Sunday, 17 April 2011
The Creature From the Null-Sec Lagoon
The Council of Stellar Management, an elected player body that serves as a liaison between the player population of EVE Online and it's creators CCP, has just begun its sixth term. The man that has taken up the reigns from the previous chair(wo)man is The Mittani, a polarising figure if ever there was one.
On the back of an aggressive “no bullshit” campaign and some vote-manipulating skullduggery (he openly admits that the smear campaign he masterminded against fellow candidate Trebor Daehdoow was designed to draw votes away from other candidates that may not have danced to his tune), The Mittani comfortably secured his desired position of chair and ensured that the majority of the remaining eight seats were occupied by individuals sympathetic to his cause.
Although a big name in the depths of the null-sec alliance-driven end-game of EVE, The Mittani isn't necessarily that widely celebrated (or villainised) in the more pastoral high-sec regions. On the commencement of his term, The Mittani wasted no time raising his profile amongst the wider EVE community in his own inimitable style. attending several interviews, engaging the EVE Online Twitter community (the #Tweetfleet) and allowing his new constituents to get a better idea of the man who is their new champion.
In doing so, he has revealed himself to be a capable and eloquent communicator, but also abrasive, unapologetic and narcissistic. That he knows EVE and it's idiosyncrasies is not in doubt, he seems well-informed and prepared to accept the limitations of his knowledge in that regard (he is, after all, a null-sec specialist) and understands when to refer to the resources of alternative knowledge that are his CSM cohorts and the alternates.
However, as he is clearly a man of education and intelligence, we can only assume his habit of being abusive and dismissive on such a frequent basis to be deliberate and calculated. You would not have to try hard to find a sound-bite or a quote wherein he is belittling someone. A self-described “pretentious douchebag”, he even has a trite explanation for such behaviour, in that “This is EVE, for fuck's sake.” and “My job isn't to kiss babies or say nice things about foolish people; it's to get shit done.”
This brings me to the curious concept of meta-gaming, something that I understand is a staple of the EVE Online null-sec culture; wherein much of the diplomacy, intelligence gathering and even attempts to cripple opposition communications take place outside the confines of the game engine itself. This is something that The Mittani, along with his alliance - the Goonswarm Federation - claims to be proficient in and is proud of. Furthermore he explains his brusque and offensive manner as something of a tool, after all EVE is a game about war and wars are not started by nice people.
The Mittani seems to represent a collision of the culture of internet anonymity that gives the excuse to treat others poorly without fear of repercussion and the harsh socio-political game design of EVE Online. What he calls EVE, others might prefer to call a 'conversation', a 'forum' or 'Twitter'. Being obnoxious may be a career choice within EVE, but how far that is carried beyond the game engine is a personal choice. For The Mittani, it seems to be an all-encompassing lifestyle. He is perhaps the product of his environment; a true child of EVE.
This may sound like a criticism, and I suppose in part it is, but it cannot be refuted what The Mittani represents in organisational terms. He has risen to the top of a community of thousands of players and seized control of the CSM when he so chose. Perhaps his manner might not be to everybody's taste, but he is certainly not a man to underestimate. Already his stamp is apparent in the initial days of the current CSM term; he was critical of the open letter published by the previous CSM and has begun his tenure with an open letter of his own that is far more positive and unifying. Using resources presumably at the daily disposal of the Goonswarm Federation, he gave a 'fireside chat' presentation on a Mumble server capable of hosting several thousand connections. There, he and the other CSM members informed the listeners (who numbered in their hundreds), fielded questions and gave assurances that The Mittani was not the sole decision-maker. These community meetings are intended to be a regular occurrence and are a great way of widening the communication conduit.
The Mittani himself impressed with his clarity of thought and his candour – it is apparent that he has a clear vision of what the CSM wants and what they can reasonably achieve. They presented as a unified force with an even-handed approach to all aspects of the game. That there is strong null-sec representation on the CSM is no bad thing; large fleet fights are an aspect of EVE Online that CCP repeatedly base their marketing on and it attracts many to try the game for the first time. If it is an unfulfilling experience then it will be a source of disappointment. This would certainly need addressing as a high priority. Furthermore, the presence of such a strong null-sec representation on the CSM may serve to close the divide between high- and null-sec play styles. It's certainly raised my awareness of that aspect of the game and I intend to take the plunge.
So with regard to the Mittani, his credentials speak for themselves and I feel assured that he will be a positive force for the CSM and for EVE Online. His frequent name-dropping of CCP developers, whilst slightly distasteful, suggests he has their ear and is well-connected (at least in his mind) and he seems to have a genuine desire to effect improvements for the good of all. Good luck to him and the other CSM members.
In terms of his acerbic manner, I believe this is also good for EVE. Every show needs a pantomime villain and I think The Mittani understands this role well, fulfilling it with aplomb. We don't have to like him and this is something he is quick to point out. It may well be that the very characteristics that cause offence are somehow integral to his success. He is our very own Emperor Palpatine and brings his own brand of villainy to New Eden - he can only add to the dark, rich tapestry of EVE history.
And he can get “shit” done.