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.