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Memories - Part Five: Spotlights are warm

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

It turns out this is a roller coaster

Floodgates are fascinating things. They are often wooden boards locked together and they hold back huge amounts of water. They don't look like much when they are closed but when they are opened, it takes specialized equipment to close them. It was my misfortune that I was swept away by what I released when I posted what turned out to be my floodgates.

Along with the forum posts came the advice. The unsolicited advice. I had one adviser and one listener. They were my two safe people for different reasons and I made sure not to put them in the path of the flood that slammed into me. However, I did sit and gripe over the advice.

When I floated around and hinted about running for the CSM, I was for the most part ignored. If not ignored, I was dismissed. Once I decided to run, that changed. The advice started to pour in. A lot of advice started to pour in. People were very sure about how I should run my campaign. I had corpmates and strangers tell me what I needed to do. Most of it involved listening to this person or that. I was baffled by the number of people that believed in me all of a sudden. Where had they been over the last few months while I worked myself into nervous nausea?

It was not just people I knew. Strangers and acquaintances suddenly messaged or mailed me. I received several offers from people who would manage me. I politely turned them down. There was one thing thing that did happen that still stands out to me. A former member of the Council messaged me to give me his support and some advice. He told me that I needed to go to every single person that I could think of who led a group of people and ask for support. He told me not to waste my time on individuals. Individuals did not get me votes. Corporation and alliance leaders would get me votes.w I needed to make whatever promises needed to be made without crossing moral boundaries to get that because winning was all that mattered. I needed to sell myself as the savior of the game. If I needed to, I could look at myself as a character in a play and embrace the extrovert that I was not because once I won I could go back to being myself. For now, I needed to pretend to be what I was not. Bold, confident, charismatic.

I was horrified. I was also disgusted.  My moral hackles were up. I was going to write how I would not manipulate and pretend. I would not make false promises. I would talk to anyone that wanted to talk. But, I deleted it. Instead, I thanked him. He was after all trying to help. It was not his fault that his advice went against anything that defined me. It had worked for him. The fact that the position was not worth the compromise would have made me sound arrogant. I probably am arrogant in this. I did not want to compromise. I feared the taint of politics and felt that the only way I could avoid them was raw honesty. It was the first push towards the ugly side of politics. Where smiles and lies dictated decisions. 

It was a future I did not want. I wanted all of the work and none of the baggage. I also wished that I knew what I was doing.

It was hard not to ask every single person what they thought. I would often find myself writing a question to my corporations chatroom. I’d delete it. I kept firm control over my conversations or they would veer towards my post. My post that I watched the view count rise on and the comments land one after another. I was obsessed with it. I did not believe that a I had a chance. I was just not smart enough to not try anyway. I wanted the chance. If I could only get the opportunity to try I was sure I could do something with it. My agenda was to help. It was a constants back and forth between hope and defeat. I felt that I had to do something but I didn't know what to do.

I reached out to the podcasters that asked for interviews and agreed. The last thing that I wanted to do was be interviewed and recorded. I would have loved to say, "No thank you," to their requests. Instead, I said, "Sure!" and scheduled interviews. I was pleased to learn that one interviewer from the previous year was not doing interviews this time. He, it turned out was going to run for the CSM instead. 

It was only later that I figured out there were manuals for running a political campaign. At the time, I was to overwhelmed to find any. What I did find, I did not like. There are college courses dedicated to the science of politics. There was no ‘Political Campaign for dummies’ to purchase. It was what I needed. And to many searches returned a belief that I needed to lie and ingrate myself for success. 

Ignorance while blinding and suffocating was preferable. I stumbled forward and made things up as I went along. Things that were morally comfortable. Some would say that morality had no place in a video game. It was a virtual election. Scamming voters was allowed. Lies, deceit, it was all fair game. I functioned under a belief that people wanted truth and honesty. It was what they said. What they preached. What they demanded. Instead, admiration started to become a thing of the past and others questioned what I was doing.  Slimy suggestions were made by people that I respected. It unbalanced me. Was this what it was like behind closed doors? There were so many lies and such deceit mixed with a heavy dash of general disdain for those that had to be asked for support. I was told to only pay attention to the important people. I had to sell myself and the way to do that was to become buddies with the important people. Everyone else would follow along.

There was an uncomfortable sense to it. There was no desire to embrace it. There was also stubbornness. Too much, I suspect. But, when it came to it, I couldn’t roll those false platitudes off my tongue. And, under it, I didn’t have a reason to lie to anyone. This game was my hobby. I played it to enjoy myself. Surely, I could indulge myself and do what I wanted to do?

With an absolute lack of knowledge of marketing or sales I decided to craft my campaign to appeal to people who wanted to get to know me. Because maybe if I paid attention to the unimportant people, they’d pay attention back. I was going to be super outgoing. For all the introverted aspects of my nature, I enjoyed online socialization. After all, I was going to go out to people and ask for support or at least speak with them. If someone wanted to learn about me, I would make that as easy as possible. And I could learn about them, because I refused to believe that they had nothing to say. 

It was startling to discover a general disbelief in neutral opinions. I was passionate about my personal interests and some struggled to accept that one could have personal passions and a neutral overview.  What I thought and liked and believed did not necessarily conflict with what other people thought, liked and believed. The very aspect of the game that brought so much passion to its player base was what needed to be preserved. That was a diverse, vibrant community of conflicting interests and focuses. None of which played right. Nor did they play wrong. They created their individual experiences. The ability to create in the game environment was what I wanted to preserve and to do that many opinions had to be heard, not just one. Not just mine.

Of course, problems trail behind all good intentions. The open minded nature of the campaign brought a huge cross section of player interest. That was good. People were interested. That interest was necessary for any type of success. The side effect was that it created the need to jump from topic to topic. What one group was interested in, another had never heard of. I started an aggressive, proactive plan to keep myself organized and focused. I heavily used cloud sharing software to work on my questions. I could then run my answers by my campaign manager. I did not let him answer for me but he helped me weed out potential pitfalls in my replies. Sarcasm, snark, and attitude were all stripped out. Questions were answered and insinuations and traps ignored.

One of the simplest things to forget was that not everyone who participated was invested in the results. By standing up I had made myself a target. With little to no reputation behind me, people judged my unexpectedly busy campaign as a fine place to amuse themselves with the ‘try hards’. Those of us that wanted to take things they found ridiculous serious.

It was a repetitive pattern. In the forums sections for communication with and about the Council there was anger. When the elections started, that anger was transfered to candidate threads. A search through the previous years was a depressing read. “Just kill the CSM. They are worthless.” Was repeated more than once. It provided no frame of reference unless one considered apathy and bitterness a frame of reference. Every discussion was different. Some were no more than platforms for acidic wit and caustic responses. What I did not find was a successful platform to follow. If I found anything, I found enough anger, hate, and scorn to make me question myself and the community that I belonged to.

Frustrated, I made up my own rules based off of what I thought I would like from someone I was looking to vote for. It seemed a reasonable place to start.

The first thing I did was start a weekly update of my campaign on my blog. In it I would discuss the questions and discussions during the week. I would list any interviews I had done or information that had become public. I picked Sunday because my blog numbers were lowest on Sunday. I felt that I would disturb the fewest readers who were not interested in my campaign. I did not have a large readership at the time, around seven hundred site hits a day. It was a lot of people to read my wandering thoughts every day on a small game and I was pleased with it. I had never marketed my blog. I rarely shared what I wrote to any type of social media or linked it into the game. I felt that I had earned my readership and I did not want to degrade their experience by adding blinking, flashing lights.

I then had a new blog banner commissioned. I wanted something that looked as if it had been made for the site. That was because I would get new visitors and I did not expect them to forgive my armature efforts. There are many players in the game who can be hired to do game related artwork for game currency. It is an exemption that CCP allows. I also commissioned a campaign button that I would display at the time the elections started. I had seen one of the game artists create one the previous year and I thought it was a cute and fun thing to add.

With my house in order I sat down and looked at the media requests that had happened. The podcast that had done the interviews the previous year had won a lot of attention in the game and directly from CCP. That podcaster was running for office this year on a campaign of communication and keeping CCP in check. That left a void for interviews that several people rushed to fill. In no time I found myself scheduled with three interviews and a group panel. I was nervous but willing.

My forum thread kept receiving a steady supply of questions. I created a file to hold all of the questions asked. I then would write out the answers in a word document and give them to Wex to proof read. He did not answer them for me. He corrected grammar and spelling mistakes and beat the passive tense out of me. Often times the questions were traps, and we would discuss answering strategy.

Answering a trap question was a delicate task. I could always say that the question was a leading question or a trap and refuse to answer. That did not seem like good form. I felt that I was more flexible than that. I could answer the question but ignore the leading statements. Other times I answered questions I was meant to read into by not reading into them. Tha, it seemed, annoyed the asker to no end.

The other thing that I did was cross reference as much as possible. Consistency was very important. It would not take but a moment for someone to blame me for saying what needed to be said for votes. It would only take one comment to cause suspicion from readers. I discovered that the two and a half years I had spent blogging about anything and everything related to the game became invaluable. I could link back statements and beliefs I had listed a year or even two years prior. It derailed argument after argument as I proved a consistent nature.

The third thing that I did was answer every question politely and completely. I could easily write a few hundred words to answer someone. I kept this consistent in my public thread and in the private mails that I received. It made some people angry. I was to smooth for their tastes. It was easy to wrote the right things, they said. I found it far from easy but the interviews helped to dispel that.

The polite completeness of my answers created a new type fo commenter. They would tell me to answer only, “Yes” or “No” to their questions. Then they would pose a question in the likes to, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” 

The questions were pure traps where the question asker attempted to wrest control of the situation. I was stunned when I first started to encounter them. I then got both upset angry. It was a perfect method to hobble me. My strength was in my ability to clearly explain things to people. They sought to take that away and force me to make a stand on an issue. Not being one to believe that every issue has a black and white stand, I fought against it. It was perhaps, my first major push back and it terrified me. 

Simply, I refused to answer them in yes or no statements. I answered them as i felt they should be answered. When called out on it, I stated that fact. I told them i was not going to answer a question in a way I could not nor was I going to be accused of refusing to answer a question. I didn’t understand the reason for these trick questions other than that they were made to make me uncomfortable and trap me. If so, I was disappointed.

And then there was the art of debate. I had considered myself reasonably apt at arguing until i started playing Eve. I quickly decided that I was not. The arguments would fly around me and accusations of strawmen and leading statements, of occam's razor and slippery slopes would be made in every single discussion. I huddled in the corner and I felt ignorant. I had no classic training in arguments. I simply discussed the thing and how I felt about it. I was happy to break down my reasons and I fully understood that many topics contained multiple viewpoints and reasons. I did not expect people to agree with me and I did not expect to agree with everyone. But it seemed that wasn’t what the debate was about. People were out to win not talk and the arguments tended to grow nasty before anything else.

At the time I did not understand the size of the stage that I had put myself upon. It didn't occur to me that people not interested in me or my campaign would pay me attention. I filtered my understanding and assumptions through my own eyes. It would prove a method that left me continually surprised.

 At one event near the start when I went to meet some local players of the game one leaned over and asked me, "What's the real reason you are running?” Real reason? I had told him why. What else was I going to add? I stuck with my sorry which was also the truth and learned about the instant belief in ulterior motives.

“It is just between you and me. What are you really up to?”

If exclamation points and question marks could dance over someones head they would have mine. That was quickly followed by raw, righteous anger. "How dare you!" I wanted to snarl. How dare he think such a thing of me. How dare he believe such a thing of me. How could he? In front of my shock was anger. Anger that there had to be an ulterior motive when there was none. I was scared of the choice I had made and he wanted to know what my real scheme was when I was telling the truth. Behind the anger was disgust that there was an assumption that there any other reason than listed. It sat upon a bed of unhappiness and a horrified realization that this was how I would be seen. 

 I’m not deceitful by nature. I've often wished I was more cunning. It would have made great parts of my life easier. It left a worry that everyone thought I was telling a pretty lie for ulterior motives. It had not occurred to me and after I finished being upset, I was thankful for that small interaction.

Lack of trust. While open and honest I was not a stupid person. There were few people who I could trust with a lie much less the deep raw honest truth. As much as I liked him our relationship was not close enough for me to have shared any ‘real reason’ if there had been one. It was perhaps one of the first traps that I found myself caught in and I would be unable to escape from it.

Truth, I quickly learned was ignored if it sounded too good. It had to be false with the intent of sounding good for ulterior motive and personal game. Then there was the part where truth was bad to admit because people didn’t want honesty.  They did not want my fears. They did not want my worries and stress. They did not want my self doubt. Those truths were unpleasant, ugly things. Unpopular and unwanted. Later the internal workings of a person and of the CSM would be compared to the making of a sausage. People wanted to experience the end product and they were not interested in what went into it making it happen. But at the start, I understood none of that. I had to many battles to fight. Many of them my own making, but it took me a long time to understand that too.

When I announced my bid for the CSM, I received a comment on twitter that I considered nasty. A player who had rage quit from the game and sold his accounts for real money through an online auction, therefor getting himself banned, said that I had to be interviewed.  He then said that he figured if I got elected, I would collapse from the pressure of having to talk to people and interact with the public and quit the CSM in six months. In the past, I had been honest that I did not consume video or audio media if I could avoid it. This had led to my requesting transcripts of major announcements because I did not feel like listening to people chat for an hour to gain five minutes of information. In his eyes, this made me a broken person. Mixed with my musing and seeming quiet nature and he saw me as an emotionally weak link for the CSM. My potentially very public breakdown would pose as high amusement.

One of my corpmates responded to him. Consider me thankful. As much as I wanted to challenge him it was hard for such a response not to come off as shrill and defensive. They call silence the high road but it is an easier one. People detest silence. They want to fill it. But it can be a strong, absorbent cloak if you can wear it.

I understood why he believed that. Another blogger said that he was worried I’d not speak up and be aggressive enough. They each only knew me through my writing, a place where I could indulge in my core nature. They knew nothing of my real job, the fact that public speaking was a normal everyday event for me and that I was used to being recorded. It had never come up, and I smiled a bit in amusement when people worried that my nature was too soft.

He wound up deleting his comments. Some of it I captured. I would be a while until I learned to be faster with saving such things..

It is true that my nature is soft. That doesn’t mean I cannot do things. I get hurt easily. I cry easily. I am sensitive and prone to introspection. But, the world doesn’t stop because I had my feelings hurt or don’t like something. I had no interest in going on the podcast but it was something I had to do for the job. And so, I did it.

For me, my words are what defined me to people. For many, it was my voice. It was hearing my enthusiastic about the game. It was how my spoken words were an echo of my written words. I didn’t stumble. I could talk about the game for hours. I often wanted to talk about the game for hours. I had just lacked people to talk to. My corp mates were not interested in musing over things until the end of time. I did not hang out with anyone who shared my enjoyment of the game. When I went onto my first podcast my enthusiasm bubbled out and my excitement and joy was captured.

It was my interviews that started to turn worried critics to my side. I wish it could have just been written words. I understand that there is more to communicating than that. My ability to walk onto a podcast and just talk about things showed people that there was more than highly polished words that someone else might have been writing. I was even accused, in an affectionate way, of running over the poor hosts who had invited me on and taking over the program.

Soft natured. Powerful personality. I often temper it back because it makes people uncomfortable. I learn in, look you in the eyes, and I am ready to talk. Discussion is pleasant. If I have an opinion, it tends to be strong. Yet, I do not believe that my thoughts and opinions constitute the be all and end all of a topic. In fact, I love examining reasons and motivations. They fascinate me and there are few things I enjoy more than finding out why someone did something.

It turns out that particular trait, learned painfully over my adult life, stood in me in good standing when I started to interact with the world in general. My personal self was shy and stuttered. The professional self, the shield that I had created to deal with things came to my rescue. I had put myself into this position and only I could get myself out of it. Or, perhaps considering I was looking for an elected position, I was trying to get myself into it.

Next: Part Six
Previous: Part Four


  1. Wow.. just wow
    Sugar for the record I really like the style in which you write. It makes your post very personable. A reader feels like they are sitting across the table with a cup of coffee listening to a story. To be able to convey your stories in such a way is a talent and you have it.

    1. My writing of this blog has always just been me talking. My writing of my memoirs was just me saying the things I wanted to say at the time but probably shouldn't. I am also able to indulge in releasing all the emotions of the CSM thing.

  2. Avidly hitting refresh for Part 6...


  3. "Surly, I could indulge myself and do what I wanted to do?" Should that be "Surely" ?


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