Away from bustling, CONCORD-policed trading lanes, mission-running suburbia, high profile nullsec conflicts, organised militia fleets; out of the media spotlight and off the grid, there is a gang-ruled underworld. The 1-percenters of EVE roam lowsec in small wolf packs, shunning the mainstream life and traditional ideas of how to ‘win at EVE’.
“I’ve got forty-four notches on my club. Do you know what they’re for? They’re to remind me what I owe God when I die.”– Walter ‘Monk’ McGinn, Gangs of New York
CCP Greyscale once said he ideally envisioned lowsec as dark back alleys where the local gangs who live there have the advantage, being intimately familiar with the lay of the land. Although some of his other statements have been met with criticism, this was spot on. Lowsec shouldn’t be more like nullsec, it should be more like lowsec.
Lowsec has its fair share of organised entities that regularly field mid-sized fleets, especially in Faction Warfare and amongst large and more established ‘pirate’ groups. Nullsec alliances will often pay a visit and duke it out in low security space as well, leaving a massive footprint in intelligence channels as they bulldoze through space. But in between these large and predictable entities – with their army-like fleets, strict doctrines, chains of command and comms discipline – small gangs prowl the paths less traveled and form the essence of an alternative culture of lowsec.
Their ships are often small, few in number and specialised. Like solo PvP-ers, and stemming from much the same culture, they are intimately familiar with their keel, personally fit with great care. They hunt in wolf packs, often numbering only a handful of members.
The life of the small gang outlaw draws those looking for a life off the beaten path and the mainstream. People who for one reason or another can’t or don’t want to conform, march in lockstep, or simply have issues with authority. That is not to say players from all walks of life don’t dabble in small gang fighting on occasion, or that doing so automatically makes you an outlaw, but things change when it evolves from a hobby to a lifestyle choice. These small cliques enjoy a level of freedom and personal authority unknown line pilots, and that is perhaps the main draw.
Many have a background as rank-and-file in nullsec or Faction Warfare militia (in fact some alternate with ‘tours’ in an FW militia, a.k.a. privateers). In the wake of great wars or campaigns, there are those that choose this path, finding it hard to fit into ‘civilian’ EVE life and having had enough of being told what to do. With freedom comes having to fend for yourself however, rejecting traditional, organised corporate, alliance or militia life also means rejecting its safety and infrastructure. Although crews that form tight bonds can offer each other basic forms of support on occasion, going against the grain means you are expected to self-sufficient.
It’s a hard life with often meagre trappings, separating the wheat from the chaff without mercy.
On the level of small gangs, fighting becomes a lot more granular, visceral and personal. A single pilot has little bearing on an 60 man fleet engaged on a gate for instance. When that pilot is killed or participates in a kill, it is barely more than a statistic. The rewards of both the experience itself and the overall meaning for the world around it for a fleet of that size are measured on a grander scale and with a wider lens. So while the pilot is insignificant, the fleet is not. Conversely, when a four man gang finally gets the drop on a opposing gang’s booster and everyone is racing to the spot after two hours of skirmishes, hit ‘n’ runs, baiting and smack talk, the experience is a lot more personal and raw, but is of little significance for the world around it. Those looking for “I was there” -moments do best in selecting the former, those who wish to look their enemy in the eye when they kill them choose the latter.
A gang that goes out one night and gets some fights is one thing, a crew that develops from doing that over a longer period of time evolves into something else. Those that survive and keep on coming carve out a sense of identity for themselves. They’re not just a spike in local any more – over time they develop a reputation amongst their peers, a worthwhile cause for many. At the same time, their kills will not be making any headlines and only have significance for a handful of people.
Gangs that often have run-ins with each other will know one another by name and be familiar with fits and tactics. Every fight becomes another wrinkle in a storied history, at times tracing back for months. While larger fleets and organisations can be motivated by narrative, territory, or simply the pursuit of a fight, they cannot match the small gang crews when it comes to personal revenge, spite and individual respect.
Fly or die
Small gang fighting as a career choice can be stressful – mistakes are never insignificant. It can be a hard life because it does not inherently provide much in the way of income. Outlaw status is never far away and there is no safety net. The deeds of small fleets duking it out in some backwater system mean little for the wider New Eden, and it is many respects its own world.
Meanwhile, it offers a unique sense of personal accomplishment, respect, camaraderie and freedom, unlike any other in EVE.
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Tags: lowlife, niden, small gang PvP