Virtual Realities: Memoirs of an internet spaceship politician
by Sugar Kyle CSM9, CSMX
After summit mints
There was some stress with the tickets. We had some arguments about hotel stays. I felt high maintenance, but Iceland is five hours ahead of the Eastern Cost of the United States. My flight would leave at 2000 hours my time and arrive at 0600 hours in Iceland. The first plan was for us to just 'hang out' at the office until our hotel rooms were available around 1500 hours. With a lot of discussion, permission was granted to prebook our rooms so that when we arrived at the hotel around 0730-0800, we could check in and pass out.
We were also told that we were fortunate to not share our rooms. It seems that it had been habit in the past to share rooms. I was very glad that I did not have to fight that fight. I do not think I would have accepted a trip if I had to share rooms with a stranger. That would have been too far outside of my comfort level.
In the end, we arrived in Iceland. I got in, and went to sleep. I got up around noon and met Corbex and Sion in person for the first time. A missmatched pair the three of us were but our bond poured over into real life. We went out adventuring. We got Sion to eat rotting shark. We discovered where CCP's office was and we set up a gameplan to arrive early enough to nab seats and be prepared the following morning.
The first person we met was Hilmar, the CEO of CCP. He was there eating breakfast. CCP feeds its employees. Breakfast is normally cold cereals and sandwiches. However, they sometimes hot have breakfast. Our liaison was able to request this hot breakfast. It made people in the office super happy. That is how we walked into the CEO eating eggs at the conference table.
Interesting and awkward we sat around the head of the company. We had been able to eat in the cafeteria, another strange and uncomfortable situation. I felt lout of place. Every momenta nd action made me wonder how I had reached this place and what was I doing there. Now, the CEO enjoyed his eggs and I could not figure out how I had reached this point.
Hilmar is an interesting person. He has a lot of presence and he has a lot of passion. Yet, as I listened to him I could feel the disconnect between where I was as a player and where his vision lay. I had no doubt that he cared passionately about the game world that he had helped create. But what Eve was to him and what Eve was to me and the people that had come to me were two different things. The CSM was supposed to be that bridge but sitting there, invited, knowing that my opinion was wanted, I wondered if we'd be able to actually cross the bridge that had been built.
Meeting my fellow CSM was not magical. I kept having these hopes that things would coalesce into this amazing moment of energy and cooperation. In the end, I found myself on the defense as much as the offense. I talked a lot. If there was something to be said I'd look around and see quiet faces and step forward with my lists of work. I'd pull out my notebooks and go over everything I could possibly address.
We also did a lot of contact. We asked people to join the Skype groups. We set up secondary meetings. We asked them to tell us about what they were doing and what they wanted from us. We met a large group of passionate people with amazing ideas about the game and at the end of the week, exhausted, we felt better about the game then we ever had before.
There were a lot of honest things said. There has been and I assume there will continue to be discussion about releasing everything to the public. The problem is it doesn't let people talk frankly. I've found that people request frankness and raw information and then get upset about it. If a concept is introduced and discussed and discarded, people get angry that it even came up. If language or topic becomes unprofessional, someone else is up in arms about behavior. It is unfortunate that it is so often counter productive to share. I want to share it but casual conversation can damage trust.
Each day I'd write about what we did. Since I could not share the actual talks I shared everything else. The hotel, the food, the activities. I shared it because that was the only thing that I could demystify. I let people know when I went to bed and when I got up. It was so often said to be a vacation but it turned into ten hours of meetings and several after hours of discussions. Then a write up, bed, and back to it.
When I flew back home, I got in on the 2000 flight. I got home, ate a huge salad (American style salads are hard to find in Europe) and went to bed. In the morning I went to work and the following evening I started to write the meeting minutes. Each day our liaison had bundled the minutes and sent them to us. A very hopeful schedule had been set to have them release in only a few weeks.
It seems that not everyone was obsessed over doing the minutes. I had been told to put my money where my mouth was by one of the incumbent CSM members. It enraged me and I decided to translate every scrap of the minutes that I could get passed CCP. No one would say that I had not participated or short changed anyone. It meant that occupied with my plans and projects, I missed subtle things going on around me. It also does not help that I am prone to casting off connections that might feed me information but often did nothing but make me uncomfortable. The fame and access of my position did not sit well with me and as I sunk deeper into it, it did not seem important to me. I was producing and sharing what I spent my time doing with those who wanted to hear it.
The Deal was a document. This document started as an action by one of the CSM members who was a fleet commander in null security space. The document was supposed to be a collection of ideas and wants by the major players of null security space. At some point, they asked CCP if they would like to see some type of general consensus from the various leaders of null sec. It had long been held as a fact that change was desired on a universal sale but there was no proof of this. The Deal was a document that should have solidified that proof.
I thought it was a good thing. It is easy to say, “Some people want this,” with no proof that those people want it. In my own start in the game, with my first corporation, the CEO used this particular play quite often to explain why he did not pay the corporation members their share for work. He said that we voted and that ‘people’ voted for the corporation to keep the proceeds.
The desired change to sovereignty mechanics in null security space was a very important topic for members of the counsel engaged in that type of space. They wrote up a general outline about what they wanted from null security space and they started to sign it. However, the document in the end was written by another member than the one who had proposed it. The original proposer was not around. He often vanished for months at a time. With the Summit behind us and the future of null security space on the table, it was decided to push for the document.
I was asked to sign the document and I said no thank you. The document was supposed to be a supported ideal of sovereignty in null security space. I had no experience with that area of game play. I was not going to sign my name to a document saying I approved of mechanics and gameplay that I was ignorant of. An exploration would not be enough for me to support the mechanic. I had never played under the conditions to understand what they meant and those fine, fine details were highly important.
To me, it was strange that I was asked to sign it. That confusion derives from my avoidance of group think. If the entire CSM supported the idea the idea would gain more weight. Somehow in the world of social engineering. Hence, it made sense to get the CSM to sign. Most did. Ten of the fourteen of us signed. Some that did not deal with that area of game play as a major focus but they had prior or secondary experience.
The document was released to the public and it was followed by an explosion of negativity. Those that did not care for the documents authors pulled soapboxes from obscure corners and demonetized them to anyone that would hear. I found myself sucked up into the vortex for the simple reason that I had not signed.
"Why didn't you sign the Deal?" I was asked. Others praised me for seeing through the manipulative efforts. Ever the lover of truth I took a moment to write why I didn't sign the Deal in a weekly update. "I don't know enough about the topic to sign off on any want or change," I said. "Therefore, I did not sign because I felt I'd be signing in ignorance."
The truth set nothing free. A lot of people ignored me. It was one of my first tastes of having others interpret my words or actions for me. Sometimes against what I said my words or actions were. It was not something that I cared about. Yet, it was not something I knew how to correct or stop. Somehow there was the actual, tangible me that anyone could come and talk to and the phantom me that people created and seemed to like better. That me was more sensational then the boring me that answered things honestly and had a general neutral tone to things.
Several CSM members had asked CCP if they wanted a master document signed off by the leaders of null sec. They were told yes. But, when the Deal was released and the backlash about the signatures hit, that part never seemed to come up. Instead the authors and signatories were assumed to be making an effort to manipulate CCP. It was a strange situation to watch. There was an abundance of anger.
I just wanted people to pay attention to the minutes, which were becoming a masterpiece by my pure, raw obsession.
One of teh true and tangable duties that a member of the CSM had was to produce the minutes. The minutes were a summary of our talks. The CSM playerbase looked to them with anticipation. The invested playerbase also looked to them but more as a source of future design paths and juicy news.
The previous CSM had created a poor reputation with the release of their minutes. That came from a few sources. They had problems with approval for what they wrote. They also just didn't get around to writing them. That reputation passed on and there was an edge of competition to release the minutes fast. Our loud media member made grandiose promises about the minutes and it became a running joke in some circles to ask him when they would be released.
With full control of the process I decided that more was better. People wanted to know what was said. They wanted to see how their elected people presented themselves. There was a bit of viciousness in my goal. I was frustrated with people who pretended to be passionate and active CSM members but in reality looked in perhaps once a week. I had watched half of the group pay no attention at the meetings. I watched one of the permanent reps, elected with the most votes to earn that seat spend the last two days of the summit shopping for Magic the Gathering cards instead of pay any attention to the sessions. I wanted the minutes as detailed as possible because it would be a clear indication of how active people actually were for those that chose to look.
I started with the first session. That was my own. I opened it and pulled up the video and discovered a new and horrid discomfort. I had to not only listen to my voice but watch myself on video. Video that was an unflattering fish eye lense. It was awful and I learned to position the window so that I did not see any of the video.
I also discovered that I had a nervous laugh. Hour after hour I listened to myself end statements with a nervous laugh. It was embarrassing and I vowed to correct that verbal tic immediately. I knew that I had been nervous but I could see and hear my nervousness. Unpleasant stuff and I not only had to listen I had to relisted as I typed what was said.
What was produced was a transcript. Word for word as true as I could. I was exhaustive and it also set a standard. That first day I spent four hours writing out one session. The second day I spent another four. Day after day I wrote sessions until I had written out seven sessions across nine days. Our liaison had given us two weeks to get the minutes written.
At the seventh session my energy gave out. There were twenty six sessions to write. It should have given us each two sessions. Some wrote nothing. Others wrote two or three. As we neared the final weekend, we still had four undone sessions. Four and little interest in getting them done. I picked up another two sessions. Corbexx picked up a fourth and he was almost done when the two incumbents swooped in and snatched up the two last sessions and submitted them.
Their work was subpar to what everyone else had released. But, I cared little at that point. I felt a mental pain from the listening and transcribing. Peace and quiet and a day or two off of typing were all I asked for.
My nine sessions would become part of the root of a reputation as a worker. It was a reptuation I did not mind having. Between the miutes and my book of questions, I started to feel comfortable in my position. It had taken almost five months but I had finally settled in. I would also be told that my transcripts were to honest.
Honesty is fascinating. People say that they want it but when it happens the suggestions are to do away with it. My transcripts showed personalites and not everyone took to them very well. It was suggested to me by a previous CSM member that I was too honest in how I portrayed developers. That it might damage my relationship with them due to the way in which I blogged about my interactions on the CSM.
My first reaction was anger. Intense anger. I did not exaggerate. I laid out what was there. That someone would be mad at me for portraying what they had been in a true fashion baffled me. Later, I'd figure it out. That the opinion was that honesty was to be tempered to spare feelings and make sure someone was not cast in a negative light. My decision defied conventional wisdom. But, I had declared my intent to share as much as I could. If someone was upset that I had shared them in their true state, I was not going to be guilty.
We were going to be known as the CSM that lost the most people. We'd not actually be that CSM. The other ones had simply been able to cover up their inactive membership. Ours were asked to step down because we were pushing an idea of transparent and productivity. The first person had been purely inactive. In previous years that would have been left to their own devices. The second however was much more complex.
The standard that the CSM is held to is the same standard as any other player. We must obey the rules of the game. We do not hold a greater moral obligation. However, when someone breaks a game rule, it won't be overlooked. Such was what happened when one of our members update his corporation and they decided to remove him.
There is no account sharing in Eve. If you wish to leave you can give your character to someone else. You initiate a transfer from your account to theirs. They then own the character. In actual practice people would just give their friends access to their accounts. Those accounts were often given back if the players returned. Until then, the account was managed and shared with another player. The only problem was that account sharing was illegal. It was clearly illegal yet CCP turned a blind eye. That is, until someone complained.
As the story was told to me, an expensive ship was sold. The income from that ship was used. When the player returned they were offered to be reimbursed for the sale. They instead wanted the current market value that was higher. Tempers flared and a complaint was filed.
What I was told off the record was that this happened because the player would not break his NDA with his corporation and alliance leaders and he was forced out so that they could get someone in that would.
The back room dealings of the CSM were well known to everyone but me it seemed. There were many nudges and hints about this. I would tell people that I had no deals because I did not. I was pet on the head. My reputation for honesty made them treat me like an innocent. "Everyone else is," they told me. "You cannot believe that your fellow CSM members are not leaking to their alliances."
I did. Simply because there was knowledge we possessed that groups were not acting on. However, the wider belief was that we leaked information. I had one of my corpmates send me a message one day and ask me, "What use are you? We don't get anything useful. This group over here knows everything that is going on. You are worthless." I brought this up to my friend. He told me to ignore them. He did mention that he'd received similar complaints since he had brought me into the corporation and he had told those people to get lost.
Was that good or bad? Did people assume I leaked or did they think I did not? The answer was probably both but more believed I held my knowledge. After all, I did write capacious amounts of information about what I thought and the interactions I could share. I was one of the most open CSM members that they had ever had. That reputation protected me from some assumptions. But they did not protect him.
When our liaison told us that one of our members had been given the chance to step down before he was removed due to breaking the end user licensing agreement, it was a bit of a shock. A second person, only a few months after the first? Who would replace him? How would they rerun things? I don't think anyone disagreed. A rule had been broken and rules should be enforced. But oh how I wished that it hadn't been that way. CSM9 was breaking all the rules it seemed. We were useless, broken, and incapable. End the CSM, get rid of them. The posts appeared on the official forums, as I expected. The assumptions were made, rumors ran rampant and I really just wished that we could discuss the minutes and the future of the game.
I've vague memory of "The Deal" - have you a link to the document available?ReplyDelete
Either way, one thing this portion of your memoir shows is how rampant tribalism really gets in the way of productive work.
While very possibly intended to be helpful, "The Deal" was all too readily understood as yet another unscrupulous attempt at manipulation by those evil nullseccers.
The thing is, in the midst of rampant tribalism, there's no way to listen to members of different tribes since, well, they're evil, top to bottom, left to right, through and through and, being so inordinately evil, you're not supposed to listen to them, you're supposed to discount them as quickly, thoroughly and viciously as humanly possible.
It is good that you are finally exposing and/or confirming the corruption with the CSM and the tactic support by CCP, at least until issues become a potentially serious PR problem. On one hand I firmly believe that the CSM should be abolished. But on the other hand, the null sec RMT cartels will just drive game changes through multiple private back channels.ReplyDelete
Hell, the RMT cartels will run those back channels either way, so abolishing the CSM is likely the best option.
The problem with "The Deal" is that the title is a play on FDR's New Deal. This and the "Greater Western Prosperity Sphere" (there were other titles around during this time); showed that someone senior/influential within Goonswarm had a penchant for 1930's and 40s history. Anything after that just leads to knee-jerk grr-goons and auto-associated mistrust.ReplyDelete
I have to say that I completely understand the sentiment that people do not want true honesty. As an overly honest person myself I have had to school myself to sometimes say nothing at all and let people make their own assumptions because I am too often not willing to lie to assuage their feelings. I have in my life gotten myself in far more "trouble" by being honest then by lying and have all too often been accused of lying when I was telling the truth because that truth was inconvienent for the listener to hear. This has lead me to a piece of wisdom is telling those people that "I am not lying to them however I cannot control what they believe and if they chose to not believe the truth that I am telling them then that is their business." and I go along my way without worrying about their feelings or words afterwards. People will be people and they often have to figure it out for themselves before they actually believe. I think this is unfortunate personally speaking for it tends to not only make those people's lives more difficult but often results in making the lives of people that interact with them on a daily basis more difficult.
Thanks for continuing the memoirs! It is fascinating reading!
Edek's comment reminds me that I once roleplayed a courtier character in a Regency period game whose political gambit was to tell the absolutely honest, objective truth and then watch her rivals tie themselves in knots trying to find and interpret all the reasons *why* she *must* have said what she said the way she said it. No-one would just blurt out the truth, so there is surely an ulterior motive!ReplyDelete
That may be why Sion found you so interesting, actually.
As you discovered, it's a remarkably effective misdirection strategy in sufficiently political contexts, especially when you don't intend to misdirect. Humans: what can you do?