News / USA

    US Diplomat's Death Shakes Online Gaming World

    An undated screen shot shows a scene of the game EVE. (AP Photo)
    An undated screen shot shows a scene of the game EVE. (AP Photo)
    A senior U.S. State Department official killed late Tuesday at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya was not only a diplomat in real life but in the virtual world as well.

    Sean Smith, an information management officer, was better known as “Vile Rat” on EVE, a popular online science fiction video game in which nearly 400,000 players explore, fight and build communities in space.

    As news of his death broke, popular gaming sites and forums exploded with outpourings of grief at the loss of a prominent member of the EVE community. 

    Mark Heard, another EVE player who goes by “Seleene,” noticed something was wrong when he saw “Vile Rat” type an expletive and then “gunfire” on the instant messaging service Jabber.

    In an online tribute, Heard says his first thought was, “Oh, hell, he’s in another one of those places” with spotty Internet and lax security, like Smith’s previous post in Baghdad. But this time was different.

    Heard and other EVE players say they have lost one of their most important members.

    “Sean was one of the most well known and respected diplomats for one of the most powerful alliances in EVE. He helped shape the universe we all play in,” said Heard, adding that diplomacy in the game is as complex as anything you would see in the real world.

    “Powerful alliance representatives communicate using out of game chat clients, serious [real] money is spent on securing forums to protect from informational 'espionage' and the leaders of alliances can, over years, achieve a cult of personality status that is analogous with what you see in real world politics,” he said.

    Smith, a member of the “GoonSwarm” alliance, was one of those personalities.

    “Sometimes the fortunes of tens of thousands of people can turn on the words of just a few, or even one, player. Sean was such a player, and over the years, he directly or indirectly touched the virtual lives of countless people,” said Heard, who says he considered Smith a friend after meeting him in person for the first time at an EVE summit in Iceland last year.

    A Florida-based EVE player who goes by the handle “Bagehi” and says he saw Smith in Iceland a few months ago, describes the gamer as a “good guy.”

    “His work in real life seemed to influence his play style. I wouldn't say he was against violence in the game, but it was clear that his real life experiences gave him a heightened sense of compassion,” Bagehi said in an exchange on Reddit, an online forum.

    Smith leaves a legacy of morality in a gaming world also occupied by “less savory” individuals who engage with rivals in real life to advance in the virtual world, says Bagehi.

    EVE “attracts both elements and everything in between because it is both an extremely cerebral game as well as a game requiring extremely good social skills to succeed,” he said. “It is like combining chess with poker, then having 350,000 people all playing the same game against/with each other.”

    News of Smith’s death has spurred tributes on blogs and forums across the Internet, and Heard says he expects the online community will find ways to pay their respects and offer help to Smith’s family.

    As a start, Heard says, more than 200 player-built space stations in the game changed their names to Sean or Vile Rat on Wednesday in remembrance. 

    “EVE's community is well known for being a dark and cutthroat place but, as a whole, I believe everyone realizes that real life takes priority over anything in the virtual world,” Heard said. “It's impossible to not relate to this tragedy. Even to those that did not know him personally, he was ‘one of us’.”

    Smith leaves behind a wife and two children.

     

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.