In a socially-driven game environment such as EVE Online's, everyone has an agenda. CCP promotes its products and has an army of volunteers to do the same; corporations and alliances deliver entertaining recruitment drives, CSM election candidates solicit for voter favour, bloggers and podcasters opine to their audiences.Yeah, OK: this is another loaded question. The blog banters seem to specialize in them. ;-) I have three answers to this one, and they relate to my various personae: that of myself within EVE Online, that of myself as a blogger, and most recently that of myself as a CSM candidate.
In this intricate web of communication, influence and control, what part does propaganda play in your game?
Let's start with the purely in-game answer, because that's the easiest. I am a member of Rote Kapelle, which is a small NPC null-sec organization specializing in small-gang warfare. The vast bulk of our fleets are ten ships are fewer; many are five ships or fewer. As a result, my in-game propaganda presence is virtually nil, as is the in-game propaganda presence of my alliance. We just don't need such a thing.
Rote Kapelle speaks in actions, not words. Either our fleets and tactics are successful or they're not. We don't have much of a diplomatic corps, and we have no propaganda corps at all. Propaganda from Rote means we hang out and make fun of you in your Local chat for a few minutes because you won't undock and fight us. Our only real public presence, in fact, are our activities around PvP tournaments such as AT10, the NEO, and the Syndicate Competitive League. I'm not directly involved in the SCL, so I'm not part of any propaganda arm for them either, other than I'd personally like to see it succeed both because the guys running it are terrific and because I think its success would help EVE Online. So much for answer number one.
As for my presence as a blogger, I've made no secret of the fact that part of the reason I write for this blog is to influence CCP's direction of development of EVE Online. And of course, in my many opinion pieces on this site, from time to time I'll try to convince you, Dear Reader, of something that I'm writing about. That said, the definition of the word propaganda revolves around presenting opinion intended to help or harm a specific long-term agenda. Do I have one of those? I'm not so sure. Unlike Roc Weiler or James 315, I don't have a "brand" as such. I'm not trying to promote a product -- unless it's the games I'm playing at any given moment. I'm not trying to harm another product or push a specific agenda.
Who knows? Maybe I should try to develop a brand. Maybe it's happening already by accident. That brings me to answer number three.
I often say that EVE Online was my first MMO. I never played one before EVE and in fact tried to avoid the genre for various reasons. But on further reflection of this BB topic, I realize that's not quite the complete truth. Because for a while, I played an on-line forum-based version of a game called Mafia Scum. Go check out the full rules to this game if you're interested, but the basic game has nine players. Seven are good guys, two are bad guys. Each player knows their own role, but not anyone else's. It's the job of the good guys to identify the bad guys; if they identify both bad guys successfully, they win. It's the job of the bad guys to eliminate the good guys one by one. The game is played in rounds. Two players are eliminated from the game each round: all of the players (good and bad guys together) vote to eliminate one player. Then the bad guys talk privately and eliminate another. Then a new round begins.
In this way, this entire game is about propaganda. If you're a good guy, can you defend yourself from elimination during these votes while also logically identifying and outing bad guys? And if you're a bad guy, can you get the good guys to vote to eliminate more troublesome players by casting suspicion on them without it reflecting back on yourself? Needless to say, it's a fun game and when I was playing it, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
And running for CSM is a bit like playing Mafia Scum.
I am empathetic by nature: it's easy for me to put myself into the thought process of another person. In EVE, part of the reason for this is because I've played the game in so many ways. It's easy for me to understand how an incursion-runner thinks because I've been one and I've talked to lots of them. Ditto miners. Ditto mission-runners. But when I point this out in a EVE Online forum post promoting my CSM run, I get trolled by my alliance-mates about it. In Rote Kapelle's Teamspeak, we have two channels for ops. Both of them are subtitled with an amusing reference to things happening within the alliance at that moment. Think of this like naming conference rooms. For the last ten days or so, one of these two ops channels has been subtitled "Ripard is a filthy carebear!"
In an alliance with definite "bad guy" leanings, my own CSM "good guy" propaganda makes me (jokingly, of course) a good guy that needs to be eliminated from the game. ;-)
Meanwhile, CSM candidates also get trolled by players that don't want to see them elected. You can't vote against a CSM candidate, but you can try to encourage other people not to do so. Trebor Daehdoow and The Mittani got most of this last year (from different camps, obviously). I'm getting a good bit of it this year. A group of players is having a bit of fun at my expense taking virtually everything in a recent post I wrote out of context and attacking me with it. In particular, I've been accused -- wrongly, of course -- of being insensitive to victims of rape and slavery.
Which is why for the last ten days the other Rote Kapelle Teamspeak ops channel has been subtitled "Rape and slavery".
Clearly, I can't win the propaganda war no matter what I do. ;-) But obviously I'm trying to do so by getting myself elected to CSM8. That involves generating support among as broad as possible of a player base... and that's definitely pushing a specific agenda. So propaganda -- positive and negative -- is definitely having an impact on that part of my game-play.
Thanks for the question, Mat. Gave me something to think about over the weekend!