How A Well-Meaning Death Notification Freaked Out The XCOM Designer's Wife

I wouldn't be surprised if you're reading that headline and thinking, "Um, 'well-meaning death notification?'" But believe it or not, that's exactly what we're talking about here.

See, Kotaku Game of the Year 2012 XCOM: Enemy Unknown inspires stories. As our own Owen Good recounted in his argument for why it should be our game of the year, sometimes it will inspire you to name a character after a friend and, after he or she dies, to mourn.

A well-meaning fan had a similar reaction upon losing a character named after XCOM designer Jake Solomon, and went the whole nine yards with the grieving process. The player sent Solomon a couple of letters and some custom dogtags. The letters were addressed to "Mrs. Jacob Solomon," as is normally the method of notifying one's next of kin. Solomon tweeted an image of the letters last week, saying how cool he thought the idea was. (That's not Solomon's home address; that's Firaxis HQ.)

A touching tribute from a fan, sure, but one could perhaps understand how Solomon's wife, to whom the letter was addressed, might find the whole thing a little weird. In a (very good) interview with PC Gamer, Solomon recounts how the gift was received.

Well, I thought it was awesome. Somebody went to the trouble to make dog tags for me, so I thought it was awesome. It's funny, because it sounds like I'm joking, but I'm not. My wife was really disturbed by it, because at first I didn't understand what it was. I got these two letters, both of which were addressed to my wife, to "Mrs. Jacob Solomon." And I'm like, "What the hell? Who's writing my wife?" But then I realized what it was. "Oh, wait a minute, this is a notification of death letter. Oh my god, this is so awesome." I didn't want to read it. I wanted my wife to read it. But my wife was truly… I'm not saying this as an exaggeration. My wife was disturbed by this. She was very disturbed. Obviously she's not as tied in to XCOM as I am.

Solomon goes on to say that while he still feels the letter was awesome, his wife was truly weirded out by receiving a letter describing her husband's death, so much so that he now keeps it at work. "I had to take it to the office," he says, "because she hated even having that kind of stuff in the house."

I always wondered how my friends would feel when, knee-deep in my first XCOM campaign, I'd take to Twitter to tell them of their heroic, violent deaths. I like to think they were flattered. I guess if I'd taken to mailing death notifications to their significant others, it might have been a different story.

Interview: XCOM Lead Designer on the response to Slingshot DLC, death and loss in games [PC Gamer]