If you lean towards the academic and haven’t yet looked into the University of Minnesota Press’ “Internet Spaceships are Serious Business”, I suggest you pick up a copy and have a read.
Similar to most essay compilations, “Internet Spaceships” presents a mixed bag from the wonderful (Nick Webber’s “EVE Online as History”) to the strange (William Sims Bainbridge’s “Virtual Interstellar Travel”). Like most diligent EVE examinations the book also gets around to talking about goons. “Internet Spaceships’” goon knot resides in chapters 8, 9, 10 and 11. Chapters 8 and 11 are by academics writing about goons while chapters 9 and 10 are authored by former goon Endie and current goon The Mittani. With only 16 chapters in the book goon watching takes up a full quarter of the manuscript. As a long time EVE player, I must say this feels typical. If nothing else goons have a knack of drawing attention.
“Internet Spaceships” was published in March of 2016 meaning the essays were conceived and written well before that. Richard Page’s “We Play Something Awful” (the very essay I’ll be launching off of) lists no personal interviews after 2014 and its bibliography cites nothing later than 2013. Meanwhile EVE Online and the goons that reside there haven’t been static. Much can and has changed in the past three or four years. I’m uncertain whether the Something Awful forums remain a big thing to EVE goons nor am I aware if EVE goons continue to use the term ‘pubbie’. Still, Page’s essay presumes both so here we are.
Expanding on previous academic examinations of emergence (‘emergence’ comes from complex systems theory and describes behavior within complex systems that cannot be predicted by the structure of the system or individual actions), Richard Page explores “an example of emergent play… that did not ‘emerge’ from the interaction of independent people with[in] the game system but rather was imposed on the game from the outside by a preexisting external culture” (p101). Page finds his expansionary example watching the Something Awful comedy website based goons play EVE.
EVE goons, he explains, are insular, authoritarian assholes. “Goons” he reports, “define their uniqueness by their difference. Players who are not goons are ‘pubbies’ and roundly disparaged” (p109). “Among goons in EVE,” Page continues, “being an asshole to pubbies is encouraged whereas internal drama is crushed from above” (p109). “[F]or goons,” Page explains, “being an asshole means refusing to take anything seriously and subverting the systems that other people take seriously” (p109). “Burn Jita” concludes Page, “is more than emergent behavior between players and games, it is the result of a particular group of players attempting to enact their own [subversive] project onto the systems of EVE. Burn Jita occurs because [goons] see themselves as separate from pubbies, and because they treat constructed systems like assholes. This makes Burn Jita a perfect example of how the [external] goon project is enacted” (p112).
If, like far too many empire players, you genuinely believe highsec is supposed to be safe (don’t believe this, you really shouldn’t believe this), then Burn Jita is indeed one giant assholish goon game subverting project rendering Page’s observation directly on point. To achieve subversions like this goons declare a stark us/them separation enthusiastically cooperating ingroup while equally enthusiastically disparaging and maltreating the outgroup. I suppose it might be possible to subvert EVE’s mechanics via unanticipatable outgroup assistance but that’s not very assholish and thus not the goon way. With little doubt, goon’s asshole approach has worked spectacularly well to date. Goonswarm Federation recently reached its millionth kill and that’s no small feat.
Rites of Passage
Tucked away in Page’s essay is a quick examination of goon’s long history with recruitment scams. As he explains, “[Goons] have set up dedicated forums and channels for scamming, including a fake web page to farm application programming interface[s] (APIs). ‘Newbees’ [‘Newbees’? – damn that’s clever] are encouraged to make fast money by running recruitment scams. Many players who want to join goon corps are not aware that membership is limited to those who are already members of the SA forums. Other marks are players who want to move from Empire space to null-sec. Goons are serious about scamming and serious about getting new players in on the action” (p109).
Page mentions recruitment scams as example of goons’ us versus them mentality pointing out that goons are told not to scam allies. While I don’t disagree with this, I do think it odd that Page both declares that goons take nothing seriously while, at the very same time, stipulating that they take scamming seriously. He spouts this seeming contradiction not only in the same essay but on that essay’s very same page. What I believe he overlooks is a different though connected function behind goons’ institutionalized scamming practices beyond simply outgrouping somebody. Encouraging newbees to jump onboard the scam train early via dedicated forums, channels and premade fake web pages also functions as a rite of passage. When successful, recruitment scamming can be a brutal instance of pubbie maltreatment thereby providing newbees initiation into EVE goon’s particular brand of assholishness.
A Pubbie Glitch
What happens if a goon leaves the fold? If I understand correctly, they become pubbies and thus must be roundly disparaged. From my 1,000 AU perspective — I’m not a goon meaning I have no special access to their internal communications — this does seem very much the case.
Goons, or at least high-level goons, rarely depart on good terms. When “Internet Spaceship” contributor Endie packed up and left things got a little ugly. When former CEO Darius JOHNSON stepped away, things got unfriendly. When Karttoon, an even earlier CEO departed (skewering goons on the way out), our “We Play Something Awful” author quotes SA poster Straker delivering the ultimate insult, “Karttoon as you know him isn’t even a J4G [Join 4 Guild], he’s a straight up pubbie. The real Karttoon joined SA when we played Travian together, just to get into our Travian alliance. He’s an OK guy. He later gave someone else in our non-SA, non-EVE clan his SA + EVE accounts. I don’t think any goons actually knew the original owner when he played EVE” (p106). It’s difficult to discern if Straker speaks truth but that’s not really the point. Rather, slandering Karttoon as a closet pubbie is the point.
Departing on unfriendly terms isn’t unique to EVE goons. It happens throughout EVE. That said, goon’s commitment to disparage, mock and maltreat pubbies well-nigh guarantees that former goons will exit on bad terms. In the long run, as players age and evolve, this can prove quite restrictive both for former goons and current goons who can’t remain friendly with departing members.
At EVE Vegas 2015 goons’ The Mittani.com brought author Jeff Edwards along to hawk their Kickstarter funded book “The Fountain War”. Given that Andrew Groen was also at 2015’s EVE Vegas hawking his well in process Kickstarter funded book “Empires of EVE”, Jeff Edward’s goon supported appearance struck me terribly cheeky. Andrew Groen’s work had already garnered much support, was approaching completion and now goons were onsite stealing his thunder. Goons, it appeared, were scaling up from assholing players in game to assholing authors out of game.
Then I saw the goon Kickstarter. $150,000? “Sweet Jesus!” I thought, “That’s a hell of a recruitment scam. One has to admire that scale of moxie.”
Things Get Odd
At this juncture I believe it important to reiterate that I am not a goon. Accordingly, I have no special access to internal goon communication or thinking. Rather, I’m a goon watching pubbie examining their public persona. With that restated, it’s worth exploring why goon’s “The Fountain War,” despite very possibly being a good idea, dropped dead-born at my doorstep. The thing is history matters. After several years of goon watching I’d come to understand that goons don’t do things for me, they do things to me. Unpleasant, assholish things. Consequently, my interpretation of “The Fountain War” proposal was thoroughly laced with suspicion from the very start. “Goons are sticking it to pubbie Andrew Groen.” “Goons are once again attempting to scam me and the other pubbies.” It simply never occurred to me that “The Fountain War” was anything other than another elaborate attempt to crotch kick somebody because crotch kicking is what assholes do.
Accordingly, I was genuinely surprised when, in a histrionic bit of pique, Sion Kumitomo declared bygones and began scolding me about what to do with the bad blood goons had spent years sowing and just “Shake It Off”. “Treating a professional author with mean-spirited hate,” Sion explained, “is a great way to ensure that EVE never, ever, gets a high caliber author. No one will want to deal with ‘that toxic EVE community.’ And authors talk about their ongoing projects, so when his writer buddies ask him what happened, what sorts of stuff do you want Jeff to say? Is that actually the goal, to drive him and anyone else from the outside off?”
Well goon Sion, not being able to crawl into Jeff Edward’s brain, I can’t speak to how your author saw things nor to what he might say about what he saw but I do want to emphasize that he was *your* author — Jeff Edwards didn’t organize “The Fountain War” Kickstarter, you did, he didn’t publicize that Kickstarter, you did and, as best I can tell, all money collected wouldn’t be going directly to Jeff Edwards but rather to your entity: The Mittani Media. Interestingly however, I am confident that whatever your author has to say, it’s very probably extraordinarily different from what fellow professional author (and pubbie beloved) Andrew Groen has to say. It’s simply not my fault that you tainted your author with your history so don’t lay your dead-born Kickstarter at my doorstep.
I may well be veering closely to ‘grr goons’ here. I’m certainly annoyed. Still, having a goon instruct me on the importance of being polite was odd. Very, very odd.
Into the Bizarre
Curiously, goon Sion Kumitomo wasn’t done scolding. But a couple weeks later he penned “Community Matters” declaring participants of the stunningly successful r/eve discussion forum site not a genuine community unlike his Something Awful forum based Goonswarm. “Community Matters” is not only a bizarre piece of prestidigitation, but to this admittedly poorly informed author, also a near classic piece of scapegoating displacement where Sion tosses the shortcomings of his own community’s origin and history onto a hated other. I know not what motivated Sion to write this “I know you aren’t but what am I?” piece but I will comment that, not being able to make heads or tails out of how it was supposed to improve his situation, I’m left to psychoanalyze its origins.
The truly crazy part is that this type of scolding is the very sort of thing that could galvanize a discussion group into a genuine community hell bent on cooperatively pursuing the common goal of punishing the scolder and amazingly, as the Casino’s World War Bee played out, that’s near precisely what happened. Though no large conflict generates out of a single cause, I think it appropriate to view the entire imbroglio generated out of “The Fountain War” an important piece of the puzzle.
“Insular, authoritarian asshole” has its limitations.
“The Fountain War” Kickstarter flopped bringing in only $39,016, a mere 26% of its $150,000 goal.
“The Empires of EVE” Kickstarter flourished bringing in $95,729, a full 765% of its $12,500 goal. Andrew Groen’s book is complete, available and a very good read. I recommend it.
The Mittani.com was rebranded as Imperium News. Sion Kumitomo no longer writes for them.
The Casino’s World War Bee booted the goons and their allies out of the North.
A diminished Goonswarm/Imperium moved south.
Two implacable foes, Test Alliance Please Ignore and Circle of Two eventually followed them there moving in just down the block and war is once again afoot.
I still don’t know if Something Awful is an important goon thing, if goons still encourage newbee recruitment scamming nor if the epithet ‘pubbie’ remains stylish.
CCP eventually declared casinos against the EULA.
I watch and write.
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