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Memoirs - Part Eleven: Players are people

Virtual Realities: Memoirs of an internet spaceship politician
by Sugar Kyle CSM9, CSMX

People are really, really hard

It turns out that the CSM campaign was opening a door. Winning was a walk through the door.  No one mentioned that the door would slam closed behind me. But, I could walk back out the door. It closed before anyone could see what was inside. It was a house that everyone knew I had purchased but no one could visit.  When I left the house I was the same me. The changes were only viable from the inside and I was left with the other members of the CSM to be visitors.

It would seem an easy enough task to tell people you spend your time talking to CCP. There was a five hour difference between myself and CCP’s Iceland office. I would wake up on my days off of work around 0800 to 1000 hours. That put me in the early to mid afternoon in Iceland. The developers would be up and conversations would be going. Often, I could spend until 1200 to 1300 just talking with them. It was time that I could work on ideas, topics, and concerns brought forward by the playerbase or engage developers as they worked on features of the game. 

It was in those hours that I most felt like a member of the council. It was also a situation that I had to grow into. There was a certain awe of the development team. They had created the game. They ran and edited things. Sitting down with them and becoming part of the future of the game was an amazing feeling. But, I remembered months later and near the end of my first term that it was not the first time that I had been in that position.

And like any new home, it was exhausting to move into. For all the fighting I did during my campaign to prove my relevance and abilities becoming relevant was strange. My blog had become something people read because I was a somebody in the game. The things that I wrote were commented upon in other places. Jokes and speculation became charged topics. It took only one casual comment and the cascade reaction to it for me to step back and realize that I couldn't just make jokes anymore. People who had never found me interesting now watched me. They didn't watch me as a blogger and player. They watched me as a member of the CSM.

Fame has never been something that appealed to me. I’m an introvert. Oh my, am I ever an introvert. But life has never sat still and allowed me to indulge my introversion. Nor have I let it stop me from trying for goals. It is a rather stupid personality trait. I am as stubborn with myself as I am other people and it is not something that I can turn off even when I know that it is on.

People appeared around me. I would get messages from strangers and they'd want to sit down and have a chat. Some just wanted to ask questions and share concerns. Others left me with the distinct feeling that they were trying to mold me. “You are an opinion leader,” I was told. I had to go and look that up. I knew what the various words meant but I was not sure about the concept. Eve had taught me that I was not well read. I might read a lot but I'd spent little time in philosophy and debate. When told I was a leader I could not help but snort in disbelief. I did not consider myself to be anything in particular. I blogged and because it was a public blog I shared my opinion with the public. It was the same opinion I’d had for a while. What annoyed me was that now that I was elected, it mattered where it did not before.

If I was not interesting before, why am I now? It was something I was a bit bitter about. I understood on many levels that was just how things worked. Winning the election had given me relevance and tangible support. But it took me a long time to understand that. Until then, I did not approve of it. I did not like it. And, it made me mad. It was a stubborn opinion not shared by others that I discussed it with. It didn't make it go away but I did my best not to let it get in the way. The world wasn't structured to make me happy nor was this job one that was about my feelings.

There were many changes. Running for election and winning created an assumption about my personality in many people that I came to meet. They did not know that I did not want to be important. That I had not run for attention. I had run to do the work that I saw going undone. If I could have done that with no fame or personal attention I would have. There are many who would not believe me. The CSM election was considered a popularity contest and I had won it. It would not be until later that I would meet those who did believe and understand me.  

I did find that relevance had many sides. Some tried to use me as a sound stage for their own ideas. The accessibility that I prided myself on was such that they felt that they could come to me when they wanted and give their ideas for me and gain a credit in some ways to changing the game. I had many problems with this including the fact that some of these people did not seem to think that I was allowed to have any of my own opinions. I was supposed to be a projection tool for them.

If it was not promoting their ideas it was venting their spleen upon me. "I can't yell at CCP so I will yell at you," I was told by someone I considered a friend. 

"When did I become a whipping boy?" I asked.

"You are the closest thing to them and I am angry about this," he said and proceeded to yell at me. I should have walked away at that time. I should have put my foot down and stood up for myself. Stunned, I sat there while he unleashed his frustration and raged at me about things I had nothing to do with. 

The part I reacted to the most poorly were the moments that people felt they could tell me who I could and could not speak to. Often, it was a casual thing. I'd be told to disregard the opinion of an individual or group because they were irrelevant. If it was not their relevance that was questioned it was their intellect. Both were never up to standard and I found myself, too often for my own tastes, told to dismiss others.

Should I dismiss them as well? What made one group worth speaking to or listening to and another not? It was the moment that I was told not to speak to a polarizing figure in the community that the possible insanity of my situation hit me.

From: L
Sent: 2014.08.10 23:37
To: SK

Secondly, why do you even engage Gevlon in conversation?  He's pretty much a symbol of everything that is wrong with the EVE community; a rage driven child screaming to high heaven about every aspect of the game as if it's shite, and complaining about every method of content generation that involves people actually playing together.  I expect his blog has turned more people away from eve than our lack of NPE, and people in a position of power even engaging him in conversation only fuels him more.  Seems counter-productive.

Ah well.

From: SK
Sent: 2014.08.10 23:49
To: L
Because I treat everyone well, L. No one deserves to be treated like trash. Even the nasty ones can be treated with decency and respect as they are shown the door. I treat people as I wish to be treated.
He has a larger following than one might expect. A lot of people are fascinated by him. People respect him. Even when he kicks them in the teeth they come back. I don't know why. But we cannot just ignore and ridicule. It is not productive and that would be damaging. He is a fascinatingly confused individual in my opinion. I have no idea why he is interested in me. I'm everything he hates in Eve.

In my mind he is not the thing that shows everything wrong with Eve. Many people would say I am everything that is wrong in Eve. I have people who feel that it is their place to come and criticize me on my corporation choice. They criticize me on my game play choices. I have vicious things said to and about me every day because I dare do things like mine. I can point at people who I feel do more damage to Eve every day then Gevlon ever has, can, or will. People who delight in abusing others and laugh at it as they are congratulated and adored for their behavior. It is very much an opinion thing about what is bad and what is good about anything. So, no, I don't think he is the great Eve destructive force.

There are people who say that you are everything that is wrong with Eve because you are a CFC member. There are people who would yell at me for engaging with you and not telling you that you are helping to destroy Eve. I have recently had people tell me it is my personal and singular responsibility to raise the game up against the CFC and save Eve.

It is all a matter of opinion. Eve is full of a mixture of personalities and opinions I cannot even begin to fathom. However, I try. Or, if I cannot, I at least engage. The only people who I will not engage are the vicious, abusive, evil people. There are plenty of them. Many of them are adored.

I am sorry to disappoint you, L. But I will continue to engage people who engage me. Maybe one day I will break through. I doubt it. We don't speak the same language in our understanding of people. But I can tell you that as fixated as he is on being himself and having his world view of everything I'll take him over many, many other people who play Eve just to saturate themselves in cruelty because 'it's just a game'.

From: L
Sent: 2014.08.11 09:46
To: SK 
While that's understandable and commendable, it's not disrespectful to simply ignore someone.  And sure, he probably does have a large following, he posts daily on a blog hosted by google, so people stumble upon his blog all the time.  The problem is he posts opinions as if they are facts, and people who are deciding whether or not to play get put off by that.  I had a long discussion with one of his followers who couldn't understand why I played.  His exposure to EVE was hisblog, and he'd decided from that not to even sign up.  As a CSM member people will look to you, and from the outside it looks like you cheer "yay him!" further adding credibility to his ludicrous claims.

Sure though, people all have different opinions over what is and isn't good for the game, but I think most would argue that pushing the game to be able to be played solo instead of with others, with titans in highsec and a limit on hours of activities like mining and missioning is a bad thing.  We all have out little things that we think should change, I for example don't like how easy wardecs are to compile in the hundreds against little industrial corps, but there's certain things that most of us would agree on.

As for the CFC, even the CFC would agree we are bad for the game.  Sov mechanics create a situation where the only way to gain power is to grow into an enormous coalition, and the only way to hold it is to get bigger.  This is how it's been for years, and this is why we've got to the kind of situation we have now.  I think the majority of the CFC would be on board for a revamp which broke that apart, but then we wouldn't get the 4k player fights which make the news, so I doubt CCP consider it a high priority.  So maybe those people are right.  Maybe it is your duty to raise people up against the mechanics that force groups to form as large as we have.

And it depends on what you consider to be cruelty.  A lot of the "cruelty" people speak of is ganking, scamming and wardeccing smaller or less experienced pilots.  But then that's the game.  CCP market it as "Be the villain" and "HTFU", so it's to be expected that some people will get upset, some unreasonably so.  Where would you draw the line between gameplay and cruelty?

My anger almost caught up with me. A scathing reply would be satasfying but it would not acomplish anything. The desire to make sure they were put in their place was there. I forced myself to stop. I stopped because the topic was careening out of control into a vague smokey state where I’d be on the defensive against an offensive assault of someone who had just told me that I was not allowed to speak to another player due to my new status. I had used an example of a polarizing group that he was a member of and he had leapt on that example with both feet, snapped its back, and reformed it into a different creature.

That was the moment that I learned I did not have to respond to everything. That sometimes I should not respond. It was advise that had been given before but at the time I had not understood when it would need to be used. Now was the time. I did not want to have this conversation. Not because I could not have it but because of the reason that I was having it. I was handing him control of the discussion. There was no reason for me to do that. I did not owe him the argument that he was creating. Nor do I owe him the justification of my actions that would result.

Was this what it went to be known and listened to? Did the other members have people telling them who they could speak to? Were others facing people who attempted to control them and dictate their choices? Was it just me? All through my life I had found myself forced to defend my independence from friends turned controllers. What was it about me that casual acquaintances and even strangers were comfortable coming to me and telling me how to order my interactions?

When I say random strangers, I mean random strangers. The internet may leave us feeling closer to some than others. We start to brush the edges of each others social circles when we use social networks. I had developed a taste for the most unlikely of these social networks in Twitter. A hundred and fifty characters causes you to study what you write and the potential impact of it. It also allowed people to step into conversations. I always felt as if I was in a large room flowing through conversations and discussions with friends and strangers.

Accessibility was my goal and Twitter had developed its own, dedicated following. I met a lot of people on twitter. It was a place full of movers and shakers as well as a hefty dose of watchers. The conversations were light and fun. It also seems that on social media one is supposed to obsess with ones following. On Twitter, I watched my followers tick up, and up, and up until I had two thousand followers. Most of them were other Eve players and since they chose to follow me it only made sense that I use that path to talk to them.

It was not always a smooth path. Often times it was used by people as a mode for very public confrontations. I found it hard to ignore those situations. A hundred and fifty characters can be as much of a curse as a blessing. I had become a platform others sought to stand on. I can't say it was appealing. Still, the positives outweighed the discomforts and that is where I met a young player with a very interesting view of what I should be doing now that I had been elected to the CSM.

The question of what the CSM is raised time and time again. The view of it changes from person to person. This young man's view was that I had been appointed as a leader in the game. That people had elected me meant more then my position. He felt that I had a duty to the game. And that duty was to lead the unled into battle against the group he considered the most evil.

Eve is full of corporations. Players have to be in a corporation. That corporation can range from one person to several thousand people. Many who play the game but ignore the social aspect of it stay in very small or single corporations. Others stay in the corporations created as a holding tank for people who were not sure where they wanted to be. These players play Eve but few are involved in the broader, more complex aspects of the game that involve groups going to war against each other.

This young man, flung at me on Twitter, that it was now my duty to help organize the unorganized and destroy the group he found most evil. With my experience in combat and my appeal to a wide section of the player base, I was the perfect focus.

It was fascinating in its strangeness. I asked him why he was not leading this charge to overthrow the evil group? It was his idea after all. But he told me that he was just having the idea. He did not have the following to lead the battle. I thought that he should work on that aspect of his idea but it seemed that I was wrong. 

Let me be clear. I did not lead a battle against a group that was defined as the true evil of Eve because someone told me to. I'm okay with my choice. For a while he followed me around. He commented on both my blog and my public appearances. But, after some weeks he started to fall off. He found that it was much harder to whip people into a frenzy in which they would spend their time and game possessions on his project. But, what I found most amusing was that Sion sat down with him and discussed what he would need to do to over throw him. In the end, he went off to form his own corporation. One that he would teach combat and rise up to follow his task. It was one of the more amusing few weeks of my term. I never knew if he was role-playing or not in the end. It didn't really matter.

There still appeared to be a gulf between the players and their CSM representatives that I wanted to breech. Not everyone would be comfortable in public forums. I also discovered that not everyone was comfortable with reaching out to me with messages or mail. I wanted to be accessible to those that wished for me. I wanted people to be able to talk to me, not just listen. In the past CSM members had often done interviews or held town halls. I found those to be cold. You could listen but not join in. That is why I decided to have a monthly chat.

The idea of the chat was that people could come and talk to me. They could ask me their questions and share their concerns. I could ask them for feedback on topics. I chose the most neutral body in the game to host the chats. Eve University is a corporation dedicated to teaching people about the game. They are as neutral a place as I could find. Their public coms were open for use. I got permission from the CEO of the corporation to have my chats.

It was quite a step into the unknown. In creating the chats I held an assumption that people wanted to talk to me. What if no one showed up? That would be quite the indicator that there was not the interest in the CSM that I hoped was there. I could not say believed. There was to much negative commentary. It followed and whispered in my ear with everything I did. "You think you are so important that people will come listen to you? The CSM is nothing more then the student council. A joke if it is anything." I wish I could ignore the ugly things said.

My first talk, I was still trying to engage with the rest of the CSM. I invited them. I figured they'd want to come. After all, sitting down and talking to people was a fantastic way to reach out and touch people. I got three responses and a lot of silence. Still, with the others I hosted my first session. One that I promoted across my blog, Twitter, and the official forums.

In the end I got about fifty people which surprised me. I also got one of the hosts of a radio show featuring the game. He decided to come in and be ridiculous to amuse his audience. He started sharing spoilers from a popular television show and asking me my opinion on said show. I wound up telling him to leave. We wound up forcing him to leave. Someone filed a complaint with the group that ran the radio station and we received a formal apology.

It was a good experience. Not because I enjoyed it. I was ruffled and angry. I don't like being used in such a way. What it did was it helped set a tone that would stop me from spiraling to deeply into optimism. I'd not get lost in how wonderful things were. Gritty reality would always keep me company.

As for the chats, they became a staple activity. Once a month on A weekend I would host two chat sessions. I timed them in convent time slots for Europe and North America. Our game was a global one and the time something was done couldn't be based solely on the convenience of one party. They were open to anyone that wanted to come. They would range from discussion about new features to answering questions about how CCP functioned. Sometimes, they were just a question and answer from someone that possessed a moderate amount of game knowledge. Corbexx would become my co-speaker in almost all of my talks as well as becoming my counter balance. Where Sion and I got along but had very different game approaches, Corbexx and I meshed much better with game play. The three of us became an odd triangle.

Every time I thought I was doing okay, something new popped up.

"Are you in the faction warfare Skype room?" I was asked by a faction warfare player and fellow blogger.

"No. There is one?"

"Let me get you invited."

That was how I found out that there was a leadership and experienced player focused place for Faction Warfare. It was not comprehensive. There was no such thing. It was an amazing resource and one that I had not known about. I was not leadership. I was terrible are knowing the right people. I had not really believed that places like that existed until I got invited to some. 

And I also found out that my fellow low sec CSM was in the chatroom. The immediate reaction was to wonder why he had not invited me. But why would he have? We had not worked together. We had not talked. I was not into Faction Warfare and he was. It is not as if he and I spoke or got along. The dreams that I had at the beginning of the term to have the other person in low security space as a partner had been shattered during the first few weeks. We were not a team and would not be a team. My being resentful was hypocritical. I could have reached out to him. I could have tried to make that connection. I can't expect from others what I was not willing to and I ,in truth, was not willing to reach out to him. 

And still, so many of my e-mails, eve-mails, and messages were ignored or at least never responded to. Messages went unanswered or answered and never responded to. Those that had the most complex rants and string of topics went silent on me. Before the CSM, everywhere I turned there were rants and rages and complaints. After, as I attempted to consolidate them, they vanished. The people that I wanted to speak with the most had somehow become the hardest ones to communicate with.

Previous: Part Ten


  1. I have been reading your series of posts on the CSM with great interest, and believe I have posted once in this series. Quite frankly, I am surprised, no, stunned, at the naivete you are displaying in these posts. I am not trying to be offensive nor hurtful, but I am sure it comes off that way.

    Surely you must have know the cesspool of humanity you were wading into when you decided to run for the CSM. Surely you must have recognized the power goons and the other RMT cartels wielded on the direction of Eve via the CSM, back channels, and outright corruption of dev's, before you ran.

    Your posts sound like you were shocked when you came across the likes of Gevlon. Gevlon, is accurate about the complicity of CCP in altering the game for the benefit of goons et al with regard to the U.S. $3 million RMT industry . But he is a loon, which becomes evident when you read his commentary on real life society.

    I don't doubt that he, and most of the others on the CSM and periphery, are sociopaths, even psychopaths. As the person "L" said to you, the idiots/fellow sociopaths at CCP marketed the game towards the fellow dregs of internet humanity.

    So once again, how can you be surprised/hurt by how these creatures treated you? Anyone who has played this game for any length of time, and been involved in even the most shallow sense of the meta-game should have seen what was coming a mile away.

    Don't get me wrong. I am not condoning, in any way shape or form, the warped behaviour you experienced when dealing with these people. I am saying that you should have been prepared for it.

    Oh, an lastly, I am betting that your stints on the CSM has opened your eyes to the fact that the meta-game is the real game. Eve is just the platform used by the movers and shakers in the RMT industry to maximize their profits, and the meta-game is used to do that.

    1. Just so you don't have to pain yourself and read to the end, I will give you a spoiler.

      It keeps happening. I keep being surprised that people choose to be horrible when given other opportunities. I keep being fascinated when they justify themselves for being horrible. I keep not understanding why they blame me for it somehow or exhibit behaviors that destroy what they swore they wanted.

      I'm unable to write off entire groups of people without examining the individuals first. I just don't get better at it. Even worse, I can separate people from their group. I will keep giving people a moment away from other pressures to be truthful and if they are horrible regret their decisions.

      There are a lot more words I'll be writing and I'm gonna keep being naive, surprised, and hurt and guided by my silly little moral compass that makes me treat people how I want to be treated even if they are horrible and admit when I failed at my goal when I find a few I am unwilling to get close to. I consider that a personal failure in me, when I'm not able to push aside my opinion to give someone a chance.

      There! I hope I saved you some time.

  2. Rampant tribalism has to be one of the most wonderfully aggravating parts of EVE. It can be a lot of fun - you're with your people, doing your thing for the benefit of your chosen group. At the same time it functions as comforting shortcut around critical thinking where people not of your tribe are dismissed outright because they wear the wrong tag.

    Given that getting elected to the CSM is often a tribal affair (not exclusively, but often), coming to see the other CSM members as complete, independent human beings must be challenging (especially for the ones who got there via rampant tribalism).

    Speaking only for myself, discarding tribalism has proven disturbingly difficult. I partake much less than I used to but still, it's challenge.


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