In memoriam: MIT Officer slain in Boston marathon bombing was gamer at heart

Slain MIT Officer Sean Collier had a lifelong passion for video games and competitive gaming. Best friend Brandon Kelly reflects on their friendship in life, and their love of games.

by

This article originally appeared on GameSpot sister site onGamers.com

One year ago today, MIT Police Officer Sean Collier's life was taken inside his police cruiser, allegedly by the suspected Boston Marathon bombers. While Sean's dream was to become a city police officer, many may not know of Collier's passion for video games as a lifelong competitive gamer and fan of esports for more than 15 years. Collier's best friend Brandon Kelly wishes to tell the story of their love for video games, and for each other.

While Sean's dream was to become a city police officer, his passion was video gaming. On this day of reflection, best friend Brandon Kelly would like to pay tribute to his friend by recalling their friendship and the large part video gaming played in it.

Known as Sean 'defX' Collier, Officer Collier met Brandon 'heLiarc' Kelly at Shaesheen Elementary School in Wilmington, Massachusetts at the young age of 4. Born only 10 days apart--January 3, 1986 and January 13, 1986--Collier and Kelly instantly hit it off, going over to each other's houses to play the original Mortal Kombat, along with Yoshi's Island, Contra III, and Mario Kart. Not only did the bond of Sean and Brandon grow together, but also did each of their brothers, and the families of Collier and Kelly as a whole. They considered themselves brothers in every sense of the word.

"I remember playing the original Nintendo when we were really young, blowing into the cartridge to make games work", Sean's brother Andrew Collier told onGamers. "It was something he was really interested in from a pretty young age. It was definitely a big part of him growing up."

While their time playing on Super Nintendo was memorable, Collier and Kelly's true gaming companionship began with PC gaming. Collier was a hardcore Intel fan, running a Pentium 1 166 Mhz, while Kelly preferred AMD, running a similar AMD 166 Mhz machine. Their PC gaming started with Lemmings, Duke Nukem II, Wolfenstein 3D, and WarCraft II.

Collier and Kelly both upgraded their computers; Collier to a Gateway PII 333 Mhz, and Kelly to an IBM AMD K2 333 Mhz. Soon after came the most pivotal game at the time for them, and the one that first led them down the path of competitive gaming - StarCraft.

Brandon 'heLiarc' Kelly on the left, Sean 'defX' Collier in the middle

"Due to his love for Blizzard, Sean immediately picked up Starcraft on its release and first fell in love", Kelly told onGamers. "Sean and I were in the 6th or 7th grade and after we got out of school, we would both go over to his house and switch off playing competitive ladder on his computer. I learned a lot from Sean, his micro skills were unbelievable and no matter what strategy anyone threw at him, he knew how to defend and counter."

"Doing really well in Starcraft, Sean and I joined our first ever gaming clan called Protoss Domination [pD] where we played for the better part of two years. The clan was split into two 'elite' groups of players, and Sean was in the better of the two. He played Starcraft non-stop for years and even still played up until last year with Starcraft II."

Collier and Kelly's love for competitive gaming grew from there with the rise of first-person shooters. "Some people may have heard of this game called Team Fortress Classic. You should have", exclaims Kelly. "It was quite a revolutionary mod that came from Half-Life. Sean and I played quite a bit of TFC together and got really good at it. He enjoyed playing a Soldier/Demo/Sniper while I was Medic/Sniper/Soldier. We started getting really into TFC, had plenty of fun on conc jump maps and eventually joined a team (which I completely forget the name of) led by some kid named 'TriggerHappyGuppy'. We played in I believe it was OGL Open for a season, but fell in love with this other FPS called Counter-Strike."

Playing Counter-Strike was only made possible through another feat of its own: a championship run in the NASCAR game at the time by Sean and his brother Andrew to win new computers to run the game in the first place.

"I remember back then Gateway had stores. The gateway stores had a competition for the then current NASCAR game, where the fastest time trial would win a computer", says Andrew. "Sean and I won that tournament, and that's how we each got our own computer. I had to have been 13 or 14, and he was 15 or16."

GoldenEye 007 had come out by then, and Kelly talks of many nights of split-screen multiplayer. But for many PC FPS players during that era, Sean and Kelly's main FPS attention turned to Counter-Strike.

Memorial at MIT

"We were just trying it out really, and we fell in love with the game", says Kelly. "CS drew our attention almost immediately and we both started playing at the ripe age of fourteen. As we entered High School, we came across another CS junkie who was also a freshman. His name was Zachary 'Hyperion' Mitzan and us three were becoming some very competitive players who were very close in skill which allowed us to push each other to get better."

"We also eventually attended local LANs's when we were 16 and Sean could drive us to BattleLAN / Dream Machine in Danvers, MA. We use to smoke kids as they came through thinking they knew how to game."

"Sean being the leader he was, formed a Counter-Strike team called Elite Assassins (eA). We started off running through pubs and destroying kids like it was our job. Our goal was to see who could be called a "cheater" or "hacker" first. From being pub stars, we ran into a couple of kids in which we expanded the team, by picking up Alex 'Woll' Woll, Vivi, Sabin and EyEdeA."

"With this roster, Sean signed us up for this Cyberathletic Amateur League (CAL). We joined CAL-OPEN and stayed OPEN for two seasons in which I left after the first or during the second because Sean and I would fight like little girls. I moved on to hop into a CAL-MAIN team Pitcrew, Last Breath and eventually Point bLanK (teammates with zEx Titus, yuK` and hickeyyy). Sean continued to successfully lead his team into CAL-im as well as becoming a DJ for an online radio #DigitalRadio on GamesNet IRC. He loved DJing and would host giveaways as well as LMS tournaments.

"He spent a lot of time following his favorite team Team 3D, as well as his favorite player 3D's Sean 'Bullseye' Morgan. His favorite CS video was 'BSL from the Block'."

The gateway stores had a competition for the then current NASCAR game, where the fastest time trial would win a computer. Sean and I won that tournament, and that's how we each got our own computer.

Some of brother Andrew's fondest recollections of Sean's childhood growing up is one that many competitive gamers can relate to through their own personal experience.

"I remember waking up in the middle of the night going to the bathroom, I walked out and you can see the glow of his computer screen under the door", says Andrew. "I would go back to sleep for hours and when it was time to wake up, he would still be there playing."

Collier and Kelly were so close and so competitive that they would fight like "boyfriend and girlfriend", as Kelly puts it. Both of them had to be right, but only one could be the leader of the team. This clash combined with their dislike for the 1.6 iteration of CS--and move to college--called for them to split for a brief period of time.

"We were both just young and didn't like taking orders from each other," says Kelly. "It was better for our friendship. Sean and I both went our separate ways and ended up quitting CS when version 1.6 was released. We hated the changes so much and came to the realization that we were never going to make it to the CPL. We both went our separate ways freshman year of college. He attended Salem State College while I went to UMass Amherst."

"Though this didn't keep us apart. Sean would often drive out to Amherst for the weekend to party with me. Boy that kid could drink!"

That split didn't last for long, as the world's most popular MMORPG of all time was about to be released: Blizzard's World of WarCraft.

"After the first semester was over, I recall Sean coming over to my parents house and bringing his laptop, he tried convincing me to get this game called World of Warcraft back in December of 2004", says Kelly. "I hadn't much interest in MMORPG's, but due to his convincing nature and ton of peer pressure, I decided that I would."

"It was shortly after Christmas, December 29th, and we started off to a GameStop. We embarked on a journey to the closest GameStop probably around 6pm EST and no luck, they were sold out. We drove a couple towns over to the next GameStop only to run into the same result. Well, we figured what the hell, we drove to the next closest GameStop while I was calling 411 (before Smartphones) for phone numbers to all of the GameStops in the area. Sean really wanted me to get this game but we were having shit for luck. Finally I got ahold of a GameStop in Portsmouth, NH area that had ONE copy of WoW left. Sean sped there as fast as he could to get there just before it closed at 10pm. We finally had our copy of World of WarCraft."

Collier began his police career around this time by interning at the Somerville Police Department in 2004 in the IT department, before later becoming a Somerville Auxiliary Officer.

"He was roughly level 22 and I was just starting out. I had a lot of work to do to catch him. He gave me advice and we sat next to each other for the remainder of the school break, leveling my character to catch him. Within a week and a half I caught up to him. With Sean being an intern at a Police Station, he didn't have much time and I started pulling away. As I hit level 30 and he was still back at 27, he got pissed and stopped playing WoW, as he really didn't have the time, either.

"I ended up being consumed by the game, craving the end-game content. I started 40-man raids with an Alliance team on Skullcrusher and made some Horde friends and re-rolled Horde on Skullcrusher. I got Sean to level 60 and joined Nightmares Asylum (for a while they were thought to have world first on Ragnaros) which was a guild that had pretty much every server first and came close a couple of time for World First."

"Throughout casually playing WoW and the end of his CS days, Sean had also began toying with Battlefield 1942 and played that in his spare time. He continued playing Battlefield throughout all of college and up until present day. He switched over to Xbox in 2008 because all of his new friends had been console gamers."

"Even until recently, Sean and his roommate Travis 'Vaporburn' Dixon would setup their flatscreens next to each other in the living room and game for hours while throwing back a few brews. He also started getting back into Starcraft II after the release of Heart of the Swarm."

"Sean had a natural talent for any video games and would instantly develop skills that were superior to above average gamers with absolutely no effort at all. This was how he was with computers, HTML and graphic design. Even though I knew he had wanted to become a Police Officer all of his life, I really thought he was going to pursue web design or graphic design."

Collier was posthumously sworn-in to his dream job at the Somerville police department in August of last year. Collier and Kelly had been playing and watching video games since they were kids. Before esports had a name, let alone an industry. Two gamers whom we can look at and see a lot of ourselves in. Kelly will always see himself in Collier.

"Sean was a lively and curious individual who wanted to get to know about and explore everything that there was to be explored. He never turned down a good adventure and was always up for a beer. He would do anything for anyone and always was helping people when he could. His dark sense of humor as well was a riot and definitely could make people laugh. It's funny because he truly couldn't stand crowds or large groups of people and at first wouldn't mesh well. Once he had a few bevvies to loosen up, he was the life of the party with a good balance of crazy antics and laughter."

"I deeply regret not being able to spend more time with him as we both had been pursuing demanding careers. After I lost my leg, we promised to spend more time hanging out and he was going to help me rehab this summer by hiking together, get me rock climbing but most of all be around him. Sean I will forever miss you and there will always be a part of my heart with emptiness that can never be filled. Sean and I were brothers, I loved him.

"Not only will Sean be my early influence into competitve gaming, he will always be a major influence on who I am and continue to grow to be. Sean loved to do many things and went through many phases in life. But no matter where he went or what he did in life, he always kept gaming close to his heart. This is the essence of a true gamer. Love you brother."

Today at a memorial for the passing of Sean Collier, US senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren praised Collier, and Cambridge Mayor David P. Maher said the intersection at Main and Vassar where he was killed would now be called Sean Collier Square in his honor.

Collier was 26-years old.

Rod Breslau is an editor at onGamers.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @Slasher Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Discussion

121 comments
zequex
zequex

How about we mourn the loss of all victims of tragedy, not just because they were gamers.


Just a thought. :/ 

daysonguy
daysonguy

coulda used a few more lives.
rip 

el_swanno
el_swanno

"...I will forever miss you and there will always be a part of my heart with emptiness that can never be filled."

Well said.

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

i'll keep PC gaming alive for you :)


I still play Counter Strike today. Its Source and global offensive. But its still epic. Even if global Offensive, isnt quite the successor we want.

triton1977
triton1977

Im sorry if I sound insensitive...but Im sure random persons who are gamers die every day around the world.






PeejayYeh
PeejayYeh

RIP Gamer Brother. Condolences to his family.

Evanduil
Evanduil

Wish I had a friend like this guy.

Holy-Rapture
Holy-Rapture

My sister was great friends with Sean, from what she tells me of him he seemed like a great kid. Wish i had gotten the chance to meet him and play some games together. RIP Sean, you're surely missed.

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

RIP Fellow gamer, although I never met you in real life, you were an amazing guy. Very sad.

Genocide6sic6
Genocide6sic6

R.I.P. fellow gamer.  Great article for a change, GS.  I couldn't keep my composure through it...so sad.

rawkstar007
rawkstar007

While I appreciate the thought and effort that went into this article, this is a repost from last week. Please don't do that.

Next time, if timing is a consideration for the posting of an article (e.g. Boston Marathon was today), please post the article at the more appropriate time instead of "bumping" it.

For those of us that have already read it, it can appear as though you are promoting yourself rather than the person you wrote about.

garywood69
garywood69

It's sad and everything but there's something a bit tribal about picking out and suggesting that we implicitly care more because he happened to be a gamer.


olddadgamer
olddadgamer

And breaking:  The men's winner of the marathon had Collier's name, with the names of the other three killed, written on his number.  


Fitting.  Peace to all.

hothtron
hothtron

Now THIS is a legit reason to get mad fanboys of all walks of life...

IamTheBesteva
IamTheBesteva

Wasn't this posted a few days ago by Eddie ?

onefai
onefai

It is sad to see a fellow gamer fallen. 

blackace
blackace

Very sad. I haven't been back to my home town since last year. Haven't been to MIT in many, many years. Used to bicycle throughout that campus as well as Harvard Univ (which is also in Cambridge, MA). Kind of miss it. This guy should not have died like that. I'm sure he's in a better place now.

Faye_Tallity
Faye_Tallity

You were too young to die! I pray for your heart broken loved ones. Rest in Peace comrade.   

returnofsoma42
returnofsoma42

It's nice to see Gamespot pay tribute to the Boston marathon bombing victims.  I will never forget that day.   Even though I never met this guy I feel in a way we're connected.  RIP brother.  You will never be forgotten.  As for that punk ass who did the bombing I hope he gets the death penalty!!!  Good old Sparky would love him!

tightwad34
tightwad34

@triton1977 Yep, all kinds of things die all the time. No doubt there is something dying right now.

rawkstar007
rawkstar007

I'm sorry your mother never gave you enough attention.

hystavito
hystavito

@rawkstar007  I agree, although I will say we don't know for sure why this was posted again.  



--I didn't read it again to see if there were time references that don't make sense, but I      guess it's possible that the first time it was posted was a mistake.


EDIT: Ok it was written for the 18th.  I forgot the beginning clearly states "today" as the anniversary and and also mentions "today" for the memorial.



krystyla
krystyla

@graceful_goku  Why do you automatically assume he's christian and was good enough to enter heaven?

ArabrockermanX
ArabrockermanX

@ChargeMan1991 Since my message from earlier has seemingly disappeared, no it is not hypocritical at all...

I support the death penalty for all murders regardless of intention(exception being deaths that are actually accidents)... This idea that intention should matter if two people get in a fight/argument then one pulls a gun and shoots the other(technically that'd be second degree or manslaughter) is just silly. 

abigailpetrova
abigailpetrova

@rawkstar007  He is absolutely correct. In order to unravel the reality behind Boston marathon bombing, you need to do some digging and leg work yourself, because they ain't going to spoon fed it to you in the mainstream media. I am going to give you some magic words which you can type into Google, so you can begin your journey into enlightenment: "educate yourself" "boston marathon bombing"


If you willingly choose to stay ignorant, I have some magic words for that too. Type this into YouTube: this is what you cheered on boston marathon


Your government will take a good care of you, I'll promise. *wink*


Once they have conditioned you peasants into thinking that you have no rights, have fun with your police state, because it is happening under your very own eyes and you are too blind to see it.

returnofsoma42
returnofsoma42

@ChargeMan1991 @returnofsoma42  Well let me ask you this:  how would you feel if the officer killed was one of YOUR relatives?!!  In case you hadn't noticed asshole we were attacked that day by terrorists who wanted to kill as many of us as possible!! Thankfully that wasn't the case but still three people died because of this punk and you have the nerve to complain about me supporting capital punishment?!!  Like the old saying goes:  An eye for an eye.  In closing get a life!!!

zintarr
zintarr

@ChargeMan1991 @returnofsoma42  You do not seem to understand the word "hypocrite" so stop using it. One would have to state they believe there is never a time to kill another and then state they wish death on say the remaining Boston Bomber. That would be a "hypocrite". 

In this world there are unfortunately times when one must kill and there are those who should be killed.


Wistful_Gamer
Wistful_Gamer

@ChargeMan1991 @durpdurp1234Your logic is flawed, bigot. A murderer who killed someone shouldn't be allowed to live, he unrighteously took the life of an innocent man, and for that his should be taken.

His death will bring relief to the victim's family and will decrease the probability of such murders in the future, or at least it won't increase.

That's my opinion, it might be right or wrong, but that's what I'm convinced of. I respect others opinions and expect them to respect mine.

durpdurp1234
durpdurp1234

@ChargeMan1991 @durpdurp1234  I disagree. The MIT police officer was innocent. He hadn't done anything wrong. Putting his murderer to death is punishment for a crime; he is not innocent. That's completely different. 

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

@silvervolpe @returnofsoma42Also, like I said before. Why should I listen to stubborn gamers who have nothing better to do than say that video games made in the West?

Seriously, it's getting old. When exactly did did all the Western gaming hate start and why? It doesn't matter where a vidoe game was made from. Weather it's from the east or west, there are both good and bad video games. Western games are just as good as Japanese games.

Honestly, for me, video gaming has become somewhat cautious for me in the past few years because of senseless arguments like these? What the f*** is next? Western vs Japanese grass?

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

@onefai @ChargeMan1991 @returnofsoma42  Well how would you like it if I wished the same to you? yeah, not funny now, eh?

Yep, even a few months later, I haven't forgotten about your post. do yourself a favor and please learn to be a bit nicer to people. It could benefit you in the future. Just saying....

I seriously hate you so much....

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

@returnofsoma42 @ChargeMan1991I still would never support capital punishment even if that happened. That's the same thing most people always ask someone who doesn't believe in capital punishment. Seriously. Honestly, it's starting to get old.

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@returnofsoma42 @ChargeMan1991Hey, let's agree to disagree.  This awful attack should not lead to more fighting.  


This attack should not be politicized.  I don't think any of the victims would want that. 

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

@zintarr @ChargeMan1991 @returnofsoma42  Even a few months later, your comment still offends me. also, how on earth did you get 12 likes because of it? Do yourself a favor and please learn to be a bit nicer to people. It could benefit you in the future. Just saying.....

I seriously hate you so much....