Ideological EVE

 

If you’re old enough and hail from the United States as I do you might remember the 1980’s Daycare Satanic Sexual Abuse Panic. As Wikipedia explains, it all started in 1984 with the McMartin Preschool (quotation edited for brevity):

“The McMartin Preschool case was the first daycare abuse case to receive major media attention in the United States. The case centered upon a preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, where seven teachers were accused of kidnapping children, flying them in a plane to another location, and forcing them to engage in group sex as well as forcing them to watch animals be tortured and killed. The case also involved accusations that children had been forced to participate in bizarre religious rituals and had been used to make child pornography. Some of the abuse was alleged to have occurred in secret tunnels beneath the school.

When shown a series of photographs by Danny Davis (the McMartins’ lawyer), one child identified actor Chuck Norris as one of the abusers. When a new district attorney took over the case in 1986, his office re-examined the evidence and dropped charges against all but two of the original defendants. Their trials became one of the longest and most expensive criminal trials in United States history finally concluding in 1990 when those final two charges were also dropped. Jurors and academic researchers later criticized the interviewing techniques used by investigators alleging that interviewers had “coaxed” children into making unfounded accusations by repeatedly asking children the same questions and offering various incentives until the children reported having been abused. Most scholars now agree that the accusations these interviews elicited from the children were false.”

Bizarre religious ritual? Secret tunnels? Flying to exotic locals to film kiddie group sex? Chuck Norris?!?! How did this monument to strained credulity happen? Well it helps when the initial accuser is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic but even more than that, it helps when a society is already ripe for this kind of panic. In the late 1970s and early 1980s more and more US mothers were working outside of the home resulting in the opening of large numbers of day-care centers. Anxiety and guilt over leaving young children with strangers may have created a climate of fear and readiness to believe false accusations.

Of Sacred Cows and Bugbears

A Sacred Cow is something considered immune from question or criticism, especially unreasonably so. A Bugbear is a cause of obsessive fear, irritation, or loathing – often an imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically some sort of hobgoblin out to devour them.

In our McMartin Preschool case women’s place (at home, in the kitchen, looking after the little ones) was the Sacred Cow and Satanic Ritual Sexual Abuse was the Bugbear (what happens when women step outside that allotted role). Consider how perfectly the McMartin Preschool case fits the surrounding society’s ideological concerns. It is innocent children, a bugbear’s typical prey, that are harmed, not the women ‘abandoning’ them.

Being small, children make wonderful pawns. Looked at this way, the McMartin Preschool case is but cherry picked illustrative example used to buttress an ideological argument about women’s proper place. Looked at this way, whether the accusations were true or not wasn’t terribly relevant as long as the accusations punched hard at the women defying the prevailing ideology. And oh those accusations punched hard. At the time, expressing doubt about the accusations wasn’t necessarily understood as an act of rationality but rather just as easily interpreted as the questionable statements of a satanic child sexual abuse supporting apologist.

The extraordinary power of the bovine Sacred Cow and her concomitant Bugbear hobgoblin enforcer at shutting down rational thought can be seen in the McMartin case when one observes that it took no less than six years (6 years!) and many ruined lives before the madness died down.


A Thought Experiment

It can prove illuminating to ask yourself what mechanic CCP might eliminate that would drive you right out of EVE. Maybe it’s Permanent Loss (see Niden’s poetic exploration at the end of CZM: Judging Judgement). Maybe it’s EVE’s vaunted Player Driven Economy (see CCPQuant’s mesmerizing 2016 Fanfest presentation). Maybe it’s 14 years of EVE’s Single Shard/Single History (see Andrew Groen’s Empires of EVE for deep dive into the extraordinary stories this enables). Maybe it’s something else entirely. Still, if you perform the thought experiment, I’m confident you’ll find something.

Now, having completed the thought experiment, be very careful. The experiment was descriptive exploration only. It gets at what *you* like about EVE but it doesn’t reveal one way or the other what EVE ought to be. Nothing in the thought experiment was prescriptive. Because you really like something doesn’t mean God intended it to that way. Your feelings don’t reveal Divine Law. You are not a Prophet.


Ideological EVE

Ideology is a comprehensive set of normative beliefs both conscious and unconscious espoused by an individual, group or society. When listed out (which can prove difficult given the unconscious parts), ideologies deliver Governing Tenets, Core Principles, Sins and Virtues. Many (most?) people suss out their ideologies by plumbing the depth of their feelings. If something really, really matters to someone, that’s evidence it’s a Core Principle, a Governing Tenet, a Virtue it would be Sinful to turn away from. Many (most?) people don’t bother to ask themselves if depth of feeling is genuine evidence of how things ought to be. Many (most?) people just stop at “I believe because it feels right.”

I appreciate the appeal of “I believe because it feels right.” It’s comforting. At the same time, if you live long enough, “I believe because it feels right” will bump up against real world complexity. Maybe you’re an Evangelical Christian discovering your beloved first born son is gay and now you’re going to have to navigate your love for your son and your love for your God. Maybe you’re a guns rights enthusiast whose niece got her jaw blown off in a pistol accident and now, every time you see your niece’s mangled face, your expansive guns rights beliefs descend on you problematically. Maybe you’re really really lucky and unsettling cognitive dissonance only turns up when you play EVE and CCP begins fiddling with your thought experiment derived Core EVE Mechanic.

Living ideologically can be difficult thing. Living ideologically might mean brutally casting out your first born son. Living ideologically might mean cowardly avoiding your mangled face niece.

Playing EVE ideologically can be difficult too because, if you play this game long enough, CCP will get around to iterating on your favored ‘core mechanic’ and when they do you’ll be faced with stark choice: adapt or quit. Sadly, ideology doesn’t create much space for adaptation. Many (most?) Ideological EVE players eventually quit. Often noisily. We call them Bittervets.

What Do We Love When We Love?

Can you love EVE but hate CCP? Many players claim they do but what exactly is being loved when making such proclamation? As best I can tell, to love EVE but hate CCP is to love a concept but none of that concept’s instantiations. This strikes me a little cracked. It’s like claiming to love family but disdaining every member of your specific family or claiming to love marriage but despising every spouse you’ve had or (to make things really concrete) claiming to love donuts but finding every donut you’ve ever tasted unpleasant. If it’s cracked to ‘love’ donuts but dislike every donut you’ve actually eaten it’s equally cracked to ‘love’ EVE but find the only game in the world going by that name, CCP’s EVE Online, unrelentingly disappointing.

Listen Bittervets, “Love” is a wonderful word, please stop torturing it so.


My Little Place in Great Big EVE

And what of you DireNecessity? With name like that you’ve surely conducted your own thought experiment and winnowed down to your Core EVE Mechanic. Indeed I have, but like so much in life, things get complicated. Let’s get started shall we.

Consider Western Religion:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. From the dust of the ground God created Adam, the first man, and from Adam’s rib God created Eve, the first woman, and all lived joyously in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil whereupon God banished them from the garden – “Cast out of Eden” our 1st iteration.

And so the world continued until the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and this grieved him to his heart so he instructed Noah and family to build a great ark, then he drown everybody else – “The Great Flood” our 2nd iteration.

And so the world continued until God, who so loved that world, allowed (procured?) the crucifixion of his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life – “Jesus the Christ” our 3rd iteration.

And so the world continued until the Prophet Mohammed (if you’re Muslim) or the Prophet Joseph Smith (if you’re Mormon) arrived to once again right the ship – “Prophets among Us” our 4th iteration.

Look kids, it doesn’t get more ideological than Western Religion and if Western Religion’s Lord God can’t get it right after four iterations (4!), ideology is being oversold. If you ask me, ideology is mostly Sacred Cows and Bugbears: tools deployed to shut down rational thought and we’ve seen where that leads – the McMartin Preschool. So I’m not a rigid ideological EVE player because I’m not a rigid ideological person. If the Lord God can’t get it right the first time out of the chute, CCP’s gonna get a lot of slack from me.

So yes there are EVE mechanics dear to my heart. One of them is Permanent Loss. I’m also a big fan of our Player Driven Economy and EVE’s Single Shard/Single History really turns my button. While we’re at it, CCP’s mostly hands off approach to ‘griefing’ tickles my heart while EVE’s ‘steep learning curve’ tickles my brain. I could go on and on but, importantly, none of these mechanics are sacrosanct. CCP could alter any one of them, possibly greatly, and I wouldn’t necessarily quit in a huff. Instead I’d wait, let things settle, and then see how it feels.

Evolution has no crossed lines. Instead you see only long lineage of little iterations making it impossible to point precisely at where and when a massive change occurred. If there’s an opposite of ideology, it’s evolution.


Blue Whales

I’m fond of Blue Whales. There the largest creatures ever to roam our planet – bigger than the dinosaurs. How they got there is amazing story. Imagine if Blue Whales early progenitors drew a line at the beach declaring, “We’re not iterating into land mammals. We’re creatures of the sea. This is sacrosanct.” Imagine if millennia later those now land mammals drew another line in the sand declaring, “No, we’re not iterating back to the sea. We’ve already made this decision. This is sacrosanct.” Imagine an ideologically pure world without Blue Whales. I don’t prefer such a place. It diminishes us. Convoluted histories make wonderful reads.

The only difference between ‘boiling the frog’ and evolution is rigid ideology. Blue Whales are majestic beasts exactly as they are. So is EVE.

 

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About the author

DireNecessity

A soloish long-term casual player since 2009, sporting a troubling history of preying on the good people of highsec, these days DireNecessity enjoys the gentle pleasures like manufacturing, grandbabies and formal dining.


  • goldenbelly

    good read!

  • Erutor of Eve

    This is the first thing I’ve ever read by Dire (or on CZ), that I dislike intensely.

    The small portion of this article that attempts to discuss EVE and EVE players (and is, I think, making a good and interesting point) is buried in biased and distracting pseudo-intellectual rambling.

    You offer unnecessary and skewed commentary upon unpopular (in the EVE community) social/religious/political perspectives, without any attempt to pretend balance. Straw men abound, as you set them up disingenuously, then knock them down gleefully. You reveal your own ideology while arguing against what you perceive as others’ excessive need for certitude.

    Bah! Humbug!

    • DireNecessity

      Erutor,

      I’ve always appreciated Crossing Zebras willingness to publish my essays. Being a soloish EVE player, I don’t bring a large corpmate audience onboard with me. I’m also a pretty quirky EVE writer since many of my pieces only spend 50% or so of the time talking directly about EVE. Often I tell a real life story I’ve personally experienced to help explain something about EVE. Grandkid stories are great for this and I uncork them often.

      If you dislike my irreverent treatment of Western Religion . . . sorry dude, that’s just who I am.

      If you dislike my glee at dismissing the McMartin Preschool investigators I’m at a loss for words.

      First born son being cast out and niece’s mangled face are real life experiences. First born son isn’t a member of my family, just somebody I know really, really well and technically speaking the pistol accident didn’t happen to my blood niece but rather a niece-in-law (or, to get really technical, a nephew-in-law’s niece). It is unfortunate you dislike my lived life examples. They sure rocked my world.

      First born son is doing OK (he’s a tough, tough fellow) and the niece-in-law is doing OK too (modern medicine is amazing, they’re reassembling a jaw from scavenged parts – hip bone mostly I think).

      • Ari Mac

        He did not say he disliked your life experiences. He dislikes the rambling nature of your article (as do I!), where it is a stretch, at best, to say your life experiences are relatable to Eve. The blue whale and boiling frog comparison…yeah, that just doesn’t hold water. While you have written articles that use real life anecdotes that actually relate to Eve (I very much enjoyed your blue blocks story!), this one just…doesn’t.

  • pervertparade

    >Imagine an ideologically pure world without Blue Whales.

    Imagine in ideologically impure world in which Star Wars fans had said, “let’s give EA a chance. They’re experienced game developers and they know what they’re doing. I trust them to pursue innovative P2W monetization strategies *without* sacrificing gameplay balance, or screwing over loyal fans, or encouraging gambling addiction among children.”

    >Evolution has no crossed lines.

    The emergence of a driving Y allele is a pretty big “crossed line”, since it often leads to the extirpation (or even extinction) of a species. The genome of a species often has latent mechanisms to suppress or restrain a driving Y scenario; outcrossing can generate progeny with heavily male-biased sex ratios. Many biologists have proposed *deliberate* introduction of driving Y alleles as a vector control strategy for mosquito-borne diseases.

    • DireNecessity

      But “encouraging gambling addiction among children” sounds kind of Bugbearish to me. Still, I certainly don’t want to claim that CCP will never misstep – all species go extinct eventually. CCP’s devs have plunged EVE into crisis before. So far they’ve good history correcting those missteps and avoiding extinction. I’ve as much reason as not to believe they’ll avoid extinction this time too. That said, tomorrow’s EVE (presuming there is a tomorrow’s EVE) may look a whole lot different than today’s EVE. Maybe I’ll like that EVE, maybe I won’t. Such is evolution.

      • pparade

        Such is evolution.

        I’ve pointed out that there are examples of restraint mechanisms in biology. Autosomal “bittervet” genes don’t just wait and see whether a driving Y allele might be a good thing (in the long run). They don’t adapt to the new genomic environment. They don’t figure out how to propagate the species within the new all-male configuration. They squash that meiotic motherfucker before it can ruin everything. They exert a rigid ideological influence on the gene, because the alternative is annihilation.

        Bittervet players sometimes oppose a change because they dislike it — because its outcome will be less convenient (or less fun) for their own personal gameplay. Jump fatigue is an obvious example. But players might also oppose a change because they believe that it will doom the game. P2W invulnerable shields might qualify.

        The reference to biology doesn’t prove that ideologically-motivated decisionmaking among player is inherently wrong. The field of genetics gives us examples of programmed ideologies which can be maladaptive (peahen: “males with big colorful tails are always better mates”) or adaptive (autosome: “always trigger apoptosis in a Y gamete which is surrounded by an excessive population of Y gametes”, “always trigger apoptosis in a cell whose telomere is depleted”, etc).

        If you want to continue using evolution as a metaphor for game development, then you should acknowledge that it’s not actually a creative free-for-all. There are many factors which limit the available paths – just as miners, or station-traders, or nullsec blocs in EVE might stubbornly oppose a new feature (instead of taking the wait-and-see approach which you recommend).

        “encouraging gambling addiction among children” sounds kind of Bugbearish to me

        It mostly is a bugbear, because the practice is illegal in most developed nations. No licensed croupier would allow a child to gamble at his table. But we need to exercise caution when approaching social and/or technological innovations which can disrupt norms or evade regulation.

        We can hope that most companies wouldn’t deliberately prey on children. But if there’s an unsupervised 10-year old with access to his mother’s credit card, then an app developer might will probably just accept the transaction without bothering to learn the kid’s age or verify his identity. Technology has added a layer of impersonality, via which an honest-but-lazy adult can do harm to a child.

        Were gamers honestly concerned about vulnerable children when they lashed out against EA’s Star Wars shenanigans? Probably not; it was probably more about self-interest. But the ideologically-driven policy (“take reasonable measures to keep children away from gambling”) remains valid, and it’s still a legitimate reason to oppose a change – or propose an alternative.

      • DireNecessity

        Ah hell, it looks like Disqus nixed your latest reply pervertparade (we’ve had Disqus do this before). This troubles me as it was excellent reply. I’ll contact the powers that be and see if we can get it resurrected.

      • Cosmo

        Pervertparade’s answer, removed because disqus is a dick, below:

        “>Such is evolution.

        I’ve pointed out that there are examples of restraint mechanisms in biology. Autosomal “bittervet” genes *don’t* just wait and see whether a driving Y allele might be a good thing (in the long run). They *don’t* adapt to the new genomic environment. They *don’t* figure out how to propagate the species within the new all-male configuration. They squash that meiotic motherfucker before it can ruin everything. They exert a rigid ideological influence on the gene, because the alternative is annihilation.

        Bittervet players sometimes oppose a change because they dislike it — because its outcome will be less convenient (or less fun) for their own personal gameplay. Jump fatigue is an obvious example. But players might also oppose a change because they believe that it will doom the game. P2W invulnerable shields might qualify.

        The reference to biology doesn’t prove that ideologically-motivated decisionmaking among player is inherently *wrong*. The field of genetics gives us examples of programmed ideologies which can be maladaptive (peahen: “males with big colorful tails are always better mates”) or adaptive (autosome: “always trigger apoptosis in a Y gamete which is surrounded by an excessive population of Y gametes”, “always trigger apoptosis in a cell whose telomere is depleted”, etc).

        If you want to continue using evolution as a metaphor for game development, then you should acknowledge that it’s not actually a creative free-for-all. There are many factors which limit the available paths -= just as miners, or station-traders, or nullsec blocs in EVE might stubbornly oppose a new feature (instead of taking the wait-and-see approach which you recommend).

        > “encouraging gambling addiction among children” sounds kind of Bugbearish to me

        It mostly *is* a bugbear, because the practice is illegal in most developed nations. No licensed croupier would allow a child to gamble at his table. But we need to exercise caution when approaching social and/or technological innovations which can disrupt norms or evade regulation.

        We can hope that most companies wouldn’t *deliberately* prey on children. But if there’s an unsupervised 10-year old with access to his mother’s credit card, then an app developer might will probably just accept the transaction without bothering to learn the kid’s age or verify his identity. Technology has added a layer of impersonality, via which an honest-but-lazy adult can do harm to a child.

        Were gamers honestly concerned about vulnerable children when they lashed out against EA’s Star Wars shenanigans? Probably not; it was probably more about self-interest. But the ideologically-driven policy (“take reasonable measures to keep children away from gambling”) remains valid, and it’s still a legitimate reason to oppose a change – or propose an alternative.”

  • DustVet

    Brilliantly written.

  • phuzz

    Er, what did I just read? There was a whole paragraph that discussed Eve, but the rest just seemed to an unconnected series of musings, that didn’t seem to make much sense.
    For example, your comparing ‘boiling a frog’ and evolution. Evolution is a scientific concept with an actual, tangible, meaning. Boiling a frog is a metaphor (one that’s incorrect in the literal sense, frogs will get out of water that’s too hot, even if you heat it up slowly).

  • Alaric Faelen

    Very insightful analysis. But I would counter that it’s rarely a single issue that drives invested players out of Eve Online. It’s the combination of poor maintenance by CCP, leaving many issues unattended while outright taking mis-steps when they do attempt a ‘fix’, along with a player’s natural waning enthusiasm.
    In most cases, there is a crossing of a player’s loss of interest from the above combination of factors, but then offset by the sunken cost fallacy heading the other direction.
    CCP might ignore or completely screw up content, but right about the time they do it again, is another significant chunk of your life invested in Eve. Even if you think Eve was never better than the day you first spawned a character, by the time you are really bitter about things like FozzieSov, jump fatigue, etc…you have also invested years into this game making it hard to leave.
    CCP chips away at your experience more than flat out crushes it. Few long term players rage quit- they mostly just lose interest and disappear for ever longer periods.