Snakes in the Gardens of New Eden

 

For a long time I watched presentations by players at diverse events and I thought about doing one of my own. Not because I wanted to stand in the limelight, but because I thought I could shed light on a profession that was at the same time maligned and celebrated in the game: being a spy, an infiltrator, a professional betrayer, because this is what I was for several years of my EVE history.



The reason why I didn’t take the stage was also one of the reasons why I stopped doing what I did back then. I was afraid. For myself, for those I worked with and for my associates, because there are those among the EVE playerbase for whom this is much more than a game, it is personal, and they will retaliate against spies accordingly. However, after many years of retirement from the profession, I broke the silence and talked about my experience in public at EVEsterdam 2016.

It had all started out as a strange social experiment and a test of myself. I am not the kind of guy who likes to be a duplicitous bastard. IRL I am actually a rather honest and straightforward person. EVE offered an opportunity to try for something else though. In this game – I thought – I could find an environment within which I could experiment with the most complex form of deviant behaviour without hurting anyone for real.

EVE offered an opportunity to try for something else though

Social deviance has always been an interest of mine. How it is viewed, what it does, and how it is punished. In this game I thought I had a controlled environment to see how that works out, because being a spy is one of the most intriguing ways of deviant behaviour. Espionage and treason are among the worst transgressions in the consensual view of many societies. There are countries on this planet who have long abolished the death penalty for murder, rape or blasphemy (that was a thing for a long time, and remains in some countries) but they still retain the death penalty for what they call high treason.

On the other hand, spies are heroes to those they work for. In WW2 the allies could not have won the war against Nazi Germany’s U-Boat menace without spies. During the Cold War, spies on both sides were instrumental for the success or failure in that global struggle between the powerblocks. Covert operatives and turncloaks are still a major factor today. Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are heroes of information warfare and revealers of truth to some, but traitorous individuals who endanger the security of whole nations to others.

Like many social scientists before me I was naive. I thought I could conduct some tests on human behaviour in a supposedly controlled environment. Like many before me, I had to realise that not only was the environment beyond my control, its influence on myself was stronger than I had bargained for.

Still, it was a gaming experience like none other. Something that can only happen in EVE, and here is a video of a dedicated EVEsterdam attendee who did his best to capture my elaboration on the subject. (Disclaimer, the quality isn’t great but you can hear enough and even get some comments from within the public. Unfortunately the Q&A got cut off prematurely)

Thanks to Jens Jorgensen for recording this video and granting permission to use it here.

 

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Tags: EVEsterdam, infiltration, intelligence, spying, 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.

  • Interesting presentation. Still thinking that the spy game influences too much the game experience of the majority of players, and there are not enough drawbacks in the game rules to make the spy job less easy. I am still running this year for CSM XII on a platform that includes curving the influence of anonymous alts, with a different angle from last years, and the process you describe about insulating alts is exactly what I want to see targeted.

    • Kamar Raimo

      But who says a capsuleer can’t commission more than one clone persona and pretend that they are different people?

      • Of course. My point is to make this less economically interesting than linking our pilots together, by putting an advantage in-game for players who link the pilots of their own accounts together voluntarily (by group of threes obviously).

  • Provi Miner

    what people forget or ignore…. wait: People want to be clever when they are clever that’s when they become susceptible to spy’s and other internal threats. Want to avoid it? don’t be clever or sneaky but up front and honest: Size also has a lot to do with internal vulnerabilities. Know your internal risk acceptance and maintain it. “don’t trust anyone” solo corp. Trust only those who prove loyalty but don’t give them access (small to med corp). Prefer inquisitions to hunt out traitors…. (major alliance)