If you’re in any way connected to the greater Elite: Dangerous community, you perhaps are familiar with the name of Michael aka CMDR Michael Holyland, a 15-year-old who had gone through six years of debilitating illness that medical treatments had failed to help. On June 7th, Michael was laid to rest after finally succumbing to his illness; however, his final week was one of support and love from Frontier Developments and the Elite: Dangerous community, as explained in an open letter from one of his relatives.
It all started with a tweet sent by the family member, blogger Mathew James Westhorpe, who shared pictures of Michael enjoying Elite: Dangerous despite his illness swelling his face to the point of impeding his vision. Community Manager Page Harvey reached out to Mathew and visited Michael at his hospital room with some Elite swag including a signed poster from the dev team and several in-game goodies.
That would have been altruistic enough, but Michael received even more support. From authors to David Braben to members of the Elite community, Michael was given messages of support and well-wishes, and numerous times he was invited to in-game group actions. Bolstered by this support network, Michael began streaming his Elite activities, which became an attraction for many players and devs of the game. He was even gifted Elite: Dangerous audiobooks in lieu of a visit to Frontier’s offices, which was made impossible due to breathing issues caused by his illness.
Then, Frontier’s Zac Antonaci launched a bold plan: to have an audiobook story set in the Elite: Dangerous world made just for him, with his character as the central hero. The personalized audiobook, written by author Drew Wagar and fully voice acted and mixed, was completed in an astonishing three days and played to Michael. The following day, Michael died.
“His end was unjust and tragic, but because of the heroic kindness of a videogame community, his last week of life was filled with an unexpected amount of happiness. For that, I am immensely grateful and I want to offer my eternal gratitude to everyone who contributed to that, from the players who stood ready to meet Michael online and those who took the time to send him an ‘o7’, to the Frontier staff and associates who gave so much of their time, compassion and creative energy.”
It was one of Michael’s wishes to have his personal audiobook shared with the Elite: Dangerous community, and Westhorpe mentions in his blog that he is working with Zac and his contacts on a way to best make that happen. For now, we want to extend our condolences to Michael’s family, and thank Westhorpe for penning the blog that shared his nephew’s story with the gaming world.