The Boundary Non-Binary



I’ve been thinking about walls this morning.

The significance of walls is deeply ingrained in culture, be it China’s Great Wall, the Walls of Rome or Jericho, The Berlin Wall, the Hadrianic or Antonine Walls in northern Britain, they serve as a physical and ideological boundary between “us” and “them”. Walls appear in literature with a reverence and importance afforded to few other infrastructural projects, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones being well-known examples.

When I am fortunate enough to travel, walls are always something that capture my attention. Walls as big as those belonging to cities or countries, or as small as those that we erect around our houses, obstructions that may only be a few feet high. To see what they represented and achieved for the people who have lived on either side of them across generations is fascinating. I like to run my fingers across the coarse, worn, surface and feel their power. I find it not dissimilar to the feeling of magic that buildings are revealed to contain in Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician Trilogy.

the low walls you see in front of people’s houses will do nothing to stop a burglar

Physically speaking, the low walls you see in front of people’s houses will do nothing to stop a burglar; most children approaching double digits can scale them without assistance. However, many burglaries are crimes of opportunity, not pre-planned, and the existence of low walls has been shown to reduce the likelihood of crime. In the mind of the would-be thief, they appear as harder and less enticing targets. Conversely, the massive economic black hole that is the wall Trump wishes to build on the Mexican border, intended to affect the US control on immigration, would achieve its goal about as much as Brexit will for the UK. (In case you’re not sure, that means very little).

One of my favourite walls is from a fantastic book series, “The Old Kingdom” by Garth Nix, from which i had taken inspiration and used on my D&D show, EVE Nerds Play D&D. The wall at first is a simple structure, but it differentiates the world of magic, in the north, from a late 19th/early 20th century world in the south. The wall itself, by the end of the original three books, is imbued with a thick significance to the entire universe. It’s developed and personified as much as any of the characters are.

As a side-note, that’s an interesting thought. The ”north” of fictional walls always seems to be wilder, more mysterious and more prone to supernatural phenomena. Perhaps this is just happenstance and if anyone can think of notable counterexamples to this, I would love to hear them in the comments.

As well as providing a physical boundary, as I mentioned previously, they can represent ideological ones as well, separating the people of different groups. That naturally makes them represent a boundary in culture, ideology or religion, a boundary sometimes lasting a long time past the destruction or dissolution of said wall. In “The Old Kingdom”, this was represented by the wall also  being (aside from just a physical construction) a metaphysical boundary which, mostly, did not let magic cross to the south. Returning to the real world, one of the great modern geopolitical questions is what would a Korean reunification look like? That boundary has existed for over seventy years and should it remain for another few decades a unified will Korea fade from living memory.

these walls were not intended to be an absolute border for opposing armies

In our minds, we tend to think of walls as a line representing a binary state: those inside the wall and those outside, and never the twain shall meet. This thought is upheld more in fiction I think, than in reality. Taking the two examples of China’s Great Wall and the Limes Germanicus, these walls were not intended to be an absolute border for opposing armies, the immovable object for the horde’s unstoppable force, but early warning systems and a means to slow incoming advances rather than stop them completely. In the case of the Limes Germanicus, policy on how to distribute forces on the wall and between the settlements it guarded, deep into Roman territory in Gaul, was one that changed many times. The assumption was not that the wall would stop them, but that the wall act more as a demarcation of Roman control and influence.

As it seems to be the nature of my generation, I’ve been thinking about that binary and questioning how much belief we consciously or unconsciously put into it. The American political system and the upcoming elections are, on the surface, a clear binary of political and moral beliefs between the Republicans and Democrats. Going one step further we look at the “political spectrum” of the right and the left.

One of the sayings going around is that modern day Democrats are the Republicans of decades past. Further still, we can go into Horseshoe Theory which claims that the far-right and far-left are in fact closer to each other than they are to moderates. In role-playing games, we have a full two dimensional plane, with the two axis representing Good to Evil and Lawful to Chaotic. Star Wars has had a very interesting development in how they tackle this type of issue, going from Light vs Dark sides of the force to characters such as Qui-Gon Jinn, Ahsoka Tano and Maul. Politically, there was an app making the rounds on Facebook that would place you on a graph between libertarian and authoritarian, and the more standard left and right.

Furthermore, using Euclidean geometry for as many dimensions as we wish to profile people and ideas, we do so for example in criminal cases in a super cool way in what is called Geometric Clustering which is a form of Link Analysis, as explained in a great episode of the wonderful TV series, Numb3rs.

we could define them as having gradient one on a scale of zero to one [..],Their overlap is zero.

Going back to walls, we can think about walls as extreme gradients. If we were to rate walls and lines crossing the set we are discussing, we could define them as having gradient one on a scale of zero to one, for example republican and democrat in the basic analogy. Their overlap is zero. However, if we have two homogeneous groups, we can call that as having gradient zero. All of these, really, are crude representations to accurate truth behind ideologies and belief systems, but simplicity is much easier to sell and get nations to believe in and follow. Personally, I find that the more dichotomous systems get, the more I want to learn about them as it seems unlikely, outside my maths studies, for two sets to be perfectly mutually exclusive.

This, in a very roundabout way, brings me to the recent war between the forces of the Imperium and the forces of the not-Imperium, also known as the MBC. The Goons specifically are one of the groups in EVE who keep a boundary between themselves and those not-themselves. In recent appearances, I’ve been noticing more explicitly statements from The Mittani of how he cares for his space-tribe and not of the others. Not that this is a new development in the rhetoric, just something I’ve noticed.  He does not conform to the vision of a wider eve “community” (though this is by no means exclusive to goons). A “community” which transcends all alliance and space affiliations to support each other. The Mittani instead wishes the health of the game to be good because that is inherently good for his people, rather than for all players. I’m not commenting that this is inherently good or bad either morally or practically, but goons and not goons are a useful example of what I’ve been discussing in terms of different boundaries in the sphere of EVE Online.

ownership of sov in game mechanically is itself a binary system, your name is on the flag or not

One of the continued issues of “fixing” EVE is how the aspect of Sov is designed. In terms of ingame, the ownership of sov in game mechanically is itself a binary system, your name is on the flag or not. There is no real represented difference between systems that are constantly contended, or those which have been owned for a great deal of time by the same alliance. ADMs are worth mentioning here, as if you own a system for an extended period you are capable of raising ADMs and making it more resistant to assault, whereas if control flips every day they cannot be effectively raised. If we look at the boundaries between sov empires themselves, they rarely represent the spheres of control being exuded by the differing sides.

Sov has been something that you take or lose after you have already mostly won or lost the war in previous times. Looking at the current Tribute war, while little progress has been made on C02 sov, their R64s have been swiftly and firmly taken from them. Part of the current sov system and the previous ones is that planting your flag, or not having it uprooted by way of TCU warfare, is largely optional. Especially with citadels, you can be the undisputed controller of a system but it would appear under another’s name on the map.

How those boundaries are defined and represented, how they reflect the nature of what is happening and how we experience them is of vital importance to the morale and enjoyment of each side, to our fundamental game experience. This is not only controlled by CCP in their design of the mechanical aspect of EVE, but in the propaganda and posting between alliances and the communication from the leaderships of organisations to their members. Out of game, in the ideal situation at player gatherings, these boundaries fall. We are all roleplaying these boundaries, they exist by common consent between us as partakers in an imaginary spaceship universe that is simultaneously real and not real depending on which criteria you throw at it.

there is not just one set of boundaries that maps all players into their respective camps

We have clearly defined boundaries in EVE, some more obvious than others, between regions, securities of different space and of course the corporations and alliance we belong to. However, there is not just one set of boundaries that maps all players into their respective camps. A good example of this is the Council of Pandemic Management, with five members of my own alliance, but who represent very different sets of players ingame. Five players who are indeed members of the same alliance, but partake in completely different aspects of the game spanning wormholes, faction warfare, solo PvP, out of game events, tournaments and many others.

Walls, as well as being physical restraints, obscure the vision of either side looking across and can distort how we see each other across the wall. It’s very easy for us to get tied up in the us versus them narrative and get too emotionally involved or to take things too far. I’m not advocating for us all making one big blue alliance and singing kumbaya, but if this ramble has any point (and to be honest I was hoping to avoid a point and just talk about walls, but apparently there’s one anyway), it’s that I wish we could observe the things that make us different or similar and just get on with life. We just had an awesome Alliance Tournament, we have a huge expansion in a few weeks along with a flood of new (and maybe some old) players through alpha clones.

There’s a lot to be excited about and I don’t know about you, but I’m here for the spaceship meta, not what most people refer to as the meta which as far as i can tell is bludgeoning each other on social media with their egos.

At the very least, if we consider more mindfully what boundaries we experience, then maybe FORLORN AND DESTOYA MIGHT FU– (ending removed due to excessive use of profanities -Ed)


Did you enjoy this article? Please consider supporting Crossing Zebras.

Tags: Apoth, apothne, walls

About the author


Apothne is a proud member of Sniggerdly and an experienced roaming FC. He is a Guest FC and Lecturer for EVE University and anyone who invites him to ramble on their comms for a few hours. He is currently one of the most active and experienced player commentators for EVE Tournaments, including hosting and casting AT XII-XV and all #EVE_NT leagues, as well as the Amarr Championships on stage at Fanfest 2016.