Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed in Libya, was a longtime "EVE Online" player, and hugely influential in the game's online world.
"EVE Online" is a science-fiction themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in space. Players participate in online jobs, take part in activities and exist in what is basically a microcosm of everyday life, with a digitized sci-fi setting. Similar in concept to "World of Warcraft" and "The Old Republic," "EVE Online" is one of the older MMORPGs around, as the game launched in 2003. The game has over 400,000 subscribers.
Smith, a foreign service officer, was one of 400,000 players who participated in the thriving online universe of "EVE Online." Talking Points Memo points out that Smith (who went by the handle "Vile Rat") was a high-ranking official in the game's universe. In the game, players join "guilds," which are similar to social groups, in the sense that players all band together for a common purpose, or due to common interests.
In a lengthy tribute to his friend (both online and in reality), Alex Gianturco, who served alongside Smith in their "guild" discussed aspects of what made Smith such a priority to "EVE Online" and the real world. "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. No one focused as relentlessly on using diplomacy as a strategic tool as VR," Gianturco wrote.
Gianturco pointed out that Smith would often find himself under gunfire or mortar-shell attack, "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 'F***' and 'GUNFIRE' and then disconnected and never returned."
Kotaku reports that Smith was a member of Something Awful's "Goonfleet," a group of players who were somewhat instrumental in determining the course of the gameworld. Gianturco, one of "EVE Online"'s most popular and active players, posted, "You may have been a friend or an enemy or a pawn in a greater game, but [Smith] touched every aspect of EVE in ways that 99% of the population will never understand."
Ned Coker, PR rep for CCP, the company behind "EVE Online," told Eurogamer, "I can tell you that CCP and its employees are overwhelmingly saddened by the news of Sean Smith's passing, as we are when we learn of any player who is tragically lost. Many of us interacted with him professionally and personally and, honestly, it feels like our words are lost adrift -- amongst such a tremendous, soul-affirming outpouring from the EVE community. The CSM, of which he is an alumni, will be posting a guest dev blog in his honor."
Gianturco ended his tribute with, "I'm clearly in shock as I write this as everything is buzzing around my head funnily and I feel kind of dead inside. I'm not sure if this is how I'm supposed to react to my friend being killed by a mob in a post-revolutionary Libya, but it's pretty awful and 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. 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."