I was going to write a post today about what it’s like to lose a close friend and partner.
I find myself repeatedly at a loss for words when I try. So instead, I am going to post a letter I wrote to his family, with the names trimmed out.
In a nutshell, it’s hard, its weird, its intense then its never really over. A part of you, the part of you that they knew, is gone. The dreams you’d once had and plans you crafted together dissolved in the wind.
I feel incredibly insecure sharing this, but that tells me its only even more important that I share it now. Anyhow…
To R—-, A—- & extended family,
There were two messages that John sent to me just after midnight on Saturday morning. The first involves his scandalous personal approval of the features of my female travel companion and deserves no further mention.
The second was a message to the team to prep a list of what we were going to do this week and post it up for Monday instead of having a meeting. We’d just made plans to hire on another artist to support our art director, Simone, and John told me he was preparing to pull out a keyboard and start composing, saying ’someone who shows no passion has no place in any company you run.’
Those words echoed with me in the following days – but one other message from him rang even louder.
When I was having trouble at Blizzard, John was the one who listened and didn’t judge. When I was eventually fired from Blizzard, John was the second person I called, this time asking him for advice on how I needed to change.
When my girlfriend poisoned herself in my bathroom after drinking too much vodka because she was heartbroken our relationship was falling apart, he told me I did the right thing by flying her back home to be with her mother instead of trying to help fix her myself.
When I started my new career at Riot Games, he taught me how to think in terms of working myself out of the job by looking for replacement.
When I finally decided to take a stab at making a little game and came to him for business advice, he asked me for creative advice, encouraged me and asked if he could be more involved.
When I had to fire a friend, he walked me through the best way to do it, leading my friend to realize for himself that he didn’t really want to be involved and allowed us to remain on good terms.
When my father left me behind after 13 miles of hiking through the desert in the grand canyon and my brother-in-law had to come back from camp and stayed with me till I could walk, he listened to me vent.
When my abusive roommate started threatening me, he offered me a place to stay at his home. When faced with the choice between moving to San Francisco or NYC for an easy, stable job or working a riskier, but remote contract that would let me explore Europe and work on our game, he offered me a place to stay.
Once at his home, he took the time to walk through all of my career troubles and unwind the giant ball of string that made up my history. When I confessed that I was afraid I was autistic, unemotional or perhaps a horrible sociopath, he assured me it wasn’t the case and he even asked his friend Diane, a therapist to talk to me for her opinion.
In the end, he said:
“Alex, the only thing that’s wrong with you is that you think something is wrong with you.”
“I’ve spent my whole life and much time in my guild around the kind of people you are afraid of being. You’re nothing like them – and I’ll be here to remind you of that every week from now till the day I die if you need it.”
With a renewed sense of peace, I felt it was time to explore Europe. At every stop, John lit up, blowing up my phone with places to visit, ideas on where to go and an unsolicited itinerary that I promptly ignored at every stop.
I never wanted to read them when he sent them and now I’m here on the flight to NYC, weeping and wishing that I could have just a few more hours to talk about nonsense or just listen to him berate me for not shacking it up with the pretty girls I met on my travels.
This feels like a horrible insult to say to you two, who have lost someone who’s been there your whole lives, but while he was my business partner and mentor at times, he became the emotional replacement for the father I didn’t know I needed.
I can only hope that someday someone thinks of me half as strongly when I pass. That maybe, just maybe, the work I do will touch someone as profoundly or personally.
Once upon an eve, John mentioned he wanted to ask Alexia to help with composition and asked me how I felt about the matter. After a quick joke about realizing his nepotistic dream island empire, I told him: “I’ve met both your daughters and you do them a disservice if you worry for a minute I think they aren’t qualified to help out without you suggesting it.”
A—, R—, I don’t know what you want to do next. I don’t expect anything of you; but strangely enough, I have an unexpected opening for a producer, a music lover, a play-tester and a friend. If either of you would like to join with me and continue this journey and learn what little bits I know, I’d be overjoyed to have you.
If not, know that I expect nothing and genuinely treasure our relationships. Whether it was talking for hours on the phone with Alexia about games – or usually absolutely nothing – or eating with Rayna as she felt conflicted about whether to take the risk to tell a certain boy she wanted to be more than friends. I have greatly enjoyed all of these memories that you’ve brought into my world.
Alex asked me for the financial details of our project. I gave him the rough outline in Facebook, it was a lot of promises and not enough paperwork for future plans. There’s no replacement for good friends. I’ll tell you what I told John at the beginning. Games are risky, games are crazy, games are a lot of hard work, full of uncertainty and they don’t always succeed.
We both decided to get involved in this because it would be fun to do. John figured out the point where were we could make it work and believed wholeheartedly that with his expertise we could make it far, far bigger in scope than anything I’d imagined.
Now, that might be impossible without him, but I’m going to take it as far as I can without regrets. I’ve chosen this crazy life and don’t expect anyone else to understand 🙂
I hope all is well with you guys and I hope you guys choose to get back in touch again someday, whatever the reason.