Virtual Realities: Memoirs of an internet spaceship politician
by Sugar Kyle CSM9, CSMX
Viewers get some drama
Is there any election that is scandal free? Virtual space politics are not excluded. Sometimes the scandals come from the people ruining. Sometimes they come from outside of that. “I can’t wait to enjoy the drama!” someone had said to me about the election. Those words would haunt me later as I fought not to be caught up and defined by the decisions another person had made. While I played the game and tried to convince people of my worthiness a dark drama was sweeping across the game.
The CSM does not dictate game policy. CCP does that. It does not stop many from seeing the members as vocal representatives. It was a public post made by one member of the CSM that started a fire that would take years to go out.
Eve Online is an interactive video game with few social rules. It is one of the games charmes. If you can trick another player into making a poor decision, you are allowed to. It causes heated and vicious discussion about the the true moral integrity of people who find their fun in harming others. The term psychopath is banded around quite often. Eve Online players are known for being cold and vicious in their calculations and casual destruction of others.
It creates the question why one scam is greater than another. Where is the line of morality? Often players have demanded that CCP define morality in clear, black and white terms. The demand is absurd. There is a fluidness to morality that created the shades of gray aspect of decision making. CCP has always shied away from making exact definitions for moral acts.
I don’t blame them for it. People are creative and boxes are restrictive. A case by case bases makes things easier to trouble shoot and problem solve. Unfortunately, shades of gray allow people to pick at the corners and try to pry them up.
The start was a blogpost in which a member of the CSM known and well followed for his writings, detailed an activity undertaken by another player group. That group made public their scams. They published the recordings of the people that participated. It was a way to share and enjoy both the humiliation of another and the anger that often followed it with others. The people who were taken advantage of willing walked into the situation. That willingness and poor decision making was shocking enough to cause many to say that the person deserved what happened.
It was a form of a prank. After all, virtual goods were all that were lost. The person subjected themselves to the humiliation because they hoped to win.
The scam was called the bonus room.
The creator of the Bonus Room would sit in the busiest trade hub in the game. In hte local channel he would offer people one of the oldest scams in Eve. That scam is called ISK doubling. In this scam the scammer promises that if you send them ISK they will send you double the ISK back. Depending on the scammer they may have complex rules that have to be perfectly followed. Others have limits and currencies. Some offer but never return ISK. Some return some ISK. Some say that they return it but never do. It is a gamble and some people fall into it.
It is easy to say that I do not understand why people fell for it. It is easy for me to say that. I am someone who does not gamble. I’ve sat in Las Vegas and pulled the arm of slot machines. The symbols flick past my eye. That boldly marked winning symbol flashes past over and over again, tantalizing the player. Then, at the last minute, it doesn’t happen. THe money is gone but you were so close to it. So very close. That is the moment that some of us will walk away and others will feel the thrill of possibility and feed in more money.
What the creator of the Bonus Room did was find those people who were pulled by the lure of more.Those who would take a gamble. They would message particular people and offer them a special game of trust. If agreed to, that person was invited into a voice chat with several agents that worked with the creator. There they were told that if they trusted they would be rewarded.
What normally followed was that the mark would give all of their in game assets to the creators of the bonus room. They would even have to provide an API key which would allow those running the bonus room to make sure that they had been given everything. ONce stripped of all assets and ISK, the mark would go on a multi hour marathon of tests. They would sing, spell, and do trivia. THey would do this for hours. One session is documented to be twelve hours long. Somewhere long enough that the agents had to trade out their duties with the mark.
The story that came to the forefront of player attention was about a Bonus Room round that wound up with the mark losing his temper. He rages at the people in the bonus room. They oh so politely tell him to calm down. In the background his wife can be heard pleading with him to calm down and he yells at her as well. The entire time the agents in the bonus room speak in voices made of spun sugar telling him to calm himself and relax. Only, he cannot relax. He has been in the room for hours. He has been given things to recite and sing that aggravate a natural lisp. And he has learned that he will not be getting his items back.
The results were released to the public. Some people complained about the behavior but they were often quieted by others that pointed out the Bonus Room did not take place inside of the game. There was also the fact that the mark willingly stayed. At any time they could leave. Most did. Sure, it also meant the loss of every asset they had created in game but that was the point of the risk they were taken. On its face that is true. But, when we look at the intangible realities of how people behave, things get murky.
Eve is a game of stuff. Tangable stuff that can be lost. It is one of the core pieces of the game that makes it both fascinating and infuriating. People are attached to their things. Even their virtual things. Ownership, the sense of self, the things that are mine, they are all very real and strong connections for someone. In the case of the bonus room it became an solid but intangable thing used in a maliciously creative way for personal amusement at the emotional stress of another.
I did not find the bonus room entertaining. I also did not understand why anyone would sign up for it. But, i did understand that once engaged in the bonus room the mark does feel stuck. Everything that they have is now in the hands of those running the bonus room. That is as powerful an anchor as being tied up. They have to accept that they have lost every bit of their in game assets before they can leave. And then the agents wish them well and they are sorry that they did not complete the bonus round.
The argument raged on about what CCP could do about it. One side insisted that no rules were violated because the event existed outside of the game. Another said that they were violated and CCP had to respond. On the fringes some said that CCP could do whatever they wanted for whatever reason they wanted. That too, was in the EULA.
The bonus room supporters took to the candidate threads. On each thread they demanded that the candidates state their opinion of the ban.
Some easily said that they agreed with the ban. Others said that they did not. I was in a middle place. I agreed with the ban if it was legally done. However, we had no idea as to what information CCP had used to make their decision. Without that, I was not willing to make an exact stand on the topic. I had no information to support or chastise any party. There were obviously facts to the events surrounding the ban that we, the player base were not priv to. All of our efforts were just so much noise. None of us knew why CCP had decided to ban the coordinator of the bonus room.
There was the potential not to respond. Wex urged me to ignore them. However, I felt that ignoring them was disrespectful. I had paid attention to everyone else, for good or for bad. Instead, I poured over the EULA and ead breakdowns of the situation. It was quite simple that CCP could ban any player for any reason and tell them they no longer wanted their services. No matter what argument was presented, that would never change. The second part of the argument hinged around CCP having no right to make a decision based on what happened outside of their game client.
That was where I did not agree with the situation. The only reason the mark was in the chat was linked to his in game assets and the promise of a four times multiplication of his total net worth. That was absolutely linked to the game client. That means if their actions violated the EULA, it violated the EULA.
“I support the EULA,” was my answer. I refused to divert from it. Oh, they tried to tie me up about it. I was told I was useless. I was told that I refused to answer the question and that was my answer. They’d deal with me. They were only supporting candidates who did not believe in CCP abusing the player base. The abuse being banning a player for what they considered inappropriate behavior.
The bonus room supporters had saturated social media and the forums with their protest to the ban. They seemed to be everywhere and willing to take on everything to free their fellow. Posts were deleted from the forums. People were warned and banned for harassing candidates that did not support them. It turned into a full scale riot of words and opinions as a group of people raged against CCP and upon finding themselves not able to attack the game company moved their ire to the CSM member that had started the uproar.
It was ugly. Player opinion fissured and exploded into a dozen opinions.
The candidate that I was supposed to share a radio show with was a full on supporter of the bonus room coordinator. He called out against CCP’s banning of a player for actions that happened outside of the game client. He wrote hot, heated blog posts about it. He swore to the supporters that he would not allow CCP to make a decision like that again.
Woe was me The event date, so casually made a month before mocked me. What was going to be a little bit of candidate on candidate talking about our areas of space and hopes, dreams, and goals for the game instead became a hot button topic. It was going to be about the banning. The candidate was going to see justice served. He planned to interview everyone involved. I knew there would be no debate about flying spaceships and the mechanics around it. It would be about CCP's decisions.
I backed away. I thanked the stars that my other interviews had already happened. By the simple fact that I had thrown myself forward, i had avoided a public grilling on an issue that I had not fully resolved with myself. Now, i needed to extract myself from this. The other candidate, whom I hd hoped with such warmth would be a partner in the future I now wished to avoid. His sharp, loud, boisterous arguments were the opposite of what I considered effective communication. I did the simplest thing i could do.
I said that I had to work after all and canceled our appointment. It was a complete lack of courage. I was not proud of it but it. A more confident me would have just politely canceled. The non-confident me needed a palatable excuse. In my world, the topic had consumed everything. I was not going to get in the middle of that argument. I had my opinion and I had stated my opinion. I had then moved on. He stood upon the stage and banged the pulpit as he preached against CCP’s decision to ban their player. It was like finding a stick is really a venomous snake and you almost picked it up.
The CSM member that had raised the issue was accused of getting the player banned. He pointed out that the CSM cannot get anyone banned. He had pointed out a publicly available recording posted by another player several months before. That was all. If his readership was offended it was because the video was offensive. If CCP chose to react it was their choice. However, the invisible wall that he walked through which no player could follow and hear beyond left people to make up their own opinion.
I do regret the lie. It was a time when I was not confident enough to stand up and just say, “I no longer have any interest in associating with you.” It was a weak time of me. I had no confidence in my position. The threats to destroy my campaign left my unsure of myself. The threats to destroy my personal game I welcomed. In my play style I was confident. In myself as a player candidate, I was not.
Even now, as I write it out, I find myself preparing to handle unpleasant reaction. I've never been able to let the discomfort and viciousness roll of my back. It is sticky stuff and avoidance has always been the path that I wished to take. Memoirs are about truth and what really happened. I cannot hold myself up as a saint in all things.
I really, really wanted to avoid dirt. Candidates were at war with each other. Dirt flew in every direction. Character assassination was rampant. One player, someone that I suspected would have made a lovely CSM representative saw his campaign burn down due to his in game play style. Eve is a game of reputation and asking people to separate the villain that you play from the person that you truly are is near impossible.
Inexperience created confusion. There were so many different platforms to preform on. Which one was most important? Did any of them matter? Could a viciously vocal group destroy my campaign? What mattered in a representative? Who was out there? What mattered? Everything became an unanswered question as the weeks ticked down and the election finally started.
Had I destroyed myself? Would I find success? Every day I felt the potential to win decrease as the questions on my thread stopped and the interviews slowed down. I had tried. I could handle failure. not everything that we attempt in life will be accomplished. That is what I told myself as the polls opened.