In Defence of Personality Disorder

Morality is seldom a safe guide for human conduct.” This seminal authorial branding by Penelope Fitzgerald has stuck with me years after having haphazardly paged through The Bookshop en route to completing a minor undergraduate essay. If you haven’t heard of her, or her tiny collection of literary pieces, I’m certain you’re not alone. I myself would undoubtedly have no recollection of her, even after having completed my scholarly assignment, if I had not come across that quote during my abridged reading of the text. Yet, I did, and that gut-wrenching statement captures my thoughts long after I have forgotten the mannerisms of protagonist Mrs. Green. Lest you forget where you are, I assure you this article is about an internet spaceship game. My colleague wrote a piece on the dichotomy of Eve Online players last week. He made a reasonable argument that we as a community and CCP as a game developer should stop encouraging the bullies with which we willfully surround ourselves. On it’s face, there’s very little with which to disagree. I will still attempt to do so. Morality, whether of the type Fitzgerald writes of, or the type Tarek scoffs at, is at the heart of how we judge our contemporaries. The criticisms of the Eve community were many and varied: the masculinity of the messages, the celebration of the psychopathic, and he even finds time to lament on the lack of sophistication on our forums and chatrooms. There’s no great difficulty in finding the moralistic leanings of the author – he would rather us have elegant discussions, or protect and shelter the weak. Fitzgerald’s work comments that these ideals are rarely ways to succeed. The most generous and kind amongst humankind are also the easiest to manipulate. The ruthless understand how to seize opportunity. More than that, though, he wants CCP to take an official stance on this morality. The revolutionary idea from CCP is their distinct absence of forcing morality on others. In an attempt to sum up his point, he states “…they have to stop inviting people with [harsh] attitudes and celebrate them.” They do celebrate the harshness of Eve, yet they also celebrate the vast generosity of the playerbase. It is, in fact, rather disengenuous to imply that CCP do anything but celebrate Eve Online in all its unwashed splendor: from the solar spymasters, to the controversial streamers, to the record setting charity donations; hardly a groundbreaking strategy from a games company with a single cash cow product. The difference is Eve is the absence of this moral compass Tarek requires. It is such a radical concept that there are those commentators that can not see the forest through the trees. They only see destruction. This is not to suggest that there isn’t plenty of destruction. What the author misses is the essence of Eve, humanism. Eve Online is an attractive game for those that like to destroy, but also for those who like a challenge, who like to establish deep relationships, and who like to strive and succeed. It does not take a deep examination to discover that opportunities abound for all types of players. Why, then, does the author and the myriad of media sources insist on focusing on destruction and psychopathy? It is what is original about Eve Online. CCP could never say another word mentioning those facts, and Eve would still attract those players in droves, relatively speaking, because it is an experience that is nigh impossible to get elsewhere. CCP simply has a competent marketing division that highlights that possibility. grease3 Indeed, complaints about killboard shaming or bullying fall flat. If reprimanding, scolding, and humiliation in a game is too much for the inhabitant of New Eden, how is he to deal with the very real pressures that exist outside? In no way does this take away from the seriousness of certain situations that are created from those ideas, yet it is clear the shelter we have developed here is all-encompassing. Schadenfreude is not a revolutionary concept. For every complaint there is about an ALOD, there are a dozen tabloid articles about sordid details of actors and actresses; none of which engender any pride or praise, but which all exist because they are read and regurgitated. You could find blame with the audience. Many do, yet the radical idea is the agenda that all areas of our lives need to be castrated to a level in which the lowest common denominator of human can exist happily. In both, these people have put themselves in situations that encourage increased scrutiny. The undoubtedly famous quote from John Stuart Mill states “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.” That’s why we play Eve. We would rather be the dissatisfied humans, and in that sense Eve Online is almost primal. We are willing to make the attempt because of the challenge. In discovering this, we find HTFU isn’t a macho message, it’s a realist message, whether it is realized or not by its consumers. It isn’t simply an anthem of a games company, it’s a soundtrack for life itself, and we welcome it. It is how you succeed. So when the author states, “…individuals can act openly and those who do not have the strength of character to deal with them or avoid them completely will not only be victimized, they will also be laughed at…” it’s hard to argue. It also isn’t that remarkable. Welcome to life, Tarek, where bullies occasionally become CEOs, the heroic nerd doesn’t always get the girl, the elegant argument isn’t necessarily the best, and sometimes bad things happen.
Tags: bullies, ccp, joran, meta, psychology

About the author

Joran Jackson

Joran has a new twitter account. Follow him @SyncheofGames. When he's not writing about games he's probably playing them.

  • Ciaphas Cyne

    its a good article and a nice response to Tarek’s piece. i think the harshness of eves gameplay needs to be separated from the harshness of its player base, though.

    eve, as a game, isnt particularly hard or complex. i know we all like to act that this isnt wow in space…but in a lot of really basic ways it is. the main differences (aside from setting) are the freedoms CCP gives us in our interactions with other players. thats what makes eve special and unique and its coded into the game design. there is another level of harshness, though, (that is not unique to eve at all by the way…) and thats the general shit-tastic attitude of some of the players you meet. now im not talking about scamming, market pvp, ganks, piracy, grr goons, or any of the gameplay related hard knocks we all love. im talking about the level of “hardening the fuck up” individual players have to deal with.

    for a woman, or people with darker shades of skin, or jews, or gays (the list goes on but you get the point) eve requires a hell of a lot more hardening the fuck up. how much harshness does the “average straight white male” have to put up with in relation to his darker skinned counter part? losing a ship is part of the game and its not “harsh”… its fucking gameplay! feeling alienated and pissed off cause your FC keeps using your ethnicity as a synonym for “miser” is fucking harsh.

    and yes, real life isnt fair and real life isnt devoid of racism and hate. and im not saying new eden should be a censored place but i think the community as a whole, and CCP as game devs, need to look at the long term effects. how many players are we losing to alienation? pick a few select slurs and go search corp and character names. the results are stunning. CCP could easily enforce its own rules and do something to at least minimize persistent hate-speech. take pasta/pizza for example. here is a group that RPs white power. its clearly against the EULA and yet theyve managed to get an approximation of the confederate flag into the persistent game code. its things like this that bother me the most. say what ever the fuck you want in chat and TS but once CCP codes your bullshit into the game…im no longer standing up for free speech.

    • Joran

      Your strongest point is that CCP needs to be conscious of overt racist
      and hateful terms being coded into the game. You should not have
      character names or alliance tags that are ethnic slurs. I agree

    • Kamar Raimo

      That sums up my point rather nicely. I also had an afterthought about why many other online games do not suffer from the same demographic problems despite having just as many (or more) horrible people who think that bigotry is a form of good natured fun. In most other games social interaction is not a must to prosper. In EVE it is. Now if you must compare that to real life: Imagine you ended up in a city where publicly it looks like everyone were a racist, misogynist low-brow redneck jock. How long would you like to stick around?

      • Shinhwa

        The players themselves can make these changes if they have the will and some modicum of courage. I myself have a list of CFC FCs that I will only fly with for stratops. I have another list, short, that I wouldn’t even login to tell them I’m not coming to their fleet. None of those FCs are bad at Eve. I miss out on some fights and glorious kills. But since Eve is a video game and I don’t enjoy listening to non-stop profanity, scatological humor, and racism, I don’t play with them. Heck there is one very polite German fellow who if he asked, and I had one, I would login and let him blow up my carrier for lolz.

        If enough people ostracized the bad elements then the bad ones would go away. I’m not sure what it says about the players that this doesn’t happen.

        • Kamar Raimo

          That’s a rather nice reply because very often people point to (certain) nullsec alliances as the main culprit. Your attitude shows that there are people within those groups who will not tolerate such behaviour. Unfortunately it is often the case that certain “rockstar players” take the centre stage and spread the idea that degenerate behaviour is somehow cool.

          There should be more people voting with their feet – or with their leave fleet option as it were.

          That not only goes for the usual objectionable statements but also the general abuse. The way how some FCs deal with their fleet participants is just insufferable, and I really ask myself why people fly with some of them.

  • Snot Shot

    I get what the op is trying to say but the description is about….3 years too late. EVE meta has been boiled down so much we are left with the very base shit at the bottom of the stew pot with very little content and taste.

    Write all you want above about the psycological bullshit of human interaction driving the narrative and woven fabric and subtile flickering glimpses of other flowery shit you want to say inorder to look smart in a video game for fucks sake….its still a video game and the shit birds controling 0.0 have thousands of players painted into a corner due to “SOV issues”…excuse/bullshit.

    This game needs a fucking enema and it needs it now. CCP needs to get rid of SOV, clean the slate, and start over with a SOV mechanisim once the dust settles after they get rid of it. Who knows, after its gone we all might realise we dont want it back, that the balance of ever changing 0.0 “standings” covers our relationship needs and the game is vibrant every time we log in.

    Anywhoo…op author please carry on baffling us with your bullshit.

    • Joran

      What the heck is this reply? Feel free to disagree with me, and I’m sorry if the article came off as too pompous, but your comment has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote..

    • Kamar Raimo

      The problem doesn’t only exist in sov-nullsec but all over the place. Not everything in EVE is a problem because of sov mechanics Sontshot 😉

  • MWD

    “Welcome to life, Tarek, where bullies occasionally become CEOs, the heroic nerd doesn’t always get the girl, the elegant argument isn’t necessarily the best, and sometimes bad things happen.”

    If EVE was a real sandbox then people could also fight back against that kind of thing inside the sandbox. Not the case in this game though. Using game mechanics to fight against bullies doesn’t actually do anything to deter them, especially when the bullies themselves have structured their own activities in such a way that they simply cannot sustain any meaningful kind of loss whatsoever. The only means of resistance left is metagaming heavy handed GM crackdowns through muckraking social activism.

    Welcome to life, Joran, where celebrating the community plays second fiddle to protecting the company’s bottom line.

  • Kamar Raimo

    Very nice Joran. I think that is the first time someone ever called me a moralist 😀
    Actually I very much agree with Ms. Fitzgerald’s statements. The problem also does not lie with the lack of a moral compass but with a completely skewed one that points in different directions at different times. That is exactly the problem her quote addresses and which has been addressed by many philosophers over time. Morals can and will be arbitrary.

    If I make an argument for morals at all, then it is one for pragmatic ethics i.e. we as a community and CCP as game designers and formative influence should analyse the moral codes which evolve, determine their impact on development and make an effort to change them through reform. That has not been done sufficiently. Both CCP and players still do not fully understand why the EVE playerbase fails to expand because they refuse to do that analysis. Rather than that, they keep elevating some moral principles to the level where they call them necessary for EVE to be what it is, and that despite the fact that there are many aspects of the in-game community which prove that assumption wrong.

    Finally, I would refute the point that EVE has to be a reflection of real-life harshness. It is a game after all.

    Even if I were to concede that EVE is a simulator of a scifi version of Somalia or rural Afghanistan, it falls short. In the end there is no outside power that steps in to pacify the region in an effort to safeguard its own interests. If that were the real world, then Burn Jita would be the WTC attack times ten, and the Caldari State would throw oppressive numbers of ships up north to punish those who commit such acts. Not to mention that they would hardly tolerate a bunch of nullsec warlords to control crucial resources.

    • Joran