I listen to a lot of podcasts. A lot of podcasts. I’m subscribed to over 20 different ones currently and am far, far behind on listening to many of them. Though I tend to listen to NPR through this “time-shifted” mechanism, it’s also how I keep up on video games. Incidentally, long before the concept of a “podcast” entered our collective consciousness, those involved in the tech industry saw these recordings as a great way to engage with their communities in a way that writing articles simply didn’t: put all of your authors in a room to talk about stuff that happened in that week, so if people want to listen to your content instead of read it, then they can. As gamers tend to be technologically oriented, it makes sense that podcasts centered on video games sprung up like weeds long before any others did.
When I was first jumping back into video games, circa 2004-2005, Drunken Gamers Radio was one of the first ones I gravitated toward. It was great listening to three best friends up in Minneapolis talking about games in a very “real” sense. They weren’t people in the industry: they just had a hobby and wanted to record the stuff they talked about. And it was hilarious. Over the years as the three grew older, had families, and had less time to devote to gaming, the show branched out talking about cooking, brewing, movies, music, and more. But it was always fun just listening to three friends talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. You felt as if you had known them for years. That you went to high school together and were just hanging out on their back patio. They’ve been recording these podcasts for over 7 years now.
Another favorite is the Giant Bombcast, hosted by Giant Bomb.com. This one is more of a “traditional video game podcast” in that 5 video game journalists talk about what they played that week, recent news items, and answer e-mails from fans. Their cast of characters changed from time to time, but the core group has stayed the same for over 380 episodes. Again, similarly to DGR, listening to them for weeks (and years) on end makes it seem like you know them. They aren’t just “putting on a show” for people to listen to, or playing a role for the microphone: this is them talking about their favorite hobbies. The listener feels like they could be friends with any member of the cast.
2013 brought profound loss to both institutions. In July, about a week after his wedding, Giant Bomb’s Ryan Davis died. Though the cause of death was never officially explained to the fans, it is thought he lost his long-term battle with sleep apnea. He was 34. Then, in last October, Aaron Hilden from DGR died after complications from diabetes. He was also in his mid-30s. Both of them died suddenly and it was a great shock to both communities.
In the intervening months, Giant Bomb bounced back. Though Ryan was very much the “soul” of that podcast, the other members held strong and moved forward. It took them a few weeks to find their footing, and it still isn’t the same as it used to be, but the podcast lives and is still great. DGR, on the other hand, just recently posted its most recent (and likely final) podcast. This was a trio that began in college. It wasn’t a work relationship: these guys were best friends. The podcast always worked best when firing on all three cylinders, and the loss of one is crippling. This is further complicated by the fact that Hilden ran the show, including audio recording, production and editing. The other two can only do so much to replicate what Hilden did for them.
Hearing their most recent podcast has reminded me of my feelings after hearing the news. Sure, both of these guys were “just podcasters” for a hobby that many don’t partake in (though many do…). But you can’t help but share in their loss. I could compare it to when Cory Monteith from “Glee” died suddenly earlier this year and how millions took his loss, but I view it differently. Monteith played a character on television and that character is all I knew of him. That is to say, it’s easier to mourn “Finn Hudson” than it is Cory Monteith. I’m personally just too separated from the real person.
But Ryan Davis and Aaron Hilden? That was them. They were real people. And I “knew” their friends and colleagues. I read the outpouring of e-mails, posts and tweets after they passed and it was clear just how much they affected the lives of those around them. I may as well have been at the funeral of someone I actually knew.
These are two gentlemen I will (and already do) miss. I never met them and likely never would have. But they touched a lot of lives in a way that I don’t think either of them fully appreciated.
Rest in peace, guys.