I am an EVE player. I am one of thousands of individuals who make up a society of space-faring tycoons that participate in an endless dance of creation and destruction. In our virtual world there are people I admire, friends I have never met, visionaries who shape our universe and strangers who want to break my stuff.
Whilst the nucleus of my EVE experience is about spaceships and explosions, the real meat on the bones is the interaction with other players that occurs both within the game client and elsewhere in blogs, forums, Twitter and podcasts. Perhaps more than the spaceships themselves, I relish the opportunity to contribute to this extension of our virtual galaxy and I enjoy the contributions of others.
It's odd then that for the past few weeks I have found myself shunning this EVE community metaverse to the extent that this is my first blogpost for nearly a month. I think I have now come to realise why.
My involvement with various social networking metagame elements had allowed me to keep abreast of the turbulent events of the past month and at first I couldn't get enough of the drama as it unfolded. CCP's Controversy Cannons belched forth relentlessly, generating a feast of indignant rage and protest. I hungrily consumed every threadnaught, blogpost and Tweetfleet conversation that covered the various inflammatory topics that were inciting elements of the EVE player-base to apoplexy.
It was an amazing, appalling and unprecedented spectacle (or should that be 'monocle') of drama that shook the community. The combination of mob-fuelled fear of possible "game-breaking" changes and some unfortunate internal leaks resulted in an emergency summit between CCP and the CSM player representatives. The meeting in Iceland bore positive fruit and I was impressed with the impact that The Mittani and co. had.
The Dead Butterfly Effect
But it was about then that I hit saturation point. Something within me just turned off and I could no longer find the motivation to follow the dramatic events. I could not settle on an opinion and no longer cared to. I found the continued complaining and negativity in spite of the damage control to be depressing. It all seemed far too emotionally involved for something that was meant to be an enjoyable hobby. I retreated from all communication channels that could bother me and instead chose to continue playing my EVE in relative isolation.
It was ironic that my previous post had gently mocked the most passionate and vocal of players by suggesting that they were suffering from emo-rage, BOV syndrome and burn-out, whilst I had seemingly succumbed to a kind of community burn-out myself. I'd almost had a 'Mummy and Daddy are still fighting so I'm going to hide in my bedroom' kind of reaction.
Taking a Break From EVE by Playing EVE
But my withdrawal back to the core gameplay elements of EVE led me to rediscover the silent majority. Most of my corp- and alliance-mates were either oblivious or resistant to the controversies. However my metagame-induced motivational slump meant that I found significant involvement a bit of a chore, preferring instead to just keep things ticking over quietly in the background. Despite my malaise, I was grateful for the steadying influence of a group focused on enjoying the positive aspects of EVE Online.
I took some pleasure in the simpler aspects of life in virtual space; designing and producing disposable combat ships for Corp use, engaging in some low-stress PvE and participating in some freighter wrangling (more on this in a future post).
It gave me time to reflect on why so many people devote so much passion and energy to a hobby with no real world purpose. EVE provides a kind of escapism so open that it is both freedom and imprisonment, both poison and cure. It can become such an all-encompassing passion that for some, it really is worth all the stress. When something threatens the equilibrium of their cathartic stimulant to which they have become accustomed, it is logical to come to it's defence.
What happened in The Month of Incarnage was like an allergic reaction; within the community body a segment of informed and empowered players reacted to a potential threat like an overzealous immune system, causing the damaging inflammation and misdirected resources of community anaphylaxis. It was fortunate that the CSM existed to act as an antihistamine. Hopefully CCP have figured out what the allergen was and will try to avoid it in future.
I feel for those who felt compelled to cancel subscriptions and for those who were banned, but also for the CCP employees who were just doing their jobs. It is a shame that so much grief was caused but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel (I just hope that it's not CCP's T2 controversy lasers powering up).
As for myself, I think my drama hangover is passing and I am ready to get back into the swing of things. I've got space to roam, comments to tweet, blogposts to write and podcasts to ruin.
Because I am an EVE player.