Virtual Realities: Memoirs of an internet spaceship politician
by Sugar Kyle CSM9, CSMX
In which I take chances
Meeting other players of my game has always been a pleasure. In my late teens, I was part of several meetups for the multiplayer game I played at the time back in the days of MUDs and other text based multiplayer games. We all descended upon a small home in Pennsylvania and slept on the floor and couches of the host. At twenty, it was a fun adventure. We spent a weekend talking and socializing with each other in person as we had in game. It was almost thirteen years later before I would experience the desire to meet and spend my physical time with the people I shared a game with.
For Eve, I had first attended Eve Vegas in 2012. However, I figured that there had to be a local community. At the same time, another member of the community decided to set up a meetup. I noticed a mention on his blog and I quickly signed up to go. Being more savvy at marketing then I shall ever be, he quickly used my going as part of the push for the meetup. People could come and hang out with other players and meet and grill one of the potential CSM candidates.
Oh how I clenched my teeth in horrified agreement. In my mind I was screaming, "No! Don't look at me!" On the forums and blog posts I pushed the meetup and the excitement to meet the other players. "Come meet me!" I wrote as I prayed no one would point out that no one wanted to meet me. I was horrified at my presumption but I put forward the fake me anyway. The one that was confident and sure that people would want to meet and talk. I put the one embarrassed to be used as an advertisement in a box and pushed that box to the back of my mental closet.
I attacked the topic. I wrote blog posts and forum posts about it. I joined an in game chatroom dedicated to those who lived in the local area. I threw myself into socialization as I had not done in fourteen years. It was both familiar and comfortable and terrifying. There was an undercurrent that I was becoming the monster that I worried about. I was screaming, "Look at me!" from every window. I did want to meet people but I did not want to throw myself in their face. Yet, the face throwing was expected and as with so much of the election I had to jump and see where I would land.
It would serve me well. Later, when I did interviews I could discuss my willingness to go to meetups and talk to people. Everything that we discussed often rolled around to communication with the player base and communication with CCP. By doing something that I had wanted to do anyway, I was able to not just say but show my willingness to interact with other players in the game. Because I was and slowly the meetups moved from being a point of stress to something I started to enjoy.
The interviews were not as pleasant. My preparation was exhaustive. I made sure to schedule myself after other interviewes and then I'd listen to the questions and ponder how I'd answer them. My preparation work was almost always useless. After each interview I felt awful. Wex would ask me, "How did it go?"
"Terrible," I would tell him. "I blither like an idiot."
"No you don't," he'd respond and we'd go around and around in circles. Then the interview would come out. One of my personal rules was that I never listened to my interviews. I could not stand to hear the sound of my own voice. Instead, I did my best and accepted that I no longer had control of it. I cast each one out to the world to be what it might be. My campaign manager listened to them all. He told me so many times that I had done a wonderful job. I could not believe him. I could only remember the sweat and shaking hands.
There were interesting things that came from it. In a way, it became a game to see how the interviewers reacted to their interviewees. Often you could hear the irritation in their voice. One had a habit of telling people, "Good luck," when he was not impressed with them. To people he liked they received, "I hope to see you on the CSM."
Some interviews were so spectacular that they had to be listened to. None of them quite matched the previous year when a candidate for the CSM came out as a neo-nazi who expressed his opinion to his interviewer about lesser races. He was disqualified for running by CCP due to his intolerant stance. While they are notoriously hands off during the election, at the end of the day the people running come from all over the world and span both sexes. True intolerance wasn't accepted.
Most of the time people sank themselves at awkward places. Some failed to answer simple questions. Some failed to string a sentence together. Speaking is not the only measure of ability but it was one that carried a lot of weight in this election. Candidates that were strong in writing would wither in the verbal arena.
Not that the interviewers tried to make it easy. At the best, it was similar to an awkward job interview. "Why should people vote for you?" they would ask. "What do you bring to the table?" It always reminded me of those horrible interview questions where they ask you, "What are your weaknesses?" I still wonder if they wanted me to tell them how I had confidence problems and an obsession with being on time. Did they want to know that I was a planner and needed to solve problems before they were even created to have peace of mind? Did they want to know what my true weaknesses of character were? Maybe? Maybe not? I still hate that question to this day and had to answer it on my last promotional interview at work.
What I wanted to know was how human could we be? I admit that the drunken rantings of one candidate made me want to move away from him. Other's found it amusing but did anyone want to vote for someone that got drunk and went on the rant and rage about everything and everything? Supporters would point out how approachable and normal it made the person. But, did it make anyone want to vote for them?
What was I to others? I began to realize that people saw something that I did not see. I felt as if I had this shell around me that others could see. Somehow I had gained momentum. It was a few weeks in when I got my first invite to a private chatroom. There, along with a handful of other candidates and some incumbents I was invited to be part of a group of candidates. They would cross support each other in an attempt to use the Single Transferable Voting system to their advantage.
The premise was simple. Voting recommendations were common things. Each person would create one and place the other candidates at the top of their list. This would cause the various voters to cross vote, following the advice of their candidate.
I hated the idea. My belief is that each person should educate themselves to vote. I believe that people should be encouraged to educate themselves. Information should be presented in many different formats to compensate for the different ways that we gather information. By creating educated voters we'd get representatives that were diverse and reflective of the actual individual player interests not the interests of larger groups.
But the real reason that I hated the idea instead of disliking it was because I did not like one of the candidates I was introduced to. I have the habit of gathering information. The candidate had said several things on social media that made me realize they had little interest in the everyday player. They had said at one point that they would not waste their time with people who were not famous. And, to top it off, they scrubbed their social media clean of their more unacceptable and callous comments before they ran.
I wasn't going to support that. Not even to win. It might mean that I was a snob on a high horse. I could live with that. I could not support them. I would not support them. I was asked to just hang around and talk and listen. I did so and after a week, I apologized to the person that had approached me and said that I'd not be able to support that person or be a part of the group.
I'm an idiot. I believed it when I walked away from that group. I didn't think my choice was the best to get myself elected. However, it was the one that I had to make. It was me vs the world. My thread was busy. I had created documents to capture the questions and answer them. I hung out in chatrooms, wrote posts, and just tried to be seen. I still had not figured out what I was doing. I was running full speed without any idea of where I was going. I hate that feeling. I did my best to define my campaign into some type of tangible sense. I went to chatrooms. I answered every eve-mail that I received. I answered my e-mail. I put links in my channel. I tried to balance my blog between my campaign and my normal play style. That was the hardest. I was obsessed with my campaign but I had received so much feedback that the CSM was stupid that I didn't want to swamp my readership with my laser focused passion. That is what led to my single, weekly update post.
I did get to meet lots of people. I did get a lot of private messages. I had to reorder my windows just to have an area to keep them managed. Many went like this, "Very nice interview on Cap Stable. You are currently near the top of my top third tier. You have good ideas and you present them very well. I remain impressed.“ That was the response of one player after my biggest interview.
“Thank you for the support,” I responded. I was doing better with the gracious thing. I was proud of myself for not explaining that I had been in Seattle at the time that interview was scheduled and my hotel internet had been too unstable to do the internet. I wound up having the call on my phone which worked like a charm but caused enough stress to leave me sweating by the end. That I had paced around my hotel room like a caged cat and I had to shower and change before I could go to dinner with my ridiculously supportive husband.
Being in the top third tier wasn’t going to get me elected. I needed to be at the top of his ballot. I could have asked what would make me top but I did not. He was a part of a group that had someone running. He was committed to his group and I understood that. Instead, I tried to be optimistic. For one, I had been included. For two, I had done well enough that they reached out to me about it. Interaction was a key, I believed. If people found you so compelling that they would take the time out of their day to talk to you, things were going well.
The world would only see the brave and confident me. I would not share that type of supportive response left me cold. I felt likeable but not likeable enough. It was an impressive sounding statement. They liked me enough to reach out to me and tell me so. But being in the third tier meant they would include me on their STV ballot. To get elected you have to stay in the running as the voting is calibrated. To remain in the running, you need people to put you at the top of their ballot or as number one. Being a third tier selection would have little use for me. The other people he had placed higher all had a good chance of being elected, giving me little weight. With fourteen positions to fill it was very easy to tell people that they would be on your ballot. But, would they be first?
Was it enough enough? There was nothing to answer that for me. The solution seemed simple enough.I had to do more. I had to figure out how to promote myself or at least make people aware of me. One of my most distasteful demons would have to be tackled head on.
I reached out to the Russian speaking community. They were one of the largest non-english speaking groups. I approached an acquaintance and asked them to translate my campaign statement and post it on the Russian forums to make them aware of me.
Language was a huge barrier inside of the game. My hope was that I’d open a crack that would let people know I was willing to reach beyond the familiar. That I knew my language and culture was not the full sum of a game that boasted about its international player base all mixed into a single location.
I needed my statements translated and posted in a community that I had little contact with because we could not easily communicate. I’d not be able to do much to control the results. What meaning would be lost? I decided to try anyway. It might fail but those that did not know me still would not know me.
After that, I looked at the console community. Dust 514 was a game released a year before. It was integrated in Eve. The previous summer, features had been added to my stompin grounds that caused us to become familiar with the players. I had even downloaded it and tried to play it a few times. First person shooter type games had little appeal to me. Even with its link to Eve, Dust did not call my name. However, its community did. I felt that I was in a better position than many to understand them and support their interaction with Eve.
I had competition there. Another candidate and his alliance had started a strategic takeover of the game. They decided they wished to use it as a personal arena for competitive matches. Due to the nature of the game and the lack of rules, they were able to do this. Over a few months they stadly pushed other groups out and forced them to interact with them. Bit by bit they became a presence on the console game and announced that the entire game would become a series of competitive matches tracked and rewarded by them.
It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Dust players did not have to play Eve. Eve players did not have to play Dust. The two did mix and I sided with the corporations that supported Dust being an open world. They asked me to write a statement about my beliefs and interest in Dust. I did so. It was my more aggressive assault during my campaign. Yet, at no point did I call out or even acknowledge the other candidate. Instead, i simply wrote my beliefs and opinions about Dust. To support that I was not just writing words for votes, I was able to point back to several posts detailing my interactions with Dust players and what i wished for from the connection.
Confident with my polite “who am I” statement I didn’t think twice about it. That was silly of me. The topic on the forums was instantly attacked by the alliance. They demanded that i come and argue with them in person. They demanded that I log into Dust and play. At no point had I said I was any good at Dust. I had even stated my few attempts and that a first person shooter was not for me. Dust after all had its own council. The CPM. I was speaking only for the Eve side.
Facts meant little. The other candidate went onto his favorite podcast and ranted about it. About me. That was strange.
There were so many other approaches. I kept looking around. I wanted some validation that my approach was correct. I scrambled for some acknowledgment that I was doing well in public opinion. The only thing that i could hold onto was my post count. My announcement post continued to gain readership count.
Did it mean anything?
For comparison I went to the previous years candidate threads. I compared the counts for candidates who had won against those who had not. I discovered that the post count for candidates who had won were overall higher. It meant nothing but I wrapped myself around the hope that I was being well read by the public.
I also read the other candidates thread and activities. One decided to make video responses to those that questioned him. I felt it was a bad move. People did not want to leave the communication method of their choice. If he had done video recordings as well as written responses, it would have covered various mediums and interests. However, each person was told to wait, when they asked a question, and then were given a link to a video where they could listen from 10-40 minutes as he talked about the topic.
I stalked that as well. I was careful to look at the channel that listed the videos. After his first video which gained two hundred hits, the numbers took a sharp decline. Later videos had some fifty viewers and then twenty. Video blogs were not the path to take. I understood the desire to show the person behind the words. But, did people care about that person? What made some videos sucessful and other’s not?
To me, that meant he was not reaching the public. It was one of the few places where I could find tangible numbers. But what did they mean?
I even looked into some books about voters and elections. However, what I found was grossly focused on the political parties of the United States and heavy on the various parties opinions. I needed a more neutral book that simply discussed voting and the psychology behind it. I also did not want to drop a large amount of money on the project so I spent a little bit of time reading some political theory before I abandoned the effort and decided to continue my path of blind determination.