Today was a rough day for me, even though I’m on vacation and it’s been a wonderful couple of weeks (and still a couple of weeks left before going back to the Pit of Fun).
As you know, I’m a member of the Combat Commander ladder tournament, the monthly game of Combat Commander where we play monthly online against an opponent via Vassal and we’re all ranked based on our win-loss percentage and all of that.
All of us ladder participants (or many of us, anyway), have formed a community on the ladder Discord channel, where you can post rules questions, just chat about various things, or maybe even look for a game against somebody because you want to experience as much Combat Commander as you can.
A major part of that community died this week. John McLintock, an avid Combat Commander player who had weekly games going against multiple people on the ladder (and probably others as well), died Tuesday night or Wednesday morning (a ladder member played him Tuesday morning and he missed the scheduled Wednesday game with another ladder participant).
He is such a great loss to the community. He was always helping with rules questions, just chatting about the game in general, and always a positive force in the community.
He will be greatly missed.
What’s amazing is how all of this happened and became known.
I didn’t know John that well, so I can’t really do much of a eulogy for him.
I loved watching his videos with Patrick Pence (leader of the Combat Commander ladder group) and my limited interactions with him within the Discord group were always friendly, but I didn’t know him like some other ladder members did. I never played a game with him and I never chatted with him one on one.
He was a force on the ladder as well as a wonderful advocate for Combat Commander in general.
But this brings to mind something that I’ve thought about often.
And that’s about online communities and what happens when death becomes involved.
What happened with John is almost inspiring in a sense.
Since he was such an avid player, and almost an ambassador for the game, when he missed a scheduled game with somebody else on the ladder, that person posted on the Discord group saying that he was concerned.
It wasn’t “hey, this bastard ghosted me!”. It was “hey, John was supposed to play me this morning and he didn’t show up and didn’t message me to say he needed to reschedule. I’m concerned.”
That prompted a number of people on the ladder, most importantly Patrick, to try and figure out what was going on. Patrick reached out to him, and then reached out to the Glasgow (Scotland, for those of you who don’t know) police department to do a wellness check on him (this is leaving out a bunch of steps that I’m sure I wasn’t aware of).
Patrick also reached out to John’s sister on Facebook and asked about his well-being.
All of this resulted in the Glasgow police checking in and discovering that he had died in his home at some point after Tuesday morning Pacific time (the last time anybody on the ladder had actually interacted with him).
He will be greatly missed in the community.
But in addition to being really sad about John’s passing, it made me think about online communities and how this stuff happens when you are part of one.
I can’t imagine how something like this would work out in the pre-Internet days when a big portion of some people’s lives weren’t online.
Think about it.
This was prompted by a missed appointment with somebody in the US (I’m assuming, but certainly somebody who wasn’t in Scotland). It resulted in somebody on the East Coast US (Patrick) trying to contact him as well as others who had regular game appointments with him. Patrick then contacted the Glasgow police as well as a family member on Facebook to see what might have happened.
Apparently most of John’s family has left Scotland so John was essentially alone as far as relatives living close to him goes. (I’m not saying he was alone because his family ignored him. Just that the daily interaction of living in the same community wasn’t there, as I’m all to well aware of).
Having relatives far away, I know how it can be as far as keeping regular contact goes. It doesn’t always happen. If I died tomorrow, I don’t know when my relatives would actually know about it.
So Patrick got the police involved, who went to his address and discovered that he had died.
This all took approximately 2 days.
If Patrick and others on the ladder hadn’t gotten involved, it could have been weeks before he was discovered. I’m guessing, of course, but it certainly wouldn’t have been this soon.
That is amazing as far as I am concerned.
But it also brings to mind what I really wanted to talk about (since I didn’t know John well, I can’t really eulogize him here, and I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself throughout this post).
The modern day online community and what happens when somebody who is involved in one actually dies.
I’ve been an online presence for many years, and I’ve often wondered what would happen if I suddenly died and disappeared from them.
Sometimes it’s just a message board that I periodically take part in. Would anybody really notice if I somehow stopped posting there?
But what about a true online community. Like the Combat Commander Discord channel, or one or two of the other channels that I regularly take part in.
Even some of those, while I regularly contribute, I don’t know if anybody would really notice if I disappeared (like the Pixelated Cardboard channel, where I do regularly contribute and play games with them, but would they notice if I suddenly stopped doing so?). I don’t contribute enough, and I certainly don’t play scheduled games enough, to truly be missed from that channel, at least for a while.
On Pixelated Cardboard, I do take part in a bunch of Boardgame Arena games, so they may notice when I don’t take my turn for a while. But even then it would be a few days probably.
I sometimes wonder what will happen if I suddenly pass away, either for health reasons or an accident or whatever.
Would anybody notice or care?
My wife and I have talked about it, and one of the things I will eventually do (and hopefully before it’s too late!) is create a document stating which online communities I would like my death announced in. Just because I consider some of them friends (or at least online acquaintances) and they should know what happened.
I’m not conceited enough to think that anybody would notice if I disappeared.
But I do know that some of these communities (like the Combat Commander discord and the Pixelated Cardboard one) might actually have some people who would be interested in knowing that I wasn’t going to be there anymore. But they wouldn’t necessarily notice without being told.
Or maybe they would? I know that we often underestimate the impact we have on others. I don’t think I have that much impact, but I could be wrong. We often don’t realize how much people actually care until it becomes too late.
I’m on Twitter but there are many days where I don’t post anything, so I doubt anybody there would really notice I was gone.
Patrick might notice if I go 3+ weeks without posting on Saturday mornings about Casey Kasem’s Weekly Top 40 on Sirius XM’s 70’s on 7 channel, but since I don’t do it every week (if it’s early 70s, I don’t really have a lot to say about it), it probably would take a bit of time before he would. The first week or two, I just may not be interested in doing so.
I think this really says something about the modern age and the internet communities that we form.
It’s amazing to me that it was an online community that noticed John’s absence and took multiple steps to check in on him, and ultimately discovered that he had passed away. When family is far away, it’s harder to notice these things because we don’t always keep in daily contact with them. I know I don’t.
How long it would have taken others to discover that?
It’s hard to say.
There are many bad things to say about the Internet and online interactions with people. It creates a distance that lets people be assholes more than they would if they met the person they were responding to face to face. They wouldn’t feel good about saying what they say online if they were actually meeting the person they were saying it to.
But there are so many positives as well.
Back when I first met my now-wife on the Internet and we were courting at the time, things like phones bills and the like were astronimical.
Now? If you feel comfortable enough with somebody, you can share your phone number with them and you can call them (or they can call you) with no long-distance or other charges. Texting internationally is even free for many Canadian cell phone plans (though we have a long way to go before calling international is convenient) so keeping in touch with people across the world that we meet online is even easier.
And calling the Glasgow police department doesn’t cost $1+/minute!
Back in 1997 when I first met my wife?
This kind of calling was super-expensive and wouldn’t be happening without a lot of financial sacrifice.
Now it’s almost common.
This makes online communities even stronger, in my opinion.
There are certain levels of online community, in my opinion.
There’s the “contribute to message boards and yes, that person often posts, but if they stopped posting I probably wouldn’t notice for a while.”
That’s mostly what I’ve been involved in, and even now I’d say it’s most of my online interaction.
And then there are the communities like this one, where people really get to know each other and even the smallest abnormality will cause somebody to be concerned enough to spark a response.
I’m not vain enough to think that I’m in any communities that would notice this from me, mainly due to my contribution level (not meaning anything against other members of that community, as it’s just how much I contribute)
I may be wrong, and I hope I am.
But I know my contributions to them may not be enough to spark that kind of response.
(Ok, maybe if I missed my scheduled ladder game, because I’m pretty reliable for that, but otherwise…).
One of these days, I will create that document for my wife.
The one where I state what communities I would like my death announced to, so that people don’t start wondering where I am.
After having done our wills a couple of years ago, it is something I’ve thought about for a while now. It’s amazing how doing your wills can make you think about these things.
Even more so if something happens to my wife before me. If that does happen, then I will be all alone and who will know when something happens to me? I could be like John in that case.
I can only hope that somebody would notice my absence.
All of this is being written raw so it may not look as edited as I would normally like it to be.
I want this raw emotion to be out there.
It is something that I’ve wondered about, when somebody’s death is announced on BGG or Twitter or whatever. What prompted that? Did the person ask that people on Twitter or BGG or whatever be notified? Did the loved one do that to carry out their person’s last wishes?
Or did they just know that these people were important to their loved one and they wanted to make sure the important people knew about it?
It makes me ponder a lot of things.
I didn’t know John well.
But I knew him well enough that his death has made me really sad this weekend.
Sometimes we don’t know the effect that we have on people, especially in online communities.
Maybe that’s something we should keep in mind while we are still alive. Even if we don’t realize the effect we have on some people, it’s actually still there.
I hope John knew how loved he was by the entire Combat Commander community.
As Mark B from the ladder Discord community said, I hope John and Chad (Jensen, who designed Combat Commander and who tragically died a few years ago) are able to play some games up in Heaven, where they both surely are.
We’ll miss you, John.
But you took over first place on the ladder mere days before you passed.
To me, you will always be at the top of the ladder.
It’s where you belonged.
Sorry for your (and the community’s) loss! I know how this can be rough even though one didn’t know the person who died so well.
I’m glad you could put your grief into such moving words. Many important questions in there. And I really like your idea of making a list of communities where one’s passing is to be announced!
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Thanks, Clio! I do wish I would have known John better. It sounds like he was a blast to play with.
I’m of two minds about the list, though. Part of me thinks it’s just another burden placed on loved ones who are already grieving. But maybe make it a “sometime later” thing? I don’t know.
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