Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cracked rear view

Over at Freebooted, Siesmic Stan has asked his latest EVE blog banter question:
"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.


  1. Karbox DelacroixJuly 6, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    In the Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith discusses the idea of spheres of moral sympathy. The easiest explanation for his idea is that while we are greatly moved by the plights of our family and loved ones, we are largely unaffected by the tragedies that befall millions thousands of miles away. When was the last time one read about a tsunami or earthquake and felt a tenth of the heartbreak they experienced when their dog died? In this example, physical distance translates into moral distance. We physically do not feel for those so far removed from ourselves.

    The internet as a medium is a contrast of great distances and great closeness. Solipsism is the idea that only ones own mind is sure that it exists. Taken to the extreme, solipsism is a denial of the reality or moral worth of others.

    Why do I mention all this? Simply put because people on the internet are not real people. They are not as real as my loved ones. They are not as real as my dog. This does not mean that I have no close relationships online. What it does mean is that the people we interact with online are much more abstract than then people we see when we go to the store or buy a latte.

    Most of us will never meet a GEWN in real life. We will never see that tear well up in their eye when we call them a Nazi or a pedophile. Such a simple lack of feedback triggers the wiring in our brain to start dehumanizing and discounting the value of others.

    The internet is fucked because our brains evolved to deal with the emotions and relationships of a small tribal setting. We are not wired to feel empathy for the vast horde of humanity. Most people in the game will never be inside our moral circle and will never be treated with the deference or discretion that we reserve for those inside the circle.

    The magic circle in EVE is not a distinction between in game and out of game. It is a line that separates those that we care about from those we do not. Pity to those outside the circle.

    1. Good points. My grandmother once told me, when I was a kid, that if you have 4 real friends during your life, it's a lot. I've come to believe that is true. As a result, I laugh and shake my head at those who use FB and think they are making "friends". The core meaning of the word has been perverted.

  2. JT talks so much sense.
    I'm pretty sure he's related to ze frank.

  3. "And power corrupts. Oh my yes, does it."

    Power doesn't corrupt, it reveals. The reasons those alliances heads are arseholes in power, is because they were arseholes without power.

  4. Jester, I think you're going a bit overboard. Bad stuff receives publicity; both in RL and in New Eden. Every time a CEO goes out of his way to help a noob, when a pirate blows up a month old player and then sends 10M ISK, etc. None of that gets reported.

    I've been playing EVE for about 6 months now. I know, not very long, compared to some. But I, maybe, experienced oner or two incidences of truly nasty behaviour by another player. I've been pretty active too: EVE University, a pirate corp, and now sov null. The amount of friendly comradeship, even among opponents was far more prevalent.

    1. This.

      While not continuously I've been playing eve since 2006. I've yet to have a bad experience in eve. What I have gotten is a lot of friends.

      Hell you live in syndicate, NPC null. The only reason anyone lives there is to blow each other up. Sure jokes will be made, corps will be taunted, but at the end of the day we all respect each other and all go out to fight each other.

      I'm damn well sure that if any two players from different corps who do nothing but fight each other meet in a bar they will more then probably buy each other a beer and talk about 'that one time that x happened'.

      I'm not saying that what you are talking about doesn't happen, but I find it a very one sided view of things.

    2. Maybe my experience with other MMOs is just lacking. But everyone seems to agree that this sort of thing -- taking in-game conflict out of game -- is part of EVE. Even if it only happens "infrequently", "rarely", "only once or twice", or whatever, it happens.

      And I just don't experience it in other MMOs.

    3. You're entirely right, of course. It's part of the culture, a *celebrated* part of the culture, that a lot of sociopathic assholes have a lot of power.

      However, you do miss what one of the Anonomi above says. There are folks out there who help each other. There are people who are forgiving of imperfection, and who run corps because they like to be social rather than because they like to lord it over other people. They don't tend to be the big and powerful corps, they're not the people who are known well enough to get elected to the CSM (with the possible exception of the Eve University leader), and they're not the ones that are going to be celebrated for their 1337 skillz. But they are in fact out there. They're just a lot more quiet than the sociopathic assholes. And not as celebrated by CCP.

  5. Quote Jester: "It's built right into EVE's DNA"

    Why ?

    ...... maybe because CCP declared "anarchy" to be "freedom".
    The very DNA code is the core merchandising strategy of eve online. CCP isn't "drawing lines in the sand" because the non-regulation policy is merchandised as Eve's outstanding qualtity.

    If nothing else regulation/rule enforcement will cost money. Will eve subscriber numbers rise if forum language and ingame actions gets more regulated ? I am guessing an overall 20% subscriber cost rise for just adding more GM's and admins .... and no content at all.

    Rite now for example, CCP is trying to improve their offical forum with "volunteer" forum administrators (CCL).Does sucessful CCP forum moderation justify forum administrator salaries by rising the subscriber numbers or does it not ?


    edit: Quote Hilmar "EVE players are the nicest people in the world,because they get all their nastiness out of them in game."

    True or False ? Thats indead a very serious question to the whole computer gaming industry.

    I see that Robert Louis Stenvenson already touched that problem in the year of 1886 when he wrote "Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

  6. there is a line. EULA and TOS. Noone is immune, even the most powerful player in the game (Mittens) when he made that comment that got him banned from the CSM.

    what a silly topic. *laffs* "cross the line." look, every MMOG out there has griefers who get to be the assholes they can't be in real life.

    one name says it all: M0o. end of discussion

  7. I see why you said built into DNA, but like the post above, lots of players just want it to be a mean world really. EVE is just a sponge that sucks them up, since they have no other place to go. Hilmar was just drunk like everyone else, when he said that.

    The competiveness answers for alot, that sparks alot of trolling and hate in other games, plus add that to players wanting to be mean here, kind of toxic.

  8. Very well written and very insightful.
    This game really really is only for emotionally stable grown ups.
    I am in my 40s already and I am real life "hardened up". There is no way anything in a game could get under my skin. But I know others...

  9. Or...we're just becoming increasingly aware of the state of our western liberal education as we get older?

    Arguably more compelling than 'PoP' psychology Mr. Teg but of course, no less relevant being that populism infers majority. Do yourself a favour and enlighten your readers as opposed to scaremongering.

    EvE is only as real as it's players...

  10. CCP have a policy that players can be banned for harassment (http://community.eveonline.com/pnp/banning.asp) -- so do you think this isn't happening?


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