One of the victims of the attack on the American Embassy in Libya was State Department official Sean Smith. In addition to being a husband and father of two, Smith was a long-time EVE Online player. Today, as news broke of his death, fellow players paid their respects.
Alex Gianturco, known as "The Mittani" in the EVE community, said in a blog post that he knew Smith since 2006. Smith, who went by the handle "Vile Rat," was said to be a excellent diplomat in the game. This made him an asset in EVE, an MMORPG in which player-run politics are hugely important.
"If you play this stupid game, you may not realize it, but you play in a galaxy created in large part by Vile Rat’s talent as a diplomat," Gianturco said. "No one focused as relentlessly on using diplomacy as a strategic tool as VR."
Smith often traveled overseas but managed to keep in touch with fellow players via instant messaging service Jabber. Gianturco says that he was online when the embassy attack began.
"He was on jabber when it happened, that’s the most fucked up thing. In Baghdad the same kind of thing happened - incoming sirens, he’d vanish, we’d freak out and he’d come back ok after a bit. This time he said ‘FUCK’ and ‘GUNFIRE’ and then disconnected and never returned."
Other players have begun to pay tribute to Smith as well. They've renamed several outposts in the game to phrases like "RIP Vile Rat" and "In Memory of Vile Rat." The SMA Alliance, an in-game organization, made a memorial video as well:
These sorts of gestures might inspire eye-rolls from non-gamers, or anyone who hasn't made friends solely through an online game. Arguments over whether Smith's EVE friends knew him as well as his "real-life" friends or his family miss the point, though. In the end, I don't think you can doubt the sincerity behind the emotions being expressed by these players about their fallen comrade (or enemy).
"Sean was a great guy and he was a goddamned master at this game we all play, even though a lot of people may not realize how significant an influence he had," said Gianturco. "It seems kind of trivial to praise a husband, father, and overall badass for his skills in an internet spaceship game but that's how most of us know him, so there you go."