“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.
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