CZM: Judging JudgementNiden
The events of the so called Judgement Day will have escaped no one. It sent waves that reached as far as the mainstream media, and has people yet again talking about that weird game EVE Online, for better or worse.
The details of the heist and the events that followed have been well documented and talked about here as well as elsewhere. However, we found ourselves debating the moral values at play in the Crossing Zebras staff chat, and found them to be polarising.
We pose the questions to the CZ team: What kind of moral values do you attach to the actions of the various key persons in this event, primarily The Judge and gigX? What part of their actions could be viewed as morally justified, and which ones are reprehensible to you? From a moral standpoint, how do you view the reactions from the community and CCP? Are there ethical aspects of this you think should be highlighted and what kind of repercussions do you think this will all have for the EVE community going forward? Do we have moral standards in EVE? Should we, and if so, why?
(A reminder to our readers: what you see below is the latest installment of the CZ Minutes, the unedited, unfiltered opinions of our writers.)
This entire affair has been weighing on me for a while so let me vent a bit. Before I start my rant though, I want to preface it by saying that there is no defending gigX’s words and actions. What he said, both the attempt to find The Judge’s real life details and the (Whether direct or implied) threat of chopping off his hands is inexcusable. He deserved a ban but, and it is a big but, it should have been a temporary one and I’ll elaborate on this later on.
Trust is the most valuable commodity in this game
First off, it is no secret that I disapprove of scamming and stealing. I am okay with it being in the game, after all this is a sandbox and people should be free to break the rules if they choose to. However, there are repercussions to actions. Trust is the most valuable commodity in this game and The Judge squandered it all for his petty revenge. That said, it is his business. The players he hurt and the assets he stole are his to deal with henceforth. What I found distasteful and taking things beyond the norm for such actions was what he did after the theft was discovered.
The Judge decided to then stream both Circle-Of-Two’s alliance chat and later its teamspeak server in what can only be described as sadistic glee. After all he robbed these people of their space by locking down all their assets in citadels that now belonged to their enemies. With few actions he managed to defeat a recovering, and some say a resurging, Circle-Of-Two with no shots fired. Clearly he had done enough damage to bring the alliance to its knees. There was no need to screen the agony of its membership for the viewing pleasure of the rest of the cluster.
This is the point where The Judge crossed a line. You can claim that the theft was immoral by itself, but torturing the line members, which in his nicely written and proven false by his actions, reddit thread he claimed to care about was simply sadistic. Whether or not it was all a ruse to get gigX banned knowing he’d make such death threats (After all they worked together for 5 years) is up to The Judge to reveal. If he did then his sin doubles as he knowingly led another player into committing a bannable offense. There is no grey there, just black.
Neither side can really claim of holding the moral high ground. gigX is an abrasive individual who speaks his mind and does whatever he wants to, even to the detriment of his own alliance. The Judge is a thief. Full stop. The moment he stole alliance assets, which by their definition belong to the entire collective known as Circle-Of-Two, he threw whatever thin justification he had about giving it to gigX. Neither individual is blameless and neither individual can claim to be wholly in the right.
each of us can decide his or hers’ own morality
It is part of the allure of EVE Online that each of us can decide his or hers’ own morality. We can draw our own red lines and decide for ourselves what is and is not right. The only red lines that we as a community draw together are when things become, as they say, “Real”. When the harassment or threats move from the game world into the real world. We have an unspoken agreement that what happens in the game remain there and thus bitter enemies who meet in Fanfest, EVE Vegas, EVEsterdam or any other player meet ups, treat each other cordially in the real world setting.
gigX betrayed that covenant. However the backlash from the community wasn’t against banning gigX. In fact, most people I talked to from various alliances all agreed that he should have been banned. There is no disputing that fact. The backlash against CCP Games stems from something else entirely. The reason for the outrage comes from what looks like an arbitrarily enforcement of the rules.
Players encounter verbal abuse daily. Threats of violence are sadly commonplace but never cross the threshold of the screen. Whether this is acceptable or not is a separate debate. What is certain is that CCP Games rarely, if ever, enforces the rules in regards to these cases. Only when incidents gain enough public traction do we see developers scrambling to place bans. Often times we are told that the matter had been handled or a ticket is simply closed and the next day we encounter those same players as though nothing had happened.
It is understandable then that when gigX made a threat and suddenly received a ban almost instantaneously while hundreds, if not thousands, of similar offenders have said worse and got away with it that people feel angry. They feel gigX was wronged because CCP Games had turned a blind eye to most cases but suddenly, just because of the media profile the entire affair garnered, they felt pressured to enforce rules they have neglected for years. gigX is guilty, no doubt about it, but what about the thousands of other, no less guilty players, which had been given a free pass until now? Nothing.
That is what infuriates many, including myself. The only consistency CCP Games has shown is its inconsistency when it comes to enforcing the End User License Agreement (EULA). Players rile time after time over exploits and abuses of the EULA only for CCP Games to do nothing or make a decision long after the impact had already been felt throughout the EVE Online eco-system. Repeat offenders get at best a slap at the wrists or lose an account only to continue from where they left off while other players whose transgressions are minor in comparison get hit with the full force of the banhammer because they ran afoul of developers.
People are shouting and pointing at The Mittani incident not because it is relevant, it is not, but because they feel in the pit of their stomach that this is a repeat of that debacle. CCP Games once again acting only when pressured but instead of giving a limp wristed response like last time, chose to go overboard. The fact that gigX was permanently banned without even an option to issue a public apology and get a commuted sentence struck many as CCP Games’ posturing. The fact that forum debate had been so thoroughly crushed by CCP Games’ response further illustrates this point.
Players want the rules to be clear, not just buried in some EULA that few, if ever, bother to read. Playerunknown Battlegrounds made its code of conduct part of the game’s lobby so players can always click and read what is and is not accepted behavior. EVE Online doesn’t have that, and whatsmore, CCP’s lack of enforcement had shown us that most of the rules can be disregarded as punishment if any is rarely severe unless you are someone of importance or dealing with people who have a direct line to CCP Games headquarters.
We want to know that we are all equal before the law
That is the gist of it. We want to know that we are all equal before the law, that we are all subject to the same rules and if we go out of line we are punished justly. Our punishment should be proportional to the offense and mitigated somewhat by circumstance. gigX found himself in the public eye after being hauled out of bed by the news of his creation, the thing he poured years of work into, all gone in an instant. Any man or woman would be expected to lose their cool, especially when a trusted subordinate turns to be the main culprit behind it. It should have been a mitigating factor in his sentencing. CCP Games though, decided to apply the full punishment without even explaining its verdict. The news sites wanted blood and CCP Games was happy to deliver it.
If there is any conclusion to be drawn from the entire affair is that gigX was a victim of his own bad temper and judgement. None of it excuses his actions but his sentencing shows that in EVE Online, some pigs are more equal than others. The Judge is such one. All that is left to common players is to pray to the heavens for justice, because it sure as hell more likely to be answered than a support ticket.
I believe in the strict delineation of ingame and out of game
I believe in the strict delineation of ingame and out of game. In stealing the assets and transferring them to opponents, I have zero issues. EVE is a game which contains sabotage, theft, clandestine deals made under the cover of darkness (or in this case the eternal sunlight of the frozen north). It’s not one of my hobbies in the game, but it is certainly a valid playstyle and I don’t think any less of the Judge for partaking in it. The streaming of comms and chat for tears and forum porn is distasteful and I’d rather not go into that topic, but there is one other thing I’d like to mention.
gigX by all account is and has been an abrasive asshole for years. If the reports of how he treated members of his alliance and leadership team are true then a theft and betrayal like this seems not only unsurprising but inevitable. As an outsider to the issue, I am somewhat sad that we may be permanently losing gigX from the game. What he said and did is entirely reasonable for a permaban, I don’t believe CCP or their staff has done anything objectionable in their handling of this case. That said, I do have some sympathy for gigX and as someone who has not suffered under him I am sad to lose him from the game. His alliance which he had run and sacrificed so much time and effort for, for years, imploded in hours through betrayal of one of his inner circle. I can naturally understand an emotional response, though perhaps it would have been better to step away from the computer and punch a wall or something before making RL threats.
Neither gigX or The Judge are pure villain or hero in my mind
Neither gigX or The Judge are pure villain or hero in my mind, both are flawed characters in the story with good and bad. Being Team Judge or Team gigX would be a gross oversimplification.
For al his flaws, gigX was counterculture to the trend of taking the easy route to growing a null-bloc scale alliance, through diplomacy and playing nice, being a good, obedient little player of the meta, keeping things stable for the big boys. He was willing to fight for his food, even if it meant the death of the alliance, rather than selling part of its soul for an easier ride. This is a game after all, and even if you believe the alliance meta is the final endgame, playing on easy mode surely has limits to how rewarding it can be (says the PL line member). If I ever become a corp or alliance leader in any fashion, I hope I will be able to stick to those convictions through the toughest of times as I believe having groups in the game who operate like that better it for all of us. Though preferably I’d do it without being an asshole, making people hate playing the game with me and breaking the EULA. Yep. That would be better.
Part of the reason that people play EVE Online is because events like this can occur. Betrayals and drama of this level are unknown almost everywhere else in MMORPGs.
As far as in-game morals, I don’t think they can be measured objectively. People play for different reasons. Their idea of acceptable and unacceptable behavior are going to vary widely. If it doesn’t violate the ToS, then it’s anything goes.
There are lots of gamestyles that I don’t personally like, such as high sec wardeccers and Jita scammers, but since they don’t violate the ToS, they continue.
The issue of morals come into play out of game. Personal attacks, malware, DDOS, are not unknown in EVE’s playerbase. This kind of stuff can’t be tolerated.
Those actions cannot be justified or tolerated
In the recent drama, the escalation of threats from within New Eden to real life crosses the line. GigX made repeated threats over several hours. No one forced him to say and type those things. Those actions cannot be justified or tolerated.
While The Judge’s betrayal was a serious blow to Circle of Two, they could have recovered. Several groups have recovered from similar downturns and regained their strength. But due to GigX’s personal actions, this is now basically impossible. GigX killed CO2, not The Judge.
Many CO2 members and some onlookers have tried a lot of ‘whataboutism’ to justify GigX’s actions and paint his punishment as unjust, but they are simply wrong. GigX crossed a line that should never be crossed and is paying the price.
Further, the idea that CSM members should not be ‘playing the meta’ when at the summit is laughable. They are elected to represent the interests and concerns of their supports, whether that is a playstyle or a specific group. Expecting this to be turned off at a summit is naive and contrary to the basic open sandbox play of EVE Online.
Going forward, the only real change is that the list of conspiracy theory memes will include, “planned at the CSM summit”.
I’m going to focus more on the raw systems that were at play in the situation rather than boil down in morals and what should or shouldn’t have happened since my CZ-patriots really nailed that aspect in.
First and foremost, everything that happened was ingame and it was all completely legal and in accordance to EVE’s EULA, as well as its track-record for being a fantastic sandbox MMO offering options aplenty to its player-base.
I’m going to start with gigX’s ban because that’s the more divisive matter.
the laws of the land of this game that we all approve of when we click ‘OK’ on that EULA statement
All that matters is that someone reported him on what he had said in-game, reaching CCP-GM’s ears which they then acted upon it. It doesn’t matter if the chat was streamed, and chat-streaming has forever been completely fine and legal. There is no talk to be had around the ‘what if Judge asked CCP during the CSM summit if it was alright!?’ angle, since it doesn’t matter, any member present in that chat could and had the right to report that kind of language. It also doesn’t matter whether gigX was an alliance leader or a common player in the end, and it’s also not constructive to go into the “but what about this guy i reported five years ago that told me to go kill myself in local?!”, since the very reason GMs in general in MMOs do not take kindly to open discussion of their actions is because it all varies from situation to situation. We don’t know how many other reports gigX had against him and if they were maybe swept under the rug so far just because of his prominence as a player. The length and wide-account-spread of the ban also doesn’t matter since CCP’s internal policies and ‘aggression’ can change from year to year and it’s useless to try and compare between two situations. In the end, it doesn’t matter, he did a bad thing in-game and got banned because of it as are the laws of the land of this game that we all approve of when we click ‘OK’ on that EULA statement. We have to remember, the EULA is a toolbox and a legal backing for CCP to act and enforce. It did just that.
Now, the Judge. He did exactly this. He used all the gameplay and possibilities the game allowed him and he pushed the right buttons. End of day, he played EVE Online, and from this point of view he did nothing more than what he was completely within his abilities allowed to him by the game.
On both sides, it’s nice to think that each of them 4D-chessed the other and this was some great masterplan goon-plot or some very sadistic and resentful player sociopathically lying to people, or just thinking gigX was universally horrible person, a devil-villain incarnate, but all of that would be wrong since absolutely nothing is black and white, in EVE, nor in real life.
But somehow, just somehow, all of this rings very strange and reeks of bad-mojo to the EVE community of 2017, when if this were to have happened seven-eight years ago, it probably would have been one of the classical stories retold time and again.
Why is that? Why has the reception chilled?
…whether we, as a community, have changed
We have to wonder whether not EVE itself changed, but whether we, as a community, have changed; grown up maybe, become more sensitive or just taking things more/too seriously? That’s a lot to talk about, but the core of the matter is that the actions that were effected in-game didn’t change, but the perception on said actions did.
And maybe that deserves more of our time and attention rather than to mindlessly point fingers and to muck around in the mud-pits trying to pull out a crystal-clear jewel of an explanation that would make all of this make sense to everyone at the same time; an impossibility.
In closing, my absolute personal opinion, not knowing personally either Judge or gigX or having even been on comms with either of them, is that i can understand Judge’s explanation, that of ‘hard-love’ pushing line-members to get out of CO2/gigX’s reach, whether it was bullshit or not. And if that falls apart and The Judge really is ‘the bad guy’ in this scenario, can we really blame him for just wanting to ‘be done’ and exiting the situation in a big, break-out, classical-EVE, way?
There is nothing new to these sort of incidents
I’ve reached that point in my bitter vet’ness that I wonder what the fuss is really about. There is nothing new to these sort of incidents that hasn’t happened before: trillions of ISK doesn’t seem like a big number any more, alliances and their leaders imploding is an inevitability, and someone trying to take credit for the drama in the vain hope that appear like their reach exceeds their grasp. Oh, and CCP’s ban policy continues to be obscure and not user friendly to those who like to fly in grey areas; I’m sure there’s a blog out there outlining how it’s all part of CCP Falcon’s personal vendetta and/or general incompetence.
To put the whole event in context, it was just a flash in the pan compared to a high-profile YouTuber getting DMCA’d for what might be termed racism by some or poor language choice by others, but whether you’re an international content creator or limited to the small corner of the internet concerned with New Eden and her denizens, there are uncountable counter-examples of people doing exactly what higher profile individuals are being nailed to a cross for.
The difference, of course, is profile. There is a certain necessity for companies these days to engage in some degree of selective rule enforcement due to the impossibility of policing everything. There is also an element of being seen to do the right thing when under the uncomfortable spotlight of attention. However, this tokenism can lead to a community where such bad behaviour isn’t just tolerated, but accepted as the norm and only punished in the most egregious cases that have or might attract the wrong type of attention: the press.
…dedicated to eliciting and celebrating a frothy rage that makes gigX look like a cuddly panda
It’s already a bit too late for EVE. There are blogs and alliances out there dedicated to eliciting and celebrating a frothy rage that makes gigX look like a cuddly panda. In a race to the bottom, edgy for EVE has been declined into dodgy ISK making schemes that exploit real-life gamblers, the nebulous threats of social engineering, hacking, and doxxing by the more hardcore “metagamers”, and psychological torture and exploitation. CCP aren’t in a position to stop it as it adds to the game’s allure as a “hard” and “dark” game and any major action might risk alienating their sadistic subscribers, many of whom rally in defense of the game being the way it is every time it is threatened. The occasional fundraising for charity is a small bandaid on a morally bankrupt community that never got much past a teenager’s dystopian fantasy.
But the truly terrifying thing about EVE is how elements of it have been almost prophetic with regards to real world politics: the rise and growing power of demagogy, anti-intellectualism, and fascistic politics was going strong in New Eden before the world caught up with it. And EVE players have proved just an incapable of fighting it in the virtual world as real life liberal leftists struggling with populism today to protect basic civil liberties, let alone promote their style of governance. I see the tools and tricks employed by the less scrupulous EVE organisations appearing in the seedier side of politics.
And I can’t help but see that as a failure. Games are meant to be forms of escapism, so when a community falls into the trap of emulating and enabling the drama and patterns of real life, the escapism is lost. The dream of an interesting, microcosmic society isn’t interesting when it’s no different from the greater society we already have.
So where does that leave EVE morally? We’re stuck with best-effort enforcement that’s will always have more priorities for corporate protection than the protection of all individuals. We’re stuck with uninteresting caricatures who chase the lowest common denominator with little care for the consequences of their polarised masses. And the best of us are still complicit in tolerating both the worst and those that defend them. This sacrificial lamb doesn’t change the nature of the community and the unhealthy elements that have and continue to rot within it.
I won’t go into too much details on the events themselves, because my honorable colleagues have already covered this so admirably. Instead, I’d like to elaborate on what I think moral dilemmas such as this mean for us, EVE players, and for our community in New Eden.
But let’s first get the basics out of the way: like Apothne, I too believe that the line between what happens in EVE and what happens in RL should be absolute. As a pirate enlisted in the Caldari Militia, I spend most of my time seeking out and (hopefully) destroying not only those degenerate Gallente Militia pilots, but also any old bypasser who happens to be in lowsec. I’ll shoot and pod even the most hapless of new players. I personally don’t scam and I always honor ransoms, but I don’t really think too negatively of those who do. It’s poor form, you know, but all within the bounds of this wonderfully gritty game we call our sandbox.
That makes it quite simple for me where I stand with regards to the protagonists of the day.
– Yes, I think the Judge pulled off an amazing heist, but I would not ever let him anywhere my own corporation or alliance. Would I ever do this myself if I had the opportunity? Not in a million years. By simultaneously destroying the holdings and removing the leader of CO2, thousands of players lost not only their assets, but also their home in EVE, their community. Do you want to be the guy responsible for hurting so many people? I sure don’t.
– Yes, I think gigX deserved to be banned, because it’s a high profile case of someone breaking perhaps the most important rule of them all: no RL threats, but I don’t necessarily believe he would ever act on this threat, made in the heat of the moment. People say silly things under stress, but should that be a reason to let them get away with everything? No.
What’s more interesting is how we all react to these events. Do we reach out towards the affected players, or do we LOL at them from their own Keepstar? Do we make light of the idea of doxxing or of real life threats, or do we continue to take those offenses seriously? Do we look at what really happened when we talk about this all, or do we hash up old memed events, or even spread fake news that suits our position better?
just how much negativity or “edginess” you choose to tolerate
Each of us individually, but also each corporation and every alliance, has a moral choice to make: just how much negativity or “edginess” you choose to tolerate in your time in EVE is entirely up to you.
If your alliance leadership doxxes, blackmails or threatens people; if your Corp’s chat, Jabber or Slack pours over with demeaning, offensive, or racist memes – it’s up to you to decide if you want to support that.
Because none of that is part and parcel of EVE itself. We have allowed it, collectively, to spread into the culture of many organizations in the game, that is true. But it does not have to be this way. You can speak up to your leadership, or you can leave – there are plenty of corporations out there that explicitly do not tolerate any of this douchebaggery, that actively remove people for truly antisocial behavior.
In the same way, I personally would not want to be associated with the Judgement in any way. It’s too much, too real, to be classified as collecting tears. The collapse of CO2 was part of the game, yes, for sure.
But to kick the ex-CO2 members while they’re eating dirt, through no fault of their own? No thank you. I’d see myself out the door.
Is EVE a game or isn’t it?
Is EVE a game or isn’t it? If EVE is a game than one of the things that makes it a game is its separation from real life. Games have their own rules — that’s what makes them games.
It’s important to get clear on what, exactly, that separation is. The separation is not that games and real life can’t mix. In game actions may well have real life consequences. I used to play in chess tournaments that could win me real life money. Accordingly, thoroughly thrashing my opponents and/or being thoroughly thrashed by them affected all our real life pocketbooks. Being a poor college student at the time, a big win (or loss) made noticeable difference. Still, neither I nor any of the other players understood our play to be *morally* consequential. None of us felt obligated to take the other players’ pocketbooks into consideration as we contested across the board. We just moved our pieces and the money fell where it fell. That was the game we were playing. Those were its rules.
EVE is no different. The Judge followed EVE’s rules and he is still with us. gigX broke EVE’s rules and he is no longer with us. CCP creates and adjudicates those rules. Morally, there’s little more to be said. The Judge had no weighty moral obligations to balance when considering his treachery and gigX had no weighty moral obligations to balance when choosing to disband his coalition. This is the game we play. These are its rules.
I’m genuinely stunned that gigX didn’t know The Judge’s real life identity. I’ve never managed to interact with my EVE friends at scale without real life leaking in. By any reasonable measure, they weren’t real life friends. Accordingly, it’s unrealistic to impose real life moral obligations on their relationship. This is the game we play. These are its rules.
Allow me to start by asking you this: at what point do virtual assets start mattering to you? At what point do you feel the loss of your ship more than you would a loss of a life in an arcade-style game? When you lose a battleship? Maybe a carrier, supercarrier or even a titan is what it takes to make you really feel it? Maybe it’s more of a fleet or group effort thing for you – losing a fight or a campaign, or being outmaneuvered in the metagame perhaps?
Whatever it is, imagine that thing, that value that has passed the threshold where something that happens in the virtual world of EVE actually means something to you, where a loss actually hurts. Now, I want you to try and imagine magnifying that feeling a couple of hundred times. The end of years worth of work for you and your friends. Your source of community and entertainment when you want to leave RL behind for a time. A thing you have invested many hours of your actual, one-time-only life in to build, something you are proud of even though it is “virtual” (as if a game of chess, football or tennis is more “real” – it isn’t, it’s just created with simpler tools). Imagine all of it snuffed out in a matter of hours, and being broadcast live to thousands of people who jeer and make fun of your demise. You go to bed and all is fine, you wake up in the morning to the burning ruins of what you have helped build plastered all over the internet and making its way even to mainstream media.
Imagine all this, then ask yourself, how would you react? How much would you feel the loss? We would all like to think that we would be reasonable, collected, acting within the limits of what’s accepted in the systems of law which maintain both our RL and virtual lives. But at what point does a person stop being reasonable? How much pain does it take for a person to start to bend the moral structure that normally governs their lives and interactions with the people around them? Maybe it just casts a shadow on your day and you find yourself irritable and have a hard time focusing at the office, or maybe it hits you worse than that.
Obviously, for gigX, that threshold where you forget to stay within certain lines was reached. While his reactions are obviously morally abhorrent and crossed lines that should not be crossed, let’s set that aside for now. In fact, let’s set gigX himself aside for now. Let’s instead focus on the pain that was caused to the members of Co2 in general – victims of the actions of both The Judge and gigX.
This is the dark side of one of the central tenets of what makes EVE unique
This is the dark side of one of the central tenets of what makes EVE unique in mainstream gaming: the prospect of loss that actually means something to the person experiencing it. And one has to remember that Judgement Day was a massive blow for a lot of people in Co2, not just gigX. That thing that they had helped build in EVE was just dealt a mortal blow, and for better or worse, they really felt it. However, it was exactly this quality that meant that it really did feel like revenge for the Imperium for instance. (However, I leave how much of the credit should be placed with them to the discretion of the reader.)
Objectively but empathetically viewed, this pain has substance, it can be felt. However, horrible as it may be for the people affected and for some onlookers, it is vital that this pain exists in EVE. It is exactly the same principle that is at play when you lose a Kestrel or an Avatar. The prospect of real loss grants meaning to the thing itself and a sense of victory and accomplishment to the opponent. The building and flying of a ship, the building and actions of a corp, alliance or even coalition. It all has meaning because losing them matters.
At the end of the day, events like Judgement Day are as essential and crucial to EVE and it’s community as balance, game design, player meetups, recruitment drives, and everything else that makes EVE unique in the gaming world. Compromise enough on the foundations that set it apart and EVE becomes just like any other game, which, inevitably, means it would soon be consigned to the history books.
The thing to take away from this is that you should be careful how much of your personal feelings you invest into EVE, because if you let it, it will take more than is healthy. Remember that all the feeling you put into the “bank of EVE” is automatically also at risk and that by engaging with EVE – both in the client and outside of it – means you are agreeing to put it at risk. Be honest with yourself about how you would react if the worst were to happen, could you stand for the way you would act if it did?
I suggest an addition to The Golden Rule: Only feel what you can afford to lose.
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