In Support of VillainyMathias Sinistar
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.
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