Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blog Banter 35: The Society of EVE - 2400 years in the making

Now approaching its tenth year, the EVE Online player community has matured into an intricate and multi-faceted society viewed with envy by other game developers, but is frequently regarded with suspicion by the wider gaming community. 

Is this perception deserved? Should "The Nation of EVE" be concerned by its public identity and if so how might that be improved? What influence will the integration of the DUST 514 community have on this culture in the future?

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]

I'm very happy that this is my first blog banter. I'm here because I've decided to get more involved in the EVE community and I am very proud that my How can we help? blog was an influence on the 35th question for the blog banter.

I want to start with something that might seem off topic so please, keep the "Noob! That's now how Blog Banters work!" to a minimum.

None of what I propose below (or in the previous blog) is in any way shape or form a request for CCP to change the game. EVE is hard. EVE is tough. EVE is unforgiving. I do not want this to change. If this changes then the very fabric of the EVE universe will change. In my mind the questions for this blog banter don't even suggest altering the game where as some other bloggers have decided to approach the questions from the view point of change and change management. To me the questions speak of a larger more transcendent element of the EVE universe that goes far beyond game play, beyond meta-gaming and reaches into the very core of social constructs. The identity and formation of a society. Philosophers have been thinking and writing about this for years because it's as much part of being human as eating and sleeping.

And it's a HUGE part of EVE.

“States (societies) are as the men, they grow out of human characters.” 
― Plato

Some 2400 years ago Plato wrote about society in his greatest work, The Republic. In The Republic, he designs (through Socrates) a society in order to discover the meaning of justice. Along the way, he compares elements of his society (a utopia, Greek for “no place”) to the three souls: The peasants are the foundation of the society. They till the soil and produce goods, i.e. take care of society’s basic appetites. The warriors represent the spirit and courage of the society. And the philosopher kings guide the society, as reason guides our lives. [Reference]

Seem familiar? 2400 years ago! He could have easily been writing about EVE.

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” 
― Plato

Perception is subjective. It is the formation of an opinion based upon intersection of information provided and ones own experiences.  And in our case the perception of EVE IS deserved. The events that have led to these perceptions are not fictitious. They happened. And in the absence of any other information people will form an opinion based on that input. With no counterbalance to the stories of treachery, lies, deceit, and ruthlessness the image and perception of EVE moves quickly beyond the drama we all love to follow and into the realm of uncomfortable ideals and memories.

To be indifferent to the impact of negative news and the lack of a counterbalance means a further strengthening of the perception that EVE is ruled by evil men and women.

"Our object in the construction of the State (society) is the greatest happiness of the whole, and not that of any one class."
- Plato

The Nation, nay, The Society of EVE is THE owner its own identity. We build the society. We write the story. We are the stakeholders of our future. It is our identity that will determine the future success of this wonderful universe of EVE. While EVE and CCP has enjoyed an unheard of consecutive nine years of growth, like all things in life, nothing is guaranteed. Past growth is not an indicator of future growth. At some point, this game will end. The question is, when? I want that to be many, many, many years from now. I want to be a 90 yr old grumpy old man blowing up the Titan of that punk kid down the street who keeps throwing my morning paper in the bird bath. I want to go on epic roams with my grandkids so we can laugh about the goons whelping a fleet of battleships to our T40 frigates. And the concern should be for all of EVE to prosper so we can continue to help grow the game we all love to play.

I want to make sure I'm clear here. I'm not advocating "cleaning up EVE" or removing the evil part of EVE. I am however talking about how we tell our stories. Quoting from my previous blog: The dark side of EVE is as much a valid part of the game as any other area. It is a necessary part of the beauty of EVE. Without it we would not have the complex ever changing world that we love to participate in. That can't change.

"We must reform society before we can reform ourselves."
- George Bernard Shaw

Mr. Shaw is reflecting on the fact that we are products of our surroundings. In the case of a game we are bringing both the Society of EVE and that of our real life into the game. I believe one key element in improving and taking the marketing of EVE to the next level is to turn the community stories outwards from inwards. The double edge sword is that our internal society will be judged and gauged by the outward society of the audience (which of course changes depending on where they live). While George maybe talking about true reform of society, I'm admittedly taking creative license with the quote and talking about reforming how we tell our stories and how we communicate with the larger gaming communities. Change how and more importantly what we communicate and the image will adjust. Subsequently the perception will adjust along with it.

“Those who tell the stories rule society.” 
― Plato

If we change how we communicate as a society it will in turn influence all individuals. EVE needs to improve in celebrating the good stories and developing counterbalances to the bad stories. This is even more important when focusing the stories outwards. At CCP there are only four community members responsible for helping us get our stories out yet there are 350,000+ of us. Now out of the 350,000+ people I would hazard a guess that only a small portion are responsible for "negative press". When approached from this angle one of the most powerful solutions is one of the most simple in nature. 

Tell more positive stories!!

Stories of helping other pilots, of achievements in space or economy or manufacturing. Lore, fiction or role play stories. Feel good stories of comebacks, against the odds victories, etc. The sheer volume of all the good things in EVE easily overwhelms the bad. EVE players are a smart, clever and creative group of people. I'm darn sure we can collectively come up with positive stories. I'm just waiting for someone to come up with an in game response to the CCP Skyward Sphere! Come on now, be honest, will the person who has already made a Hal Sagan character please identify yourself!

It has been proposed to CCP to provide features in the game to make it easier to tell stories but the key there is "easier". Easier is nice and we would get more stories but nothing is stopping EVE players from working on promoting EVE in a positive light. As an example, I found this following video on the Intergalactic Summit:

I don't know how hard or easy that was, but someone took the time to put it together. There has to be many more people like that in EVE.

Here's another one by my fellow -A- member Nashau who also happens to be DJ Starstream on EVE Radio:

All awesome stuff! Additional tools to make it easier and to increase participation in story telling would be nice for sure but in the meantime that should not stop us from working on promoting the other eighty percent of EVE. (That is a total guess based on the good old 80/20 rule, nothing more scientific than that.)

That's all I have. After all that deep thinking it boils down to telling more positive stories. Flood the world with good stories of EVE to counterbalance the negative. In the end, people outside of EVE will perceive EVE based upon the stories they read. Will the negative stories go away? No. I don't even propose we stop telling them. They are as needed as the positive. It only needs to be balanced to be an honest representation of the society of eve.

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” 
― Plato

Onto Dust 514. Frankly, I don't know. I can speculate and hope all I want, we'll only really know once those people start doing the same things we do. Building videos, blogging, podcasts, forum posts, etc. What I hope happens is they are as enthralled and immersed as we are. I hope they are excited about 7 years worth of training and of being part of a single Society. And I hope they add lots of positive stories along with negative ones. I think existing EVE players can help set the tone of much of this in the beginning but if there ends up being many times more 514 players versus EVE players then their stories will be the norm. I can also speculate that most people are wise enough to realize that while we share a universe that the two player bases are not the same. I hate to cop out on this but time will tell. And I'm darn sure we will know fairly quickly after it all goes live.

[Unrelated and random bonus question sponsored by EVE News 24: What single button would you recommend be included on an EVE-specific keyboard?]
After all that writing, this one is easy. A button that will record my video. A "frap this" button!

Thanks for reading. I can honestly say I have no clue what the next blog will bring! But I will leave you with one last quote.

“He was a wise man who invented beer.”
― Plato


  1. Very interesting post, I like your 'take' on this BB. I too have pondered how to tell the 'good' side of EVE... Main issue as I see it is that drama sells, damn near better than sex.

    Drama = gossip and is inherently moar interesting to people than how decent we can be. Sad but true.

    What we need is a dramatic Good Guy story, something BIG, a 'D-day', a 'Bulge', hell even an 'Alamo' where the good guys go down fighting the GF.

  2. Welcome to the NBI! Have fun blogging and let us know if you have any questions!