Interstellar Petri Dish

Let’s talk about culture. Specifically, corp and alliance culture, and the difference between a toxic environment and simple, harmless trolling and hazing.

The Good and the Ugly

Pandemic Legion is a rough alliance to be a part of. In 99% of cases, in order to get into PL (without a boosh vouch) you have to do one of two things: Spend a year or two in SniggWaffe and prove your usefulness or willingness to learn, or submit a publicly viewable application to one of the corporations in the alliance. Both methods will subject you to what many outsiders consider “vicious and demeaning treatment.” Let’s take a look at this recent application to Habitual Euthanasia. The applicant answers the application questions to the best of his or her ability, and the community weighs in. Except that in PL, “weighing in” moonlights as “be a harsh prick and see what happens.” If the applicant takes it well, that is bonus points in their favour at getting into the corp they have applied to join. If, however, the opposite happens, like in the application above, the mob smells blood in the water and goes in for the kill. The thought process behind this is pretty simple: “Why should we care about what this random applicant takes from this experience when it’s pretty clear they’re not going to become a part of our community?” From the outside looking in, groups such as ours seem downright unfriendly and hostile, but we want it that way. It weeds out not only the weak, but people simply too different from us to effectively fit in. SniggWaffe has evolved into something more than just a training or feeding corp; Waffles are their own entity first, and a means to graduate into Sniggerdly (or potentially other corporations within PL) second. Potential applicants to PL are oftentimes told to put time into Waffles not only to prove they know how to play Eve, but to acclimate to our culture – a task so significant it warrants extended stays of a year or longer in some cases. If you manage to last long enough in SniggWaffe (which is basically a year long experience of the application process) or manage to impress people with your application thread, you’ll find one of the most close-knit communities in Eve, and I daresay in all of gaming.
Why is this necessary? Why does a community of people insist on having abrasive and rough interactions with each other and with outsiders? Such a question is heavily loaded, since it involves analyzing the entire community and digging into each person’s brain to find out why they act the way they do, but I think I have a few simplified answers. Firstly, by putting up with the shit we put you through, it shows you want to put the effort into actually being a member of our group; PL isn’t a place for lazy babies who can’t think for themselves and want to just cruise along being a part of The Best. Secondly, by purposefully getting most of the heinous shit out of the way early, it reinforces the bond between bros. It’s a way of identifying with your peers, almost like a nerd version of war veterans and their blood bonds. There are a bare handful of people in PL I genuinely dislike, and I think all of them were “booshed” into the alliance – that is to say, they weren’t subjected to the public scrutiny of application threads or the slow cook of Waffles. If you fit in with Pandemic Legion and SniggWaffe, you’re able to communicate with the others in the alliance without holding back, without sugarcoating shit you’re going to say because you might hurt their feelings, and without worrying about people holding long-lasting grudges because they don’t like what they hear; that is incredibly significant.

The Just Plain Bad

I’d like to preface the following with a disclaimer of sorts: these are my thoughts based on my experiences with TEST almost two years ago, a veritable lifetime in Eve. It’s entirely possible that things have changed since then – organizations tend to change in such lengths of time – but unfortunately I can only write about what I personally saw and went through. On the other side of the floor are the “toxic” communities. I was a member of TEST what seems like an eternity ago, and I’ve forcefully forgotten many of the details of what it was like because it was that awful. Now, I’m no master of buzzwords. I genuinely don’t really know the meaning of the word “toxic” when it comes to communities. In fact, my first exposure to the term was when I heard about Riot Games banning people in League of Legends for being too toxic or something. But being a member of TEST nearly two years ago gave me a forced introduction to the term, when it seemed to be gaining popularity as a catch-all phrase to describe things the speaker didn’t like or agree with.
Ironically, in TEST, the toxic elements of the community weren’t the ones that said “mean” things. The problem cases were the people who insisted and demanded that everything be sugarcoated, and resorted to passive-aggressiveness in place of being out in the open with their grievances. Anyone with real life conflict management experience knows that skirting around issues doesn’t help resolve them, it just lets them fester and get worse. Lise Kiel, my corpmate and fellow TEST veteran, puts it best: “What’s toxic for an organization is apathy, irresponsibility. These sugarcoaters are toxic because that’s what they are; apathetic and irresponsible. They want to be this way because it takes effort to manage conflict, it takes effort to deal with hearing shit that you don’t agree with. These people don’t want effort and they don’t want stress, they only want to deal with shit they have easy answers to. That kind of low effort tendency is the bane of success. This would explain why the TEST that got rid of the “toxic” elements [referring to Zulu Squad – where most of the real-talkers and driving forces for improvement resided – splitting from TEST in 2013] withered away in Fountain; because nobody who had the spine to make the effort to take the pain was left.  Very special thanks to Lise Kiel and Oh Takashawa for their help in formulating my thoughts on a difficult subject  
Tags: community, dirk, pandemic legion, TEST Alliance Please Ignore, waffles

About the author

Dirk Action

As a member of Sniggerdly corporation in Pandemic Legion, Dirk enjoys a fine view from atop the highest peak in Eve. When he isn't collecting free money from numerous personal R64 moons, he enjoys Paradox titles, droney noisy music, anime, fighting games and shitposting. Lots of shitposting.

  • Hendrick Tallardar

    [5:01:19 PM] Dirk Action: sadly I am the cancer 🙁

    • Dirk Action

      it’s true, I’m a JEFFRAIDER boosh vouch

  • Powersv2

    Everything I learned about being toxic, I learned from Britney spears and zulu squad.

  • Travisuchonela

    Tl;dr leetcheese was right

  • Ranamar

    I’m uncomfortable with this definition of “toxic”. I have been relieved to have an opportunity to go somewhere different twice in my EVE career. Both times, it wasn’t because people insisted on sugar-coating things. Instead, it was because I was uncomfortable with the attitudes being displayed and believed that I was powerless to push back. In both cases, I did not believe that I could actually find a home which was better than the one I had left, because I had never experienced anything better.

    People who bully others into not bringing their problems forward are a management problem, and can take many forms. However, I’d say that, when a gaming community is referred to as “toxic”, it is because it produces a culture where bullying of any sort is encouraged. The attitudes seep in, not exactly unconsciously, but through general demonstration that the behavior they enable is acceptable… and humans are social animals; we are influenced by the attitudes of our peers. From my time flying alongside TEST, I felt like I was becoming a worse person week by week. (Language really does influence thought.) Flying with the CFC was better, but not by much.

    Some of this is subject to outside influences, too. League of Legends bans toxic players because it’s toxic to their bottom line, for example. I suspect PL can get away with being jerks to each other because they believe they don’t *need* more pilots than they already have and are getting… or at least that having a space where they can behave the way they do is more important than any extra members they’d gain from changing their behavior.

  • KN

    This recruitment culture is essentially a consequence of EVE not really being a player-skill based game. In more skill-oriented games, whichever of FPS/RTS/fighting/MOBA even, it is possible, and crucial, to effectively determine a player’s ability. Individual skill is distributed over a wide spectrum, with bad players unable to attain the level of certain good players, regardless of how long they train. Not so in EVE, where it is relatively easy for the majority of thus inclined players to attain the combination of player-skill/skillpoints/experience required to be generally effective (particularly so for an “effective fleet member”). So how then to filter potential recruits?

    • meh eve

      Apparently by being a massive c#nt and referring to ppl as “bros”, if I read this article right.

      • Dirk Action

        Hi that’s PL it’s what we do and it’s who we are. As I said, it’s not for everyone. As is said above, because Eve is more about who leads the group in fights instead of emphasising individual skill at the game, we would rather be surrounded by people who are agreeable with us and our personalities.

        It just so happens our personalities tend to be harsh in general v0v

  • Manas

    Defining and then defending your corp/alliance culture is the most important aspect of setting up a corp. The trick is: it doesn’t matter what the culture is, as long as everyone buys into it.

    When I founded my corp, I set up some principles: No whining, no smacking, no scamming, no low-sec piracy, anti-elitism, and general maturity. All focus is working together on getting the job done by holding and expanding space via 0.0 PvP. The result is a corp going on 8 years with little drama.

    But!!.. you could also found a great tight knit corp based on piracy, egotism, and scamming. Or like PL based on elitism and brutal honesty. Or like Goonswarm based on baiting the try hards.

    If you recruit solely on skill, KB, SP, # of supers, or isk, you are doomed. Eventually you will be torn apart by drama and “toxicity”. Make sure your recruiters or recruiting method has a good test on measuring recruit attitude, and be willing to say no to some skilled players who are bad fits. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

    • Dirk Action

      I like you

  • konnman

    ” Very special thanks to Lise Kiel and Oh Takashawa for their help in **formulating my thoughts**” clears everything right up, thanks 🙂

    • Dirk Action

      Considering such a topic is incredibly opaque and intangible then yeah asking for a hand in putting thoughts to paper is a big help

      If you’re suggesting they put words in my mouth then lol

      • konnman

        Oh on, not at all what i was suggesting, just thought i had missunderstood what you where saying thats all 🙂

  • Kamar Raimo

    I never understood that rationale expressed here. Sure, I have been part of that culture and saw it in action, but I never saw its merits.

    A friend of mine used to be recruiter for a wormhole corporation. While I never was part of that player community, I would say that no recruitment process in EVE requires more discrimination. The skill requirements are high, and the requirements to fit in are even higher. After all you are stuck in one system together and the potential for betrayal is high.

    She never resorted to any kind of hazing or asking weird questions (what the hell is the significance of Taylor Swift anyway?) but applied a very rigorous system of questioning and background checking. People who did not fit the requirements were told in a professional way that they should look for opportunities elsewhere.

    Just drop the pretense that your lad’s locker room atmosphere is some sort of culture and tell it to them straight.

    The main difference between PL and TEST on that level is, that TEST pretended that new players are welcome. Sure that was true when it came to skill levels and game experience, but if you did not know the meme of the day or were able to spot the most common trolling tactics you would be treated mercilessly. At least in PL you guys make it clear from the beginning that someone needs to be a “bro” who has knowyourmeme memorized apart from being able to fly all the ships you require.

    Oh Takashawa once lectured me on PL being there only for the fights. That article here tells a different story. Seems like you do have a culture after all, as degraded and inane as it may be. I have been with crews who are only in it for the fights. They don’t do that kind of ridiculous student fraternity hazing.