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The instance I loaded into was empty. The Tower wasn’t bustling. It was just me, a rarity. I walked up to him, his icon flashing as it always is, because I never pick up my engrams. As I reached him he turned around.
That voice. That voice. There’s only one. And will only ever be one.
Lance Reddick, prolific actor from Oz, The Wire and John Wick, died at age 60 on Friday, reportedly of natural causes. But Destiny players know him from his nine years serving as Commander Zavala, the longest and most-used voice cast member of the series, and one that is simply irreplaceable. Unlike nearly every other major role in the game, he was never recast over the years. He showed up season after season, expansion after expansion for more story developments, and had a special relationship with fans, Bungie and the game itself.
Now, players are attempting to honor him as best they can.
All day yesterday and likely through this weekend, there have been hundreds of vigils held at Zavala’s station in the Tower by thousands upon thousands of players. Only 16 people can fit in a Tower instance at any given time, but often now, you will see most of them clustered around Zavala, emoting in various ways in an attempt to honor Lance Reddick, and the character he played.
The emotes I’ve seen that best represent the concept are simple salutes, standing guard with swords and shields, hoisting Titan flags or a Halloween-era emote that places candles on the ground. I’ve actually choked up seeing all of these flood in, and when I heard Zavala speak when I myself went back to him for the first time since hearing of Reddick’s passing.
While Lance Reddick is of course known for many roles, adding presence and weight to any project he was a part of, it really is a truly unique connection he has with the Destiny community, given the nature of the game, an ongoing series that has lasted nine years using him essentially every year as the voice of the lead NPC of the whole saga. There were no indications he’d ever stop being Zavala, and as Destiny plans to move into animation and live-action projects, everyone always assumed he’d be the one playing Zavala there, too.
This death has hit me personally harder than really any celebrity death I can remember. Of course we never know these actors ourselves, but I have been listening to Reddick’s voice as Zavala in some form or another for more than a quarter of my life, almost every day, given how much I play Destiny. And what’s so strange now is that he will continue to be heard in the game. Even if Bungie writes out Zavala, and I expect they will, he’s embedded everywhere in old content, strikes, battlegrounds and expansion missions. And I don’t think he should be scrubbed out of that content, he deserves to have that performance live forever, even if he can’t keep Zavala going from here.
All the best to Lance’s family and friends. The entire Destiny community is with you.
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I’ve been writing about video games, television and movies for Forbes for over 10 years, and you may have seen my reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. I cover all manner of console and PC games, but if it’s about looting or shooting, I’m definitely there. If I’m watching something, it’s usually science fiction, horror or superheroic. I’m also a regular on IGN’s Fireteam Chat podcast and have published five sci-fi novels.
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