Navigating the Community

 

The EVE player community is one of the most fascinating and complex aspects of this already challenging game. While I am sure that other games have longstanding fanbases with their own sites, blogs, subreddits and twitch channels, I would dare to claim that none of them will be like what has developed in and around EVE.

This game’s unique nature as a continuous sandbox which is shared by all players worldwide (except the Chinese unfortunately) allows for the development of something that goes far beyond the usual affinity groups of fans. EVE has its own living player-generated history and social evolution which has developed throughout the years since 2003, and there are still people around from those days. This can be incredibly fascinating and gratifying to explore, but at the same time the vagaries of the EVE player community can also be highly frustrating for those who are unfamiliar with it.

With the introduction of the Alpha Clones last year, EVE has seen an influx of new players that is unprecedented, but one thing that EVE is notoriously bad at is player retention. Next to the steep learning curve, the often obscure and complex gameplay mechanics and the severity of loss that can happen all too easy – especially for new players -, I would identify the complex and often difficult to navigate community as one of the main reasons why players quit in frustration. With this article I would like to address one of those obstacles and hope that it finds an audience among those who have only started recently and can make little to no sense of what is going on around them.

Entering EVE as a new player is not unlike moving to a new town or neighbourhood in a major city where you know no-one, heck in can be like moving to an entirely new country with its own customs and cultures. You will come into the game mostly unnoticed while there are wars going on, rivalries being played out, playstyles competing with each-other, alliances made and broken, friendships formed and goals pursued. It is a living game environment where few things stay the same for long. To find your way as new player can be daunting and confusing, and it can happen easily that you make mistakes which can sour the experience for you.

The Faction Trap

Sticking with the analogy of moving to a new home, you may find yourself merrily having a few drinks with the man who had an affair with someone’s wife, so suddenly that guy and all his friends look at you negatively without you even knowing why. Personal grudges like this exist between EVE players as well, and they may have existed for years prior to your arrival. With some, those grudges can run so deep that you might feel like you have ended up in the Northern Ireland of the 1980s and made the mistake of going to a protestant pub while living in a catholic neighbourhood. Since you are here reading this, we can start with this very site. For you as new player it will appear just another fansite with articles and podcasts you may or may not find interesting, but for some longstanding EVE players you may already be marked as belonging to a certain clique or told off if you mention that you like the site. The same goes for the other two media sites EVE News 24 and Imperium News.

EVE players can be very factionalistic and declaring affinity for the wrong faction can cast you in an unfavourable light for some. It may even go so far that you will be maligned for not being explicitly dismissive of others.

Last year saw a rather public example of such a scenario when the new player and twitch streamer Crasskitty ran afoul of the sometimes exaggerated faction rivalries in EVE. Being unfamiliar with the social demarcation lines that some players have drawn between themselves, she indiscriminately invited guests from all over the game to talk to her live on twitch. It did not take too long for her to become the target for individuals who did not appreciate her non-partisan behaviour. It takes a very subtle approach and good social engineering to pull off a live program for this community without becoming the target for some group or other, comprised of obsessive-compulsive EVE players, who feel you misrepresented them or favoured others over them. Even seasoned media personalities have their difficulties walking this tightrope, and some snap under the pressure of constantly being pushed to choose a side. If you look over a list of the who’s who among prominent EVE players with a public face, there are few who will never have been involved in some drama related to the constant pressure to pick a side.

Now, since you are reading this, I assume you are a rather new player and not necessarily poised to become a public media personality within the EVE community, but those are just salient examples for the purpose of demonstration. You should be aware that joining with any group of marginal significance will mark you in the eyes of older players, and that mark can lead to different treatment depending on how entrenched they are in their own ways. If you join a highsec mining and mission-running group you will be labeled a carebear. If you end up with a group that hunts that kind of player you will be called a griefer. Many of the more peacefully inclined EVE players will even think ill of you if you engage them in legitimate combat-zone PvP like camping lowsec gates.

Faction Warfare features an explicit divide by game mechanics. You will lose standings with the opposing NPC factions (Amarr & Caldari vs. Minmatar & Gallente) and can not enter their space without being attacked by NPCs. Interestingly enough, the Faction Warfare players are often among the least factional, maybe that is the case because the game mechanics already provide a clear separation between them. Like football players of opposing teams they will play hard during the match, but when it’s over they will swap t-shirts and pat each other on the back.

The strongest form of factionalism and therefore the most social baggage you will potentially acquire exists among the nullsec alliances. Granted, these days many leading players who live in nullsec have played EVE for many years and mellowed out a bit, but there are still a fair share of players around who will declare you anathema if you are or have been with the wrong group. Today you may be contemplating joining TEST, Karmafleet, Brave Newbies or Pandemic Horde, but with the friends you gain that way, you also bought yourself a whole lot of enemies you didn’t even know about.

As a new player you have the advantage that you are not yet entrenched in one area of the game or another. Far be it from me to deter you from choosing whichever group suits you, but I would advise you to get your bearings. Listen to podcasts, read articles, check out the EVE subreddit and get a feeling for the group you have joined. If you see and hear excessive vitriol, I would not recommend staying or joining. Those who isolate themselves too strongly and vilify others excessively also tend to be disliked, and doors that would otherwise be open might become closed for you if you end up with an overly factionalist group of players.

The Social Media Environment

EVE has a number of adjunct social media environments which all have their own pundits or those who think they are. There are of course the EVE Online Forums which are run by CCP themselves, but besides that there is also tweetfleet (a twitter hashtag dedicated to EVE Online) the Tweetfleet Slack which is obviously running on the Slack platform and includes a number of channels on different subjects, and the EVE subreddit. There are prominent individuals on each one of them, and many are active cross-platform. Since this is the internet, there is a fair share of trolls, inane rubbish and other aggravating online behaviour. The social media environment adds another layer to the in-game community which can be both helpful and even more confusing.

Here players can choose to obfuscate their in-game affiliation or fake it. Players employ forum posting alts, reddit flairs that do not reflect their actual affinity and usernames that are not related to their main in-game persona and so forth. In my personal experience it is advisable to stick to the people who are consistent across the board. No matter how crazy their point-of-view is, at least they are committed to it and do not play insipid online obfuscation games. Xenuria – to use a prominent example of a controversial person – uses the same handle on twitter, reddit, slack and the forums, even in-game. Whatever he says or does in any of those contexts, he implicitly accepts responsibility across all the media platforms. Can you always trust players who stay consistent like that? No, but you can at least be sure that they stay true to their message and do not hide behind aliases.

If you are new and you think you can use the perceived anonymity of the web as some sort of smokescreen, don’t be too sure. EVE players count a good amount of rather proficient intelligence gatherers among their number. There are people who will cross-reference posts, account information and metadata just to check you out. Again, this might not ever happen to you if you stay under the radar and do nothing spectacular, but once you engage with other players you might be caught in a net of mutual distrust. You might do well by hiding your identity behind multiple accounts, but if you are found out you can also count on a level of repercussion.

In EVE there are two things more sensitive than anything else: reputation and trust. Many players think they can escape their reputation and garner new trust once they have made enemies, and many succeed – for a time – but eventually chances are that their past will catch up with them. The same goes for interaction in the meta-environment of the game. The factionalism I mentioned above often motivates players to go to such lengths and find out which aliases their “enemies” are hiding behind. Playing internet-hide-and-seek can easily make you appear suspicious to them and you might get flagged as a potential spy, thief, troublemaker or just a pain in the ass. To avoid ending up in such a situation I would also advise here to observe and study before rushing into action. If you don’t say or do anything too outrageous early on, you will not feel the need to hide behind posting alts and sockpuppet accounts. If you build a consistent reputation by small steps in the beginning, you can benefit from it later. It will still be difficult enough. Many of those social-media environments have their own explicit and unspoken codes of conduct. In years I have been unable to determine exactly how the preference dynamics on the EVE subreddit work and why people there celebrate a “quality shitpost”  while they shoot down a qualified and level-headed comment.

EVE related social media content always carries a certain twist with it. How to stay out or how to properly engage in a conflict ties in very much with your own game experience. Pushing each other’s buttons is a widely practiced activity online as it is, among EVE players all the grudges, the factionalism, the personal histories and conflicts become part of that. Again, even seasoned community veterans are not immune to missteps there. The latest outburst between Rixx Javix and Grath Telkin are testimony to than.

The Serious Business

All of the above may sound like the stereotype: EVE is a game full of sociopaths, autism-spectrum disorder cases and other basement-dwelling nutjobs. While there are those people in this player community, and although some of them are very loud and out-there with their obsessions, there is a large majority who are just genuinely intelligent, interesting and compassionate human beings from many different places around the world. If they are long-standing members of the EVE playerbase, they enjoy this game for its opportunity to forge your own path, no matter how humble it may be.

I often remind myself of this statement (I paraphrase from a voice conversation) “In all my time playing this game I have mostly received support and appreciation from other players” Something to this effect was said to me by Greygal, a great community member who is running an organisation that dedicates itself to offering players from all over the game easily accessible PvP fleets – Redemption Road. (no I am not sponsored by them) Everyone is welcome but expected to leave any political baggage at the door. In their fleet you are an EVE player enjoying the game with others. Things will get blown up, underhanded tactics will be used, local chat will be used for smacktalk, boastful posts will be made on the occasion of a remarkable kill. This is what happens in this game and that is all fine.  

Many out there will differ with me, but I think this is close to the essence of EVE: to realize that you can share this communal experience, and if you fight you switch t-shirts and pat each other on the back in the end. There will always be those who will build walls between themselves and others, antagonise players on a personal level or just the usual internet trash in its EVE-player manifestation, but the real world has enough problems. Why should we create new ones in our spare-time escapist sci-fi game?!

As such as I can not tell you the way you should play EVE, I can also not tell you how you should navigate its community. All I want you to know is that between all the rough waters, the typhoons and tsunamis, there are also great seas to sail on the way to unexpected destinations.

Tags: community, Tarek Raimo

About the author

Tarek Raimo

Former nullsec spy (no not under that name of course) and current failure at lowsec solo PVP, Tarek spends his time not logging in to the game as much as he keeps thinking about its social and metagame nature and sharing some of those thoughts with the CZ readers.


  • DireNecessity

    Nice read generating two quick thoughts and an elaboration:

    Thought 1) For the noob wanting to join a group to learn the game without acquiring a bushel of limiting cultural baggage, I recommend EVE University. As best I can tell they’ve done a fine job at staying out of ‘EVE Politics’. (If this is not the case someone kindly let me know and I’ll revise my opinion.)

    Thought 2) The longer I play this game the more entranced I grow with how it functions as a vehicle to human interaction. Then again I think humans are enduringly interesting and I often find myself lauding CCP for doubling down on this approach.

    Elaboration) Things like the Rixx/Grath outburst amaze me since, in hindsight, there’s whiff of inevitability underfoot. Both Rixx and Grath are combative players making EVE a very good game for them. I am under the impression Grath wanted to defend WAFFLES member Reza Najafi from Rixx critique and being a bellicose player, he did that by attacking Rixx as effectively as he knew how – going personal – rather than, say, exploring what was in Reza’s essay. Being equally bellicose, Rixx attacked Grath right back. With neither player adept at de-escalation, things spun into the bizarre stunningly fast. All in all it was a relatively small dispute taking place over a short period of time but this being the internet, the interaction has been saved for posterity. On r/Eve at least it appears Grath may have garnered himself the most grief as ‘legitimate ex con’ is fast becoming an EVE meme. We really are an unforgiving bunch sometimes.

    • Owen Wells

      I agree that eve uni doesnt really have any factional associations that I know of, not so sure they dont come with their own cultural baggage. Although having said that I still think they’re a perfectly fine choice for new players looking to learn more about the game.

      As for the whole Rixx/Grath thing I just found it slightly embarrassing for EVE to be associated with something so completely stupid to be honest. I’ll freely admit I just dont like Rixx very much in general and think Grath is way too eager to fly off the handle at people but still neither of them should have gone where they did in that argument, it just isnt on in my book.

      • Bill Bones

        The moment a guy insults a man’s wife because of a videogame grudge, he loses all arguments and becomes a full fledged RL idiot.

        • Grath

          You can say this as often as you like but it didn’t actually happen. You’re like a young Trump.

          • Bill Bones

            I don’t think that your ex wife should become my business because of what you say about a videogame…

    • Kamar Raimo

      How could I forget EVE University (facepalm)

      Also, to be honest I didn’t particularly want to discuss the Rixx/Grath thing, just use it as an example that even the most savvy and longstanding members of the community can fly off the handle at unexpected moments and shoot themselves in the foot. There are many such examples, but that was the most recent one.

      • DireNecessity

        Let us hope I haven’t derailed your essay too much by elaborating on the R/G example. As you rightly point out it’s merely recent example of how two “savvy and longstanding members of the community can fly off the handle . . .” and your essay goes decent distance into exploring what might be underlying this tendency. For a person like me who is fascinated by humans, rich examples like the brief R/G blowup beg examination. For other people more interested in rendering judgement rather than pursuing understanding, R/G is exciting opportunity to deliver scathing rebuke (see Bill Bones in these very comments). The appeal of scathing rebuke fascinates me too. Your essay dances in this question as well.

        • Kamar Raimo

          You are absolutely right, this article and yours from just a few days ago deal with similar subjects and hence I was a bit doubtful about releasing it (for the record I had started writing before yours, and the R/G drama came along) I share the same fascination, but I like the big picture rather than focusing on individuals too much.

    • Bill Bones

      Grath berated RIxx’s wife. About a FUCKING VIDEOGAME GRUDGE. Thus Garth is either an idiot, or is mentally insane, or both.

      • Grath

        Thats nowhere near close to what happened. Good job on your reading skills though. (pro tip im actually defending his EX wife)

        • Bill Bones

          I guess you’re missing the sanity check of not taking ingame grudges out to real life. The ingame persona and the real person behind are not the same, thus the moment you attack Bryan Ward instead of Rixx Javix, you lose your dignity, lose the debate, lose the sense and you cast a serious doubt about your sanity.

          • Grath

            Nah, not really, I think the minute Rixx came begging for real money to fix his real life he opens it up for inspection. Whats found is seriously fucked up.

        • Joe

          Grath

          You said RJ was a deadbeat dad – i.e., somone who does not have custody of his child/children but pays not support. It seems pretty clear that was false accusation about him as a real person. Will you apologize at least for saying that?

          • Grath

            I already have stated that I mis spoke about what he owned money for (live on the air/open comms show), the actuality is that he owes what amounts to back alimony, and if we want to be honest, the way the judge has gone after him suggests more to the story than Rixx has revealed, and the potential reasoning behind it isn’t pretty, or something I find acceptable to be hiding in plain sight and asking this community for money.

          • Joe

            Well at least you apologized for calling him a deadbeat
            Dad. (Assuming you did)

            Family law courts can and often do really screw people over. And sometimes they call obligations alimony when they aren’t so they can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. I really don’t know if that happened here. But the situation where you enter a marital settlement agreement/ judgment when business is good and the obligations are based on that, and then business goes bad and you find court orders you can’t meet … well it’s not uncommon and judges are not always very realistic or accommodating. Allot of this has to do with who can pay lawyers more than it does with anything close to justice.

            I’m just saying nothing about his story made me think he was necessarily being a scumbag. Sure he could be. But just because his ex’s atty and some judge has a hard on for him doesn’t mean anything.

          • Grath

            the way the order got modified after the fact leads me to believe that the judge kinda went for the jugular after the fact, and that makes you wonder what he might have done, the list of things he could have done to make this judge this rabid is pretty slim.

            all that aside, this is probably one of the worst things you could ask the help of the community for, much less the anger the judge might have around finding out he crowd sourced his punishment and the unreported income those donations amount to

          • Joe

            Family law judges are not always so reasonable as you think. There are times they write these orders and everyone leaves wondering what the judge was thinking as to how this money will somehow appear. When it doesn’t then the person gets buried deeper with fines and attorney fees because they were unable to comply with an unrealistic order. No one has money to appeal this stuff. And appellate courts don’t want to deal with it so they often just find a way to justify the trial court’s broad discretion in how it ruled. Moreover if you appeal and lose you may find yourself also having to pay the opposing sides attorney fees for the appeal. Its very easy to get buried very deep in a family law case unless you have a good lawyer who knows the judges. (and by that I don’t mean bribery or anything like that but just knows how the local judges take certain arguments.)

            I can say that family law matters are very poorly suited for our court system. The laws vary by state, but in every state I know of, you don’t get a jury and you are stuck with a single judge who has very broad discretion.

            I would think he would disclose the income he received from this go fund me.

    • For the non-PvP explorer, you might want to check out Signal Cartel, as well. We are a drama-free zone populated by many longstanding and knowledgeable pilots.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    Great article as usual Tarek.

  • Joe

    One of the problems with eve is the line between what persona are you at any given time is very blurred. One reason it is so blurred is because our wonderful community is one where people often don’t want to post with there real name. (that should tell you something could use fixing) If that were different then this article would likely be a real name person (who goes by Tarek Raimo in game,) as opposed to being by just in game name.

    Just for example this blog by “Tarek Raimo”. The blog itself is really from a real person. The blog is not a roleplay blog where “Tarek Raimo” is talking about his experience flying real spaceships. So if you don’t like what “Tarek Raimo” says here you shouldn’t really blame the character but the player (real person) behind the character. Sure you shouldn’t blame anyone for their views about a computer game. But often we talk about much more than just a computer game. For example we often get a sense of how rude or arrogant, or kind or reasonable people really are in real life. And I think its legitimate to develop likes and dislikes of real people based on that. Even if you don’t know them by anything more than their spaceship pseudonym.

    The same is true when people are on Team speak (unless it is a rare true roleplayer) or on podcasts etc. Its not the character talking it is the real person.