Thursday, 18 October 2012

Relating to EVE: A Difficult Marriage


My relationship with EVE is an unusual one it seems. But perhaps there are some for whom it will be familiar.

EVE and I have what is increasingly feeling like a struggling marriage. When we first met a decade ago, I was completely entranced by everything she was; I thought she was beautiful, deep and infinitely inspiring. She seemed very aware of this and was happy to oblige me my every internet spaceship desire. I met a lot of her friends and found much reason to be content. I didn't mind that she was a crack whore with a viscous streak, it made her all the more unique. It created an intoxicating cocktail of danger and promise.

As time passed I started blogging about my time with EVE and for several years this seemed like a natural evolution of the relationship.Increasingly, I found I chose my in-game activities based on what I enjoyed writing about. As well as continuing my scattershot bloggery on Freebooted, I wrote and produced an EVE audio fiction series (available on iTunes), contributed to a number of podcasts, inherited Crazy Kinux's Blog Banters, penned Incarna: The Text Adventure and took part in various other projects. I was living a kind of science fiction writer's nirvana.

However, some time in the last year, I've been feeling differently. The passion has cooled. I no longer spend much time playing EVE as I'm too busy writing about it. I was fortunate to gain a position as Guild Launch's EVE correspondent where I write a monthly Exploring EVE Online column. This month I discussed the player-developer relationship against the backdrop of the recent Veto EVE meet in London (more on that later). I've also recently had the opportunity to contribute to EON Magazine and I wait to read the next issue with eager anticipation.

Why So Quiet Stan?

Lately, my enthusiasm seems to have almost entirely transferred over to the act of writing, both in the EVE world and elsewhere. The spaceship portion of my EVE experience has certainly taken a back seat. Recent events in real life had a profound impact on this, particularly the pregnancy of my wife, the end of my paramedic career due to back injury and, to a degree, the death of Sean 'Vile Rat' Smith. For different reasons, these events tugged at me to turn my attentions away from an MMO experience to things of more real value. This might explain why not much content has appeared on Freebooted for the past few weeks, but I've still been very busy behind the scenes.

I am very aware of how skills and experiences I learned in my virtual EVE relationship have directly impacted on how I interact with real world problems. The illusion of influence created by my participation in the EVE universe perhaps gave me ideas above my station in the real world. Nonetheless, concerned with the quiet deterioration of the UK's emergency ambulance services, I applied EVE metagaming blogger mentality to the problem and as a result, I've managed to get my concerns published in a number of newspapers, both national and regional, have spoken with a number of key figures and have played a part in getting the ball rolling on what I desperately hope will be changes that will prevent the collapse an important part of the social fabric of the world I'll be bringing a new person into.

So as you can see, it's been a hectic few weeks for me and sadly my EVE participation has suffered. We've even missed a Blog Banter, sorry about that. But now I hope things have evened out slightly and I will be endeavouring to get back to my EVE relationship (so expect a new Blog Banter sometime soon). However I'm viewing it with new eyes.

What's My Motivation?

Hot off the back of the live event relaunch which I was honoured to be asked to play a part in promoting, I'm finding my role in the EVE universe a little challenging. I'm torn between enjoying the part I play "evangelising" EVE (Hilmar's words from Fanfest 2011) and justifying the time and effort required to do so. I certainly appreciate the experience I've gained from my relationship with EVE, but I am now struggling to re-engage what had essentially become a full-time, unpaid job.

Perhaps as a result of this sense of detachment, my experience at the London pub meet was a mixed bag. It was disparate collection of communities, none of which I really felt attached to. For the most part, I wore my "proto-journalist" hat whilst researching for Exploring EVE Online: The Story Beyond the Pixels. I felt more like a service provider than a player and didn't have the dedication to gameworld specifics that most attendees I spoke to had. I felt disconnected and a bit like a fraud. I just don't have the time or the dedication to keep up with these hardcore spaceship enthusiasts. I was in awe of the totality of their involvement with EVE, but didn't feel a pressing desire to engage at their level. I was very much the spectator.

Talking to CCP Unifex didn't help much either. His resolute attitude toward almost exclusively promoting the more hardcore aspects of EVE gameplay and supporting the most dedicated communities made me feel like my approach to EVE was too casual to fit in. His logic is entirely understandable given that for a long period of time that same community spine felt undervalued by the pre-Incarna development direction CCP had taken. But there were definitely undertones of "my way or the highway". Perhaps I need to accept that EVE and I are just drifting apart.

This isn't to say I didn't enjoy the pub meet. I had a chance to catch up with Richie Shoemaker of EON and Stuart at Play Sci-Fi. I met an old enemy from 2003 and had another chance to chat with some of The Bastards. I was pleased to meet Penelope Star (Tech 4 News actor/contributor) in person but sadly she snuck off too early to have a proper catch-up. I also enjoyed chatting to some other folk in the pub who knew nothing about internet spaceships, but a refreshing amount about current affairs, sport and relationships. I must have enjoyed it all because I stayed out late enough to miss my last train home.

Apologies if this blogpost has been a bit of a miserable ramble, it's more or less just a stream of consciousness as I try to swing my mindset back around to my EVE community duties. It's a bit like trying to psyche yourself up to do some DIY whilst my wife EVE is out mugging pedestrians with her friends. In the back of my mind, I'm starting to wonder if we even need another set of shelves. I've never seen her even pick up a book.

Anyway, about that Blog Banter, watch this space...

12 comments:

  1. Not sure quite what this one means. Perhaps you need to expand your writing horizons? If work is Eve and play is Eve, the relationship can get a bit claustrophobic.

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  2. Heh, I'm not sure either Mord. Like I said, it was a bit of a ramble as I try to fire up my EVE brain again.

    I've certainly been making some headway with other writing projects, but I feel an obligation to continue my EVE community commitments. It's just trying to find the right balance that is getting trickier.

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  3. Balance is hard. I lost my balance and fell out of EVE entirely. Well, except that I still follow a select group of blogs. If you follow the EVE thread to discern its meaning, you'll find that it's just a game; and when the game no longer holds your interest it becomes drudgery.

    I've always intended to come back, but no reason has yet compelled me.

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  4. (Copied from Google+ I'm somewhat lazy to write something new)
    My lord Stan you know how to put things succinctly. This describes the game perfectly :
    "I didn't mind that she was a crack whore with a viscous streak, it made her all the more unique. It created an intoxicating cocktail of danger and promise." Excellent! :D

    What a maddening relationship I've had with Eve as well. Met a lot of people in game that I really enjoy speaking to and have lots of fun with but despite that, its been a pretty hollow experience this year. Unlike you, writing is not my passion but some of my happiest experiences in 2012 have been the few things I've done for Tech4 News and Eve Tribune (i.e out of game - but related to - activities).

    The Veto meet was important for me. Had a fabulous time and enjoyed every minute but it highlighted that same disconnection you speak about in your post. In a little over 5 months I'll be turning 50 and I think I've reached my threshold of hanging out with 20-30 year olds feeling a bit like their mum lurking outside the door when their friends come over. Can't emphasise enough how the guys I've met have almost to the last been great fun to interact with, but its not enough for me. Devoting time to pursue my own obsessions - those that make me truly happy and challenge my own skills- has been long overdue.

    So come end of November when my sub runs out I'll be putting the game aside for at least 2 months so I can train myself to focus on whats really important to me. Eve is too much of a distraction and I have to go cold turkey for a while.

    Here's hoping you find your own perfect balance Stan. But most of all that your writing career soars, because Damn! the world needs to see more of your talent.

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  5. Hey Stan, lovely to meet you at the event - I'm Callduron/Simon from Li3.

    I've found Eve is the best game for leaving. I've got fed up a few times (or distracted) and each time I've come back and (having kept my skill queue going) suddenly I can fly new ships, do new things and the game feels fresh.

    Because it's a sandbox there'll always be a new angle to look at the game from. Take a few months off then come join me and Marcko and the rest in nullsec and blow some stuff up.

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  6. I have said it many times, Eve is not casual friendly. Rightly or wrongly, it does not facilitate (and nor as you point out do CCP encourage) the people that can spend half an hour here, an hour there and potentially one dedicated multiple hour session per week.

    It does however facilitate leaving and coming back. Which I and many others have done. It's a pity, I think it could retain people longer without the large breaks with some fine tuning, adjustment and tweaks on content delivery.

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  7. I hear you all on the 'taking a break' thing. But that's not really an option for me. As well as the commitment to the community to continue the blog banter tradition (which I enjoy and am proud to do), I have a commitment to Guild Launch to write a monthly column about EVE which I can't very well do without some in-game experience.

    I certainly didn't intend to sound as if I needed a break - essentially I've been having one for months, only really logging in to research stuff. I've already managed my in-game commitments down to a minimum. I'm happy to be able to log in and do what I can casually, but as Kody says, it's not really what EVE is about. When time allows, I may have to take Stabs up on his offer, but for now, I want to dig into the Incursion community.

    I guess I just have to accept that I am not CCP's target demographic and will just have to plod along at my own pace until I run out of steam or get reinvigorated - I'm currently part-way between the two. It is meant to be a sandbox after all, there should be plenty of surprises left for me to discover.

    [Also, hi paritybit, I thought you were dead ;) ]

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  8. Funnily enough, CCP have made a game that is very enjoyable to not play. I am currently on my second eve break and am enjoying reading blogs, the news sites and watching dotlan changes. I keep in contact with players and enjoy playing other games with eve players.

    I have every intention of returning as game companies are coming out with a stream of crap that has no chance of engaging me for even a tenth of the time that eve has held my attention.

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  9. 'Course, you married Eve. I just meet Eve at a bar and make out in a dark corner ;)

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  10. You're just seeing things in a different perspective now, than before because of the recent events in your life.

    And it's hard to be as dedicated to a game later on life, also it's natural to have a different view on things than when it all started almost 10 years (!) ago. Nothing much to worry about, you'll find something in game that gets you excited again ;).

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  11. It seems like one of the main motivations for continuing to play EVE for a lot of people is the promise of what the game could and might be. CCP recognises this and even reinforces it to some degree with their "Future" stuff. I suspect that its also a big reason for the passion with which they develop the game.

    The game is far from perfect. In fact much of the gameplay is lousy. We all have ideas of what it might eventually look like (both in terms of visuals and gameplay). Sometimes CCP lives up to this promise and delivers improvements that lead us believe that our future vision of EVE might not be that different from theirs. However, there are also plenty of times when CCP seems to be going in a completely different direction from what we might be hoping for.

    Regarding your unusual relationship with EVE, the game is unique in the way that it hooks us in by giving us another outlet for other interests. Whether that is writing, or in my case design, EVE provides plenty of material to work with. The steady stream of meta content that is created from, and for the game is testimony to this.

    The problem with this is that when the game disappoints, as it inevitably does, than all of a sudden it hits in more than one place. Not many games can do this. Maybe thats why so few people who have been hooked seem to permanently (and completely) walk away.

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Lay it on me.