about the panels (since I've felt like I saw most of them already) and more and more about catching up with old friends. It's a bit of an exaggeration for me to call Pope, Drake, Lang, Green, and the GB staff "old friends" and yet not. I probably spent the most time at East this year just walking around booths, shaking hands, catching up with those aforementioned and making new friends. As much as I regret saying I'm "the Lang Zone guy" to people for potentially sounding self-important, it was worth that risk when Giant Bomb and its friends can be so loving, compassionate, funny, and welcoming. Luck and making opportunities is certainly part of it but at some point it was all them and I merely pushed over the first domino.
I tell this story now because when John Drake talked about how Ryan was pretty much responsible for bringing all those people together in the first place, I hadn't realized until then how much the relationshipsI enjoy with those people was Ryan all along. Even now I can't imagine how I would have gotten through the first day without the people Ryan has brought together. In retrospect I shouldn't be surprised, given how much the panel guests for shows like E3 have been amazing and become the highlight of the show each year.
Right now and for as long as I hope to live, I will look back at Ryan's legacy for not only his personality and humor. Not only his unique and incredibly meaningful insight in video games. But how he took all of what he was and put that into bringing so many great people together which I and the entire community now enjoy. More than thank you will ever do Ryan Davis, but that's all I got.
I will miss you so much. Here's to you Ryan, from all those who will miss him. I still can't believe you're gone.
Alex Panait (@BaconGames76)
July 04 2014
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