The hands behind the Dire enthusiastically partake in three hobbies: alpine skiing in the winter, motorcycle riding in the summer, EVE Online tucked around the other waking hours. I tend not to talk motorcycles with the skiers nor skiing with the motorcyclists – it’s the polite thing to do. Sadly, none of my face to face friends play EVE meaning, if I were invariably polite, I’d talk EVE with none of them.
Not being invariably polite, I’ve searched around for ways to talk EVE with people that don’t play and have uncovered a few simple rules that help. One, just like real life, gossip’s often the best stuff. People, being human, enjoy stories about people. Two, KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), and three, it doesn’t need to be your story. The fact that it happened in your universe is often good enough.
Here’s a successful story I tossed out a few years back . . .
So, in EVE every player is born into civilized space. Some people stick around. Others wander off to less civilized ‘space Somalia’ areas. One group, the Goons, have been out in ‘space Somalia’ for years. Being masters of mass action, they thrive there. (Their leadership coordinates the actions of thousands and thousands of players – I’m serious, thousands and thousands). For murky reasons, a few weeks back they decided to “Burn Jita.” Now in EVE, Jita is space Manhattan; the very beating heart of our universe’s commerce. But the Goons are big and when they decide on mass action you can damn well bet they’ll find a way to organize it. So over the weekend Goons have been raining pain on space Manhattan: jacking armored cars on Wall Street, shooting little old ladies in front of The Met, kicking dogs and overturning vendor carts in Central Park. Space police are running around, sirens blaring but they just can’t keep up. Pandemonium!
At this point my brother interjects, “Look out! It’s the Goon Squad.”
“Pretty much”, I respond. But I have to tell you that for me the extravaganza has proven slightly disturbing. As I said, everybody’s born into civilized space but some, like the Goons, leave. Accordingly, when the Goons returned over the weekend I couldn’t help but think, “The children are returning home . . . with torch and pitchfork.”
Hearing this my sister-in-law raised the arms of the grandbaby sitting happily in her lap and declared in high, grandbaby voice, “Where’s my pitchfork!?”
I eye the grandbaby warily.
Over the years the hands behind the Dire have dabbled in creative writing. These days the dabble’s well on the way certified hobby status. As chance would have it, one of my neighbors is a retired Broadway singer, published poet and creative writing instructor. Sooner or later we were going to get around to talking creative writing. When ‘later’ arrived, I mentioned I play a MMORPG (“Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game” I explained) and have written a few stories from within that world.
Being an old codger, he’d never heard of MMORPG’s nor the immense amounts of fan fiction they can generate all leaving him intrigued enough to request seeing some of my work. Unable to stuff the ‘I’ve written a little’ cat back in the bag, I delivered him a couple of pieces which he dutifully critiqued with excellent commentary. Pointing out that it hardly seemed fair he gets to see some of my work without me seeing any of his, he delivered me a few pieces of poetry he was working on which I dutifully critiqued and returned with commentary. Now I don’t want to pretend here, this dude’s exceedingly talented while I merely hobby. Still, he seemed to find my critique helpful, I most certainly have found his critique helpful, all meaning when we now meet we often talk writing and occasionally exchange recent work.
It’s proven delightfully interesting. You and I unthinkingly know what it means when an egger gets her pod popped but to someone outside our world it’s wonderfully inventive, astoundingly provocative language. What’s more, EVE’s centering of human social interaction means that when we write something about EVE it, as often as not, sorta really happened meaning, for a poet like my neighbor who’s motivated to get to a little genuine truth, EVE’s a revolutionary universe that complicates what counts as genuine truth. It feels like cheating. I didn’t invent the EVE universe, I just saw the train in station, bought a ticket and hopped on board. We gather our prefabricated worlds where we can.
For real life career, the hands behind the Dire operate a condominium management business. Accordingly, I end up repeatedly interacting with many hundreds of people over any particular year: residents, owners, contractors, employees, real estate agents, fire marshals, etc . . . Successful navigation of such environment requires some social skill.
The other day, while I was idling away in the office, a resident entered to request an update on the Google Fiber broadband internet connection being installed in his building. Seeing a Crossing Zebra’s article with space ship header on my computer screen his eyes sparkled as he mentioned, “I’ve played EVE. Who do you fly with?” Being a primarily solish player, that’s not an easy question to answer so I replied “I write for Crossing Zebras.”.
Undeterred he waltzed through his biography, “I used to wormhole monkey but these days I fly with CVA down in Provi-bloc. Who did you say you fly with?” ::sigh:: “I’m a casual long term solish player,” I responded paraphrasing my CZ bio, “I used to prey on highseccers (ninja baiting mission runners, suicide ganking, wardeccing), but these day I mostly industry.” At that point he screwed his face up in utter disdain. A reaction that baffled me. Chancing across a fellow EVE player in real life is a pretty rare occurrence and this chap, for whatever reason, chose to cling to his space tribalism rather than engage in pleasant conversation with a possible new friend about an intriguing shared hobby. I don’t suspect he socials much; sure seemed that way.
What’s more, it was a rather unwise reaction to display. I manage the condo he owns. I collect and deposit his condo fee payments. I cut and mail the check for his water bill. I maintain the building he lives in and protect the value of his sizable investment. I’m not the guy you purposely want to real life annoy about playing a space pixel hobby wrong. Bemused, I inwardly rolled my eyes, shooed him out of the office and returned to my work day. He’ll continue to receive the professional services he pays for but I don’t suspect we’re destined to be real life friends. Such is condominium management. Such is EVE.