The Beautiful Meritocracy of EVE OnlineJin'taan
As one might expect, hitting the ejector seat button on an organisation you’ve centred the last third of your life around – even if it’s only in the sense of a hobby group – forces one to do some significant reflection on what you’re doing with your life. One of the most interesting things I was forced to think about here is a simple question I think most of the audience here will have asked themselves a few times, “Why am I still playing EVE Online?”
If I’d asked myself a year ago, I would undoubtedly have said “My friends”. Providence holds some of the nicest and most well-meaning people in the game, and my corporation was full of people I’ve been friends with for my entire adult life, people who I’ve shared apartments and hotel rooms with. If I felt my only path forwards in the game took me away from that, what was there left for me in EVE?
EVE doesn’t care about what you say. It cares about what you do.
It was a hard question to ask myself, but as I ended up in a phone conversation with one of the people I count amongst my first mentors in EVE, it really did hit me that what I loved about the game was that, at the end of the day EVE doesn’t care about what you say. It cares about what you do.
And what I mean by that is that EVE is a brutally meritocratic game. It will let you be punished for nearly every ‘incorrect’ decision you make if your opponent makes a ‘more correct’ one. And your opponent can be punished by another if their own opponent makes an ‘even more correct’ decision, as there’s never a perfect, or optimal strategy for anything in EVE. There’s always more to innovate, almost always counters to perfect, or assets to utilise to solve any problem you face in the long term, if you try hard enough.
As many excuses as I might wish to make about Providence, the fundamental nature of EVE and my own agency within it means that the only thing that held me back was that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice what I needed to for success. I predicted the invasion in August, and we’ve seen Fraternity go from “relative NPC null nobodies” to “actually relevant” in half the time between that video and the invasion.
I could have forced a cap and supercap program into being. I could have started a PAP program without the permission of leadership. I could have set up a coalition SRP. I could have talked to alliances like YF & R-R and made sure they held steady. I could have made agreements with TEST sooner. I could have come up with long range dreads sooner, and stopped fighting over Astras in the WAFFLES era of the conflict.
And the fact that I can sit down and write a paragraph of “shit I got wrong” is why I love this game. There are so many ways to fail that I’m sure even Hedliner or Killah Bee could put up their own paragraphs of things they wish they’d done better, even if they’re less strategically important.
This was always the intent of EVE, to let those who are best, well, win.
This was always the intent of EVE, to let those who are best, well, win. From the introduction of titans and battleships giving those with huge wallets and industrial backbones the ability to fight stronger if you maximised those avenues of power, to EVE’s economy being designed to be as hypercapitalistic as possible in order to maximise competition between individuals (conflict drivers being a clear conceptualisation of that), it’s clear that CCP has always tried to encourage this.
What makes it even better than that is that it’s something that’s always been espoused by the community too. I’ve FCed as a 13 year old with an unbroken voice, and people four or five times my age have been completely cool with it. I’ve flown under people from every corner of the earth, who follow every religion, and yes, I have flown under a few female FCs too. People in EVE might include various supposed hubs of racism and sexism, but on the whole EVE players don’t care about anything but results. The results are what speak, not what you sound like or look like, or even who you know – people who don’t do shit in competent leadership teams tend to get removed, as that’s what builds a good organisation.
And that doesn’t just apply to people who’re playing at the highest stakes and deciding fights that involve thousands of people. Everyone in EVE is trying to be the best at something, by some metric. That’s how I feel we define ourselves in this game, by our accomplishments and our dreams. You might be trying to become the guy on the top of your corps killboard, or be the person who has the most corpses in the game, or maybe you just want to fly nothing but one particular ship, but do it perfectly. Even if it’s not a conscious thing, I’m fairly sure all of us have some goal deep down that we’re aiming at.
And that’s what makes EVE great. It’s not a spreadsheet simulator, it’s an ambition simulator. Sometimes your ambition just requires a lot of spreadsheets, and you do what you’ve got to do. And, more base than that, EVE is a game where you never feel like anything is out of reach, if you’re willing to but the work in. And that’s why I’m still playing.
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