24-year-old Total War fan immortalised in Rome 2 shortly before losing battle with cancer
Creative Assembly "moved and humbled".
By Robert Purchese Published Monday, 18 March 2013
Every so often something stops the wheel of time and we pause, zoom out and see the world from a different perspective.
Last summer, 24-year-old James became the first outsider to play Total War: Rome 2 at Creative Assembly's HQ in Horsham, UK. Press had only seen a demo of the game running.
James toured the studio the day after Total War: Rome 2 was announced (in July). He saw all aspects of the game's creation, played code that was way off alpha stage and interviewed key people, even putting forward his own suggestions for the game.
James even became an important-looking Roman soldier in the game, his digital likeness recreated superbly for the Siege of Carthage.
But shortly after his visit, James lost his battle with liver cancer.
James' day at Creative Assembly had been organised by charity Willow as part of its Special Day initiative. These are extraordinary days arranged so that a terminally ill person's life can be temporarily lifted out of the doldrums of disease and treatment. Lasting memories are created that loved ones can cling onto long after that person has gone. James was accompanied on his trip to Creative Assembly by his brother.
Total War community manager Craig Laycock shared a touching account of the day with me. He said Creative Assembly was "moved and humbled" to have James at the studio.
"What really struck me was how my colleagues reacted to James coming in," wrote Laycock. "I was inundated with emails offering help with James' day. The tour organised itself, as the guys around me scrambled to show James what's going into making Rome 2.
"James was remarkable on the day. His enthusiasm knew no bounds. He asked passionate questions and offered clear and concise suggestions on features for the game.
"When I recently learned that James had died, it was devastating. Even though I had only spent a few hours in his company, it was absolutely devastating, because he was able to show us all here in the studio how passionate he was for our games.
"And although he won't get the chance to see Rome 2 released," he added, "he will live on in some small way in our game - and every time I see him I'll be reminded of what a great guy he was.
"In many ways, James represented what's best about working in video games: crafting games that people enjoy and that stay with them. It's why we all do what we do, and why we're so passionate about it. He really brought that home to us."
The Willow charity was established by Arsenal goalkeeping hero Bob Wilson and his wife in memory of their daughter. Like all charities, it depends on donations to keep doing what it does. I'm sure Willow will relish whatever money you can spare.
Total War: Rome 2 will be out later this year. No specific date has been set.