Friday, March 14, 2014

Keeping score: EVE's ethical crisis

In his recent post COTW: What's changed?, Ripard Teg (CSM member, prolific blogger, international man of mystery, cardmember since 1992, DJ, NBA superstar and child psychologist) continues to go into how EVE is headed for an ethical crisis. It makes kind of tortured reading, because he's really trying to be real, and some of the commenters are trying to be real too, but all the competing priorities make me forget why we're all talking so loudly. So I'm posting my attempts to clarify the debate for myself, and everyone can follow along.

Executive summary of the OP's position: 
EVE's famous culture of blame-the-victim, laissez-faire griefery has always been a double-edged sword for EVE's subscription numbers. Many are attracted because of it, and arguably just as many are repelled once they experience it first hand. It has become steadily worse over the years, and CCP will be forced to crack down on this culture it has built in order to make sure it does not undo all the work they have been putting into the game to attract more customers. 

What the commenters seem to be saying against it, with my own take following: 
It's not actually getting worse. The ISK values of the losses sustained recently are inflated versus those suffered earlier in the game's history. The inflation argument is, fortunately, something we can tackle with sufficient accounting and maths. My gut feeling is that it's right. But it's kind of irrelevant, given that the only numbers really at stake are subscriber numbers. Intangible things can affect that, too.

The increasing toxicity of EVE gamer culture merely reflects the increasing toxicity of gamer culture, internet culture, and/or real life culture. This is a contributing factor, but it is not the only factor. 

Grrrrrr Goons, Blue Donut, Null sec is wrecking EVE, et cetera. It seems intuitive that a more peaceful null-sec means that predators will come into high-sec and predate people there, like bears into a mountain town. Analogies are seductive. I give my cautious agreement on this one. I'm not married to it. 

Teg is cherry-picking egregious cases. Another variant of this opinion is: Those who ridicule their victims are more vocal than other kinds of EVE players. Their vocality is distorting perceptions of the supposed problem. Also: Internet media has changed, and its instantaneous ubiquity amplifies their voices. Basically, some sort of noise and/or bias is infiltrating the channel and we're not getting a true picture. I can accept the idea, but it can cut both ways. It could be that the vocality of the griefers serves to legitimize their viewpoint such that the problem looks less serious.

You actually got to admit to some of these recent scam victims have been a special brand of stupid. Agreed, but this is begging the question. We're talking about whether blaming the victim makes EVE suck worse than it otherwise would. These types of comment are really saying they don't want this debate to be happening at all. 

Overall, I think: 
Increasing toxicity of EVE Online's culture, if it exists, is an intangible, uncountable thing. And I think it's why this argument seems to attract so many disparate and tangentially-relevant viewpoints. Some people see it happening, and some don't. 

One time in college, the mayor of the town came to one of my classes to discuss a classic political work of literature, probably The Federalist Papers. He said one very sincere thing: he had never quite got used to just how much people simply want what they want when they want it, and no further thought is required before they start campaigning for it politically. 

Ripard Teg's posts are going to be a really exciting read. I think, in principle, that he is right: the current ethical standards of EVE will eventually come to blows with CCP's business goals for the game. I have quibbles here and there with the fine points, like how much of the player population agrees with or gets hurt by the ethical standards as they now exist. Or whether it will all explode at once or just go down in several teapot-bound tempests. But Ripard's take on the trends seems fundamentally correct to me.

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