"EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE's success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?"As I've said several times before about blog banters, I don't usually respond to them. But it's not because I don't think they raise valuable questions: they do. It's both because I have no shortage of things to write about myself, and because I often cover the topics the banters raise in prior posts.
Still, this topic is one that I've danced around without (I think) really coming out and saying flat-out what I think about it. So let's do that right now. When does in-game behavior cross the line into out-of-game behavior? When does this go to far? Where is the line?
The answer: it's in our rear view mirror. EVE passed the line several years ago. Further, we're never going to get back on the right side of the line. EVE is always going to be a game where nasty in-game behavior sometimes crosses the line into nasty out-of-game behavior. This behavior is built into EVE's DNA.
Why yes, that is a stark answer. But it's true nonetheless.
Nasty in-game behavior crossing the line into nasty out-of-game behavior is something that's been going on for years. Hell, when I first started thinking about getting into the 0.0 sov war myself, one of the first stories on this line I heard about was a Russian player who wanted to cut the power to the house of a Titan-flying player. Is it true? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But it feels true and doesn't generate a lot of disbelief. "CCP often touts this sort of thing with the bland marketing lingo of 'player generated content.'," Mittens said three years ago.
And you know what? They still do. "EVE players are the nicest people in the world," Hilmar said at this year's Fanfest, "because they get all their nastiness out of them in game." I think we all recall what happened that same day. And it didn't happen in game.
DDOS attacks on enemy super-cap pilots and Teamspeak servers were reasonably common for a time last year, as were such attacks on EVE News 24 when they published something that this or that group didn't like. White Rose Conventicle claimed such a DDOS attack on their website a month or so ago. Personal attacks against EVE players are commonplace and only rarely acted upon by CCP. War declarations launched for personal out-of-game reasons go on for months at a time and CCP declares it as a "social repercussion you've created". People are hounded out of the game on a weekly (if not daily) basis.
One more time: this stuff is built into EVE's DNA. Players are no longer surprised by it.
But you know what? It goes a level deeper than that. Allow me to engage in a bit of amateur pop psychology.
Any MMO strives to create a feeling of power in their players, but EVE takes this idea further than most. EVE players can become rich, powerful, and skillful nearly without limit. And many of the players that do so do not hold positions of power in real life, nor are they qualified or competent to do so. I have followed alliance leaders with power over thousands of EVE players that I wouldn't hire to work in my business, much less hire into leadership positions. I'm sure you have, too. We as EVE players don't mind so much because a) they're willing to do the work, and b) it's only a game.
People who are trained to lead businesses or industries in real life often don't want to come home and immediately take charge of one in New Eden, too. And because of the particular culture of New Eden -- hint: it's virulent, nasty, savage, and corrupt -- it is often those that are powerless in real life that are drawn to these powerful positions.
And power corrupts. Oh my yes, does it.
EVE is a game built around social isolation and ostracization of the weak. Players are nasty to each other, and the thin-skinned do not survive in this environment. But it goes a level even further than that. Let me be frank. Because those that are powerless in real life are bullied for it, they understand the buttons to push to make those bullied in-game feel worse. Show the slightest amount of weakness, and those buttons will be pushed. I'm convinced there has already been at least one public suicide linked to EVE social isolation. EVE players make jokes about "kill yourself" (or "skill yourself", if you prefer), but I'm completely convinced that it's happened before. And it'll happen again.
That's the game we play. It's built right into EVE's DNA. Even if CCP felt inclined to do something about it, they couldn't. It's too late.
Where's the line? Sorry, but we passed it some years back.