Monday, March 24, 2014

If you date yourself, you'll probably be easy

This is expanded from my comments on a Post on Jester's Trek.  

To summarize, Jester is concerned that a cataclysmically bad press event like an EVE player committing suicide over in-game behaviour, which would be yucky all on its own, could also have severe financial repercussions for CCP. His go-to example is the Dungeons and Dragons devil worship scare in the nineteen eighties, that itself was catalyzed by one fellow murdering people and another offing himself in a steam tunnel. And they just happened to like DnD. 

When that stuff went down I was a young teenager who was very into the game. If I were more social I would probably have run into some backlash from people not understanding my hobby. Which would have been funny, because this alarmist expose probably best reflected my experiences around the gaming table.

The whole brouhaha has been credited with the eventual downfall of TSR, the outfit who was publishing Dungeons and Dragons at the time, but I see it differently. It shouldn't take a scandal a whole decade to kill a company, in my experience. I'm given to understand that a lot of research has gone on regarding the decline and fall of Tactical Studies Rules. My favorite interview on the subject is the one Fear the Boot had with Ryan Dancey, the man who, almost accidentally, brokered the sale of TSR to Wizards of the Coast. 

That aside, the worry that some poor, disturbed kid would hear HTFU too many times and whinge about it in a suicide note is vivid enough sometimes to make it seem likely. EVE seems, however, to have a couple major characteristics that inoculate it from this sort of thing. Firstly but tangentially, CCP is well-known as a force for good in their home country. TSR, by contrast, was spearheading a new hobby known only to the players and their teachers. 

Second, and more important, the graphics in EVE Online aren't all that visceral or inspiring to most people. Bear with me, this will make sense.

When people heard that DnD had the devil worship thing going on, there was the Monster Manual with Demons Type I through VI all laid out with (for the time) vivid and weird pictures thereof. A lot of those illustrators had a penchant for occult symbols that did actually have dark meanings familiar to those who already felt paranoid about the occult. So people are watching the news, they tell them about devil cults in a game, and they show the picture books. Holy carp! There's infernal imagery in there! 

By contrast, you might hear about diabolical imagery in World of Warcraft. The news shows pictures of the game, but all they've got is the cartoony, bright-colored Azeroth we all know and loathe. The demons are kind of comical, really. Not much of a story there. The imagery doesn't do a good job of lending visceral confirmation to the viewership's suspicions.

So let's imagine that rumors start regarding EVE being a den of devilry. You see the news report, and they show you...spreadsheets in space. I'm sorry, that's just not going to get the public's blood up. Thank god, really.

As I've said before, I am fundamentally onboard with the notion that CCP's desire to grow EVE's marketshare in a sustainable way is going to conflict or collide with its extremely entrenched user base and cutthroat game mechanics. I'm with Malcanis, however, insofar as Jester is barking up the wrong tree on this post in the series. CCP has much bigger priorities than this.

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