Representation And Entitlement

 

“Those who simply voted a ballot as prescribed by CFC leadership […] were never really voting for ‘me’ in the first place, but I will continue to represent you as best I can.” – Xander Phoena

When the Phoebe developer proposals caused emotional outbursts among players, some turned toward the CSM representatives to express their dissatisfaction and maybe even find someone to blame. In particular, there are people who feel that their representative should have done more to spare them nerfs or maybe influence an outcome that would be more beneficial to them. Being a writer for Crossing Zebras puts me in close contact with CSM member Xander Phoena, of course, so I heard a thing or two from him on how that can play out. The question that I ended up asking myself is whether a CSM representative can even have such a major influence and, if so, whether they should use it to benefit what could arguably be called their constituency.

The Concept Of CSM

When the CSM was created as an institution, gaming media was talking about democracy being introduced into the development process of EVE. That sounds catchy, but missed the point of what the CSM originally was. The event which lead to the creation of the CSM was the T20 Scandal and thus creating a body of players as liaison with CCP developers resulted from a desire to increase accountability. Ideally, if players from different backgrounds could look behind the scenes at CCP, unchecked collusion between developers and limited player groups would become more difficult if not impossible. Ostensibly that worked out well. Despite many rampant conspiracy theories, nothing like the T20 Scandal ever happened again as far as the evidence suggests. As time went on, CCP began to see the value of the CSM as a sounding-board and then a stakeholder in the development process. Over the years another problem appeared which threatened to derail that concept however. Growing in numbers and organisation, large groups of players could effectively control who would become a CSM member through unified voting. That development reached its culmination with the second election of The Mittani as chairman, proving that at least Goonswarm could put one of their members in that position whenever they wanted. Mittani proceeded to state that he did not consider it his duty as elected chairman to represent all of the EVE players or even all of the nullsec players, but only his constituency. By doing so he sent two messages which affected the way the CSM is viewed by the players and by CCP. On one side he implied that those who voted for him are entitled to have their particular interests safeguarded or at least bargained for, much like a union leader would do in negotiations with industry representatives. On the other hand it told CCP that they may be facing a future where they will continuously be presented with a one-sided view since it had become a realistic scenario that almost all CSM members would eventually come from one or two major nullsec blocs. hkjhkjhkjghk

More-Or-Less Equal Representation

Unlike on other occasions, CCP paid attention to the writing on the wall, acted proactively, and changed the election process. The Single-Transferable-Vote (STV) system was implemented in an effort to create a more diverse CSM and the results were not bad. The impact of coordinated bloc voting which threatened to lock out smaller groups was definitely lessened and the CSM members since then came from much more diverse backgrounds. The goal of creating a representative focus-group as a stakeholder in the development process was well served by that. The habitual critics and conspiracy theorists would of course point out that there has still been “a Goon” on every CSM since, but that is absolutely fine. Goonswarm – and by extension the CFC – comprise a large part of the nullsec playerbase and they have a distinct organisational paradigm. They should have a member in a focus group that is supposed to serve the purpose of stakeholder. In fact, it would be worrisome if they were not represented. The results still favour nullsec above other player groups, but that will be hard to avoid as long as CSM awareness among the EVE player population remains as it is. The communal nature of nullsec gameplay makes it much easier to mobilize people to vote. Players in that area are also highly involved in the metagame and are used to following instructions by their leadership. That degree of unity lends their votes greater weight. Another group of players who show a very high awareness and vote coherently are the occupants of wormhole space. Considering their comparatively low total numbers, it is a clear indicator of their investment in the process that they consistently manage to get at least one representative on the CSM. Notably, the fact that they may be overrepresented on the CSM does not lead to the same amount of concern that the nullsec blocs are faced with. In part that is due to reputation. Wormhole players are not known for ruthless and underhanded metagaming to the same degree as nullsec leaders are. On the other hand, it is safe to assume that even if every single wormhole player would vote, they are simply not enough to completely take over a majority of the CSM seats. That makes them powerful but non-threatening voters. In one case we see a group of players where awareness is spread through the ranks by those who have a strong influence and collective discipline is observed, on the other side there are experienced and individually invested players with a strong focus. Eventually those two groups should become one among many player communities involved to a similar degree, albeit for different reasons. e6ykpDm The current CSM has an almost ideal composition. It has representatives from many different playstyles, ranging from NPSI across different nullsec, lowsec and wormhole groups, to PVE in highsec and even third-party application development. After nine iterations it looks like the CSM process has lead to a very useful result for the purpose of creating a stakeholder focus group. However, there is still work to be done when it comes to player awareness and participation in the process. The more players from diverse backgrounds vote, the better results CCP will get from their focus group. The recent drama that happened around Phoebe which affected Xander Phoena and Major JSilva also shows that even players who are actively participating in the process have a lot to learn about CSM.

You Are My Candidate

The Mittani’s statement about serving his constituency and the gaming media’s reports about “space democracy” created an image of the CSM in the minds of players that does not quite match with the reality of the process. Even candidates themselves – if they have not been on CSM previously – are prone to that misinterpretation and conduct their campaigns as if they would be running for a political office. The CSM however, is not an institution of a democratic government. It is not even something like a union that represents players´ interests against CCP. As I have stated, the CSM is an advisory focus group. Their main purpose is to allow CCP deeper insight into the effects which their developments have on the playerbase. Ideally, the CSM would be comprised of experts in their field who understand the implications of changes in game mechanics better than the developers themselves. The more diverse this group of experts in, the more insight CCP can gain and proceed accordingly. In the light of this, it is not entirely reasonable to beholden a candidate to a voter constituency. It is much more important that they represent their area of expertise rather than their political camp. Considering that, Mynnna would not be a representative of Goonswarm, but an expert on large scale industry and trade. Corebloodbrothers does not speak for Provibloc, but he brings aspects into the discussion which relate to sovereignty under an NRDS (Not Red Don’t Shoot) policy, and Sion Kumitomo can offer expert advice on anything that affects the organisational level of large player coalitions. Those who were angry at Xander Phoena for not serving their specific interests both misinterpreted and overrated his role. To begin with, a single CSM candidate can not coerce CCP into serving any specific interest, they can at best point out that specific changes might have negative consequences and influence CCP that way. Furthermore, it was not Xander’s job to ensure that the changes make everyone in the CFC or even in The Bastion happy. Rather than that his background would cast him into the role of someone representing the view of a nullsec alliance line member. As such he can effectively represent people in the CFC or in Nulli Secunda equally, like he said in the quote at the beginning of this piece, no matter what his corp ticker says in-game. Mike Azariah is another good example of the way how this works. Many of the players he effectively represents do not even vote on CSM elections. Many of those who did vote for him – like myself – do not share his playstyle at all. Still, having someone from this particular background on the CSM is very beneficial for the process and by extension for the game as a whole. All of those who do not play in highsec or industry but did place Mike Azariah high on their candidate list understand that and vote accordingly. The STV system made such a choice much easier too. Under the previous system, someone in my position would very likely cast all their votes for DJ FunkyBacon and Sugar Kyle in an effort to get at least one lowsec candidate on the CSM. Such a vote could easily be wasted if those candidates were to receive enough to make it anyway, and the chance to waste a vote is even higher when it is cast for a candidate with a lesser number of people backing them. The result is a very concentrated strategic voting behaviour which gravitates towards “main candidates”. Under the current system, everyone can place several candidates on their ballot based on the consideration who they would vote for if they already knew that their favorite candidate gets enough of the votes. No votes go to waste and the result is a much better spread of votes over representatives of different playstyles. CSM6Splash3a

Raising Awareness

The CSM process is on a very good track. All prerequisites are in place to create an effective and representative stakeholder group elected by the playerbase. Now it is up to CCP and the players who understand the role of the CSM to spread the message that it is important to recognize the role of the CSM and vote accordingly. Coalition members who simply vote for the people vetted by their leaders, or the uninvolved highsec population who do not vote at all, should eventually become a thing of the past. If the CSM is comprised of a wide variety of players from different backgrounds, CCP will have a great tool at their disposal to optimize the gaming experience equally for everyone. To achieve that, they need to put much more effort into promoting and explaining the process than they have done so far. The players on the other hand need to let go of misguided notions that CSM members are our personal advocates. Neither should we vote based on in-game political affiliation. Intelligent advice on subject matter, that is what we players need the CSM to be. The more we all realise what the CSM is for and how it ideally can work, the sooner we will get the CSM we all need.
Tags: csm, tarek

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.


  • Messiah Complex

    You’ve ably identified the core problem with the CSM, but I’m not sure if you appreciate how persistent that problem is likely to be.

    Everyone has a different idea of what the CSM is, or what it should be. The Mittani’s theory of constituency-focused representation is probably the majority view at present. As you noted, Xander’s abysmal treatment at the hands of his friends is indicative of that view. Others would look at the T20 scandal and the various instances of “wartime” Councils and conclude that the CSM’s primary function should be to act as a panel of ombudsmen between CCP and the players. You can make a solid argument for either position, and both positions could be right.

    But again, you have observed correctly that those things are not what the CSM is for. Or perhaps, they’re not what the CSM is for anymore. The problem is that no one knows what the CSM is for, and that includes CCP.

    The CSM’s duties aren’t actually defined anywhere. If you look carefully at the White Paper, all you’ll find are procedural rules about how the CSM gets elected and how it’s constituted, and general guidelines about how members are supposed to conduct themselves. There is not a single statement about the substantive duties of the CSM members, or to whom the CSM members are directly responsible. All you have is the useless abstraction that the CSM is a “deliberative democracy,” founded on roughly 3000 words worth of historical-political drivel.

    The White Paper is, in reality, worthless as a guide to the CSM. Apart from the absence of substance, even the procedural rules have been ignored. The Paper requires, for example, that “[w]ithin seven days of the general election, the Representatives must hold an internal vote to determine Officers: a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, and Vice-Secretary.” CSM9 chose to ignore that mandate, and CCP let them do it.

    Seeking guidance on the “What is the CSM” page on Evelopedia is equally futile. Look under the heading: “Summary of Representative Responsibilities,” and tell me what CSM members’ actual responsibilities are.

    “Deliberative democracy” is a meaningless term in this context. Along with so many other concepts in political theory — transparency, disenfranchisement, even representation — the labels have been misused as CCP has tried to construct a theory of government around something that’s not actually a government. If you’re wondering why so many (both voters and non-voters) are apathetic towards the CSM, there’s your reason.

    • Kamar Raimo

      “CCP has tried to construct a theory of government around something that’s not actually a government”

      Exactly. That misleading way how they present all this does indeed contribute to a lot of confusion and resulting disappointment. I don’t think that CCP did that intentionally, they are simply not very good with expressing themselves there and I also think they only just realized in the last few years what they actually have in their hands with the CSM.

      Probably a good start would be to revise the whitepaper.

      • Messiah Complex

        Entirely agree.

  • smokingman

    Great article, once again.

  • Saint Michael’s Soul

    I really wish I could see a breakdown of whose votes came from where (high/low/null/wh).

    I think people would be very surprised to see the weight of third or fourth votes that Xander got from corps (such as my own) who are outside of sov null.

    Because of Xander’s podcast and amazing coverage of the CSM process he was on all of the ballots that I saw from other corp CEOs. We may not be “Eve Relevant” but there are a lot of us. Xander has shown himself to want what’s best for the game and therefore it doesn’t matter which blue blob he’s attached to day-to-day – That’s what guys like me will vote for.

    If you’re on the CSM, all Eve players should be your constituency and I personally think Xander has shown that admirably (so far!).

    • Kamar Raimo

      “If you’re on the CSM, all Eve players should be your constituency and I
      personally think Xander has shown that admirably (so far!).”

      I think I am not out-of-line if I say that this is exactly what he wants to stands for.

      I would let him answer on the subject of vote balance, but I absolutely agree that it would be interesting to see the data. At least something like “70% of your votes came from you being third place on a ballot.” I know that statistics are not trivial, but CCP has the right tools for it.

      Well, maybe not quite for CSM elections.

      Every system of analysing voter behaviour in an anonymous vote has to take the confidentiality of the voter’s choice into account of course. Maybe CCP are too worried that players would correlate data and found out who in their alliance did not elect the approved ballot. Drama could come from such things. Not that I would terribly mind reading or hearing about that though 🙂

      • xanderphoena

        Yeah, I’m not sure. I mean, if an industrialist (for example) came to me with an idea, I would more than likely send him to Steve or Mynnna. It’s not that the guy isn’t my constituent as such, just that I really am the wrong guy to try and help him in that case.

        So yeah, I guess all players of Eve are my constituency but they kind of aren’t as well. I guess the important thing is though that I wouldn’t divide the player base up by alliance or corp tickers but by play types or specialities instead.

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