CZ Minutes: Now Kiss

One of the many things that sets EVE apart from other MMOs is the strength of the social bonds it not only builds, but upon which so much of its success relies. While EVE is perhaps not quite so ‘real’ as CCP’s marketing materials might suggest, it is an important part of the recreational life of many of its players. These social bonds form an important part of that experience, but the harsh nature of EVE sometimes puts them to the test. In a game where everything is built on trust and self-interest reigns supreme, and which is taken so seriously by its players, interpersonal conflicts bubble to the surface with startling regularity. How do you balance your desire to preserve relationships against your in-game objectives? What methods do you use to resolve disputes? How does your corp, alliance, coalition, or group of friends keep the drama in check, while still addressing issues that might otherwise torpedo your ability to function? How do you preserve friendships that arise out of EVE, even when the going gets rough? Please share your experiences, lessons learned, and the sorts of things which have helped you address the social issues unique to the EVE player’s experience. Hendrick: I’ve noticed that if there are any problems, PL deals with them at an individual level a majority of the time. Obviously if something comes up that affects the entire alliance those higher up in the food chain make the final decision on what happens and how it’s handled… Tarek: I have lead an existence in EVE for a long time that was quite detached from personal involvement with the people I actively played with, but I had two RL friends who were in the game. Both have left by now for different reasons. One helped me to get jobs but we never officially interacted and the other would rather keep me at arm’s length than engage in my play-style, although I tried my dearest to recruit her for my work. I had a bit of verbal sparring with both of them over the EVE and in both cases it was about the Goons. One was with an alliance fighting against Goonswarm and while he was my benefactor, I personally liked the iconoclastic Goons back then and somewhat openly hoped that they would win, which would have been against his in-game interests. We argued a lot about that conflict but we never really had a personal problem with each-other about it. For him they were just the in-game enemy and for me they were some guys who stuck it to “the man” which I liked even if I wasn’t technically on their side. My other friend hated them with a passion not because of EVE but because she despised Something Awful and all it stood for, on top of that she hated nullsec. If you think I am bitter about nullsec you should have heard her. Still, out-of-game we were really good friends. She’s the girlfriend of my oldest and best friend and an amazing person to lock horns with and still avoid conflict on a personal level. I guess I got lucky to have mature friends because over the years I have seen how things can be a lot different. People can have the most petty conflicts which rip apart corporations and even alliances. There was that guy who borrowed money for a carrier and instead of using it for fleets he used it for running sites and lost it. The guy who lent him the the ISK started this whole drama about having him kicked from the corp despite him being one of the few capship pilots we had. Things turned increasingly nasty on a personal level between the two – they were co-workers out-of-game. I saw two guys who were best companions IRL blow up a perfectly working small alliance because of some disagreement they had IRL, so it turns out you can also have RL drama affect the game and not only the other way ‘round. I saw a guy becoming completely obsessed with the loss of some blinged out ratting ships to the point where he got the whole corp kicked from an alliance because he FC’ed a fleet which shot some blues who he considered alts of the guys who ganked him. I could go on and on with similar stories. Luckily I left all of this behind and am now flying with a really chill crew consisting to a large part of weird Germans and even weirder Brits (and one really weird American), and when someone behaves like a dick we dump them on the Caldari 😀 TBH, there was some alliance drama with PERUNGA, but as far as I am aware the main thing that amounted to is that he will get primaried whenever we see him and for the rest everybody is happy he joined Snuffbox so we don’t have to deal with him anymore.
Mynxee: I’ve seen my share of drama in EVE. Its prevalence perhaps speaks to how invested we become in the game and the personas of our characters, and perhaps how relative anonymity removes many of the social influences that normally drive better behavior. To some degree, you have to park your RL expectations of people at the door when you log in. It’s a sandbox; people will behave toward you in ways they never would in RL and the mechanisms for resolving conflicts in RL are not necessarily effective in a game–especially when people keep their RL identities well hidden. Betrayal of trust is probably one of the biggest drama producers in the game. Some of the biggest stories in the game are the result of that. Play for any length of time and most players will experience it themselves. In one situation I was involved with, a friend and corpmate trusted another to move several billions of ISK worth of stuff in a hauler, which was then ganked. The second friend being a former pirate caused the first friend to believe that the gank was orchestrated by the second friend and his pirate buddies. The second friend vehemently denied it but trust is a fragile thing and truth is difficult to ferret out in EVE. There followed great weeping and gnashing of teeth, with me caught in the middle. I could see validity in the positions of both sides, yet was in the very tricky position of not wanting to take either side. That drama unfortunately escalated sufficiently to destroy our formerly cooperative and jovial corp. Players with real life agendas who try to police or manipulate others’ behavior in accordance with those agendas can create huge drama. This is especially true when they treat nonconformist behavior as a personal affront. That happened a few times during my tenure as CEO in Hellcats over some particularly sensitive matters which were complex and subject to a lot of debate with the involved parties and leadership. Ultimately, I had to curbstomp the offenders but getting to a decision to kick them took a lot of time and energy because the issues in question were not easy to resolve…nor necessarily resolvable. The needs of the many had to be considered over the needs of the few in arriving at that decision. These events have conspired to make me completely intolerant of drama in-game. Unfortunately, some people have trouble remembering where the line is between “game” and “real life”. Others are dramamongers with a box of matches who just want to watch the world burn. When those people are outside one’s corp or alliance, it’s a lot easier to deal with them by simply ignoring and not associating with them. Within a corp or alliance, it’s a little more tricky but corp standards of behavior can help in fostering desired corp culture and reducing drama. Standards can range from “anything goes so HTFU or GTFO” or something closer to the “Golden Rule” but having them helps define expectations and what constitutes out-of-line behavior. In my current corp, we have a very clear credo which everyone agrees to before they join. People who don’t adhere to it are…as they say…”dealt with”. One or a few bad apples cannot be allowed to ruin it for everyone else. Taking swift action to remove habitual drama llamas is probably one of the best ways to keep drama in check and allow everyone else in the corp to feel confident that the corp culture they signed up for will be maintained. ChasingShadows Niden: In many ways, as Tarek alluded to, we are both fortunate enough to be in one of the most relaxed and chill PvP alliances in the game. I know this because I talk to nullsec people all the time and compared to the levels of toxicity and just sheer weapons-grade sperging they endure (and sometimes perpetuate) on a daily basis, we seem like the most cultivated and civilised people you’ve ever seen. Overall I think it’s a lowsec thing, people around my neck of the woods will gladly shittalk each other but at the end of the day, that stays in the client. Big egos get ground down pretty fast and the majority of people who have spent any time in lowsec learn a type of humility that only comes through endless fighting and getting your ass kicked. I think it also has to do with what type of people lowsec attracts. Posers and ISK hoarders are quite uncommon, people come here for the fighting and the good times. The stakes aren’t quite as high as you would find in a large nullsec alliance or in a hardcore WH corp/alliance. We don’t run the same risk of corp theft, or people getting salty because a fleet was welped, and people are too busy getting to the next fight for ridiculous political grandstanding. However, I’ve recently entered the role of an alliance-level diplomat, and with that territory comes having to handle conflicts between people and managing the interests of the alliance and our associates. That sometimes means I have to put those interests above personal relations and can lead to some friction, both internally and externally. Thankfully, the culture of civility we have developed within the alliance and my experience as Editor-in-Chief here at CZ help me manage those conflicts. I think the best way to solve when personal or RL connections clash with ingame organisational interests is through communication and civility. But it is unavoidable that you sometimes end up in situations where you potentially have to fuck a friend over in order to resolve a conflict of interests. It becomes murky however, because when you spend as much time as we do with people in EVE, the client itself becomes nothing more than the medium through which you communicate and socialise. You build relationships that are no different than those to your RL friends. The best way to go about it is to make absolutely damn sure that you do your best not to take in-game interests outside of the game itself. It becomes difficult however, because people invest their feelings into any relationships that have lasted a while, and the amount of time people spend in building something ingame gains personal value. So when either of those things suffer at the hands of in-game shenanigans, feelings get hurt. PS: The thing about Perunga that Tarek mentioned was more mob mentality than anything else in my opinion, I don’t think he was that bad at all. He was an excellent FC and I never had a problem with him. I think it’s a classic case why you shouldn’t just join in with the haters without asking yourself if you actually have a good reason to agree, lest you take part in a public lynching just because you get caught up in peer pressure. I’m sure Perunga pissed some people off with some of his shenanigans, but he’s getting a far worse rep than he deserves. We all pretend we have thick skin, but what people say matters, don’t misuse it. Oh Takashawa: So this topic is close to my heart, because EVE has taught me a ton over the last 7+ years about interpersonal relationships in quasi-professional (i.e. EVE leadership) environments. Years ago, I ran a griefing corp with a close friend of mine – he and I were the only directors, and I had the CEO character. All the corp members were close friends, meaning that any personal conflicts were particularly challenging to deal with as they incorporated close friendships, not just interactions between people who had responsibilities. To make a long story short, things got ugly and I had to relieve my fellow director, and close friend, of his position. That sucked. I was like 22 years old and that was really tough for me. We stayed friends, though, and I think a large part of that is because, with time, we kept the two issues separate, and we confronted the issues we faced, head-on. Today, I think the most important factor in dispute resolution in EVE communities is to be direct. The online medium strips out so many opportunities for interaction and nonverbal communication that it’s important not to let things fester. One of the strange upshots to PL’s no-holds-barred environment, I think, is that issues tend not to fester – people see an opportunity and a willingness to speak their mind, get their trolling out, and see what comes of it. Our world works on merit – post a callout or confront the person, and the person whose choices and arguments are more deserving of merit, tends to win the general consensus, and we accept and move on with that. It’s cathartic, in a way, to post a ten plus page callout thread against Manny when we welp a bunch of titans, because even to the tiny extent anyone might blame him personally for that brawl, we post some ridiculous shit and go on with life, and we’re better off for it. That doesn’t always work, though. One of the things I struggle with a lot, and that is most important, is to keep separate your interpersonal relationships and the “business” of internet spaceships. I have close friends in my corp, with whom I bicker about everything, with gusto, but it’s important for me to always remember that I’m grumpy about this person’s EVE choices – they’re still my friend. That self-awareness, that mindfulness, which I try to have permeate my interactions with those I consider friends as well as space-friends, is the key to it, for me. That’s how you get by, and how you keep things working. Be mindful, and be frank. Rip off the bandaid – it’s better to just get it over with.
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About the author


12 year EVE veteran, Snuffed Out scumbag, writer, graphic artist, producer, Editor-in-Chief of Crossing Zebras and the second most influential player in EVE, according to EVE Onion.