Mine was far from the only post that has been written in the last few days over the death of Sean Smith, a.k.a. Vile Rat. The Nosy Gamer has a good post with list of several of these. Now even Hilary Clinton has mentioned Sean/VR and his virtual activities in her tribute to him. It feels very strange to read about someone like Hilary Clinton making such a fulsome tribute to an MMO gamer in this way. It feels very strange seeing how the “mainstream-media” have suddenly learned of this aspect of life whereby a man called Sean Smith was known as Vile Rat, and the role he played in shaping our game.
What strikes me about all of this, however, is that part of what makes Vile Rat’s passing resonate so deeply with so many EVE players is the single-shard of EVE’s universe. This is not an original thought, but Vile Rat was one of the “movers and shakers” of our world. Even as a small-scale industrialist, what happened in the nullsec wars affected me in a number of ways, and Vile Rat was an integral part of that dynamic. Unlike in WoW (for example) the doings of one individual does have the potential to effect all other players in the game, not just other players on the same server.
To be an EVE-player however is not to be divided by servers or realms, but to share in the same dangerous sandbox. It makes it easier to achieve name-recognition (Chribba and Dr Caymus, The Mittani and Verone), and even to interact with them on occasion. That allows us to be united in a way that I just don’t think is possible in sharded games. I simply do not believe we would see the Secretary of State of the United States making reference to Vile Rat if we lived in a sharded universe.
Unity is not something that comes naturally to EVE players, despite the fact we are united in a single world. We have been as united as never before in this moment of grief. Already we are reverting to our more ordinary ways of gameplay – which is as it should be. However, what is done cannot be undone. The EVE dynamic has, I think, changed because of this, and probably for the better. That sense of being EVE players together has been strengthened. It may be empty words, but I truly do think that the best way to get something positive out of this tragedy – as it relates to our game – is for that community to strengthen. I think we can see it happening even now. Where it will lead I do not know, but I am excited to find out where we will be in five years.