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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid