Saturday, November 17, 2012

Theft and Trust: A Look

When I started to write about the pleasure of Ill Gotten Goods I found myself wandering into a similar, but different area: Theft.

I decided to break apart the two ideas. While similar in aspect that they each take things from people who do not wish to be releaved of their stuff they are still very different actions. My purchased of booty retrieved from the shattered bodies of high sec haulers was different then stealing things. Theft is a touchy subject but it is also a very big part of Eve. I wrote a lot of this particular meandering path of thought and then shelved it for a while. However, after my summary of the wormhole corp theft yesterday, I felt that I was in a good place to add this in.

I gamely step to the side on the biggest issue and approach at angles of thought.

In Eve, stealing is a viable form of game play. I am speaking of the existence of true theft (of space pixels). There are no single instance items. They are not soul bound (or whatever happens in Aion). Your stuff can become my stuff if I am smart/lucky enough to get it. I can wear someone elses clothing if they are silly enough to transport it in their hold instead of on their character. I can spend my time creeping around someones exploration site and snatch the good item while they are too far away to stop me. If I move quickly enough I can warp out before they can kill me or make me fight. I specifically do not state forcing someone into the fight because this is focused on stealing to steal.

I admit that I enjoy theft in video games. In Fable, I wind up evil at the very start because I can't stop stealing things. In Eve I can’t resist wrecks with goodies inside of them. I'm the person that always makes the rogue or thief type character. Even when I started Aion I chose the 'evil' race.

Yet, when I give my word I don’t think of breaking it. Some say that thieves (or pirates) can not be honorable. In fact, I remember reading a rant on the forums about how dishonorable pirates are. The acceptance or embracement of theft does not automatically equal the loss of morality. Even for ISK. I steal from 'other people' not those close to me. I cherish the trust that they gave me. Considering the 15bil in other peoples stuff I have hauled of late I enjoy the trust that they give me and the social relationship that I have with them more then the ISK value I carried. Not because I can then go and shatter it later. That isn't my pleasure.

That does not stop me from suggesting it to others. It is a mixture of devil's advocacy and just reminding people that they have choices in this game. Someone commented on a 32bil isk carrier. For some reason they didn't like said carrier hanging out in a POS.

My suggestion was that he take it.

He said, “I’ve found your price.”

I laughed. "No. I was suggesting that you take it. I’d never do such a thing to my corporation."

“So you wouldn't steal it but you tell me to?”

“Yes.” He didn't ask for more details so I did not share them.


Definition of HYPOCRITE

1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

As defined, I do not believe my situational values are hypocritical. Just as I believe that one can engage in rampant corporation theft and player scamming while still being a trusted and valued fried and corpmate in the places where they have made that choice to be.

I have nothing against corp theft. While I would not like it to happen to me, I also hope that I do things to secure my valuable property. I also love my corporation. If he professed the love of his corporation that I do for mine the chances that I would have made the suggestion would be decreased. I will also say that he is the last person I expect to steal from a corp which is another reason why I suggested it. He often seems bored or unhappy and unfulfilled. I've taken to prodding him with the Stick of Evil to see if that might help. The Stick of Good isn't doing it.

Theft tends to trigger all of our defensive reactions. Will they steal from me? Can I trust them? In a game full of theft and trust issues stealing just makes things a bit more complicated. It makes good relationships more valuable. How often have I read of corp theft that came from nothing more then bitterness about poor people management. In a game where our entire social system is supported by our 'true life/real life habits and experiences of employment and working both the positives and negatives have to be considered. Just as one works for a company a company can be destroyed by a bitter employee. Many people, learning of the abuse of the employee will cheer them on instead of condemn them. Just as the power of being a CEO means responsibility as well as 'Do as I say' privileges.' How often is theft caused not just be the 'terrible corp thief' but by mistakes made inside of the corporation.

Is there a level of theft that is acceptable? Is stealing ore from miners that still can mine an okay type of theft while emptying a corporation hanger a less okay one? Even if a theft is justified by the situation someone has still lost. The bad guy in the situation may not consider themselves a bad guy. They may be reclaiming what they earned or felt they earned but were never given. Suddenly we have two victims and two perpetrators. Morality in theft is not always easily defined.

Months ago I installed my alt in a corporation. I was randomly solicited. My goal was to see if there was anything worthwhile. My investment with the corp was never huge. In fact, as time passed I became more and more irritated with the guy leading it. He had no path and kept bouncing around and doing random things. Eventually, I bailed simply because I had other projects I needed my alt for.

In the process, I discovered that I did not have an interest in putting the energy into staging a decent corp theft. Scamming isn't my niche in Eve. I'm an opportunist, sure. Free cynos everyday from wrecks. But in general I'm just not able to support scams. Some may assume that they go hand in hand with piracy but I don't believe they do. Yet, if I had the opportunity and the motivation I do not think that I would bulk at it. Now. When I first started the game I would have because I did not want to be seen as a bad person even when I had not been treated well.


1 - a : assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
b : one in which confidence is placed

2 - a : dependence on something future or contingent : hope
b : reliance on future payment for property (as merchandise) delivered : credit

3 - a : a property interest held by one person for the benefit of another
b : a combination of firms or corporations formed by a legal agreement; especially : one that reduces or threatens to reduce competition

4 - archaic : trustworthiness

5 - a (1) : a charge or duty imposed in faith or confidence or as a condition of some relationship (2) : something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another
b : responsible charge or office
c : care, custody

What I saw when I read through the definitions of trust was a series of situational commitments. Trust can be given to a person based off of a thing. At no point did I understand the definitions to mean "all of the time for everyone". It would allow for me to trust someone whom another could not. I would have reasons that they do not.

It is a decision. One can chose not to trust as much as one can choose to trust. In each choice there are positives and negatives. I can only gather everything I know to make that decision and extend that trust. Or for others to me. And trust should not be confused for like. For we can like those we do not trust and we can trust those that we do not like.


  1. There is some truth to the adage "there can be no honor amongst thieves".

    Thieves plan and plot solely to take what is not there's, to become wealth(ier). Presumably this is easier, or more gratifying for those involved, then creating or earning these things with methods. (hard work and what not)

    There can be honor amongst thieves, initially, especially if the situation is one of mutual symbiosis and pee-existing social relationships. At some point however, if greed is the underlying and prime-motive force in the situation, eventually honor will not hold out (I'm using honor loosely, as in, holding up your side of voluntary and mutual social bonds even when faced with large immediate, situation changing rewards, because those bonds are also an end in themselves that are more highly valued)

    Greed places short term material gains above nearly all other considerations, often recklessly. The social bonds that exist between thieves generally exist for the purpose of cooperative efforts that allows greed to be successful on a larger and quicker scale with more security.

    However, at some point the marginal utility of each additional windfall becomes much lower, and the value of this cooperation decreases to the point that greed is better satisfied with ending the social arrangement, and acquiring the goods of your partners, which may in fact be rather easily acquired due to said social arrangements. Along with the decreasing marginal utility...the social value of these socioeconomic bonds among thieves decreases, and the less desirable social traits of each thief along with any paranoia that will be developing makes the maintenance of these social bonds more costly measured in emotional stress and real time committed.

    So why do some thieves seem to maintain fairly consistent values of honesty, trust, honor, and friendship in Eve?

    The answer is that although these individuals may be labeled thieves, their modus operendi tends to be something different.

    Their overriding and potent driving force is a desire to fight people in internet spaceships and sometimes win.

    These individuals may not be averse to stealing, or to scamming other eve players outside of their social group, but they are primarily thieves or even pirates. They are pvpers. The Pvp and the need for the fleetmates (being alone in Eve for the most part means dieing most of the time with little gain)can be a unifying super glue that can withstand whatever moral contradictions scamming/thieving/killing those outside of your social group may create.

  2. However just as Greed has an unknown threshold where strong social bonds become brittle, and eventually break, pvp corps in Eve have a threshold as well; numbers.

    Once a corp reaches certain level of membership, the marginal utility of each additional friend/fleetmate decreases significantly. As membership increases sub-groups within the main social group are created wherein the same special case (as long as its not done to each other within our group, becomes as long as its not done to those in our subgroup)Furthermore as the time and attention required to develop social bonds with others within the main group passes a certain threshold, at which point we quit actively developing relationships with new members, the bonds of the overall organization and its ability to promote honor and integrity within the group begins to fall. The cost of new social interactions becomes greater than the reward, and the consistency of inner group morality can no longer be maintained.

    So what I am trying to say is that there can honor among members of goal oriented social groups, where the goal (or some)are generally considered to be immoral or questionable as long as:

    1. The group itself retains its value to the members
    2. The group does not become too large or too wealthy.
    3. The immoral actions committed serve a unifying function and are socially taboo within the group, with zero tolerance.

    So how big can a pvp group get before members are scamming each other and drama reigns on high? Well, there is a great deal of anthropological evidence suggesting that socialism tends to be break down once a group reaches a headcount of 100. This is for a variety of issues already discussed, but largely because such an organization relies on close social bonds to police itself. In tribal village of 50 people..there are no strangers. In a group larger than 100...there are, which makes accountability for unacceptable social acts problematic.'

    Obviously there is room for pages on how valid the comparison was, since I do not accept that eve corps have to be or are inherently socialistic in nature in the socioeconomic sense.

    However, I do believe the comparison is valid enough. However the thresholds of how many players can be in a single organization with fairly uniform social ties and inter-group social knowledge, within Eve Online and on voice communication servers may be some factor less or more. Since we spend a great deal less time committed to our eve social bonds than we would in surviving (utilizing our social bonds) in a primitive tribal society, I would say the number is probably less than 100. It is probably closer to 50-65 in my estimation.

    Also...there is a separate calculation on the matter of theft in eve

    1. There would appear to be some ambiguous social value in making people pay for consistently dumb game play, bad or nonexistent planning, and non-use of readily available tools.

    This tends to be a fact, rather than a motivating factor in scamming, thieving, killed, AWOXING ect. Regardless it still deserves mention.

    Eve has the most cautious, common sensed, and street smart player base of any electronic game. (except maybe Day Z, but its largely played by Eve players anyway) I will not qualify this with proof since it should be self-evident, though hilarious to consider.

    (I realize now that future typing will require me to spend a year writing a book, so I will stop)