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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More