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Rare pays tribute to Robert Ashby

Sea of Thieves studio and its members describe customer service stalwart as "unfailingly kind"

A few weeks ago, Rare received the tragic news of the passing of Rob Ashby.

Rob was the stalwart of our customer service and support teams, taking care of online safety and security across our studio and games. In the six years Rob was with us at Rare, he grew our customer service capability for Sea of Thieves as it grew from pre-launch to the at-scale game it is today.

Although a private person, Rob was a friend, colleague, mentor and crewmate to so many of us at Rare, and equally to our partner teams. We all thought the world of him, and the news of his passing has weighed heavy on us all. Rob was a kind and thoughtful person; someone who dedicated his career to the incredibly important work that goes on behind-the-scenes to make games what they are.

In his 22 years in our industry, Rob worked for some of the biggest names in gaming: Sony Online Entertainment, Blizzard, ZeniMax Online and Jagex, before he joined Rare in 2016. We know that he will have made an impact on so many of you in those two decades, and we wanted you -- as his peers and ex-colleagues -- to hear the news from us directly.

Robert Ashby, Rare

To remember Rob is to remember his kindness and his generosity -- in his spirit and in the way he treated others. Rob was unfailingly kind to those who worked around him and for him.

Veronica Heath remembers the early days of her career at Rare, and a time she'd been asked to feature on a weekly stream: "I was concerned that my pirate wouldn't look 'seasoned' enough to our community, as I'd only been playing a short while, but Rob came to my rescue. He gave my character all the cool stuff you could get at the time and helped me gain a couple of levels on my pirate before I went on stream. It was such a small thing, but it made me smile when I thought about my time knowing Rob."

Mike Scrivens started his career at Rare two years ago, and remembers how "[Rob] supported me whenever I needed it, empowered me to be courageous in decision-making and always had my back if things didn't go to plan. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with him for the time that I did."

Glenn Edwards shares similar memories of his time knowing Rob: "Rob was amazing -- always willing to chat, whether it was about work, or tech, computers and gaming. He was always there to reach out to, and to give advice on how to deal with situations. I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions and time spent with Rob, and I will miss that, and will miss him."

Rare team get together, with Rob Ashby on left

Joe Neate remembers Rob as one of the most supportive individuals he's ever worked with -- "always leaning in to help people across the studio, always on hand to protect our staff and our players in online spaces, and always with that 'sure, I can figure out a way to help solve that' attitude."

He adds: "One of the things that makes me smile the most when thinking back is that he also had a really distinctive and joyful laugh. Whether in the halls of Rare or on group calls, you'd always hear it and it'd always make you smile."

Those who work in the customer-facing side of live service games know first-hand what a huge privilege it is to be amongst the communities they serve, but also that there can be difficult moments, too. Jo Clifford, Senior Community Manager, remembers Rob as "an incredible force for good -- [he] shouldered so much in his efforts to do the very best for our players and those he worked with. He was the very best of us."

A Sea of Thieves moderator, xshirahx, echoed this, remembering Rob as an "absolute hero...no matter how bad things got, Rob was always there to put a stop to the madness. He protected the moderation team, the customer service team and the devs with passion and dedication. He made me feel safe in this community from day one and I will miss him dearly."

Rob took safety incredibly seriously -- the safety of our players and our staff in equal measure.

One of our Rare team members recounts a particular online incident that had left them feeling uneasy and unsafe. "People like Rob are the quiet champions of game dev, voluntarily shielding the rest of us from the scary, awful stuff that's out there. He made me feel like it was still safe to come into work because it was being handled appropriately. I hope Rob knew what a vital role he and his team play in helping Rare make games that can go on to change peoples' lives for the better."

Outside of work, Rob loved technology, gaming and home cinema. Rob was always delighted to tell people about the latest audio visual set-up he'd customised at home, or to talk about his love of boats and fast motorbikes. Rob also adored his black cat, who made regular appearances on video calls.

Rob epitomised our Rare culture; in his kindness and his care and support for others, packaged up with his wry smile, his sense of humour and his willingness to take on a difficult challenge just because it was the right thing to do. Rob's principles and values were unshakeable, as was his calming presence. He was a rock for so many, and a champion for everyone in his orbit. He will be very much missed at Rare.