A while back I was pushing an industrial-shipped alt through Amarr space with a cargo hold full of support material only to discover the Amarr faction police hated him; really really hated him. I shouldn’t have been surprised. In his adolescence he’d run a goodly number of Minmatar missions back home in Heimatar paying no mind to what, exactly, the Minny agents were asking him to do. “Amarr is far away”, I recall thinking, “we’ll never have reason to go there.” Such boyish folly. T’was time to pay the piper, t’was time to atone for youthful indiscretion.
Each layer removed reveals only another layer
Noting he was still allowed in Caldari space, we ran him through the 15 distinct Caldari Career Agent mission arcs which not only improved his Caldari status but also nursed his Amarr status slightly above shoot on sight. With Caldari endorsement in pocket, we then moved him over to Amarr space and set him to work on their 15 distinct Career Agent mission arcs bringing him up to a Diplomacy V assisted positive Ammarian status. With over 100 million skill points already accumulated, those 30 arcs weren’t challenge, just task. Long, onerous task.
As goals go, the whole pageant was a bit strange. Though I don’t particularly care about the alt’s Amarr standing, I do care about his support duties meaning nursing his Amarr standing was vehicle to effectively fulfilling his support role which, being a support role, was vehicle to something else. It felt like peeling an onion. Each layer removed reveals only another layer, with even another layer under that.
A few months back the real life brother and I attended a Japanese classic car show at a nearby park and as we were puttering around soaking up the local tin a couple of classic Honda CB750 Four motorcycles out for a Sunday ride came rumbling in. Set up as Café Racers, both bikes had the style’s low-mounted handlebars, no windscreens and minimal accoutrement. Being fellow motorcyclists, we stopped to chat with what we would learn were a father son duo. Both bikes were works in progress, especially the son’s, so we walked through projects completed and future work planned commiserating knowingly as one does in these situations. When the son wandered off to check out the japanese tin, the father confided that his major goal in the tandem project was tempting his son away from jumping straight to a modern 1000cc superbike and getting himself killed before he had the foggiest idea how a beast like that operates. Later I mused to the brother whether the son would ever piece together the remarkable lesson his father was teaching.
the power of defining your own narrative
“Start small?” my brother asked.
“No, not that or at least not only that,” I replied. “Rather, the power of defining your own narrative. When Café Racer Son heads out for a motorcycle romp with the young stud friends he won’t have to compete for most badass motorcycle. Nobody expects his bike to beat the others either through the twisties or off the line. While the young studs push each other past where any of them should go, Café Racer will get an ‘old school’ pass around the most badass competition. He’ll get to follow his own muse at his own speed. If he’s competing at all, he’s competing on style; a contest he’ll conclusively wrap up when he adds goggles to the black leather jacket and flat black no chin guard helmet he already sports.”
“It’s like their not even playing the same game,” my brother elaborated.
“Indeed,” DireNecessity whispered through my real life lips because what’s true on the bike romp is also true in EVE. In EVE there is no playstyle, whether common or obscure, that you can’t shamelessly and enthusiastically embrace without garnering some other player’s admiring affinity. You’ll get belittled too. We’re a raucous diverse group where haters noisily hate but you and I will know those haters are just jealous because we found our muse.
“But what if the young studs don’t hand Café Racer a pass?” challenges the interlocutor. “What if they persistently impose their competition on him?”
I’ve heard this dispute before. Much like EVE, our interlocutor argues, motorcycle romps become zero-sum game if anyone you interact with is playing ‘to win’, not just you personally. Defining your own narrative doesn’t mean much if a victory-oriented group decides to turn you into a loser.
Hmmm, it does seem powerful point. To a richer example, shall we? Several years ago I was eating lunch with several other employees when the fellow next to me enthusiastically declared, ‘I win!’ I looked at him puzzled so he elaborated, ‘I finished my lunch before you finished yours. I win!’ I replied with bemused eye roll. His enthusiastic declaration that not only was a competition underfoot but that he had won and I had lost didn’t make it so. It takes at least two to compete. EVE is no different.
“True, in a sense,” replies the interlocutor. “But only for one definition of ‘compete’. You can choose whether or not to try to defeat an aggressor but you don’t always have a choice over whether to respond. If your coworker had decided that his victory condition was eating your lunch as well as his own, I suspect that you would have needed a stronger response than just an eye-roll.”
Well this is getting complicated. Bullet point observations seem in order:
1) My interlocutor is correct, if that fellow had up and eaten my lunch I’d have responded with more than eye-roll.
2) The nature of the response would have varied depending on the specifics of the situation. Did he sneak into my desk and scarf down my food before lunch break? (This would be burglary.) Did he manhandle me out of the way, take my seat then brazenly dare me to do something about it while enjoying my peach yogurt? (This would be assault and battery). Did he jump out of his chair complaining about the voices in his head then grab my turkey sandwich jamming ripe red tomato slices into his mouth sputtering, “Tomato is the only defense!” (This would be mental illness.)
3) I like to believe I would have responded to mental illness compassionately. I can’t begin to say how I would have reacted to the other two situations as they would have been actions far beyond reasonable people’s understanding of fun-loving competition and I haven’t faced such situations often enough to develop useful predictions. What I can say is that it astounds me how real life bullies unthinkingly depend on the goodwill of their victims. In these specific “I win” explorations, competitive eater him and less competitive eater me didn’t know each other very well. For all he knew I might have escalated far beyond what he was expecting: called the police, begin poisoning future lunches, start bringing a concealed weapon to work, beat him with a chair right then and there.
4) A struggle of some sort would almost certainly have followed and interestingly, it would have been a struggle both defined by and to define the story around what had just occurred. Would I pursue a ‘Let’s one up him’ narrative? A ‘This is a breach of law and order’ narrative? A humiliated burning resentment narrative? Following my narrative move how would he have responded? “Dude, I was just joking!” “Oh, it’s on now!” “Seriously, you call cops on new friends?” Responding isn’t losing, it’s reacting and like that earlier onion, reacting consists of narrative layers all the way down.
Who’s Your Main?
Until a couple of years ago, this question befuddled me. Not because I didn’t have a main, but rather because who felt like my main depended on which character I was logging in the most at the time. Regardless of skill points or activity undertaken, if one particular character was carrying the narrative, that particular character was my main. It was a very inside out attitude with my interior feelings determining my exterior designations.
But solipsism rarely survives meeting other people and, because someone must, DireNecessity came to speak publicly for the menagerie bouncing around on my login screen. It was clever move on her part. She’s no jack of all trades (the alt that got himself in Amarrian trouble, he’s the JOAT), but with spokesperson mantle acquired, Dire needed only patiently perform her emissary duties and wait for the identity to set. The depth of the change took me by surprise when, following February 2016’s introduction of skill point trading, the JOAT approached me asking why I had him training a batch of skills he didn’t need.
“But you’re my oldest, most skilled character,” I bleated.
“And you’re letting that sentimental attachment harm us,” he explained. “You’ve got me training PvP skills we both know I’m never going to use. PvP’s Dire’s purview. Let’s be sensible and shift my queue over to generating skill trading ISK.”
“If we do that Dire will surpass you,” I complained. “How can you be so sanguine about this?”
“Don’t be silly. DireNecessity is our main; has been for years. It’s time she wear the mantle. If you started strutting around with my appellation on your nametag, no one will know who we are. We alts have no complaints, it’s good gig. Dire’s tastes are extravagant, her appetites insatiable. She’ll furnish us purposeful work for years.”
Consequently, my oldest, most skilled character went under the psychic knife and it felt the sensible thing to do. I’d shifted to a very outside in attitude, my interior feelings molding to fit the exterior expectations placed on me.
Narratives make intricate vehicles. So do onions.
Many thanks to Raphael, my interlocutor.
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