Monday, June 10, 2013

The Shallow Edge of a Deep Cup

One of the hardest things to explain about Eve Online is what you do in Eve Online. Saying, "it is a spaceship game" is completely true. However, it is not a complete definition. it is an outer coating that has to be opened to discover what Eve Online is.

Most games are what they are. The box is picked up and it is read. The website is skimmed over. A list of things to do and accomplishments and a general tone are listed. They form the core of the game. Deciding to play the game is often based off of these factors. Eve has this, in a technical way. It is, after all, a spaceship game about spaceships just as it is listed on the website.

Yet, so many of us are not playing a spaceships in our game about spaceships. That is where we lose our way in explaining the game. Oh, we could explain it. But, the glazed eyes and slam of the door as our conversation partner fled stops most of us from actually explaining what we do in Eve. Instead, we try to turn it into the back of a game box and dish it out in mild, bland spoonfuls with enough glitter to be interesting.

I was talking to someone about building boosters for my corp and my blues and my general in game community. I wound up a bit wide eyed and rabid during the conversation as they were stunned that I was not interested in turning my booster making into a bigger ISK production. My reasons are the same reason I go over time and time again. I'm fine with making the ISK in smaller amounts if the product improves the community.

And I realized, that at some point over recent months the Molden Heath community and by extension, Low Sec had become my game. My Eve and Game interests had expanded beyond Sugar the Pirate Queen running around in her royal Jaguar and started to become about my interest in my personal community and by extension Low Sec as a whole. I had started to value, champion, focus on, and structure my Eve time around making a personal attempt to improve low sec, even if it was in a small way.

I picked up this idea by pondering why large groups in Eve are productive and came to the conclusion that its not just social building but world building as well. If everyone does nothing but scrape for what is there, everyone winds up fighting over scraps. This, is unproductive. Yet low sec as a whole is a space full of fighting over what is there for no other reason but to fight over it. However, inside of that fighting are pools of solid, social communities. The socialization may be more wantonly spaceship violence filled, but it is still a core social group.

Back in March I was pondering the need for neutrals in Eve. While, I do not think I directly linked the concepts, somewhere in my mind I started to see some of the things that were missing. Low Sec's society had holes that needed to be filled. For whatever reason, insanity perhaps, I decided to start trying to fill those holes. Only, I had been doing that from the year before but I started to expand on this due to whatever little quirk of insanity or interest that I personal hold.

I myself am not a neutral entity but TCS and my booster sales are neutral entities. I picked up what I perceived as a need and moved forward with it. I entered into world building on a small scale. It isn't a vast empire or a major alliance that I work with. It is not a huge piece of the Jita market where I am a mover and a shaker. It is one piece of the game that I can throw my efforts behind to help improve the game as a whole.

If TCS as a project has proven anything it has proven the viability of player improvement of space in empire. It isn't a world changing event. I'm one person. My non-Eve life easily unbalanced my Eve life. It isn't a huge, socialist project. It is one, that I realized, as I felt the cold hard edge of my temper rise to the surface at an innocent suggestion of starting a cartel, had become very important to me and started to define what I was doing in Eve.

But how does one explain that to someone looking to join a video game? I will say, without blinking and eye that I have fun doing what I do. I do have fun. I enjoy it immeasurably. I have thrown my time and energy into it and so it has become the focus of my game. But explain that I have decided to extend a portion of my game self, which is not my main game identity, into a neutral entity that supports the space that I live in by supplying it in such a way as to help the inhabitants thrive in the hostile economic environment that they live in which I also place some fault onto the  structure of the game, leading me to force change through player action, might not sound quite like 'a spaceship game with spaceships'. It is also 100% a personal, player made position carved inside of the game itself because its something that I want to do and it is something that I can fail at doing and it is something that many people will never notice.

And it is only a part of the stuff that I do in the game.

It is hard to condense down to, "I sell stuff" and in anyway pass onto someone why that is interesting as a project. Why it would drive me to Iceland or Eve Vegas for fascination about the game. And even if I explained every bit of it in minute detail I could then say, "But you don't have to do any of that or care about it, there is so much to do." The silent but that follows that is that a player must create what they want to do. It may take a while to figure that out. It may never happen. It may be deep or it may be shallow but it has to come from the player. That self involvement is one reason that Eve is so hard for people to get into.

For me, at some point, without fully realizing it, I picked up Low Sec as my personal interest point and slowly started to weave my game around myself. I don't always do a good job at it. I am not as successful at it as I'd like to be. But I have come to find my little chunk of the game world to be engaging and I developed a passion for it that sometimes turns me into a bit of a frothy eyed monster.

The game won't play you. That it is why Eve's stories are so interesting.

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