It is with great sadness that we must report on the death of our founding publisher Nate Wooley. Nate was an amazing person who always strove to bring people together. Whether it was based on a shared love of video games, anime, board games, science fiction, literature, role playing, Star Wars, graphic novels, cartoons, comic books or anything else fun or exciting, you could always find him surrounded by friends at an event he probably hosted, with everyone doing what they loved and having a great time.
Nate was a shining light and a beacon for others, calling out to those who sometimes didn’t always fit in with mainstream society. But when working or playing with Nate, everyone always felt welcome. Everyone always belonged. Everyone had value and everyone was appreciated. He loved people and it showed in everything he did. All of us who were lucky enough to be a part of his life, and to find our way into his little utopia learned that it was okay to be weird or different. It was even celebrated.
Another great thing about Nate is that he was able to accomplish all of that while also always being “the adult in the room.” He took that role seriously, always willing to have just a little bit less fun in order to ensure that others were always safe and making smart decisions.
When he and I founded GiN way back in 1997, on the surface Nate’s role was to be the business guy. But really, it was his love of people that really motivated him. Nate loved nothing more than finding someone with a lot of raw talent and encouraging them to improve their skills to become the best that they could. GiN has a huge list of writers, reviewers, animators, podcasters, editorialists and columnists who grew their skills working with Nate. Many of them have since moved on to new careers now, and those I talked with recently all said that Nate was a wonderfully positive influence on their lives. A few said they would not be where they are today without his guidance and encouragement.
Nate could also be fierce when confronted with an injustice. On a trip to the E3 Expo trade show, one of the first times the show was based in Los Angeles after moving from Atlanta, most of us were pretty spellbound by the spectacle. In fact, we were too spellbound to notice some rather sad undertones. But Nate suspected something was amiss and spent the next three days wandering around the show interviewing the women who were working on the show floor, the so-called “booth babes” of E3. He found out that they had a really hard job, and were often exploited by their employers. He wrote a scathing article that exposed the seedy underside of the show, and it even garnered national attention. We were threatened with not being invited back, but the next year, conditions were greatly improved for the women working at the show. Those who Nate talked with the year before said that his feature story was a big part of that.
In terms of video games, Nate didn’t wear his passions for all to see like most of us, but he did love games, mostly of the strategic variety. He was a master at Civilization, and also fought some pitched battles with me in Age of Empires. He also enjoyed quite a few of the Star Wars titles, especially the role playing games like Knights of the Old Republic. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame in games was as the undisputed baron (some would say robber-baron) of the Railroad Tycoon series. He was amazing at Railroad Tycoon, probably because it was really a business simulation with pretty trains running on top.
He once beat me at a Railroad Tycoon multiplayer match without ever building any tracks or deploying any trains! He simply let me spend all the money laying down tracks and then built up industries around the towns that I connected. Sure, I made some money hauling his freight, but I was also paying for the infrastructure, while he was buying cheap businesses in isolated towns and then reaping the rewards as my new railroads made them profitable. I was amazed at how he could win a railroad game without any trains, but he was a genius about things like that.
Much of what we did together took place when we lived fairly close together in the Washington DC area. But life has a way of throwing curve balls, and Nate’s path led him to South Carolina and away from many of his longtime friends. Nate did everything he could to keep in touch with everyone, including hosting several mini-cons where he would rent out a suite of hotel rooms so we would all get together for video games, role-playing, comic book trading and other geeky and cool activities. He even made t-shirts for all of the attendees just like a real convention. It was a ton of fun, and everyone was always so grateful to Nate for sponsoring all of those wonderful events. He was as generous a person as you could ever meet, and I will always treasure my collection of Nate Wooley convention wear!
Although we had a little time to come to grips with the situation and say goodbye before Nate passed, it wasn’t nearly enough. He died far too young, and left us far too early. It was not unexpected, but I was still stunned at the outpouring of support and well-wishes from everyone I talked with over the past couple weeks. Nobody could believe that Nate might not be with us any more, and everyone wanted to talk about how much of a wonderfully positive influence he was on their lives. He touched so many people, and never asked for any credit for all of his good deeds.
We will all miss Nate terribly. He made the world a better place in ways that few people ever do. He once told me that he thought that death was not an end, but just a beginning of a new adventure, or maybe even a new kind of game. If that is true, then I am sure that Nate is out there right now setting up the game board for us all to follow along one day. Until that day when we meet again, we are left with all of those great memories and the good deeds that our dear friend did while we were together. We are fortunate to have known him.
Godspeed to our good friend Nate Wooley. We will miss you, and look forward to the time when we can see one another once again.