On Monday I saw that Ryan Davis, the primary host of the Giant Bombcast and one of the founders of Giantbomb.com, passed away last week at the age of 34. Giant Bomb is a gaming website and the Giant Bombcast has been my favorite podcast the last couple of years. The reason I love it? It\\™s a weekly podcast about video games and the gaming industry that has very little to do with video games. Well, that\\™s not really true. The four or five hosts (writers and other content creators on the Giantbomb site) spend a good amount of time talking about games and everything going on in the gaming industry. But it is secondary to why I have listened to 2 to 3 hours of audio on a weekly basis. What these guys do, better than most, these five distinct voices with wonderfully diverse personalities, is enjoy each other\\™s company, just shooting the shit about what\\™s happened since the last time they recorded.
For example, Ryan starts each episode asking Jeff, Brad, Patrick and Vinnie what they have been doing. Now in normal circumstances, on other gaming podcasts, you would expect this to go around the table and maybe 20-30 minutes of discussion on the games they\\™ve played or the events they\\™ve attended, the hosts would move on to talk about the next topic, be it news or maybe some focused talk about an upcoming game that they might have seen at some press event. But on a Giant Bombcast? Ummm… no. I was listening to an old episode yesterday and Ryan asked Jeff Gerstmann about his week and after a discussion of topics such as cable service, the horrible delivery pizza situation in San Francisco, professional wrestling, and the Super Mario Brothers movie (\\˜93), Ryan moved on to the next host\\™s (Patrick Klepek\\™s) week. I looked down at my iPhone and realized that they had been riffing off of each other for over an hour. And it was glorious.
Anyway, it\\™s not for everyone. I remember when I first listened to the podcast I was unsure about it. Because the show was so personal, and because I was starting to listen three years after they had started the thing, I was lost. Even with the very distinct voices of the hosts it was hard to figure out who was who, and certainly the ongoing \\narrative\\ was such that I felt three steps behind most of the time.
But I recognized immediately that these guys were smart, funny, and have different strengths and weaknesses that played off each other perfectly. And even though it felt free-form and loose, it was directed wonderfully by Ryan. He was a sarcastic, bombastic, happy man that loved to push buttons but in a way that always made friends and listeners feel like they are \\in on\\ or \\part of\\ the joke. And that\\™s why I kept listening. I wanted to be part of that joke, part of that family.
I\\™m not here to talk about Ryan Davis specifically. I\\™ll post some links to stories written about him, some videos featuring him, etc. But I never met him. I never wrote an email to him or any of the hosts of the podcast with questions or comments (though I\\™ve thought of doing so several times over the last three years). I never made it to PAX or E3 to say hi and shake his hand and thank him for all he does. I\\™ll leave the tributes to those that knew him.
But I do want to come at this from a different direction, because of something I experienced yesterday. I was on IGN, looking at the news (yes, when I say \\news\\ you can bet has something to do with video games or movies… unless we\\™re talking about The Daily Show… that\\™s news, right?), and I see a news item with Ryan\\™s photo in the corner. My first thought was \\Why is Ryan\\™s photo on an IGN story? Is Giantbomb leaving CBS Interactive?\\ And then I saw the headline. And then I went to twitter. And then I noticed that Giantbomb\\™s website hadn\\™t updated with new content since the July 5th. This is a website that updates content multiple times a day. So it wasn\\™t a hoax, or a joke.
And to the reason I\\™m writing this… I was devastated. It wasn\\™t an emotional, eyes tearing up, need to call somebody to hear their voice type of thing. It was a stomach churning, energy draining, lose the ability to focus, can feel the headache coming event. I felt like I had lost a brother. Hell, the man had just gotten married a few days before he died. I felt bad for his wife, his friends, his co-workers.
I\\™m sure it showed on my face, because a lady at work noticed and asked what was wrong. And I tried to explain, but she didn\\™t understand podcasting and I could tell what she was thinking… \\you feel this bad over someone you don\\™t know, have never met?\\ and it wasn\\™t a mean thought at all… she\\™s a very nice lady. So I thought about it for a minute and asked her \\Is there a radio or talk show host you like?\\ She said sure, Conan O\\™Brien. I immediately said \\No, that\\™s too famous a person. How about someone local?\\
She said the name of some local country music dj I hadn\\™t heard of. I said \\That works. You know how over time you learn some things about their personal lives, funny anecdotes about when they were in college, stories about their kids or some event they attended, basically what they can share without offending anyone, or making management angry because they might chase away listeners or sponsors?\\ She nodded her head. \\What if this guy started an internet show that you could listen to, where it\\™s just him sitting around with some of his buddies, talking about everything and anything, no restrictions.\\
She admitted that would be cool. \\Now let\\™s say that\\™s 2 or 3 hours of audio every week, and you listen to that for 3 years. You have heard him and his friends talk about everything\\”what they\\™ve done, where they\\™ve gone… the good, the bad and definitely the ugly\\”sort of a reality show but unedited and unscripted, so you know you\\™re seeing the real person, not just what some reality show producer wants you to see or hear.\\ She was getting it.
\\And then he dies.\\
She nodded again. \\I understand.\\ And she patted me on the shoulder and walked away.
People ask me about podcasting from time to time. Some ask why I still do it when it\\™s no longer related to my writing. Others ask if podcasting is dying out. I usually respond that with the growth of video that podcasting has changed, but that at its core it\\™s still an important medium, even if it is a very niche medium. Podcasting is the only place where as a consumer you can find people talking about the exact thing you care about, as a regularly released audio or video show. And as a listener, you can become a part of that show\\™s community. You can interact with the hosts and other listeners, contribute to the show in different ways… and if you are dedicated and have something to offer, you can probably become part of the show in some way.
As people on this website know, I host a podcast with four of my friends where we talk about HBO\\™s Game of Thrones television series. There are at least eight or nine podcasts like ours that I would try out if I wasn\\™t doing one myself, because that\\™s what I like. And if I found a Game of Thrones podcast with hosts that I connected with in some way, I\\™m sure I\\™d continue listening to it.
The world has changed. Most of my best friends now live states away, but I see them in Skype video chats or Google Hangouts whenever I want. And if we find a topic we are passionate enough about, we might start a podcast, just to see if other people might like it and want join in the fun. Part of it is driven by ego I\\™m sure, and there\\™s always the hope that if I someday finish another novel and it gets published, some of my listeners might buy it.
But the most important reason I podcast? So I can see/hear those friends once a week, even though they all live in other states (or Canada); we get to catch up on life, and talk about things we love. And if other people enjoy what we talk about, and feel a connection to us, that\\™s a nice bonus.
I know it\\™s different for people like Ryan Davis. When he and Jeff Gerstmann started the Giantbomb gaming news website, they made a conscious decision to set themselves apart from the more corporate gaming sites out there. They knew, in order to compete with larger sites, they had to focus on the personalities of the people writing previews, reviews, and features on the site. And one facet of that \\˜transparency\\™ was their primary podcast, the Giant Bombcast. They had been involved in podcasting and video content creation at Gamespot.com and knew that was a great way to connect with a potential customer base. But of course it was much more than that, for them and for their audience, as I hope I\\™ve described well enough in this article. They were honest, funny, professional in the ways that matter, and transparent as hell.
And from the thousands of comments on the Giantbomb website and countless others that have run stories about Ryan\\™s passing, there are many other people that feel the same way that I do.
So, as one of the many voices that make up the signal, I would like to say to Ryan: Thanks, friend… for letting us all become part of your extended family.
You will be missed.