The returning chairman of EVE Online's elected player council has offered the resignation of his chairmanship following complaints about his incitement of the EVE player base to harass a "depressed" player to suicide. The story surfaced on Massively and will undoubtedly proliferate throughout games journalism and the blogosphere.
Whilst mental illness and bullying are serious issues, they are emotive and as such very easy to sensationalise. I hope that the matter can be dealt with maturely and without fuss. The awkward truth is there are many more forces at work here than are immediately obvious and they should be considered before any snap judgement is made.
It should be considered that The Mittani is the product of his environment; an environment in which morality is flexible and player culture requires participants to "harden the fuck up". Equally, smear campaigns and dirty tricks are often resorted to in the "metagame" environment beyond the confines of the game engine itself. If a group of players are prepared to and capable of DDOSing an opposing team's Teamspeak server, what other steps would they be prepared to take to make life difficult for an opponent? How genuine is the complainant's concern? What are the motives of the reporting journalists?
At this point I would like to make it clear that I am not in any way condoning hateful behaviour. I have long been disappointed by the bigotry and disrespect that is increasingly prevalent on the internet. The lack of regard for others shown by many internet users is only encouraged by the anonymous nature of unpoliced and unpoliceable web environments. Furthermore, rightly or wrongly such behaviour has become acceptable practice in many communities. It was inevitable that disrespectful attitudes would bleed over into real situations. As stated earlier, The Mittani is a product of that environment; his sharp and uncompromising manner has been a keystone of his success as a divisive but charismatic figurehead for the EVE Online community.
I do not know the man, but as an EVE blogger and podcaster it has been in my interests to pay attention to The Mittani's exploits throughout the EVE Online environment. I have written an examination of The Mittani's rise to chairmanship in The Creature From the Null-Sec Lagoon. I have had some moderate success mocking him in several (sometimes tasteless and offensive) audio parodies and satires. Every step of the way it has been clear in my mind that the individual I have been exploiting has been The Mittani, not Alexander Gianturco. He could have taken exception to some of the more unkind things I have said, but he didn't. He has been a good sport, as he was for the photo at the top of this article.
In the last year or so, I have attended a number of events where I have spoken to him in passing, but not until the Sunday night after Fanfest did I have a chance to actually have a conversation with him. When I did, I was with my (non-EVE-playing) wife and I was quite clear that I wanted to gain a better understanding of the distinction between The Mittani and Alexander Gianturco. I had not attended the fateful Alliance Panel and at that point was unaware of the coming controversy.
Despite the conversation being almost entirely between Alexander and myself, my impression of him at that time is no more relevant than that of my wife's. She had a strict religious upbringing and she commented that Alexander's impassioned and protective statements regarding his followers reminded her very much of some of the more zealous church ministers from her childhood. Alexander's apparent single-minded devotion to the causes of his Goon community and EVE Online as a whole was evident. This was a man passionate about his beliefs and his hobby. Whilst endearing, it is perhaps also a reflection on The Cult of EVE.
That said, I am aware that he is a capable reader of people and a consummate politician, so I suspect he was projecting the persona he felt would solicit the most amicable response from his audience (ie. my wife and I). But don't we all? I came away from the encounter with the assessment that Alexander is a social chameleon - I've met his like before. He has the ability to adapt to his audience and give them what he believes they want to further his own ends. Most of the time Alexander Gianturco's audience is a community that mocks the weak and revels in dick jokes. The Mittani is Alexander's chameleon cloak for that environment. What else can he be? He is the product of his environment and those who contribute to that environment should not be so quick to judge.
Mocking a "suicidal" player was tasteless, ill-judged and needless, but it was just a black-humoured joke taken too far and should be treated in that context and nothing more.