The commodity of most value in EVE is not isk, nor shiny rare ships and not even officer-fit titans. It's trust.
EVE, like life, provides a openly competitive and materialistic arena in which participants vie for wealth, power and control. However, unlike life, New Eden is a virtual Darwinian environment that gives every participant the opportunity to hide behind a mask, so it is little wonder that suspicion and mistrust are rife.
Behaviourally, it is interesting to note that, whilst some may follow the moral code which they adhere to in life, others find freedom and release from the expectations of normal society and behave very differently. Or perhaps they do behave amorally in life, but to a lesser degree. Perhaps CCP has simply provided an amplifier for their anti-social tendencies. Or maybe it's just routine behaviour for the odd bonkers sociopath who thinks nothing of camping that gate whilst wearing their neighbour's strangled cat as a toupee. Hey, they can play EVE too y'know.
Some might argue that EVE is 'just a game'. however every game has rules, every sport is controlled by a ruling organisation represented by an umpire or referee. Yet EVE is the gaming equivalent of underground bare-knuckle fighting conducted in a lawless ghetto during The Blitz. There are those that will adhere to the Queensbury Rules and will fight with honour, but they are ultimately hamstringing themselves and are destined to lose to the fighter prepared throw sand in the eyes, plant a boot in the groin and stamp on the face of the floored opponent.
In fact, EVE also allows players to become the ruling body, the umpire and the crowd baying for more blood.
Human nature is nothing if not adaptable and it is interesting (and arguably disappointing) how it has adapted to New Eden. It is a very 'survival of the fittest' social exercise in some respects, however with death no longer being a concern, all participants survive, fit or not. It's the degree of 'thriving' that counts, which is much more difficult to measure. Some measure their success by looking at their wallet, others by killboard statistics or skillpoints. A few might look at the community which they have had a hand in forming as their reward, and larger groups are perhaps measured by the area that they control.
From a anthropological perspective, I wonder how similarly New Eden society has evolved when compared to the evolution of human civilisation. The growth of communites, the division into separate states, the acquisition of territory, the coveting of and expansion into lands held by others have all occurred in both realms. However, I believe that the 'emergent behaviours' exhibited in New Eden would be skewed slightly due to the lack of consequences, such is the double-edged nature of the sandbox.
Back to the issue of trust. In such a harsh social environment, it is natural to seek safety. Safety, as they say, is found in numbers, hence the formation of communities. Communities breed trust as those indiviuals work together toward a common goal and reap the benefits. However, the same communites also breed distrust and quite rightly. Outsiders are a natural threat to the order of their community and any new members will initially be treated with caution, until that trust is earned.
As an example and an interesting counterpoint to my 'The Butterfly Effect: Reality Edition' post, wherein I suspected a player of attempting to lure me into a trap, I recently found myself on the receiving end of the same distrust.
I'm excited and enthusiastic about our recent acceptance into Alexia Morgan/Black Claw's Art of War Alliance, however my naive enthusiasm was quickly dampened when I attempted to garner help for a low-sec complex I had discovered. I had failed to complete the complex alone due to an overseer with a ridiculous armour tank (reports of 1500dps), and was tired and in need of logging. I thought offering it to my new alliance-mates might be a good way of endearing myself to my new community. And maybe I'd still get a finder's fee.
Channel Name: Alliance
Seismic Stan: Anyone up for forming a PvE gang to crack a 6/10 complex?
Seismic Stan: Possible 800 million loot drop.
Seismic Stan: I've been greedily trying to solo it for the last four hours.
Seismic Stan: It didn't go well.
Alexia Morgan: lol
Seismic Stan: To be honest, I'm about ready to give up, but it seems a shame to let it disappear. So I'm happy to lead a gang to it, but I need to log soon.
Selphana: if my corp was fully moved back to k-space, i'd definately consider it
Seismic Stan: Unless theres about 10 of you, in which case we'll rinse through the complex in no time and I'll stick around.
Seismic Stan: There's a fleet set up.
Seismic Stan: In the mean time, I'm going to try one last solo attempt.
Alexia Morgan: just remember it's in lowsec everyone.... so if you're unfamiliar with lowsec survival, don't do it
Seismic Stan: Keep and eye on D-scan, watch local, stay aligned. I've been doing it for hours.
Seismic Stan: Not had a peep out of anyone else in system.
Seismic Stan: Well, apart from one Drake who snuck in whilst I was off getting ammo, but I sat cloaked and watched him get hammered and warp out.
My pitch didn't go well and my fleet remained pathetically empty. But who can blame them? In this environment of creeping suspicion and mistrust, I wouldn't trust some new guy who was trying to lure me into low-security space chasing some alleged pot of gold. I think even Alexia was suspicious, hence the discouraging comments. Realising this, I thought I'd try to build some bridges.
Seismic Stan: I know I've only been in the alliance for 5 minutes, so you're probably all staying quiet cos you have no reason to trust me...
Seismic Stan: ...but I can only give you my assurances I'd much rather get my share of 800m than concoct some elaborate trap.
Alexia Morgan: no one's interested today, it seems
Seismic Stan: It's tragic. I reckon I only need one other pilot and we'll tip the DPS in our favour.
On reflection, I wasn't helping myself, was I? If I had been witness to that conversation and was asked advice on it, I would have said 'if it looks like a trap and smells like a trap, it's probably a trap'. Suffice to say I gave up and went to bed, although I did leave the location details in alliance chat, so I'm vainly hoping to log in later to discover somebody benefited from the information, but I doubt it. It seems that I've got some work to put in before I can hope for a better outcome in the future.
In any other online game, I could've just asked for assistance in local chat, but in New Eden that's a bit like a stray dog barking loudly in wolf territory. It makes you want to find someone to blame for spreading all this expectation of betrayal. I'll leave you with a comment I made to Aiden Mourn in the EVE-BLOGGERS channel regarding ninja-looters:
"You are New Eden's Honey Bees of Mistrust, pollenating the flowers of paranoia throughout high-sec."
I meant it as a compliment and it is worth noting that EVE would probably not work as an entertainment medium if it were not for some players' willingness to embrace and nurture the baser aspects of human nature.