Tuesday, 27 March 2012

An EVE Morality Tale: The Mittani Versus Alexander Gianturco


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.

The Mittani

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.

Alexander Gianturco

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.

12 comments:

  1. Well said sir. As you point out, most people tend to be Social Chameleons, but fwiw I do think Mittens has a pretty straightforward 'core' that determines most of his actions.

    That being said, I can't help but wonder why this is a huge issue given that the 'victim' in question jokes about the whole thing himself.

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  2. Here's my take on it...from an Eve player who doesn't really follow the blogs or forums, but hears about the goings on second hand...

    There is way too much credence given to a "suicidal divorcee" and his cry for attention. Eve is a GAME! Yes, as players we are passionate about our hobby. BUT FFS IT IS PIXELS ON A MONITOR!!!!

    If you feel so picked on that you are becoming suicidal perhaps you should find a different hobby or at least walk away from the computer for a bit. From what I heard from my better half I suspect the person who wrote the letter is in need of some professional help.

    In my humble opinion this is a troll tactic by some character to have his 5 seconds of Internet fame. The Mittani should NOT step down, nor should he apologize, or in any other way ask forgiveness. Again...IT'S A GAME!

    No, I don't condone bullying, and yes I've lost some exceptionally "expensive" ships in game. Have I walked away from my keyboard seething at some jackass on the other end of the line, yes. Have I rage logged, sure. Am I suicidal because my ship got ganked? No.

    As Freebooted said in his post...HTFU. Seriously. Or take up knitting. Your choice.

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  3. To step OOC a bit...

    Definitively well said. What I find most interesting about what you wrote was your wife's assessment based on her upbringing. I probably could write volumes about studying the psychology of leaders of groups of people with commonly held beliefs.

    Much of what we see in the world of televised politics and religion is a macrocosm of the microcosm we see amongst the stars of New Eden. Human nature has not changed. The cult of personality, popular thought, propaganda, crowd control (see what I did there) goes ever on-ward.

    It's up to individuals to see the world with a wide-angled lens. All of this is entertainment, all of this is meta-gaming, and bad news travels fast, but is usually also what brings fast fame, much like a roadside train wreck always brings rubbernecking.

    The eyes are now fully on Eve Online, Goonswarm, and The Mitanni. Where will they be in a week?

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  4. Yeah I love your logic!

    I'm gonna kill your mom, and then when you try to get back at me, I'm just gonna tell you to HTFU!

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  5. @Anon

    Excuse me for that stupid statement. I'm not sure what's wrong with me.

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  6. There is a strange dichotomy within the Goon culture and Alex/Mitanni as well.

    On the one hand they are very supportive of their own members and their coalition of friends. They recruit new goons into the game from somethingawful.com and shower them with isk, ships, and skill books.

    Within their coalition they divide their conquests with those alliances that participate on ops. Many of the current Branch sov holders used to live in Pure Blind.

    On the other hand they are ruthlessly amoral and downright condescending to the eve community at large, (the pubbies) and feel no remorse about scamming/ganking them etc.

    That being said Alex has since seen just how badly he crossed the line and apologized in the eve-o forums.

    Say what you want about him, and most people have. I still respect him because he had the stones to admit his mistakes, not something you'd expect from a sadistic megalomaniac.

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  7. He apologized, but it's taken on a life of its own now.

    We all screw up, but most of us don't do it in a way that lands our real name tied to a picture of a kid in a wizard hat published in a cyber-bullying context.

    When you leverage the meta game, it would be in your best interest not to provide ammo like this. There are those that would see the whole game burn to suit their agenda, and now Alex has given some ammo.

    Yet on the other hand, despite it all, he's not going to step down. He's extremely invested - it's a passion and to leave willingly is likely beyond his ability to do so.

    Do I think what he did was wrong? Sure. Do I hold his drunken ramblings against him? Not in the least, he acted like a goofball spouting off goofball words. We were all young and careless once.

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  8. Based from what I heard from Alex I have to disagree with your reading of him. I'm addicted listener of eve related podcast, news and intervenes and have probably heard over a 10 h of Alex speeches and discussions, and read many pages of the same too. What was clear to me from early on is that he is a textbook case psychopath. Symptoms of his condition are bluntly obvious: inability to empathise, inability to distinguish right from wrong, lying, lack of remorse and egocentricity.

    In fact only atypical aspect of his personality disorder is that he hardly bothers to dissimulate. Psychopaths usually develop good dissimulation skills to hide strange nature or absence of normal emotions. Alex was hardly brothering to do this so it was quite easy to recognise that he has psychopathic disorder.

    So I would say Mittani is not product of his environment but result of defective pathology of Alex's brain. Only influence sociopathic environment you mention had on him was making him drop his inhibitions that would otherwise force him to dissimulate normal behaviour.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy

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  9. OK, it's clear that we all make mistakes. But what leaded to this? Back in the forums he said that he didn't even remember what he had said. How did this happen? Who allowed these guys to drink alcohol at the presentation (and before that)?

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  10. I agree with Wolf on this. And I don't believe this to be an isolated incident caused by a drunken mistake. His behavior has transcended beyond that of game and has blurred the lines between reality and game play.

    As I see it, the difference in this case is this brought about unwanted consequences to his actions. Consequences that will probably curb his behavior in the future. But when consequences to your actions are the only restraints keeping you from acting out your true self it could hardly be construed as a sincere apology when the line is crossed.

    His lack of empathy, remorse, inability to distingush right from wrong and game from reality hasn't changed. It's just now he will do a better job at hiding these inabilities in the future.

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  11. Man to man. He's a miserable douche.

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  12. I was a EvE veteran before Alex removed his training wheels. Alex's absurd behavior was just that, but there was something that came out of it.

    I realized that I didn't want to be part of a community with dickheads like him around.

    His apology and mending fences was a bullshit smokescreen.

    Getting his 4th rate website up while still being part of the EvE community (which is half of his life) demanded he man up for once in his short and pathetic life lest he lose what little he managed to build up.

    Evidence? This is what he wrote not long after people within the EvE community asked for his removal:

    The Mittani wrote:
    You're not a valid subscriber, you're a NPC alt. The opinions of NPC alts don't count for anything.

    ~10,058~

    Alex didn't give a shit until he realized how much trouble he was really in. There is no honesty in him, no sincerity. He is a sociopath and EvE Online is the perfect place for Alex to embrace that.

    Good luck to him, because Karma is a bitch.

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Lay it on me.