On June 13, 2014 one of my friends and former teammates Greg Ashe (DaintyGoose) was killed in an accident in Irvine California. I was (and still am) shocked to hear about it. How is it possible that someone I was only talking to a short time ago is no longer with us? It doesn’t make sense. This is the same guy who I met nearly 15 years ago playing BF1942. Greg actually came up with our team name. He was the one who mentioned he knew a guy who trained prize fighting goats and thus beget the name of our BF1942 team: Prize Fighting Goats. We shared laughs at PDXLan while I accidentally team killed him and blew him sky high in my stolen plane. We actually went on to win the competition despite being a man down after I was banned from the local server for team killing him! I met up with Greg again a few years later after he helped me to get a job interview at Blizzard. As many of you know it went famously awry, but I never would’ve had the shot at the interview if it weren’t for him. While Greg continued to work at Blizzard I began my own studies into Nursing. Shortly after I graduated Greg had decided it was time for him to part ways from Blizzard and he created his own Studio, Shield Break Studios. It had been his dream to create his own game and to do it without being underneath Blizzard’s thumb. I’ve talked a lot about doing this or accomplishing that but Greg made it happen and was actually living out his dream. He was in the prime of his life and from the outside in at least, everything was on the up and up. It’s a profound tragedy that Greg was taken from us before he was able to finish what he set out to do.
As an homage to Greg and at Dannyboy’s request, I’m posting a piece DB wrote on the man we’ve both come to know and love over the last ~15 years.
Greg was the ultimate doer and the ultimate nice guy.
I remember when there was a time in my life when I was an agoraphobic. I was bitter, hateful and unable to communicate face to face with people. I was terribly ashamed and not willing to discuss it. I didn’t have many friends; the ones I grew up with moved on with their lives and had their own problems to deal with. During that period I made my friends online. For the most part people were nothing more than their call signs, a random avatar of pixels as easy to replace as starting up a different game. Of the few people who I did get to know individually, Greg was one of the most caring, genuine of them all and a person I’ve known the longest. I felt Greg seemed more interested in me as a person than as the call sign as well, and we bonded rather quickly. We were both night owls who preferred to spend our evenings blasting away in FPSs. Our general mission was to play as unconventionally as we possibly could, but absolutely playing to win (and win by as large a margin as possible). While we enjoyed discussing whatever game we were currently playing, or the current big name game of the moment, our most passionate discussions were about the industry itself, primarily as designers.
What I saw as wide-eyed daydreams Greg saw as his fully attainable goal: to make video games. He would talk endlessly about not only what makes a game bad, but the things that could be done to make a game great. His dream wasn’t to make the next big thing and sit on a mountain of money while milking one bland sequel after another; rather, it was to make a game that he – a true blood gamer – would want to play. He was proud to call himself a gamer and be associated with the gaming community.Greg wanted something compelling because it was funandbecause it was competitive, which often times rang as polar-opposites in games, rarely ever reaching that equilibrium in his estimation. If it met that balance then it was good,it needed to be nothing less and nothing more, and Greg’s devotion to that game would be unshakable. Greg told me he was going to make his own studio down the road, after he got his foot in the door and established himself in the industry. I assumed Greg was like everyone else I ever heard talk about such high endeavors: nothing more than a talker chasing clouds, and probably going to forget what he was ever talking about after a few years. I learned fairly quickly that I was absolutely wrong.
I still remember when Greg told me he was going to apply for Blizzard. I thought that was the coolest news but I didn’t expect a former chemist, which Greg was experienced as, to get very far in the application process. Again, I was absolutely wrong. Greg gets in and quickly starts climbing the ladder, and soon our gaming sessions go from short to shorter until finally he doesn’t have much time at all to sit and blast. Usually this gaming scenario plays out the same every single time: people become friends because they’re both playing the same game, then life calls, then people don’t game anymore, then they are no longer friends anymore. That didn’t happen with Greg. He would still send me status update emails regularly and ask what I thought about the games at Blizzard, what I thought the future of FPS games were, what I thought of e-sports. He didn’t forget about me when he had every legitimate reason to.
I told Greg about my problems and my desires to get past them. Greg gave me unwavering support as well as unknowingly providing a first-hand view of the model of being a doer. He pushed me to chase my passions, encouraged me to go back to school while providing insight on relevant studies or side projects to participate in to help me reach my goals once outside of academia. And all the while, I get to sit and watch as he is working to make his own visions come to reality, dealing with his own stresses and problems and never once blinking at the titan before him. As swamped as Greg ever got, he could still take the time to send you an email, text or PM.
When Greg told me he left Blizzard the news was almost a bombshell. Then as he told me of the plans to create a studio and some ideas for projects he wanted to work on, like a flash everything came full circle in my mind: he got his foot in the door, then he established himself in the industry, then he made his own studio. He did it. He said he was going to do it and then he did it. I was fortunate enough to participate in numerous playtests as well as being privy to a few of the morning meetings. It was always a fun environment, yet when it came time to put the nose to the grindstone, he and his team showed amazing focus. They never forgot what they were doing , though: they were making a game they wanted to play, a game they thought gamers wanted to play. Sometimes, after things had wrapped up for the day, Greg would ask me to jump into voice comms with him and ask me what I thought. This always meant so much to me, not only because I got to tell him of my excitement for what he and his team were doing, but because I also got to hear the excitement in him as he discussed plans for the present time. This was no longer a grand master plan written in the mind, no longer something to be blown off by any naysayers as a day dream or just talk for “the future”. He was in full bloom and he was kind and open enough to let you see the amazing experience as he was seeing it.
Greg achieved all of this while being the kindest hearted guy I think I’ve ever come across. There are the stories of the industry as a cut-throat, every man for himself business. There are even a few shows on the air romanticizing the notion. I don’t have the experience to say if that stuff is true or not, but I do know Greg would shatter that mold. Everyone liked Greg and he liked them, because regardless of whatever group they worked with or whatever rival project they may be on, at the end of the day they were all gamers, and that’s all that mattered to him. Our group gaming sessions always featured rival studios with titles coming out head-to-head, and the environment was nothing short of wonderful and inviting. It always played out the same: a pleasant pregame chat session catching up with people as they loaded into the server followed by legendary bloodbaths and trash talking throughout the game, and ending with the same pleasantries that preceded the apocalypse we created.The thing that interested me the most though was as the server fills with people from all over the map and different studios, Greg would call them all by their real first name. Once Greg knew your first name, he always called you by your first name.
Greg never forgot you, and I hope anyone who was lucky enough to know him will never forget him.
As Greg would say, “Stay Beautiful”