I played the massively multiplayer online role-playing game EVE Online back in 2006. On the surface, the game is about flying spaceships around and banding together in “corporations” to mine virtual minerals used to make virtual space stations, factories, and bigger spaceships.
EVE was part math, part tactics, and all community. You could do very little by yourself in EVE. Characters became proficient in the game through time spent “learning.” This meant that it would take a very, very long time to be proficient at enough of the game to exist by yourself. In order to play the game, you had to belong to a larger group, often taking the form of player-created corporations.
I flew my spaceships in EVE under two Ars Technica corps in two different time frames. I had the honor to fly in a larger alliance of corps called “GoonSwarm” which got its name from the Something Awful Web community.
My characters were often too inexperienced to do super exciting missions, so I helped out in any way I could. I often flew dinky little ships with warp disruptors on them. This role was called a “tackler,” and my job was to swarm more experienced players in more expensive ships and make sure they couldn’t run to safety. My corp mates, including one of my best friends Bond, could turn the bad guys into slag.
I also gate camped a lot — which meant that I spent hours sitting next to a virtual gate that connected the game’s regions together. We spent most of it in a voice chat channel, and I would often listen to a hodgepodge of Russian, French, British English and Americanized English. I remember laying siege to player-owned space stations, which took for fucking ever. It was boring, tedious work, but I was willing to do all that I could, and often this involved sitting in a chair until 3AM firing torpedo after torpedo at a blip on the screen. One of the GoonSwarm officers would get totally drunk and sing songs to us to keep people from sleeping or logging off.
One of the names that stuck out me was “VileRat,” a player involved in the incredibly vast and complicated political and espionage aspect of EVE. I flew with him on a few major engagements against mega-alliance BoB, but in reality I was too small to be even a blip on his radar. Sort of like a grunt following Patton around.
Bond sent me a note a few days ago, saying that VileRat had been killed two Tuesdays ago. September 11th, 2012. In Benghazi. At the American embassy.
Sean Smith was providing IT services to the embassy. To my knowledge, he had no military or personal protection training, was not armed, and probably had no idea why a mob of angry muslims started shooting at the embassy.
It’s hard to put my feelings into words. I never knew Sean’s name until he was killed, and I am sure he never even recognized my character’s very small part in a very large arc in EVE’s history. Regardless, his efforts made a mark on my life when the vast majority of my friends were long-distance and/or online, and I am exceptionally saddened by his loss.
Sean’s online-turned-meatspace friend and major EVE player TheMittani wrote a
Rest in peace, VileRat. Fuck Goons.