A Penn State World Campus student was among the four Americans killed Tuesday in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Sean Smith, an information management official with the U.S. State Department, was remembered Thursday by officials at Penn State, where he was enrolled in online classes.
“This is obviously a tragedy for his family, Penn State and the nation,” university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said Thursday in an email. “His family and friends are certainly in our thoughts and prayers.”
The 34-year-old father and husband, who had been stationed in the Netherlands, is being mourned this week by another family — one he had never met in person.
Smith was known to thousands online by his screen name, “Vile Rat,” in the massively multiplayer game “EVE Online.”
The game, set in a vast science fiction universe, claims to have hundreds of thousands of users. They pour countless hours into the game, captaining spaceships and participating in a robust supply-and-demand economy and in governments and corporations.
Smith’s talent as a relentless diplomat helped shape the gaming experience for thousands, even if they don’t know his name, according to his friend and fellow “EVE” player Alex Gianturco, better known by his screen name, “The_Mittani.”
In an obituary for “Vile Rat” posted on his blog, Gianturco highlighted an instant message Smith apparently sent before the attack.
“... Assuming we don’t die tonight,” Smith posed under his screen name. “We saw one of our ‘police’ that guard the compound taking pictures ... .”
In-game tributes popped up Wednesday as news spread of Smith’s death, according to message board posts. Players flooded those sites and Twitter with condolences.
“RIP Vile Rat, the world was a better place because you were in it. I didn’t know u but we were brothers just the same. Fly safe bro.....,” one “EVE” player commented on Twitter.
“It seems kind of trivial to praise a husband, father, and overall (expletive) for his skills in an Internet spaceship game but that’s how most of us know him, so there you go,” Gianturco wrote on his blog.
According to a release from the State Department, Smith was in Libya on a temporary assignment.
Before arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Montreal, Pretoria, South Africa, and most recently The Hague, Netherlands, the statement said.
Powers confirmed Smith was a World Campus student, taking online courses in information, sciences and technology.
“Through his work, and his play, Sean helped shape two worlds — he will be missed in both,” an “EVE” user posted to a message board Wednesday.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter