In Support of Villainy


For a few years now, it’s been popular to say that Goonswarm is the cancer killing EVE Online. I have friends who left the game because Goonswarm seemed like this unjustly powerful force, an unstoppable object in a world that prides itself on the ability for the little man to make a change. EVE is a game that presents the power of the “Butterfly Effect” in showing how a single person, through action or inaction, can bring about much greater events down the line.

So why am I coming to their defense here? Is it because I’ve known Goon members? Partially. I won’t lie — I know a few former Goons and am friendly with them, but I don’t consider that to be the important part of this story. It’s not why I’d come to their defense even as everyone else cheers their demise.

EVE needs a villain

I’m coming to their defense because EVE needs a villain. Beyond the “Butterfly Effect”, EVE is a game about player narratives. From the stories told very literally through roleplay-heavy corps and alliances, to the propaganda spun by alliance after alliance, to the casual chatter of people who have been there and seen some shit, EVE is defined by stories. The fun of EVE is not sitting on a gate for three hours. The fun of EVE is the five minutes that you get to tell your friends about, where you managed to get your first real kill in that new nullsec alliance you joined.

So how does this connect back to Goons? Simple: any narrative worth a damn needs a villain. Any grand story needs its grander villain — a force to be overcome. You need not look any further than Goons’ own history to see this truth. Even Lenny Kravitz2, the infamous banker that has been bankrolling the war against Goons has come out and admitted to wanting a return to form for the Goons. As he puts it in his Polygon interview, “’I would love to see the old Goonswarm come back,’ Joe says. ‘The 2007, 2008 version of them.’”


I’m sure many people will argue this point, but I too believe the 2007-2008 version of Goons represented the golden age of Goonswarm. Even I, just hearing of EVE Online, couldn’t help but be enthralled by the stories of a massive alliance of people going against Band of Brothers, who many people saw as the game’s greatest evil. BoB was and probably will always be EVE’s greatest ever villain. A group literally hell-bent on galactic domination at any cost; a group that went up against the most scrappy underdogs of them all, the Goons and their rookie fleets. The stories and the propaganda wrote themselves. And EVE’s player base skyrocketed.

Many signed up just to join Goons; many more joined up with alliances wanting in on this grand play that was about to be staged. It was enthralling reading, even for a person just starting out in his rookie ship, hearing stories of massive wars and epic battles that were taking place to slowly grind the great evil of EVE off the map. And of course, who could forget the finale? The scrappy underdog “outsmarting” their enemies, pulling a fast one on them and destroying them from the inside. It’s telling that almost all of Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online had this Great War as its backdrop.

It’s so fitting, narratively speaking, that Goons are now at the other end of that pendulum. Through their control of technetium and the establishment of CFC, Goons in a lot of ways became the new BoB. CFC became the force that had legitimate claims to the most powerful coalition in the galaxy, that got fat off of their own success and either through their notoriously caustic nature, or pure jealousy, made people so angry they left the game entirely.

for every one of the people that left, I’d be shocked if at least two didn’t join

Yet for every one of the people that left, I’d be shocked if at least two didn’t join, inspired by the stories of massive fleet battles, of tens of thousands of dollars evaporating in even relatively minor battles. Even though I was out of EVE at the time, I couldn’t help but watch live streams of the battles, keeping my ear to the ground to listen to who was winning. EVE once again had a villain worth a damn.

In the end, of course, we know the fate of the Goons. A lot of people are cheering their fall from grace, with many wishing they’d just disappear in general. However, I want people to think carefully about those desires. EVE without a villain is like a play without a conflict. It’s listless, and lacks a certain structure. As much as people hate villains, their love of that hatred might be even stronger; strong enough, certainly, to keep them coming back. That hatred may even be enough to keep them interested when times are rough. So before you cheer too loudly, remember, a hero is nothing without a foil, and it’s hard to tell a story worth reading without either role.


Featured t-shirt design by Rixx Javix

Tags: Band of Brothers, goonswarm, great war, Mathias Sinistar, villain

About the author

Mathias Sinistar

Mathias has been a little bit of everything, from running belts with highsec corps, to ninja salvaging with TEARS, to running fleets with Brave. When not flying, he finds himself reading up on the history and politics of Eve, one of the things that always tends to draw him back in to the game.

  • Rob Kaichin

    Just once, I’d love to see someone challenging “EVE needs a villain”. The necessity of a villain to Eve is surely a fertile ground for exploration, but it seems to be the assumed wisdom that all Eve needs to prosper is a ‘Big Bad’.

    It may just be me, but surely more than one big bad would be better? I’m not asking for a permanent war al la 1984, but more than one ‘bad guy’ surely means more motivation, not less.

    • Or we go the other way. EVE needs its Jason Bournes, Robocops, and Luke Skywalkers – Fighting for the greater good – individuals in this kind of role in game never get as much credit as the “bad guys”

      • Rob Kaichin

        I did think it interesting that the initial/presumptive moniker for the MBC was “The Good Guys”.

    • Kamar Raimo

      I wouldn’t say EVE needs a “Big Bad” to prosper. It is such a massive and multi-layered game that most players will never even encounter that single “Big Bad” and still have their fare share of adventure, fights, harrowing experiences and triumphant moments.

      What the “Big Bad” does for EVE is maintaining its mystique. How many games are out there where you can either become the James Bond villain, the warlord, the tyrant (or their loyal retainer), and how many are there where the right (or wrong) circumstances can lead to an escalating cycle of events which eventually overcomes those powerplayers?

    • DireNecessity

      Mechanically speaking, Eve already enables and has multiple villains but we humans, especially when writing, condense things. Too many characters and too many plot lines tend to produce convoluted, confusing stories. Which reminds me Rob, you and yours used to be my villain, camping my gate, ravenously trying to murder me but now I don’t see you anymore. No Dear Dire letter, no goodbye tweet, just gone. Come back Rob, the neighborhood misses you!

      • Mathias Sinistar

        Yeah, this was kind of my point. I’m not against the idea of multiple big bads. Every person in Eve deserves their own narrative, and that narrative deserves to have its own heroes and villains in it. What I am against is this idea that getting rid of the final ‘great evil’ of the game will somehow make it better. Whether it be Goons, or BoB, or whoever will replace Goons or all down the line, we need a big bad of Eve as a whole, so Eve can sell itself on that narrative. Eve the game needs a villain, even if its not your villain at the moment or even ever.

        • Rob Kaichin

          “[W]e need a big bad of Eve as a whole, so Eve can sell itself on that narrative.”

          Do we?

          There are many people, myself amongst them, who have spent/spend a significant sum of their Eve time playing the single player game which is missions: Do they have a villain?

          There are others amongst us who spend 100% of their time flying in small gang fleets: they have opponents, as Mike says, but do they have villains?

          There’s the typical ‘Eve Story’ which involved BoB/Goons being villains and being evil/losing, and that’s a very popular story to tell. It isn’t, however, a particularly uncommon one. God knows that the players push this archetypal story at the expense of any other: it matches up very well with all of the sci-fi they’ve heard before, perhaps.

          What I’m asking is: Can Eve only be sold successfully as *that* kind of story?

          • Mathias Sinistar

            Perhaps there is a subset of players for whom they don’t need a villain. Perhaps for those who do small gang fleets they don’t view, even in jest, their opponents as ‘villains’ truly but just people to have fun fighting against. If that’s the case, great. However I am curious then, legitimately, what brought you to Eve in the first place? What was the thing that made you want to originally play this game? Was it simply the promise of PvP fighting or single player missioning? Or was it one of those crazy articles about big battles and blood feuds that tend to get more mainstream attention due to it fitting a simple and interesting narrative structure?

          • Rob Kaichin

            “what brought you to Eve in the first place?”

            C) None of the above! 😛

            It’s probably deeply unfashionable to say, but the thing that brought me to Eve, as well as the thing that holds my continuing interest, is the Lore. I don’t mean the player lore, or rather, I don’t mean ‘the Lore that the players as capsuleers write in combat’, but the stories that tell the backstory of Eve.

            I was linked to the Chronicles by a friend of mine who played, because I wouldn’t listen to a word he said about the battles he was taking part in! The stories of player skullduggery and conquest are *interesting*, but they’re not the epic stories that Eve’s backstory holds: Eve’s backstory holds so much depth and mystery that” then they stole some ISK/ killed a guy/corp” really doesn’t compete.

            Which is why I’d like to see a challenge to “Eve *must* have a villain so that it can be marketed”. I didn’t need one to be attracted to Eve, and there must be people like me.

            As an aside, the trailers (my second port of call) also don’t push the necessity of a villain: There might be empires, there may be emperors, but they concern themselves much more with destiny: “Man has always looked to the stars and said, “I should be there”.”

          • Phan Frozr

            Join EVE after watching a R&K video. I can tell you right now, if my first experience of seeing EVE was a TiDi fight, I would have never started playing. The narrative matters, but the narrative doesn’t need to be “many people fight many people” to be alluring. An argument could be made that big fights bring in more people, but I don’t think they stick, because big fights are TiDi fights, and TiDi is in reality just a fancy way of saying lag, and people don’t want to be playing games with a lot of lag, weather it is MMORPG, a FPS game, or a MOBA.

          • Mathias Sinistar

            I think some people are assuming I meant TiDi battles inherently with this. That’s not entirely the case. It may be a bit inevitable for these big brawls to happen when you have a over arching villain, but I was not necessarily defending those battles in their current state as much as the narrative around them.

            That being said, there may be another article worth writing, a follow up if nothing else covering stuff like R&K, or Clear Skies and their effect on the game and how many people have joined or been influenced by them.

          • Vailen Sere

            It adds to the grander scheme of marketing a story which in turn helps CCP media guys to push stuff out to get people interested.

      • Rob Kaichin

        “No Dear Dire letter”

        That’s because I’ve not yet left!

        *grumbles* 😛

        I’m still here, just logged on in on alts instead, if I see you in Sugar’s chatroom I’ll wave :D.

        “Mechanically speaking, Eve already enables and has multiple villains but we humans, especially when writing, condense things. Too many characters and too many plot lines tend to produce convoluted, confusing stories.”

        But people enjoy reading them! Take a look at Empires of Eve, if you own it. It has many, many people involved, far more than the great man theory of Eve history: “First, there was Molle, then there was Mittens, now there is Lenny”.

        It’s easy, I know, to condense and reduce complexity to simplicity: selling a story of 100,000 characters is impossible. But the players have reduced that down to a story of 1: Goonswarm’s story is Mitten’s story, BoB’s story is SirMolle’s.

        And that reductive drive has robbed the greater Eve of vitality and initiative: People who join Eve go on to join an established entity, to be part of an established story.

        If they had made their own way, how great might their stories have been?

        We will never know.

  • free can

    Now you will see the real villain : PL.

    PL = President Alma Coin.

  • Mike Dawe

    Do we need villains or opponents? There is a difference.


    • Kamar Raimo

      For our daily dose of PvP (if you are so inclined) we need opponents. For people to come together in something like RedSwarm Federation of the past, or the MBC of the present, we need a villain.

      • Mathias Sinistar

        Yep, that was my point, as also mentioned below in another response. Opponents are great to fight, villains are great to rally around.

      • James

        I almost sound like you think big blue donuts are a good thing. I don’t think it is a good thing, and I think you would find that most that were apart of MBC would agree with me on this.

        No huge coalitions don’t make good gameplay, TiDi fights are not fun, and flying across two or more regions to get to reds space is just downright awful.

        • daniel

          if tidi fights are so unfun, how come that there are enough ppl to cause tidi?

          • Rob Kaichin

            Because if you don’t cram every able-bodied person into a fight, the other side wins and you lose your stuff.

            It’s like collective punishment, but no-one wants to admit it.

          • Killmail whoring of course.

        • Kamar Raimo

          I agree with you. I absolutely dislike the grind of large-scale strategic PvP where masses of players are driven into self-exploitation by leaders who move them around like pieces of a chessboard.

          As a matter of fact, it is that abstract concept which players often band together to fight. People wanted to break the dominance of BoB, the Northern Coalition, the previous incarnation of the DRF and most recently the Imperium because they rejected the idea of a dominant power which turns PvP into a mind-numbing grind and numbers game.

          The villain may not be a particular group, but any group who occupies this position.

  • dragonshardz

    Just once, I’d like to see an article about Goons where the author doesn’t masturbate over the “scrappy, lovable rogues” that was Goonswarm 8 years ago. The Goonswarm of 8 years ago was unironically racist, unironically sexist, unironically bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of culture. If you really want those kind of people to be your big bad, the group you’re looking for is TEST.

    • Niden

      Actually, this is a topic I think should be explored, I just need the right person to write it.

      • dragonshardz

        What topic, exactly? The change in culture between Goonswarm of 2008 and Goonswarm of 2016?

        • Niden

          Well not only them specifically, although it can definitely be used as an anchor for the piece. A piece about organisational culture in EVE as a way to establish an identity and how that can take a turn for the toxic. Basically about perception and projection.

    • Ashterothi

      I would say the term used best for Goonswarm, and SA in general is “elitist”. All of the racism and trolling just stemmed from a fundamental belief in them being better than the “pubbies” on the outside. A club one had to earn or pay for admittance, and those outside were dehumanized by any means possible

      • Mathias Sinistar

        It was also due to the difference in internet cultures then and now. Without getting into a huge dissertation on my views on internet culture and how its changed, racism and sexism were more prevalent then in general, partially because of the view that many in SA held (and I’m sure many still do over there) that taking the internet too seriously is inherently stupid and deserves ridicule. Who cares if you are being sexist, its the internet it doesn’t matter, says the straw man Goon from 8 years ago.

        So yeah, I get you that saying they were all a bunch of fun loving goofballs is not accurate, Goons have always had that dark side of internet culture coursing through them. But I also don’t think that really removes them from the role in Eve especially of the scrappy rogues. Scrappy rogues can still have flaws. They fit into that narrative even with their character flaws.

        • dragonshardz

          The culture of Goonswarm becoming less cancerous has a couple of factors. First and foremost, I believe, is the cultural revolution that took place in 2012 as a push back against the less savory parts of GSF culture. Secondary to that is people simply growing up and realizing, you know, hating people for something they can’t control is a lot of work and is also really shitty.

      • dragonshardz

        In any case, the Goonswarm of 8 years ago had a shitty, awful culture and you can thank The Mittani for a cultural revolution 4 years ago that fair well stamped that shit out.

        • Rob Kaichin

          He extinguished it, perhaps, but there are still things that ‘normal people’ would perceive as distasteful: the use of “Jews” as an acceptable alternative for ‘money grubbers’ is one example.

          I have to agree that it has got about 100 times better than what it was though.

          • dragonshardz

            I will freely admit there are still imperfections in our culture. Change is a long slow shift in attitudes once the bright flare of “This is shitty and we need to stop” fades. However, most people who use “jew” to encompass all profit-focused activities ingame generally use it in reference to their own actions, rather than looking down on someone as a “dirty jew”.

            You’re far more likely these days to hear “carebear” or “krab” as the epithet of choice for a player who only ever does PvE.

            E: I’m not saying using a slur against oneself excuses the use of it, merely that it’s less morally reprehensible.

          • Vertigoe

            the rest of the game does the same thing that is not reserved solely to goonswarm,

          • Rob Kaichin

            That, though it may be correct, is not relevant to the discussion of GSF’s culture.

      • Vertigoe

        Elitist is not the correct term, we don’t claim to be good at the game. PL and NC. are elitist, Goonswarm worked hard to get where they were and will continue to work hard. Goonswarm and the CFC were and are the original new player alliance/coalition. All others have been copies of that.

    • Rob Kaichin

      Am I becoming Copy-pasta, destroyer of forums?

  • trollsroyce

    When PLNC. trapped the goon superfleet, EVE got the next villain officially. Get with the times.

  • TurAmarth

    Ahhh… Those wacky villains… Can’t love em, can’t war without em!
    117 Billion ISK and Send Mittens My Regards…
    One Man’s Hero is Another Man’s Villain…

  • alfius

    The Imperium is the light of civilisation, order and progress. Eve ‘s real villains are the groups who exist for no reason other than to farm less powerful entities.

    • Rob Kaichin

      Like the Imperium?

  • Oberon2501

    Personally I’d be cool with goons as a villain if it weren’t for them crying all the time about how everyone thinks they’re a villain.

  • Tornike Khomeriki

    Villainy is fine, becoming an organisation bent on ruining others’ game experience and led by a disgusting personality calling for forcing a person to commit suicide, is not.

  • Provi Miner

    Villains abound, the real point is missed completely. Without isk to bank roll there is no “point to rally round” WWB doesn’t happen without lenny and lets be clear goons were not a “villain” to him but rather just an object upon which to test his theory.

  • Grrr Mitten

    There were already vilains: PL-NCdot. But players in this game are so stupid that they let PLNC convince them they were in fact the good guys. And Goons, open to newbies, supporting them in all ways, were the vilains… EVE players are so dumb they deserve their game to collapse

    • Mathias Sinistar

      It’s all about narrative. I would like to point out, as you aren’t the first person to say this, that by coming out in support of villainy, Goons were an example I used because I figured it would be the first one that people thought of. Whether you view, or anyone views, Goons as THE villain, or as villainous at all was not really my point. My point is that the game works a lot better and attracts a lot more people to it when there is this idea of a huge powerful villain, and Goons fit that bill real well. And who knows, now without Goons and with a PL looking as strong as they are, I really wouldn’t be surprised if PL became the next group pegged as the all powerful big bad of Eve, and I’m looking forward to it, not because I hate them personally but because I want to see that story unfold.

  • Easy Esky

    Goons are the Godwin’s Law of Eve. An easy go to when pointing out extremes.

    I think we over-attribute to them some grandiose evil. Well – shouldn’t villainy inspire heroics and moral high ground? Who opposes their tyranny of burning a trade hub? How many desire to sweep out their military blockade of Uedama/Niarja by Miniluv? Anybody rushing to the defense of Providence?

    So other than something to talk about, “What have the Goons ever done for us?”

    Speaking of Providence. So the Goons invaded for a class in Aegis Sovereignty? What lessons were learnt? Post the loss of all sovereignty, it can only be concluded that either nothing was learnt or unwilling/unable to apply the lessons. Villains leave their mark on the world, not some embarrassing stain on the rug.

  • Moebeus

    There is no rational in wanting goons to be reincarnated into a newer form of villain. Something more wicked will inevitably pop up to replace them if they do fade into obscurity as BoB did. Goons became the ultimate villain through their own actions and I think they enjoyed that persona. BoB done the same thing and once that mighty alliance fell to the wayside, goons were there to pick up the torch. Fear not…eventually, something wicked this way comes.

  • its a pvp game

    EVE dont need villains, it needs people with balls, if you just look at test and co2 now you will see everything thats wrong with EVE, all this game needs is people with balls nothing more

    • This. When I resub one day, I vow to take every fight that’s offered no matter how outgunned. Hang the killboard and hang the politics – the only thing in this game that’s fun is the stories, and without fights, the only stories are all scams.