Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Too meta?

Eve Online is famous for blurring the line between the video game world and the real one. It has a special website for Eve history and stories called Eve is Real. It has a history of players acting in peculiar ways as when a player attempted to cut the power to a rival player's house or when a Russian billionaire spent a small fortune on game money.

But the line has rarely been blurrier than this week when at Fanfest, Goons CEO The Mittani conducted his Alliance's official policy of harassing and teasing miners from the stage of the Alliance Panel. A drunken Mittani encouraged players to laugh at this player after receiving a reaction from him that he was suicidal.

Mittani takes the mic to give his presentation at 57.30. There's a joke going around about him being a LARPer and they've given him a wizard hat and he's getting into the spirit.

His talk is an explanation of why Goons play Eve. He starts off with a slide of a prayer that apparently a player actually used in the game to save his Eve alliance. In the prayer this person recognises that Jesus Christ intervened to save his internet spaceships.

He then posts a slide of a post written in atrocious English by a player extremely angry with what he perceives as Mittani's orchestration of a nerf on titans (the largest class of spaceship in the game).

It's his third slide, from 1.01 onwards, that's rather alarming. He introduces it by saying that "we're sure he's not dead."

OK so now I'm going to guilt trip you all. I want to read a little disclaimer before I read this post. He's not dead. We think. He might actually have killed himself but ... going to lie to you all and say that we're sure that he's not dead (he might have committed suicide).

The Goons encountered this player during the Gallente Ice Interdiction. He had 23 accounts all running Mackinaws and was farming ice. Ice farming is (when people don't harass you) a laid back placid pastime. Ice collects much slower than normal mining products. You only need to move a block once every 5 minutes or so or once every 10 minutes if you fit for cargo space. This player would have had a peaceful soporific game experience until the Goons started picking on ice miners.

So they ganked him, then they charged him 1.3 billion isk to register in a phoney protection programme then they ganked him some more. He wrote a heartfelt and very upset letter than The Mittani used in his presentation.

Since my divorce all I want to do is die and I've been doing that a lot in this game.


Sorry for making you mad at me. I'll leave you alone now and never enter your space again. I will be off looking for a nice quiet corner somewhere.

(They told him Amarr high sec was Goon owned territory and they were punishing him for trespassing).

OK, it's kind of appalling to read in text but I think this is the end product of a chain of events.
The Goon bandwagon has rolled along on the energy and humour of its leaders. All Goon CEOs tend to be eccentric and given to ever-increasing dramatic stunts to appease their fractious membership.

The Mittani in particular has been drawn into his alter ego as no one else has. He even gave up his job in a law firm. And he's been far more successful than other Goon leaders, becoming a recognised MMO expert, writing a column at Ten Ton Hammer and giving speeches including one at GDC.

So like many performers he's to some extent had to become the part in order to perform to the hilt.

Equally the miner clearly has problems separating in-game actions from out-of-game actions. He conflates people ganking him with his wife divorcing him, he seems to just see that as what people are like.

After the event CCP launched an investigation into The Mittani's behaviour. Possible sanctions include sacking him from the CSM or banning him from the game.

The Mittani has apologised. A little disingenously I feel, claiming that you were mean because you were drunk isn't plausible when the meanness is part of a slide presentation that clearly took time and forward planning to make.


I feel absolutely ashamed of my behavior at the Alliance Panel. It's one thing to play a villain in an online roleplaying game ... But I am not that character in real life,

He's considering resigning from the CSM.

Perhaps it's time we started seeing game behaviour as not something hermetically sealed away from real life. Particularly with generations rising who have never not known online interaction you just can't separate the online space from the "real" world. It's all real.

It's been a harsh experience for both players. I have some sympathy for both of them.

To the miner I send my very best wishes and hope you feel stronger soon. I hope and believe it's just a dark patch you're going through, things will get better.

To The Mittani it's probably time to ease back a little. You've clearly got too sucked into the Eve narrative to the point where it's taking over. Just be a player for a few months, a follower, an eminence grise.

I also think it's time the Goons as a whole did some introspection. It's been a long time since a site was set up in the 90s to "mock itself and the rest of the internet". The internet is different now, our society is different. We're no longer separate from it. Something Awful isn't a cesspool of idiocy, people there really respect each other (sometimes at the point of a banhammer). If someone posted something suicidal in the SA boards they'd get mature and considerate responses.

However on Eve Online boards Goons are still posting things like:
Anybody who threatens to commit suicide over a video game deserves to be mocked.

You'd be banned for life if you did that on SA.

If you goons really want to represent Something Awful it's time to rethink. You are every bit as much to blame as your CEO, you drive your CEOs to act that way with your relentless and voyeuristic consumption of sensation.


  1. Plus, it's one thing to be an equal opportunity griefer (as many Goons are), and another to instigate the hazing of a specific (and potentially emotionally unstable) person for your own amusement. Since there are -real people- behind these avatars the excuse 'it's not real life' doesn't cut it imo.

  2. Well.

    Let's just hope that the possibility of a tragedy is enough to reign player's enthusiasms in, that they won't need to push until they find an actual tragedy.