All EVE Media is bad

 

It’s sentences like these that are a big part of why I am lured into thinking so. It may be just some trend with modern media or just me growing into some level of perspective, that the maturity that comes with age and experience grants. Or even just a realisation after shamelessly whoring myself out to whichever podcast or show will take me for the past three years. That opening sentence is a classic way for any writer to try and hook with a controversial statement to incite either strong agreement or strong disagreement, inherently polarising the audience to the inevitable fight in the comment section, leaving everyone pissed off or smug for “winning” a pointless and poorly defined internet argument.

We know from modern politics, or even just from the history of mankind, that playing to people’s emotions rather than their reason is the fastest way to create impact, get engagement, pageviews and incite discussion. It feels like we only hit on the ones that will cause an argument where each side is trying to win and trying to provoke good sound bites for forum porn. All of this instead of discussing how we feel, emotionally, and instead of reaching out to others with any semblance of vulnerability that may allow our emotions to be changed, our opinion to be altered even slightly.



Video games, or “interactive media”, are the youngest of modern media art forms, following the big and small screens. The internet has given everyone the opportunity to discuss and present their opinions on the deeper meaning of these forms and what the creation is saying to its audience. A great example is that of the body of work produced by Wisecrack in video and podcast form (shout out to their film podcast “Show me the Meaning”). In one of the most complex, vast and long-lived social experiments with such a grand backdrop, surely we can find equally insightful ideas and expressions of understanding ourselves and human nature? We already hear about people overcoming social anxiety and escaping the crushing symptoms of loneliness and feelings of disconnect with real life. This “epic space opera” of ours could and should be an amazing case study not only in economic theory, but of social science and philosophy.

I am so tired of having an hour to ninety minute long show where there are eight different points on the agenda that need to be pushed through with the same set of people who have only the most cursory knowledge of the subject they just re-read from the patch notes, desperately trying to sound as if they have some level of insight to keep the conversation going just for its own sake. To be clear this is a criticism of myself, my colleagues, and everyone who posts their absolute opinion on Reddit or any forum or news website.

because the new ones which have the most interesting opinions are actually the ones out in the field

It is so rare that a new face comes on these shows and shares something truly insightful on these issues. And it’s so rare because not only do we like to trot the same old faces out, but because the new ones which have the most interesting opinions are actually the ones out in the field, busy doing the things, and thus don’t have the time to be on the podcast circuit. The most common counterexample is a Mukk/Suitonia/Gorski post where ship balance and fleet meta can be somewhat objectively valued and measured, but despite my tendency to focus on it, EVE is not just a game of finding the right set of numbers.

When you ask people what they love about EVE and what brings them back, one of the most common answers, if not the most defining for any game that transcends into a hobby, is community and what we share with the people we play with. In the aforementioned shows where I am perennially guilty of being on and adding essentially nothing of value to the conversation, especially as the shows age, the meat of the conversation can so easily become a chore and the focus goes from the middle ground to any of two extremes. I’m going to use Open Comms and Talking in Stations here as examples, both shows I love and on which i have appeared on multiple times. I’m not even saying I think they should change; this is, of course, simply and exercise in self-hatred after all.

On TiS and more serious news shows, even the sober stage of Open Comms, 6 hours worth of talking points can be compressed into just a few minutes for the tiniest amount of really interesting insight. As we’re gamers here let’s compare the map of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to any Ubisoft capture-the-tower, sprawling behemoth of a game with one of its selling points being the square footage of the map. I have eventually learnt that this is a stupid metric for the quality of the game, as compared to narrative volume. It doesn’t matter if your game is a thousand miles wide if it only and inch deep and each mile feels the same as the last even with different scenery.

At their core there are only a few key different discussion topics in EVE Shows/Articles which all have the potential to be incredibly interesting. Instead we, as content producers, can get so bogged down in the routine of the production of it all that we are almost on autopilot, especially when we self-enforce any form of regularity which can have so many shows that blend into each other. You can listen to so many one after the other and realise that even with so much talking so little has really been said that isn’t just a paraphrase of the primary material of a DevBlog or some rare truly interesting and insightful post somewhere else that has caught buzz.

so often I can’t seem to find the energy [..] to recommit to making something that I can look back on with [..] pride

Not only do I hate what may essentially be described as phoning it in but I hate it even more that the vast majority of the time when it is happening and I am the one doing it. Even still, I am painfully aware that it is going on and so often I can’t seem to find the energy or motivation or whatever to recommit to actually making something that I can then look back on with some semblance of pride. This happens to me everywhere; on podcast appearances, in articles I’m writing and especially casting/hosting EVE tournaments when my head is just not in the game and all I can think about is how much I want to crawl into bed with my girlfriend rather than do this thing that I actually fucking love doing.

When I do really fucking nail it and really give my all to the conversation or production I can absolutely tell, my colleagues can tell and the audience can tell too. A couple of episodes ago on TiS I went on a passion-fuelled rant about why I fucking love the AT and tournaments-play’s inherent value to EVE Online, even beyond the pure fun and joy it brings to those who are into it. Some members of the chat got bored but there are occasions like there where I will get people coming to me years after to say how things I have said or written with this being an example really spoke to and/or for them on a fundamental level which is the best goddamn feeling in the world for me as a creator of “EVE media”. This only drives the rage I have for myself when I am phoning it in and know I can and should be doing a better job, not only for myself but for the people who subject themselves to what I am making and for those who deign to give me any kind of opportunity or platform I have been so lucky to receive.

Even if the time constraint combined with an obligation to hit so many of the current “hot topics” doesn’t restrict you to being a meter wide and an inch deep, the cultural tendency to throw alcohol into the mix only exacerbates the push to the type of sports-team, polarising emotion I spoke about previously. More often than not this turns into a shitshow of not a conversation but of a series of monologues where all sides are arguing vehemently for their team, their opinion or whatever emotional state they are in and want to feel validated for. No-one is listening. Or if they are at all, they’re only listening for their cues to inject their own performed opinion or push, either consciously or subconsciously, the narrative they are clinging so desperate to, to avoid the unfathomable horror of perhaps realising they may be in some small way wrong or heaven forbid conceding a point and actually admitting that failure on the pubic internet of all places without morale-posting about learning experiences

the best episodes or articles  come out [..] when the stars align for someone to open up about their true passion for the game

The best episodes of any EVE podcast or articles I have ever read or listened to, and I think have ever or will ever exist, that provide the most true value, whatever the fuck that is, are when the stars align for someone to open up about their true passion for the game which has been tempered with vast amounts of time, care and experience. It’s these experiences which form our fundamental self-identity and opinion on the hobby that we care too much about, which is then why so often we may shy away from really talking about it beyond or standardized speeches about “yay community” to the point where we reach the end of our understanding about what we are interested in.

The best shows happen when you have people who are really at the top of their game talking about what actually currently excites them, that they have been actively thinking about, ones that they care about and don’t have a pre-articulated argument about and then share with other people at that level, talking on air with colleagues or who can at least ask interesting questions of them. In single-author articles this can come out in those where you can tell that what being written is the summation of months or years of experience and graft and passion being considered and articulated, or where the author, even if they are a subject matter expert, has come out of the creative process with a new level of understanding for the subject material.

I know that the regular news shows dealing with the week to week cannot be expected to speak to us so intimately and directly with the resources we can afford to put into them, but I believe we are greatly lacking in, and deserve, productions such as Inside the Actors studio interviews or the occasional gem of Dan Harmon’s exploration of who he finds himself as on Harmontown. I want media not to force me to pick a side or try to emotionally pull me into a certain way of thinking, I want to feel the moments that are best described in stealing a quote from The History Boys;

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

We are all [..] so afraid of daring to talk about what we truly love, in a positive light, for fear having what we love shat on by 10,000 apathetic nerds

Not merely in the sense of recognition of the relation to the author but in how the author’s perspective and realisation can challenge yours and change you and grow you as a person. This doesn’t need to be only the fundamental nature of the human condition, of what the essence of certain intricacies, of what the concept of love is, but in a shared passion for theorycrafting alliance tournament teams, running fucking awesome production lines or dominating in fleet combat against all the odds. We are all so often so afraid of daring to talk about what we truly love in a positive light for fear having what we love shat on by 10,000 apathetic nerds in the comments trying to feel superior by shitting on someone else’s passion. Or having the tendril of raw, intimate emotion, reaching out to someone else seeking that connection, be rejected or invalidated.

Sure, I am asking for the sun and the moon and the stars to be nicely placed into my lap here, but the near impossibility of such creations occuring does not mean we should lose sight of that goal or be jaded in the effort or those who try to achieve it. One of my favorite EVE podcasts ever is the Grath Telkin interview with EVE University of their tenth anniversary, where he essentially just sticks a tube directly into his heart and which, in what feels like a intimate and honest way, just bleeds passion for something he has seen fit to give such a significant portion of his life to. It’s why i always try to poke Grandpa Randolph or CCP Fozzie to recount their stories of EVE as it was before I was there. Not only does it make for incredible storytelling, but it’s great to share in their perspective and experience of the heights of joy of what an internet spaceship game can offer. And do so such that in some way we experience it for ourselves through them and can then see in our own experiences similarities and new ways of looking at both what experiences we have had and those we want to have in the future.

This is the best way that at 5am on a Thursday morning I can articulate why I think that feeling of community and connection brings us such value, and my frustration and disappointment in the space where we have the potential to share that both with current players and encourage and inspire new ones. We are already inundated with the worst of the opposite end of the spectrum in the toxicity, apathy and emotional stonewalling on reddit/ kugu/wherever that will kill player retention in a social game with far more efficacy than anything CCP could ever do by changing game mechanics.

So why not try to balance the scales?

 

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Tags: apothne

About the author

Apothne

Apothne is a proud member of Sniggerdly and an experienced roaming FC. He is a Guest FC and Lecturer for EVE University and anyone who invites him to ramble on their comms for a few hours. He is currently one of the most active and experienced player commentators for EVE Tournaments, including hosting and casting AT XII-XV and all #EVE_NT leagues, as well as the Amarr Championships on stage at Fanfest 2016.