On Civility

 

When a couple of space buddies and I attended 2012’s Fanfest I wasn’t shy about declaring myself a highsec griefer.

Wikipedia (paraphrased):

  • A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and angers other players within the game often using aspects of the game in unintended ways. A griefer derives pleasure primarily or exclusively from the act of annoying other users, and as such is a particular nuisance in online gaming communities since griefers often cannot be deterred by penalties related to in-game goals.
  • Many subscription-based games actively oppose griefers since their behavior can drive away business. Some space sims like Eve Online and Elite: Dangerous have incorporated activities typically considered griefing as part of the gameplay mechanism. Corporate spying, theft, scams, gate-camping, and PVP on non-PVP players are all part of their gaming experience.

While CCP allows griefing, their TOS does curtail certain behaviors.

EVE Online Terms of Service (paraphrased):

  • You may not abuse, harass or threaten another player or authorized representative of CCP, including customer service personnel and volunteers.
  • You may not use any abusive, defamatory, ethnically or racially offensive, harassing, harmful, hateful, obscene, offensive, sexually explicit, threatening or vulgar language.
  • You may not organize nor be a member of any corporation or group within EVE Online that is based on or advocates any anti-ethnic, anti-gay, anti-religious, racist, sexist or other hate-mongering philosophies.
  • You may not use “role-playing” as an excuse to violate these rules.
  • You will report out-of-game issues regarding harassment, such as threatening phone calls or correspondence, to your local law enforcement officials or Internet provider. We are not responsible for actions taken by our subscribers that occur outside the jurisdiction of our game servers or web site.

Despite not putting a great deal of effort into it, I apparently stayed within EVE’s TOS. CCP never contacted me about my highsec griefing though I wouldn’t be surprised if a ticket or two was filed. In hindsight, keeping out of trouble with CCP appears to have occurred via two avenues. First, I was obsequiously polite. Not because I was trying to avoid CCP’s language restrictions but rather because being polite was enjoyable way to contrast my ‘reasonableness’ with my mark’s ‘irrational’ outbursts. Second, I didn’t persist which, as chance would have it, meant I wasn’t harassing anyone.

Dictionary.com: Harass

  • [huh-ras, har-uh s] verb (used with object)
  • to disturb persistently; torment, as with troubles or cares; bother continually; pester; persecute. to trouble by repeated attacks, incursions, etc., as in war or hostilities; harry; raid.

Harassing just never struck me worth the bother. I’d hammer my mark, maybe collect a tear, maybe not, and then move on to the next poor sot. I can’t say what would have happened if a mark had fervently carried on our unhealthy relationship since interaction tends to engender further interaction but my marks rarely pursued that path. Accordingly, like so much of my life, I simply bumbled into good fortune and discovered ‘civil griefing’ along the way. This may take a little unpacking.


Context

So this happened: Goon Watching. With eighty comments on r/eve and another forty on Crossing Zebras I got excited. I’m not that important you see, and suddenly you like me. Right now you like me! If only that were the case. If you cast aside the unimaginative ‘grr gon hat gon’ trolling, few people in either of the comment threads particularly liked or disliked me; few people paid me much attention at all. Rather, I’d blundered into someone else’s long running slap fight to be shanghaied by those belligerents as handy club to continue bludgeoning each other with. My incidental presence to the kerfuffle grows most evident when one recognizes that most comments weren’t especially well connected to my essay which wasn’t an exposé on goons but rather an exploration of their public (i.e. pubbie) image and how that public image colored my experience of The Fountain War Kickstarter. Discussion sites have knack for getting away from you. This distresses some participants.

Long before I passed an eye over r/eve I’d been warned by players far more important than I that “/r/eve is a haven for rogue players with no stake in the game, no shared fate in the destiny of our virtual world. Toxicity is mislabeled as passion, falsehood as insight, ignorance as strength. It is a tremendous tragedy that many prospective players’ first contact with the greater EVE social structure is through so myopic and dirty a lens.

With such dire warnings in place I was slow to examine r/eve: one catches diseases mucking around those sorts of things.  But there are prophylactics and eventually I latexed up and dove in.  These days I’m a disease free reader though I rarely comment reserving my pretentious nannerings for Crossing Zebras.

Yes r/eve is a rough and tumble place but EVE is a rough and tumble game.  Seems good fit to me.  Yes my essay uncorked hostility and some portion of that hostility was directed squarely at me but, as best I can tell, it was entirely space hostility meaning, given the context, everybody remained appropriately civil.


Celebrity

Thrilled by the clamor, I dashed off emails to a couple of EVE associates to crow about the pot my essay had stirred. Their respective responses were interesting.

Pilot T (yes it’s pseudonym):

  • That was a pretty amazingly hostile thread of comments. It seems that Goons or grrr Goons is still a topic that can get a lot of vehemence from the community. I’m looking forward to your next Goons article. I suppose you’ll have to put on your flame-proof suit when you post it and be ready for another round of comments . . . 🙂

Keren (yes, also pseudonym):

  • I read your essay. Not bad. I also poked around in the comments of the piece and have to say that overall it seemed fairly civil compared to what it could have been. Having never been particularly controversial in the past, I think there was little to incite anyone to want to get out their pitchforks and start a witch hunt against you.

Pilot T bubbles enthusiasm.  It’s all part of the fun.  Keren shrugs her shoulders noncommittally while delivering a delightfully subtle “Dire, you’re not important enough to grief” slam. One has to appreciate that kind of zing. I certainly do. Nonetheless it got me wondering how things might have gone had I been celebrity enough to make griefing worthwhile. Accordingly, I waltzed over to a couple of folk better known than I for their thoughts on space celebrity griefing. Their respective responses were illuminating.

Rixx Javix (via Discord):

  • OK so name some famous Eve players / Mittens, Chribba, etc / Somewhere in that list you’ll probably get around to Rixx / Not blowing smoke but I’ve been writing a blog for eight years / I’m involved with the community / I work with CCP / And I cause trouble in game / I run a large Pirate Corporation and an Alliance of 800 players / So mix all that into sharing real life / And that rubs some people the wrong way / I never try to rub people the wrong way / But I also don’t go out of my way to *not* rub people the wrong way

Mynxee (via email):

  • I wonder if EVE fame also provides a bit of a shield against this kind of thing. Bullies will pick on the person they feel they can get to and choosing someone under the radar of the EVE community means they don’t have to endure chastising by the rest of the community which could conceivably happen if someone popular within the community were to expose details of harassment which happened to them personally.

Bollocks! Both of these comments ring true. Why does everything get so complicated? Celebrity not only increases your enemy count, it also increases your ally count. With new enemies come new defenders. If only that were always enough.

Rixx Javix elaborates:

  • I think celebrity breeds a false sense of familiarity that doesn’t really exist / It’s a common theme / People tend to think they “know” you / And how you should act / When they can’t possibly know everything about you / I can’t even show my face on Reddit anymore / A few weeks ago someone posted one of my blog posts over there / It got 500 comments / And people started calling my RL former biz associates / And posting my Court documents / It was a nasty shit show / Luckily a moderator shut it down

Holy hell griefers, what the fuck’s the matter with you?  You *don’t* know these people and that’s not space hostility, that’s real life malevolence. You keep this up and we’re going to run out of celebrities. Not civil, not civil at all.

Post Draft Edit: This essay was written before the recent Grath/Rixx slap fight busted out. Curiously, aside from this edit, I see no need to change anything.


Venues

Despite the bad blood, Goon Watching’s comments struck me civil because no one hassled me out of venue. I didn’t get real life phone calls. My game account wasn’t compromised. Nobody even EVEmailed me. What was said and how they said it proved inconsequential. No, my feelings of propriety grew out of where those things were said.

Mynxee gives striking example:

  • Several years ago, I published a showcase of my art mainly to serve as a marketing tool. At the time I was a regular on a third-party forum mainly populated by EVE players. I linked the showcase in a “real life accomplishments” thread. Almost immediately, x-rated and troll reviews were posted for the product. The hosting site removed the x-rated ones but my requests to remove the troll one were ignored: apparently it was not offensive enough by traditional measures despite being an obvious “comedy review.” When that review’s author eventually outted himself on the forum, I privately asked him to consider how his review could negatively impact my real life income and requested he delete it. He refused, indicating that I should be grateful for his glowing review. Talk about a WTF moment! He and the other involved parties either did not consider the possible real life consequences of their actions or didn’t care (even after being made aware of the potential fallout). They did it merely for a good laugh among themselves and their peers on the forum (which I have long since disassociated with). Apparently, neither empathy nor respect for the actual person they were affecting played any role in their actions. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that people will behave that way despite knowing how commonly it happens. Thankfully, that experience remains a stark anomaly in the bigger picture of my experiences interacting with others online across many venues and topics.

To the troll, griefing on an EVE forum and griefing on retail site feel much the same. To the mark they feel very different. If you’re hopping venues, keep this in mind. It’s the civil thing to do.


Harassment

You should know that excitedly dashing off to Keren to crow about the noisy payoff my Goon Watching essay generated wasn’t entirely innocent on my part. I had ulterior motive. Despite dropping on her stoop with good reference, I duplicitously directed Keren to the essay’s lively comment section not primarily to crow, but to see how she would react. I fully expected something similar to Pilot T’s ‘That was hostile!’ Instead I received a ‘Not bad, seemed fairly civil to me.’

Turns out Keren is no ninny. She has endured a sobering amount of targeted harassment from other EVE players over the years. One experience in particular began with otherwise typical griefing tactics like wardecs and local trolling. When that didn’t produce the desired tears it grew to include in-game stalking through multiple systems like hate mail, convo spamming and locator agent assisted log on camping. “I was never so happy,” she commented, “as when the watch list mechanic was changed.” When they couldn’t find her they griefed her corpies. When that failed to produce the desired tears the harassers began a smear campaign. An enormous amount of time and energy was invested in the project over many many months eventually growing to encompass multiple out-of-game venues. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything in-game or out without being watched by them,” she explained. “Sometimes I still feel that way.”

Aware of my griefing history, Keren asked me what was motivating these people. How could anyone be so hell-bent on driving her out of the game? Were they jealous of what she stood for? Did they truly despise her? Were they just psychopaths? Though it’s difficult to step inside another’s mind, I can make an educated guess. Somewhere over that long period of time things changed. What began as a typical EVE griefing shifted to a contest between Keren’s harassers. Finding themselves in a cruelty competition, each of the harassers kept hiking up the brutality because, well, you don’t want to lose do you? That would look really bad. Toward harassment’s end Keren herself had nearly dropped out of the picture; mere means of scorekeeping between harassing buddies. One wonders, as the months passed, if the buddies were still enjoying themselves as the project had grown into a massive amount of work for very little reward. Still, none of the buddies knew how to escape the trap they’d laid for themselves.

So griefer, if you find yourself thinking “This mark’s not fun anymore” show some spine, release the catch and move on to another target. Sticking around just to posture before your mates is a surrender of autonomy. Be the master of your own fate. Treat yourself decently too. It’s the civil thing to do.


Perspective

If you haven’t seen Mynxee and Johnny Splunk’s 2016 ‘Counter-Culture’ EVE Vegas presentation I suggest you have a look/see. Tucked away in the Signaleer goodwill you’ll find this:

Keren sees things differently:

  • The whole “HTFU” mentality in EVE is actually one of the worst aspects of the game and its community. HTFU is nothing more than a CCP endorsed excuse to engage in crummy behavior. Thanks to that godawful acronym players feel empowered and justified treating other people in the most horrid ways and when the victim rightly calls those people out for it the perpetrators laugh and say “HTFU you pussy” as if it makes everything okay. HTFU glorifies negativity and places blame on the victim for supposedly not being “tough enough” to put up with whatever the bully is dishing out. HTFU removes accountability from the perpetrator and gives them permission to disregard how the human being on the other end might actually be affected by whatever they did. That is not okay. It really, really isn’t.

It would be easy to proclaim that Mynxee ‘gets’ EVE while Keren does not. It’s certainly the case that their disparate approaches to HTFU greatly affect their experience of the game. For the griefers deploying HTFU as cover I’m left wondering if they’ve actually paid attention to the song’s lyrics, “First off – let me make a short introduction, I’m the space 5.0, keeping EVE from destruction . . . Isk spamming scum bags disturbing the peace?  WOOP WOOP it’s the sound of space police! You best watch out bitch if you’re an exploiting scammer, Guard will gank you in the face with his big ban hammer . . . .” HTFU is peppered with things you *shouldn’t* do in EVE and if you don’t like that griefers, well, harden the fuck up.  While I disagree with Keren that HTFU provides a CCP endorsement of crummy behavior, it doesn’t change the fact that far too many players interpret it that way. Songs, like discussion sites, have knack for getting away from you. Genuine HTFU isn’t license, it’s challenge.

Regarding harassment, Mynxee observes:

  • EVE (and maybe all of online gaming) seems to attract a lot of people who are psychologically challenged to a more or lesser degree…it’s always a trick to figure out how to navigate that landscape wisely and compassionately.

Regarding harassment, Rixx Javix observes:

  • You kind of wish for the other guy to outplay you, to challenge you, to beat you in a fair fight / That’s one of the reasons I play in Low Sec and why I started Stay Frosty / For the good fights / So it’s kind of a letdown when they can’t do that / When all they can do is cross a line and be crass, or stupid, or insulting / It’s always a bit of a disappointment / “Ahh, so that’s all you got?” / Bummer man

EVE asks us to walk a tightrope stretched taut between compassion and bellicosity.  It’s a delicate, exacting journey.  Consider your situation pilot.  Don’t lose your way.


Respect

Assembling a pirate alliance like Rixx Javix has is onerous work. Doing it in wormhole space with a no aggression credo as Mynxee has is hard mode. Resisting HTFU misinterpretation as Keren has paints a target on your back — that’s really hard mode. And me? I putter around in game and occasionally write essays about it. That’s easy mode. So thank you all, your perseverance deserves mad respect. My universe is better because you three very different players are here.

I’ve long had the crazy ass dream I’d meet one of my marks at a player gathering. “No shit!” I’d proclaim whipping out my smartphone to look up the kill. “Looks like I owe you a drink,” I’d say waving my hand to get the barmaid’s attention. “What have you been up to since our unfortunate meeting?” I’d ask as our drinks are delivered. It’s not likely to happen, especially these days as I’m now more entranced with gentle pleasures like manufacturing, grandbabies and formal dining, but it’s not a bad rule of thumb. If your EVE griefing absolutely precludes meeting your mark in real life, you’re doing it wrong. Civility has its rewards too.

 

Tags: DireNecessity

About the author

DireNecessity

A soloish long-term casual player since 2009, sporting a troubling history of preying on the good people of highsec, these days DireNecessity enjoys the gentle pleasures like manufacturing, grandbabies and formal dining.