26 September, 2006
Indulge me a bit on this post and allow me to post something a bit more personal than I usually do.
I recently found out that a friend of mine passed away. Unfortunately, he passed away about four years ago. I had lost touch with him over the years and always meant to get back in touch, but now it is too late. His passing has been on my mind recently as I consider a lot of things.
I met Tony at church of all places. He was a bit of a loner and a D&D fan, so we hit it off quite quickly. We were the geeky/nerdy outsiders, even in church. Of course, this was a fairly conservative church, so we kept our D&D interests quiet in front of other people.
He lived near where we did in town, so it was easy for me to walk over to his place and talk about D&D. We would talk about different RPGs, and he introduced me to a wide variety of paper RPGs. We also got heavily into console RPGs at the time. We played the original Final Fantasy and Wizardry on the NES. He bought the hint guide for Wizardry and we spent many happy afternoons and evenings searching for the powerful Blade Cuisinart for our fighter characters. (Back before it was called “grinding”, we called it an excuse to hang out while playing the game.)
When I moved to college we stayed in touch. When I moved off campus I invited him to be a roommate with us. He hadn’t moved out of his parent’s house (true to the geeky stereotype), so I thought it was an opportunity for him to go out and see the world a bit. He was disappointed when college turned out to be a lot less exciting than it seemed in movies: too much studying, not enough partying. He was still paying off student loans from a two-year college, so enrolling in the university didn’t seem appealing to him.
Near my graduation, I was looking at job opportunities. Things weren’t going so well in our little circle of friends. One of our friends turned occasional pot smoking into a life-altering habit. Another older friend was hitting his midlife crisis early and got into long-distance relationships. He racked up thousands of dollars in long distance bills, (at one point we had our own personal AT&T long distance representative who sent us a box of gourmet cookies in the mail…) then left us with the bill. Most of the rest of the group had little interest in trying to actually finish college. So, you could say that Kat and I were looking forward to moving out on our own. Unfortunately, we lost contact with Tony at that point. He moved back to Des Moines and I moved away.
It was one of those things where I assumed that I could get back in touch at any time. But, I got wrapped up in jobs and breaking into the game industry. I at least partially credit Tony for getting me so interested in games that I wanted a career in the industry. We drifted apart and never got back in touch.
One thing that I should mention here that I think are a result of me being an introvert. I don’t thrive on human contact. I think I could have lived a happy life as a hermit away from civilization. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking to people, but I don’t feel a pressing need to “stay in touch” that other people do. When I do contact other people, it’s mostly from the logical side of my brain saying, “Hey, talk to that person so that they don’t think you’re ignoring them.” Or, “Go talk to them now so that you’re not just talking to them when you need something.” On the other hand, I do enjoy getting genuine letters and emails from people. I never intended to ignore Tony, I just never had the pressing need to get back in touch.
But, when my mother said she had gotten in touch with Tony’s mother over the weekend and that the had passed away in 2002, I was shocked. Unfortunately, it seemed that after a few moves I was hard to get in touch with. So, I never got the opportunity to say “goodbye” to my friend. It’s also sad that it took me so many years to learn about it.
It seems that he was diagnosed with cancer at a surprisingly young age. As I understand it, the cancer also affected his appetite so he stopped eating, which made it harder for his body to fight it. Tony was always very thin, so everything happened shockingly quickly. In the end, he was surrounded by friends and family, though, so he didn’t pass away alone.
But, it has given me pause over the last few days. Emailing Tony’s mother to give my condolences and to learn a bit more about his life since we lost contact has been good for me. His mother was always very kind to me when I visited, and even today considers me part of the family. It’s nice to get back in touch with the rest of Tony’s family even after all these years.
One thing I’ve been reflecting on is the way some people say that the Internet is “dehumanizing” to people. I am sure that if Tony and I had talked online more, I wouldn’t have missed his passing. Distance is a more dehumanizing element than the internet ever can be, in my opinion. The fact that I am in more contact with a friend in Alaska over the internet, for example, than the people that live next door to me isn’t dehumanizing. It’s just that I can choose who to socialize with beyond geographic restrictions. Here’s one case where the internet could have brought two friends closer together.
Anyway, enough depressing thoughts for today. I’ll write about game development soon.