On Monday April 18th Smite broadcaster and streamer Brandon Nance acted in a thoroughly unprofessional manner in trying to deliver a message that depressed people need to hear. When streaming Smite someone donated five dollars and thanked Nance for helping him through depression when he was suicidal. Nance, then proceeded to call the guy an asshole and went on a rant about how selfish he was and to not make excuses about his depression. Today his bosses at Hi-Rez, the studio that makes Smite, allowed him to resign instead of just firing him. I will emphasize allowed because, as I’ll go into further, they had every right to fire him. A couple of more things before going forward, thanks to i09 for alerting me to the story. Their original story is linked below. Also, full disclosure: I play and watch a lot of Smite. Nance is probably my least favorite commentator that Hi-Rez employed.
Let’s get something out of the way, this is going to be personal. Painfully so. If you’re not interested in reading about someone else’s fight with depression. Go, leave, and don’t read this. Now that that is out of the way, here’s where it gets personal. For the better part of the last year, I’ve been unemployed. I’ve fought major depression, anxiety disorders, and panic attacks. I’ve started to work part time at Walmart while my amazing family has helped me out financially. That said, there have been times in this last year when I’ve been suicidal. I’m not asking for pity; I don’t want that. I’m laying all of this out because context matters and to write this story honestly, I’m laying it out on the line. As I told my mother in an e-mail, my writing style is painfully autobiographical and I’m going to own it.
Let’s be clear, Nance is lucky to be allowed to resign instead of being fired publically. This is independent of the actual message he was trying to deliver. The simple fact is that there is not an industry on earth where you can publically insult a customer while acting in an even semi-professional capacity. This isn’t about free speech, or anything like that. Nance, as a broadcaster for Smite, is a representative of Hi-Rez any time he’s in public. Streaming any game, in particular Smite, counts as “in public”. He called the individual who was donating some hard earned cash to him, an asshole, and then derided him for being selfish. Here, let’s have some fun, try doing that to one of your customers and stay employed. Not gonna happen. That’s why he is fortunate he was allowed to resign. Hi-Rez would have been well within their rights to fire him with extreme prejudice and distance themselves from him completely.
All of that said, the issue was the way the message was delivered and not the message itself. One of the major things that has kept me alive when I’ve been at my lowest is the knowledge that suicide is a selfish act. I have had family members that committed suicide before I was born, and, since my family isn’t exactly known for our mental health, we’ve talked about how selfish suicide is. Very, very few people lack anyone in the world that loves them. By committing suicide, you not only make people grieve for your death, but you leave them wondering about what they could have done differently. How could they have prevented it. It IS an evil thing to do people that love you. So, Nance was right about that.
When Nance talks about not making excuses when you’re depressed, he’s more than a bit right there too. There are times when my anxiety disorder is so bad all I can do is worry about this or that and can barely function, but I do. There are times when I have panic attacks that make me feel like my throat is constricting and I’m about to die, and it’s all I can do not to go to the emergency room even though I KNOW it’s all in my head. That happened during a showing of Creed on Thanksgiving that I had to FIGHT to stay at the theater and not leave. Here’s the simple, painful truth about depression, anxiety disorders et all: at the end of the day we can choose to let them control us, or we can fight. It is so damn easy to say, I’m broken and there’s nothing I can do. I’ll admit, I’ve been there. I’ve been in a place where I’m tired of everything and just want to give up, but I don’t.
Nance is even right, to a degree, when he says that Smite didn’t save the guy, he chose to save himself. When we’re at our worst, we cling to the things that we love to make the pain go away. For me, it’s typically music, or maybe a classic wrestling match. When you are so far down that you are seriously considering killing yourself, any life raft to provide a bit of solace is invaluable. It can be the difference between being in good enough spirit to keep going, and giving in to your darkest desires. Even acknowledging that, here’s where Nance is right. Those life rafts help, but they’re not the real things that keep you alive when you’re at your lowest. It really is ultimately a choice on your part to keep going. The joy you find in whatever it is helps reaffirm your choice to keep on going, but it is your choice. We all have agency in our own lives
Brandon Nance is a perfect example of how not to deliver a good message. For whatever reason Nance decided to personally attack someone who gave him a heartfelt thank you for providing him a life raft at his darkest point. Nance should have been fired for his actions, but instead was allowed to resign. Nance’s message, beneath the venom, was a good one. A painful one that everyone who suffers from major depression needs to hear. It’s just a shame that he did such a godawful way of delivering it.
Edit: After reading my story Ken White of Popehat, who inspired me to be comfortable writing about my mental issues, wrote his take. Here’s the link Popehat