Greed And Loathing In New EdenTarek Raimo
I imagine that virtually everyone who comes here to read this piece will be familiar with the escalating war of words around the ill-received Fountain War kickstarter. Don’t worry, I do not intend to carry on with this discussion. Instead, I would like to address all the involved parties to emphatically ask them:
Please Settle Down Everyone
In my last piece I wrote about the various ways how EVE players can lose themselves in the game and begin to develop tunnel vision as they overly focus on their goals. For some that can even become an obsession which generates an attitude potentially alienating for new players and existing ones alike. The results of such obsessive behaviour have been demonstrated in the previous week, and it is time that we all take a deep breath and reconsider our actions and statements, because we can, collectively, be better than that.
We are a player community who are rightfully proud of our achievements. Many among us are creative, smart, dedicated, cunning, loyal, determined and adaptable way beyond anything you routinely see in other games. It is not for nothing that people write academic theses about us, make documentaries about us and write down the history of the greatest conflicts in our gaming past. Even the craziest and most malicious among us create great works. No matter how twisted or deluded we might find them, we have to respect even the achievements of people such as Gevlon Goblin, Erotica 1 or James315. They all pour considerable effort into their different schemes and campaigns and even the more casual EVE player can refer to a large body of knowledge, tactics and methods which sustain them in one of the most unforgiving gaming universes ever created.
“That we will fail is something virtually every player learns at some point in their career.”
Still, we are not infallible. Top tier combatants like Pandemic Legion’s tournament professionals can be beat by a much smaller group like the Tuskers. Elaborate scammers can run afoul of public opinion when they overplay their hand and even the leaders of the largest and most well organised group in the game can fail to mobilise their community for a project. That we will fail is something virtually every player learns at some point in their career. The question is how we deal with failure when – not if – it happens. This does not only apply to our own mistakes, but also those of others.
The mature among us, who have the necessary distance and retain their ability for self-reflection, will look at their failures and try to learn from them. At the same time we acknowledge that practically every mistake a player can make has been made by someone else before. Who of us can say they have never fit a ship in an entirely stupid way, that they never lost a fleet when making the wrong call in an engagement, that their market schemes never lost them large amounts of ISK or that they didn’t fall for a stupid trap they could have avoided in hindsight if only they had paid attention? Mocking others for doing something stupid like that is just as immature as ragequitting because of a loss. In that respect, it is absolutely unwarranted to point at TMC and the Goons and laugh at them for failing with the Kickstarter project. Such behaviour is just a very simplistic reflex which probably comes from the impulsive enjoyment to see someone lose who is otherwise “winning EVE”.
“While ‘losing EVE’ is not really a tangible thing, losing yourself in EVE absolutely is…”
One can not truly win EVE though. It is not for nothing that “winning EVE” is a euphemism for quitting the game at a high point. The reverse is also true. Nobody can really lose at EVE except by leaving the game when they convince themselves that they have indeed lost. There is a nuance I would add to that last statement though: While “losing EVE” is not really a tangible thing, losing yourself in EVE absolutely is and that is where the events of last week provide a lesson for all of us, whether we are a newbie in Pandemic Horde, among the inner circle of Goonswarm or just any random person who writes comments on reddit.
The Separative Self
This term was introduced by economist and sociologist Paula England. What she describes with it is the dichotomy which arises from the role people are supposed to take in the context of work, business, finance and politics as opposed to the behaviour that is expected from them in the sphere of personal social interaction, particularly within the family.
A woman running a business will have to take rational and sometimes even ruthless decisions to be successful in the marketplace, but with her family she is also expected to be a caring mother and loving wife. A man in politics will often face the constraints of realpolitik. He might have to compromise with opponents and possibly even betray his ideals, but he is also expected to be faithful as a husband and nurturing as a father. There are many such examples and we find them in our online interactions as well.
A fleet commander can not hesitate to order an attack while weighing the ethical considerations of the engagement. An alliance leader will have to make sure their members have the opportunities and content they wish for, and indeed the founders of a major news site will want it to sustain itself financially, maybe even generate an income that can be used for further projects. At the same time we have to remain social human beings and part of a community. We can’t go to Fanfest or any other EVE meetup and have fistfights over our game related issues. At that point we ideally all become just EVE players and leave our grievances at the door, no matter how ruthless and malicious the actions of our in-game personae may be.
“Given the right conditions we can all fall into the trap of gravitating towards our EVE selves…”
I am of course aware that I am also talking about a rather special demographic here. Some of us may be too socially challenged to deal with the dilemma that the Separative Self saddles us up with. People with autism spectrum disorders are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to making this leap and I am sure there are more than enough of those among the EVE players. They are not the only ones who can run into this difficulty though. Given the right conditions we can all fall into the trap of gravitating towards our EVE selves rather than staying who we are supposed to be as social human beings who can be part of a community.
In fact I can admit that I myself fell into that trap.
Last Fanfest some of us GalMil guys spotted two people from Razor Alliance. In the previous year, Razor had deployed to our area of lowsec and declared war against all of Gallente Militia (yes, they actually issued a wardec to each GalMil corp). We pretty much wasted them in terms of kills and ISK. We also felt that we had achieved a clear moral victory. All we could think of in the face of two lone Razor guys was trolling the shit out of them. It became a bit more good natured soon, but not because of us. We still engaged in gloating and immature behaviour, but the two Razor guys just ignored our jabs and engaged in conversation from one EVE player to the other.
“They had behaved like mature and social human beings while we just acted like a bunch of stupid teenage boys.”
The stupidity of our behaviour did not fully sink in until I met the two guys again at EVEsterdam. They saw us and greeted us like friends. They also did one of the best presentations I have ever seen by EVE players. On the inside, I felt like a total idiot. They had behaved like mature and social human beings while we just acted like a bunch of stupid teenage boys. We had been unable to separate from our in-game selves.
That little anecdote has since stuck in my mind as a reminder of how we are all prone to make mistakes like that and that we should never forget it. Of course, in-game opposition is only one of the factors that can trigger such problematic behaviour. Things can become much worse when money is involved.
The Colour Of Money
We have heard enough about the practices at TMC that some consider immoral, exploitative, or maybe even against the EULA and TOS, but it would be a mistake to think that such behaviour is only an indication of the corruption within Goonswarm and the managers of TMC. When money plays a role in a personal relationship, the effect of the Separative Self dichotomy hits hardest.
How many of us have experienced a divorce which included nasty fights over property and alimentation? How many of us have started projects together with friends and had a terrible falling out with them in the end? Have you ever moved in with a roommate you thought you could trust and then you find out they are not living up to the agreements you made? The most positive personal relationships can break under the pressure of materialistic pragmatism.
During all the talk about the attitude of The Mittani and his closest partners, about whether Xander Phoena is a double-crossing snake, or whether Endie played Xander, people on all sides of the debate focused on the money. The public obsession with the subject even went to the point where someone inside PL felt it would be a good moment to create a drama story which was also about money and damaged egos. Of course that would have immediately been received with great interest in the existing climate. When the discussion turns to money we can easily switch over to a mindset which is much less tolerant or forgiving and we will tend to assume the worst. Still, how much money are we talking about here? Is it worth the commotion?
In his AMA, former TMC editor Tegiminis named a potential monthly income for The Mittani of around 1500-2000$. In all honesty, I was underwhelmed. As a salary for a job which involves herding hundreds of socially inept neckbeards while trying to pass yourself off as a respectable business partner, a ruthless space emperor and the proprietor of a media site at the same time, it doesn’t sound impressive to me. Still, focusing on building an income based on an affiliated player community can lead to a serious case of tunnel vision, even if in the end it is only about a game, and the financial aspect is not all that existentially relevant. After all, a man of The Mittani’s qualifications can probably earn that with a part-time job that is way less impactful on an emotional level and he would have much more time to actually enjoy the game.
EVE is meant to be a hobby, a diversion that should be experienced as enjoyable. How much money have we all sunk into nights out where we ate, drank and partied with friends? How much do people spend on their personal hobbies or on vacations to get away from the routine of daily life? On a purely utilitarian and materialistic basis, that would be wasted money, but in reality it meant you had a good time and hopefully a rewarding experience. This is how EVE should ideally work as well. The only ones who should worry about whether EVE makes money for them are CCP.
If you find yourself too concerned about money or the time you’ve sunk into this game and all that relates to it, then ask yourself how much that investment has resulted in great experiences for you. If you end up realising it was not worth it, well, maybe then you should quit because you have a bad habit. If you find that you can not be yourself anymore because the ties you have with EVE compel you, cut yourself loose, you are not doing yourself any favours. Do you really want to try and have fun and cultivate social contacts while you act truly rational and according to realpolitik? If people view EVE in terms of sunk costs, they lock themselves into their very own self-created Bonus Room where they will do everything they think necessary to secure their income or protect what they have in the hope of making more.
So I call on everyone involved to to just enjoy the game in whichever way you like to play it most. Go ahead Mittani and play the evil space emperor and run your campaigns of ruthless subjugation. Sion Kumitomo, knock yourself out playing the diabolical manipulator behind the scenes. Goons, go ahead and be a scourge upon the universe and all you Goon haters, listen to Gevlon Goblin when he says: Stop being trolled! Stop posting stupid! Stop hoping that some defector will break them! You should be out there killing Goons one ship at a time while you are being paid by an obsessed industrialist, just like MOA and the others who are part of Gevlon’s GRR project.
Everybody, fight each other more in-game, less in the real world and stop worrying about the money. Believe me, it works.