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Friday, June 24, 2011

When players cross the line... and why.

You all know there is quite a bit of angst in the star lanes these days. Justified or not, it is there. We've seen everything from meh to "sh*tballs" to "DIAF." Yes, that last is a personal threat. If someone said it to me, directly or indirectly, I'd take it personally. And since those I love most live with me, I'd take it to be a threat to them as well.

That led me to thinking. When do players cross the line? We hear it over and over, "It's just a game." We even repeat that mantra from time to time. But for some it seems more than a game. Why is that?

Like everyone else, I'm going to place the blame precisely where it belongs: at CCP's feet. Now hold on before you start cheering or jabbing, whatever your want. I don't think this is going where you think it is going.

Eve Online is unlike any game I've ever played. Why? (Yeah, silly question but used for theatrical impact.) Because when it allows player derived content it really delivers! We the players of Eve Online have far more latitude to control our game than any other player base out there. CCP even embraced this (sort of) when they allowed the CSM. What other gaming company out there would even think about allowing that? Sony? Forget it!

That, IMO, is the root of the problem and it is CCP's Pandora's Box. They opened it and let loose a plague within the player base.

"What the hell are you on about Mabrick?" I hear a few ask. "How long can he drag this out?" others lament. Not long, I assure you - I only get an hour for lunch and that only so long as the phone doesn't ring.

When players are allowed to control aspects of a game far beyond that usually entrusted to players, they begin to take ownership of the game - internally - psychologically. With ownership comes pride. Pride leads to vanity. Vanity leads to the dark side.

Okay, bad puns aside because this is serious stuff, when anyone is allowed to "own" something they internalize it. They take it personally. It becomes more than just a game. It takes a place beside their moral convictions and their faith. It takes a place beside their pets and their community. It seeps into their very being and they become emotionally attached to it as if it were a real thing.

When it is changed in a way they don't like or want, when it is done outside their control, when it is forced upon them, they react irrationally. Irrationality is not insanity. It is simply "without reason." With reason removed, emotion is the only capacity left. Because they have internalized their concept of what the game should be, this throws them into turmoil. It unbalances them and forces them to express their roiling emotions - sometimes vitriolically.

It is not all that different than when a person learns their dog has just been hit by a car. There is denial until they see the mangled corpse. Then there is intense anger at the driver of the vehicle who hit their beloved pet. That is where many in this latest debate are. They are irrationally angry because they see something they love laying mangled in the street.

Most drivers do not intentionally hit pets. They feel badly for doing it even if they had no choice. Hitting the dog is better than hitting the tree. I've read that CCP may need money. That would be the tree. So the dog lies dead in the street and anger has yet to give way to tears. It is at least understandable.

And CCP is to blame. They allowed us in. They encouraged us to participate. They asked us to become involved and many did - some too much. And without regard to what they've created, they carried on as if Eve was just some other MMORPG where the players log in, waste a few hours ignoring reality, and then log off without thinking much about it until next time.

Eve is not some other MMORPG. If CCP wants to understand where they went wrong, understand what I have just spent my lunch hour typing. We are your puppets on a string by your own invitation. Do not take our feelings for granted. Do not pretend that your business decisions have no real world impact on us. If you want to do that then disband the CSM. Close down the forums. Delete your Twitter accounts and your Facebook page. Leave us no doubt that you are a monolithic business prone to decisions driven only by EBIT. Then at least the rest of us know where we stand.

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