Why Men Fight – Part 2


Last time I talked about the effects of morale in Eve, why a game that doesn’t have morale as a defining gameplay mechanic still feels the effects of morale in every aspect of its gameplay.

I ended up talking about mythos, that inherent thing that draws people together under the banner not only of a singular powerful leader, but of a singular powerful entity. To recap, mythos is the glue that keeps an alliance together; the group identity that keeps pilots flying past the point where it’s fun to defend an ideal.

It could be something as simple as a common origin (Goons and Something Awful), it could be that of the plucky upstarts who need to band together in order to fight off the evil big kids trying to kick down their sandcastle (Brave Newbies, among many others), or even just something as simple as hostility towards another already established group (coalitions against BOB or Goons come to mind). Regardless of the cause, it is the thing that keeps a group together and functioning even in trying times.

a common “tribal” umbrella of common cause and thought

However with the formation of a group ideal it also gives rise to group instincts. You can also call this sort of thinking “cultural tribalism,” bringing people together under a common “tribal” umbrella of common cause and thought. Most people who use the word use it to comment on modern political discourse, how our own political beliefs keep us insulated from foreign ideas, how common upbringings and circumstances breed a very solid mythos between individuals that have experienced these things. In the United States specifically there are very distinct rural and urban political “tribes” that, due to their upbringing and their place of origin normally people who have lived in a more urban environment hold more in common with their fellow urban peers than anyone who grew up in the rural countryside.

While all this seems tangential to Eve, it comes around to a very important distinction between Eve and other games: the creation of that group Mythos. In most games, all gamers are ostensibly having the same reaction to the same stimuli in very similar manners. When a monster attacks you, you attack back, you win and you gain experience and loot from doing so. A guy shoots you with a gun, you shoot back, you win and you continue to level. Even in more complicated multiplayer experiences, even competitive ones, you are all responding to the same set of rules, you are playing the same game. Or to simplify it even further, everyone playing Call of Duty is playing “basketball,” no player is going to respond to it as if it were “football.”

In Eve however, the game, and more importantly where and with whom it is played, varies wildly. Miners are not playing the same game as PVPers in some very key points. Sure both may mine or may kill people from time to time, but it is entirely feasible  to find a person in Eve who has never done a particular activity, whether it be going into null sec, or doing exploration or whatever. Combine that with the fact that Eve greatly encourages group activities, and you get a culture of people who willingly come together to form “tribes” of like minded players. Miners create mining corporations, pirates make pirate gangs, etc.

What is it specifically that can lead to [..] creating actual hatred of others?

Now all of this, you could argue, occurs in any MMO. In WoW you have people who raid, and people who may prefer their PVP offerings as well. Ditto for games like Guild Wars 2, or even places like Minecraft. What then makes Eve so different? What is it specifically that can lead to toxic episodes in Eve’s culture, that elevates it from simply attracting similar players, to creating actual hatred of others?

Well for one let’s touch base on what I’m talking about specifically. Everyone by now knows of the most famous example of this I’m sure, as just googling “Eve Online Bullying” nets you page after page primarily about this one incident from outlet after outlet after outlet. Yes, I’m going to talk about the classic case of The Mittani at Fanfest. To begin with, I understand that he apologized profusely for this, and this is not meant as an attack on him nor as further condemnation. It has been four years since the incident occurred, and it has been talked to death already.

However, talked to death or no it is an important case study in exactly what lead to that moment. Why did Mittani, in real life in front of real life people, feel comfortable even bringing this up as a joke in poor taste? Besides the fact the he was apparently drunk at the time, I would point both to his character’s persona, and the persona of Goons as a whole and tell you to look no further. Here is a group whose mythos, whose story more than any other group can be seen being represented in the actions of its most famous member. The Goons were always the embodiment of people trying to poke holes in the world of Eve, to make people who “take it too seriously” cry and either leave or lighten up. It also comes primarily from a website who takes equal pleasure in pointing out the absurdities of the world, of enjoying dark humor and not being afraid to jump the lines of what could be considered “in good taste” for the sake of a laugh. And so, was it really so weird to hear that Mittani was the one who came out at Fanfest, and gave out the name of a suicidal individual under the pretense of people harassing him? Is it really that weird knowing what sort of culture the Goons were created and unified by, that this happened?

the idea that there are people out there playing the game “wrong”

Is it so weird that the Mittani called out what he thought was a macro miner especially? Goons find miners in general, especially high-sec miners, and especially high-sec macro miners to be particularly offensive to their mythos. Here is a group of people who came together under the pretense of making this “boring” game full of people taking things too seriously and make it fun by essentially turning it on its head. That is the propaganda that was used for the Hulkageddon initiative that brought about this famous moment in Eve bullying to begin with, the idea that there are people out there playing the game “wrong” and in a boring way, and we are going to collectively turn this game on its head and punish them for it by paying people to kill them.

So let’s take all of this together. Here is a group of people who take pride in making fun of people both on their website of origin and in Eve for trying to hard, at taking things too seriously, at showing any emotion or investment in the internet because doing so is an inherently ridiculous thing to do. They came together to have fun, even at other people’s expense, and in some cases specifically at other people’s expense. And during the time frame that that infamous 2012 Fanfest occurred, the culture of the “tribe” at large was specifically targeting the type of man The Mittani called out.

The Mittani himself, as said, later apologized profusely, and owned up to the fact that he had made a bad mistake. However when you look at the culture he was surrounded with, the culture in many ways that he helped create within his own “tribe” of people playing Eve, is it really that surprising that it got that far?

So again, why though. What is it about Eve’s groups specifically that draws out this sort of behavior. The simple fact of the matter is that the mythos that most people rally behind in other games is simply there as a fun way to get similar like minded people to get together in the first place. In something like a WoW, there may be a PvP clan that calls itself the best, that mocks other groups as lesser and is reviled by its player base. In Guild Wars 2 there may be a group of raiders and PvErs that rally around the fact that they have the best and most helpful players in their respective game.

It anchors people to their group [..] and most importantly it makes them defend the indefensible

In Eve however that mythos doesn’t just get people in the door, a proper group ideal is required to keep people from leaving. It anchors people to their group, it forces them to defend their turf even when things are rough, and most importantly it makes them defend the indefensible. It is telling that even when the uproar against The Mittani’s comments was at its highest, there are multiple examples  of people coming to his defense, defending his actions and his words. It is also telling that The Mittani himself, even in his own apology mentioned how he responded at first in a very “The Mittani” way, putting on the airs of his character and thusly the group said character represents.

It’s this connection to the group that made it take a connection to the outside world, the story of The Mittani’s outburst reaching media outside of Eve and Eve related sites and hitting gaming media and even some non-gaming media sites for it to really hit home for him just how bad he had acted. Again, none of this is to dig up condemnation on past behavior, to open old wounds, merely an analysis of one of the most famous incidents where morale and mythos turned dark and even arguably dangerous.

It’s that duality, the need for morale and mythos in Eve to create those tense and reality inspired moments of dread and angst and frustration in the game; combined with the fact that it at times has famously turned to outright hatred and harassment that compelled this article’s creation. The Mittani’s outburst is not the only famous moment of gaming harassment, with Erotica 1’s “Bonus Round” gathering press as well. However it is the most raw form of mythos turned wrong, of the corruption of what this author feels makes Eve unique and great in a gaming sphere that tries to codify every action and reaction to their game for predictability and safety.

Eve is spontaneous, Eve for better or worse is outbursts as much as it is cheering propaganda and stories of great battles of history. Its screaming matches on the forums as much as it is playing with your alliance mates at 4 AM, even though you work the next day, because you happen to be the only support pilot on at the time. For this author, mythos and what it creates is what is attractive about Eve, and yet when people joke about “internet spaceships being serious business” the people they joke about are those most caught up in the ideas of it; unwilling and unable to compromise because of it. It is the thing that makes this game so glorious, and yet can just as easily make its worst publicity.

Tags: Mathias Sinistar

About the author

Mathias Sinistar

Mathias has been a little bit of everything, from running belts with highsec corps, to ninja salvaging with TEARS, to running fleets with Brave. When not flying, he finds himself reading up on the history and politics of Eve, one of the things that always tends to draw him back in to the game.

  • Ghost Rider

    You do realise you have posted everything that is bad about Eve right?

    I mean you have talked about two events which show how insanely toxic some people who play Eve can be and the type of people it attracts.

    Not only are the two events terrible but the reaction to them by the playerbase was even worse.

    Just read some of the comments that were posted on bonus room article.

    What exactly was the point of this article?

    Was to show how incredibly toxic the Eve community can be, how Eve attracts psychopaths, or how Eve brings out the worst in people.

    All the mythos is I’m sorry bullocks. All you have done is say “Eve attracts assholes like no other game”

    • Rob Kaichin

      Well, it’s all true, isn’t it?

      Or has the post truth atmosphere invaded even here?

      • Ghost Rider

        Not even close. Morale and what keeps people together have zero relation to either Alex acting like the world’s biggest douchebag and making himself look like a complete dick head in front of thousands of people or E1 running for psychopath of the year.

        What keeps the goons together is not Alex but that they come from the SA forums and are a community that existed before Eve, outside of Eve and will exist long after Eve is dead.

        As for E1, all that episode proved was how many pathetic twisted people play Eve.

        • Mathias Sinistar

          I hate to be that guy, but did you read part one of this? I say that mostly because most of the things you are saying here are things I said pretty much word for word in that article.

          And no, its not to prove that assholes are the only ones who play Eve, or that they are especially attracted to it or anything of the sort, its to explain how something like this happens, and why it seems to happen to such a startling degree and to such a startling depth in Eve compared to just about any other game. Its the negative side of the positive I listed in the first episode, the downside to the parts I love about Eve.

          So no, you’re right, Alex isn’t goons. Goons ain’t Alex. I figured I explained that pretty well in my first article. This was more of a dive into this particular incident as an example of the negative bits where Eve and reality tend to collide.

      • Mathias Sinistar

        Eh, its not even that honestly. I don’t think Eve attracts assholes like no other game. I think Eve allows people to BE assholes like no other game, there is a difference. In a game like WoW assholes can only do so much. But in a game where what happens to a real life individual, where he goes and what he does can mean the difference between victory and defeat, or the destruction of literally years of player hours of work going down the drain or not, yeah you tend to get situations where assholes will not only go to new lengths but thrive. And this article was a deep dive into one particular incident where that connection to reality hit a nerve and hit it hard, and an attempt to explain not only why it did, but why the response was what it was and how it could have even gotten to this point.

  • DireNecessity

    If you’ll forgive a political aside, I’ve heard it said that when you differentiate people along a left/right axis you don’t end up with a line you end up with a horseshoe. Accordingly, in many important aspects, especially to observers looking on from outside that differentiation system, the far left and the far right aren’t really that far apart because the horseshoe bends inward bringing those extremes much closer together than one would think. If you’ll forgive me pushing this political aside even further, I saw this in action on 11/8-11/9 with the recent US election. I happened to watch the results via the PBS Newshour who’d more or less lined up their talking head pundits from left to right. As the night’s surprising results poured forth the ends of the horseshoe, unconstrained by the necessity of being ‘objectively neutral’ since their job was to be the far endliners were free to express their shocked derision. And vociferous shocked derision they did express. If physical placement hadn’t separated them, they’d have hugged each other in mutual dismay and support.

    Bringing this back to EVE, in my experience the virulently anti-toxic prove every bit as hate filled as the ‘toxic psychopaths’ they despise. From my point of view, the enthusiastic delight with which they declare who they deplore looks very similar to the enthusiastic delight taken by the supposedly opposite side enthusiastically deploring them right back. It’s a delightful end of the horseshoe love fest. They vehemently depend on each other. They angrily kiss and hug.

    • Ghost Rider

      Yet they do. I have been playing games for nearly 20 years and have never encounter anything like the E1 episode and the reaction of many people who play Eve.

      The only place where you saw justification for what E1 did was on Eve forums and associated Eve websites.

      Everyone else saw the act for what it was, a vile and disgusting act of bullying.

      I can twist your argument back on yourself and say that those who delight in being toxic always try to claim those against them are just white knights.

      • DireNecessity

        Of course ‘many pathetic twisted people play Eve’ – it’s a big game. Many pathetic twisted people play WoW and Bridge and Chess too. Importantly, I made no argument for or against the E1 or the White Knights who successfully procured his banning. I merely observed the strikingly similar vehemence the two groups display and the mutual benefit the derive from opposing each other. If moral outrage over disturbing acts of space bullying primes your pump, White Knight to your heart’s content. You’ve certainly found the game for it. Who White Knights in Bridge?

        • Ghost Rider

          Your own language proves my point about the mind set of Eve players.

          Trying to reduce the severity of what E1 did shows that

          • DireNecessity

            I’m a fortunate individual Ghost Rider. I grew up in a loving, supportive family. My first long term girlfriend, not so much. She was sexually assaulted by her stepfather. It proved difficult travail. If you believe I’m motivated to reduce the severity of E1s Bonus Room, your mistaken. Raping your stepdaughter is pretty damn loathsome. For some people the world is distinctly black and white and once beyond the pale all reprehensible actions are equally outrageous. For others, there’s degrees of reprehensibility. Count me with those others. I want to do right by my first love and not conflating her pain with Bonus Room angst is one very small step I can take to do that. If that makes me a twisted pathetic EVE player so be it.

          • Ghost Rider

            In which case why did you the language you did in regards to E1.

            Your tone and use of language gives the impression that you do not believe what he did was at all serious.

          • DireNecessity

            “disturbing acts of space bullying” wasn’t sufficient? Ghost Rider, I’m aware I’m bringing big picture nuance to your unfettered condemnation party and I suppose that well-nigh guarantees I’ll win no medal in the Outrage Olympics. Quoting Rob Thompson above, “It must be disappointing when one is so absolutely certain that one is in the right…”

          • Ghost Rider

            If you can not see how using “space bullying” is not down playing what he did then nothing more can be said.

            As for the rest of what you have written, it is a very poor attempt at deflection.

  • Coming from a tribal background, in-character :), I do relate to what you say. Mythos is really important to federate a group and create an ideal. But I do not believe mythos necessarily make people being assholes (except when they are not sober, where the odds of becoming an assholes are multiplied…).

    Eve more than anything else is a social experience, that we all tackle from very different point of views. There is no right or wrong way of playing, but there is one thing that most other social experiences do not have:

    Eve Online multiply the anonymity exponentially while providing virtual destruction avenues.

    We all know that anonymity on internet increases the toxicity of behaviors. Except for the best of us, we have all vented behind an avatar for something that did not go our way, and by doing so crossed lines we would never had crossed had we had the other person in front of us.
    Well, the anonymity of alts is the exponential factor that makes Eve more toxic, not the mythos themselves. When you can do bad thing without any worries that what you do is going to affect your other assets in-game, all barriers come down for some. Hidden behind the “this is just a game” meme, social deviance become more pronounced and affect hours and day of gaming time of other players, for which “this is just a game” includes also “this is my hobby”.

    This is a choice CCP made which could have made sense in the first decade of the game, but does not make sense anymore. Imho CCP should look no farther than the toxicity these anonymous alt generate, as well as the control they give to the older players over the game to find most of the reasons a majority of new players can’t remain engaged. The toxicity levels are staggering, and the social codes we are used to have flown out of the window. In RL, you know that if someone does something bad, they are taking a risk and may be caught. In New Eden, this concept is turned over its head: those doing bad things hide behind their anonymous alts, recycling them as needed, to perpetuate bullying other players with litlle risk for their own assets in game, and the richest in-game they are, the easier it is for them to use this to their advantage!

    When fighting against this issue, I approached it with a stick mentality, and I was wrong. I now believe this is a carrot mentality that is needed. Instead of forcing players to publicly link their alts together, the game system should provide a new incentive to publicly link alts of the same player together.
    Then the toxicity level can be reduced, not removed, but taken down a few notches, possibly providing a better place for new players to develop, and adopt a mythos or create a new mythos in the sand-box.

  • Rob Thompson

    “…merely an analysis of one of the most famous incidents..”

    …which by your own admission has been covered to death already. I get that you may be taking it out of wraps in order to make it serve a new purpose, but still, I just find it tiresome.

    I found this article less absorbing than the previous one, perhaps because of the above, but I think you already made the point very well.

    For what it’s worth, CCP is and always has been almost completely aware of what goes on within and without the game, whether promoted by shady 3rd parties or not. They act when they deem it necessary/appropriate – unavoidable. Whether the headmaster-types in these comments like it or not, edgy groups and goings-on will remain as long as CCP allows them to do so. It must be disappointing when one is so absolutely certain that one is in the right…