Jace Hambrick worked as an apprentice laborer during the week, renovating homes around Vancouver, Wash., and at a neighborhood gas station on weekends. Much of the rest of his life was online. He was hard-core, amassing a collection of more than 200 games. People told him it wasn’t smart to be so cut off from reality, but his internet life felt rich. As a dungeon master in Dungeons & Dragons, he controlled other players’ destinies. As a video warrior, he was known online by his nom de guerre and was constantly messaging fellow gamers, particularly his best friend, Simon. Though the two had never met in person, over the last few years they paired up as teammates playing Rainbow Six Siege and Rocket League and grew close.
At 20, Hambrick was still living at home with his mother to save money for college, where he hoped to study game design. He was a voracious reader who could knock off a 1,000-page fantasy novel in two days. People liked him; he made them laugh. When he and his mother lived in places that had board-game clubs, he was a regular. And his kindness could be surprising. He would spend a morning handing out sandwiches to the hungry.