Monday, 23 April 2012

Extroversion, introversion, autism

Although I don't really blog about it most of the time I'm an absolutely voracious reader of science fiction and fantasy novels. I read over 100 a year. It's not often I read one and think I want to talk about that on my blog.

I certainly wasn't expecting any discussion points to arise from an Elizabeth Moon novel. I like Moon very much. She's an ex-US Marine officer turned writer and she writes unashamed heroic space opera. It's sometimes a bit didactic, it feels like she's telling the reader, as if we were young recruits, when it's ok to feel violent and that we don't have to be ashamed but for all that very enjoyable stuff. At least that's what the first 10 or so books were like.

It was unexpected therefore to pick up a Moon novel, Speed of Dark, and discover a mature and sensitive look at life through the perspective of an autistic person.

Living a vicarious life through the lens of an autistic person was an experience that while fascinating made me feel rather uncomfortable. The hero, Lou, has a perception of normal people that is somewhat cliched. For example he thinks we all know telepathically when we like each other and when we are liked. (And you can see why he might think that as something of an outsider looking in).

Only sometimes I was left thinking I'm not like the "normal" person, I'm like the autistic person. I love patterns and numbers and spreadsheets for instance.

It also got me thinking about autism as a spectrum disorder. I think in some ways autism is and it isn't a spectrum disorder. It's true that everyone has autistic elements if we roughly define those as social awkwardness and a liking for patterns. However being put on the special bus with the other window lickers is not a spectrum - you're on that bus or you ain't.

All of this got me thinking about the Eve community.

I think that, broadly speaking, there are two main types of Eve player: introvert high sec carebears and extrovert dangerous space pvpers. Like autism there is a spectrum here with people varying a lot in degree between these extremes. But like autism there are definite cut-off points. you're either on that bus or you ain't.

I also think these two communities are absolutely terrible at understanding each other. To the miner who just wants to zone out watching pretty space lasers (possibly while getting stoned) it is obvious that he has a right to pursue happiness in his own way. To the jostling, noisy, extrovert he's doing something obviously dull and it's doing him a favour to shake him out of it. And hay! if he doesn't like it he can convo you and talk to you about it (which of course you'll immediately rush off to share with the rest of the internet).

Case in point the CSM. Introverts don't care about the CSM. They're off doing their own thing, possibly hoping no one descends on them and screws them up. They don't want to interact with the Goons or whoever is playing the CSM game. So attempts to get them to vote are ignored. However CSM is brilliant for extroverts because it gives them the power to change Eve. "Hey devs, let us run in and annoy those introverts, you know they love it really!" And of course the introverts don't reply.

I feel that the ideal of Eve is that is should be a game for both types of player. Indeed for the whole spectrum of us, from introverts like me who never stop chatting on our blogs to extroverts like Mittens who is too shy and timid to ever log in.

And that's not something that will come about simply by listening to what the extroverts have to say. There are a great many Eve players who aren't enfranchised or represented by the CSM or the forum rabble or the spectacular player-driven content but who still love the game.


  1. I just found your blog looking for gouge on Eve, and you have a keen eye for the game and an awesome voice while writing about your observations.
    In the post above you mentioned that Elizabeth Moon abtained the rank of Sergeant in the USMC, but in fact she commissioned as a 2nd LT following her graduate from Rice University..... a long time ago. (1968)

    For some reason I thought I would throw that out there.


  2. Welcome and thanks for the correction.

    I do apologise to Ms Moon, and I'm correcting my mistake. In my defence these days she does seem more of the wise NCO type than a green young Lieutenant but I suppose she was young once.