God of War Ragnorok programmer leaves heartbreaking in-game tribute to his late ex-boyfriend

A screenshot of the game God of War Ragnarok, where the player looks at a green heart symbol painted on the side of a rock, containing Nordic symbols that translate to "SH" and "JS"

Sony’s new video game God of War Ragnarok features a heartfelt side quest about an LGBTQ+ couple who worked on the game.

Sony Santa Monica senior gameplay programmer Sam Handrick explained the tragic story in a Twitter thread on 18 November in which he “got to pitch” one of the many ‘favour’ side quests in dedication to his late partner.

“I had hoped to wait for some time to talk about it but I want to share it now, just in case,” he said.

Before delving into the story, he urged players to “seek it out for yourself first” before explaining the details behind the creation of the side quest, adding that it’s “not a spoiler for the main story”, but that it’s worthwhile.

Handrick explained that he met gameplay programmer Jake Snipes in 2019 after the two were set to work on the critically-acclaimed game together.

“[We] both loved Carly Rae Jepsen and Death Note, and soon we [became] really close friends,” he said. “Before too long we [became] more than that.”

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The two fell “madly in love” with each other while working on the project and even went on a road trip across the US together.

God of War: Ragnarok developers Sam Handrick and Jake Snipes celebrating in a live performance venue, surrounded by confetti amid a cheering a crowd.
God of War Ragnarok developers Sam Handrick and Jake Snipes celebrating at a live performance together. (Twitter/@@MDSVertas)

But their favourite pastime was staying in on weekends to play their favourite games together or adventuring around LA and California.

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“I began to feel truly [at] home,” he said.

Within the development company, the couple became notorious for baking and bringing “anything we made into the studio” and even won a pie-baking competition together.

Handrick and Snipes were especially adamant about leaving a symbol in God of War Ragnarok to represent their love for each other.

“He once suggested simply a heart, with our initials in Norse runes, carved into this world we made,” Handrick said.

But in 2020, Snipes passed away due to complications with epilepsy, which left Handrick “heartbroken”.

The next few months were incredibly difficult for the developer, saying he “hardly [wanted] to be alive”, but once he returned from grieving, he was set on leaving “some piece of him within the game.

God of War Ragnarok’s ‘Across the Realms’ side quest

Sam Handrick explained that, after talking to game director Eric Williams about the idea of including an ode to Snipes, he “made it so much more”.

“I told Eric and the team about Jake’s suggestion of our initials carved into a heart, and he and the team returned with that and something even more special,” he said. “A story of two men who find each other in an often cruel world, and who find a place to belong simply with each other.”

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The side quest, named ‘Across the Realms‘, was created as a “story to be one many queer people know”, according to Handrick.

The side quest sees protagonist Kratos traverse multiple realms to find four items with the help of clues that feature the nordic initials of Snipes and Handrick.

Once located, the player can create the ‘Meal of Comfort’ that, according to its in-game description, “warms the body and soul”.

The item cannot be sold or consumed and gives Kratos a permanent stat boost across all of his skills.

But players can only make it upon finding the ‘Eternal Campfire,’ which Handrick said: “Never stops burning, through the coldest days, through the nights you don’t want to live through.

“It will stand in this world we at [Sony Santa Monica] created for all of time, carrying the story of a man in whom I found something unnamable. Something I still carry now.”

One of the last tweets posted on Jake Snipes’ Twitter page is of the two developers, embracing each other on a pristine beach with the caption: “My best friend.”

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