Brian Raymond Wood was born on March 3, 1977, in Denver to Edward and Janice Wood. For the first couple of weeks, newborn Brian always had a frown on his face. “We called him grumplet,” laughs Ed. But after six weeks his frown turned upside down, and he became a smiling, easygoing tot.
Brian was an imaginative child, and when he was able to read he took to fantasy stories. In middle school he began playing Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game, and Atari, an early video game console. “Eventually, of course, he ended up with a Game Boy,” says Ed. He also liked real-life adventures. Brian was in Indian Guides, became a Cub Scout, and then graduated to a Boy Scout troop, often taking part in “high-adventure” treks. But it was in high school that he really came into his own. After trying out for the football team and not liking it—he said it was “too rough,” says Ed—Brian decided to audition for a school play. He discovered his singing voice, and would go on to act in high school musical productions like 42nd Street, Time Out for Ginger, and The Pajama Game. “We were hiking on the 55-mile trek in New Mexico, and here Brian was leading the group along, singing The Sound of Music,” laughs Ed. He also took up fencing, which he did competitively for a while.
His family thought he’d go into science, like Ed, who was the founding president of COBE BCT, a medical device company. Or his mom, who trained as a medical technologist. Or his brother Keith, who is a program manager at Baxa, another medical device company. But Brian decided to go into music at Oberlin College, a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio. After his first year, he realized he didn’t really like it there, and transferred to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., where he majored in music with a minor in psychology.
“He had a great sense of humour—sarcastic and irreverent, which I liked a lot,” remembers friend Melissa Cardamone, who met him in 1996 at freshman orientation at Lawrence University. Melissa was also a music major, and in the fall of 1998 they performed Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street together, with Brian playing the title role. “It was fun to see him all evil,” says Melissa. “He’s such a goofy guy, always laughing, so to see him do that was lots of fun.”
After graduating in 2000, Brian didn’t feel that he could make a career in music, so he entered a software program at a technical school in Denver. He was a natural, and subsequently landed a series of positions as a video-game designer. Keith, for one, was skeptical. “All my products are designed to save lives,” he reflects, and he wondered about his brother taking a “frivolous hobby” and making “a career out of it.” But Brian prospered, in August 2003 finding what seemed like a dream job in Houston, working for TimeGate Studios, a video-game company. Erin Eldredge, his girlfriend whom he met in 2002, followed a year later after she graduated from her master’s program. Both of them were foodies, and made it their goal “to eat at every Mexican joint in all of Houston,” says Erin. In February 2005, while on a group ski trip to Colorado, Brian took Erin out to an intimate dinner at the top of Keystone Mountain, where he got down on one knee and proposed. They were married on Sept. 17, 2005, a glorious fall day, in the mountains of Leavenworth, Wash.
In February 2006, Brian landed a position at Relic Entertainment in Vancouver, and the couple moved north to Canada. “Right away it felt like home,” says Erin. “The people here and everything: much more of our way of living and looking at the world than it was for us in Houston.” At Relic, Brian worked on the Company of Heroes franchise—Second World War-themed PC games. His latest position was as lead designer on Tales of Valor and Company of Heroes Online.
For the August long weekend, Brian and Erin were making a trip to visit friends on Whidbey Island in Washington. When a Chevy Blazer came barrelling at them on the highway after crossing the median, Brian swerved their car to take the brunt of the force of the driver’s side, saving Erin, who was seven months pregnant with their first child. He died instantly. Brian was 33.