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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why the CSM Concept is Broken: Part 2

In Why the CSM Concept is Broken: Part 1, I outlined the basic disparities between what various involved parties view as the function of the CSM. CCP sees the reason they created the CSM differently than the players see it and the CSM candidates themselves see it differently than the other two. And yet, no one in those three very rough groupings are happy with the reality of the CSM.

To be clear, I don't believe the CSM itself is broken. I don't think the CSM members past or present have done anything inappropriate with one notable exception. I don't think any of the current candidates are or will to anything "bad."  There is no wrong doing on anyone's part and I still plan on voting. It is the concept of the CSM within Eve Online that is broken, not the CSM as a body.

That said, what is broken about this concept? To understand that, we need to understand what the CSM is as it stands today. We must work through the CSM as a reality rather than an abstraction. And, we need to understand that abstraction before we even begin to analyze the reality.

That is not circular logic. All three points of view I wrote about in my last post share a common ideal of what the CSM is. It is the abstraction of the CSM they all agree upon. In fact, the abstraction of the CSM is precisely what CCP says it is.
"The Council of Stellar Management (CSM) is a player-elected council to represent the views of the players to CCP."
If you ask every employee of CCP, and every CSM candidate, and every person who votes for a CSM candidate, they will all tell you the same thing. The CSM is a player-elected council. As I said in part one, that is what they all agree on. That is also the abstraction everyone holds in their consciousness when discussing CSM related issues.

That is not what we have. What we have is much different than the democratic ideal of players sending representatives to CCP to have a voice in the governance of Eve Online. We don't even get close to that ideal. In order for the reality to match the abstraction, we would have to have a majority of players vote. That has never happened.

In the last election, the voter turnout was only 16.63%. It was the best voter turnout that a CSM election has ever seen. That is less than one in five players of Eve Online. It is nowhere near a majority of the electorate. If less than one in five players are voting, WE DO NOT HAVE A PLAYER-ELECTED COUNCIL.

And the first thing that popped into most of your minds was the word "alt." The voter turnout only seems so low because most players have at least one alt. It is probably more likely that most players have more than one alt. If most players have a main and two alts, then each voter is actually three and therefore we had over 49% participation in the election. That counts as a solid majority in most parliamentary governments in the world today.

That is also a big, fat, red herring. Alts, so long as they are on a separate account, get just as many votes as mains. If a person has five accounts, under the last election's rules, they got five votes. And I am certain that if a player votes with one account they are far more likely than not to vote with all accounts.

In fact, the alt argument works against the abstract concept of what the CSM is. If one player votes three times, and there were only 16.63% of eligible votes cast, then divide by three to get the number of players who really voted. That's less than 6% of all Eve Online players if you assume non-voters are new to the game and only have one account. I believe that is a safe assumption so I am going to use it. That also lines up nicely with voter turnout before CCP started allowing one vote per account rather than person.

So how can we say we have a player-elected council to represent what players want, when as few as one player in five at best, and one in 20 at worst, actually votes? We can't. What do the other four or 19 players want? Nobody knows. They didn't vote. The only thing we can be certain of is that they are NOT represented by the CSM.

So if in reality we don't have a player-elected council, what do we have? We have what every government has when people with insufficient public support seek greater influence on the laws that govern them. We have lobbyists.
But the CSM isn't employed by anyone you argue. Aren't they though? By U.S. tax laws at least, perks are considered compensation. And since when do all lobbyists work for money? Bono lobbies governments around the world to end hunger. Is he paid for that? No, he does it out of a sense of responsibility and compassion. He lobbies for those who can't afford to hire a lobbyist. But he is still a lobbyist. And isn't sending another to plead for what you hold most dear using a lobbyist in its purist form? If you say no, you should go talk to the NRA. The only question that really remains is for whom does the CSM lobby most: CCP or the players?

Now do you believe the CSM concept is broken? It isn't what anyone thinks it is. And though it does function well as a body of lobbyists, it can't truly be considered player-elected when it doesn't represent the vast majority of players. The question is, what's a game company like CCP to do about it? And more importantly to me, what's a player base to do about it? That's part three.

Fly Careful


13 comments:

  1. Back in June, it was let slip in a Voices from the Void podcast that there are abou 160,000 actual players in Eve. Once they publish the account percentages of who all voted, we'll have a rough idea of the actual number of active accounts too. I believe that on average, the most publicly active and interested people are the ones that vote and Re likely to have more than two accounts. So, while we get sixty thousand votes, that represents thirty thousand players, or nearl one fifth of the player base. If the real number is three or four accounts, it's still one eighth to one tenth of the player base. The average number of accounts per player in Test and the goons is between 2.5 and 2.7. Some organizations have more accounts per player.

    The election process has always only represented special interest groups and CSM members need to have a global view on what is best for the game with a good idea about one specific aspect, in order to protect it from CCP's stupid ideas. I believe that the CSM is just a distraction and PR ploy by CCP as they concentrate on World of DArkness and Dust. Eve brings in about seven million dollars a month for CCP to spend on developing two othe games that will undoubtedly bring them far more customers than Eve ever will, and then they can turn the switch off on Eve when it becomes too much of a pain in the ass to maintain and manage.

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  2. You say the CSM isn't a player-elected council, so who is doing all the voting? Bots? No, players! I feel confident enough to say at least 99% of the voters are players, thus we get a "player-elected" council. I think as with US politics that you are arguing that the CSM is not a democratically elected body because of lack of input from a majority of the voters, but is more of a republic.

    "The only thing we can be certain of is that they are NOT represented by the CSM."

    Various CSM members will almost certain share the same viewpoint as plenty of people who didn't vote. We don't know what percentage. But I would wager it was pretty high. One of the hallmarks of systems with low voter turnout is either the candidates are so homogenous that there really is no difference in who wins, or the governing body they work within is so stable that no jarring changes are possible (or desirable) regardless of who wins. IF the CSM represented something so foreign and objectionable to players, voter turnout would be there. So, I would submit that the CSM does represent the GENERAL viewpoint of most players.

    I agree the CSM acts as lobbyists, but your steps getting there are debatable.

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    1. Your argument is disingenuous. You are working on assumptions that are not even marginally supported by any fact. You want to believe that since 1 in 5 players voted, they are a representative sample. That is fallacious. You can't make any statistically relevant prediction on what those other 80% think and feel. The absence of data is not a positive indicator nor is it a negative indicator. It is nothing and from nothing you get nothing. Anything else is wishful thinking.

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    2. "Your argument is disingenuous...It is nothing and from nothing you get nothing."

      EXACTLY my point! It's disingenuous and fallacious when I spew something from nothing, but it's a certainty when you do it. Maybe you do understand politics...

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    3. I apologize mordis, I didn't mean to offend. My paragraph was a short prelude to my post today - about the need for statistical assuredness before any sample can be considered truly representative. But you have a point, when I write something I feel it is a certainty. I have thought about it, sometimes for years, and I've drawn a conclusion. I've drafted it, redrafted it and sometime drafted it a third time. Some things I've written have never made it onto this blog. They just didn't cut the mustard. What does make it onto this blog you may feel is disingenuous, and I'm okay with that. But I will always take the side of what I write. Why would I write it if I just backed down when someone threw some arguments at it I've already considered and found insufficient to dissuade me? That would be no fun at all.

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  3. Nice articles (both parts) but I don't totally agree with you. Just because only 10% voted for a goverment doesn't mean the government isn't elected democratically. The 90% who didn't vote are just too lazy or bored by politics and think it won't change anything anyway.

    I know some poeple (older players) who are not new to the game and have multiple accs but just don't bother to vote.

    The argument could go like that:
    I'm playing this game 8h a week, it's just fun like it is atm. CSM is politics and politics if for more dedicated players than me. So I don't vote, I am convident with the course of action ccp takes without politics to eat up my play time.

    Obviously this is only my impression as I don't have any official statistics to back up this claims. But over all I think we get a representation of the most dedicated player groups of Eve through the election process. Thats not demographicly perfect but you can't expect to find the 8h a week guy suddenly spent 40h a week to represent those like him who only spent 8h a week.
    Not even touching the communication issue with only 8h a week.

    Is the CSM a good demographic representation? No.
    Is it a useful body to tell game design how stuff might work befor it hits TQ? Yes.

    How to improve voter turnout?
    Create ingame content where the causual player (8h a week) learn something about the candidates, like a storyline mission. A CSM epic arc to show off the candidates maybe. Or simply advertisment flyers to distribute. And the ability to vote from within the game once it is time.

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    1. When a Board of Directors votes to hire a lobbyist and send him/her to Washington they too just held a democratic vote. However, no one would ever consider that a popularly elected representative. That is the point. Of course voting for the CSM is democratic. As I said, I don't view the CSM itself as broken and I still plan on voting. But the concept is billed as player-elected, and that is generally assumed to mean all players. and that is a fantasy.

      And never forget, all lobbyist in Washington are full of good ideas - for the pharmaceutical company of bank that hired them. I guarantee you that most (all?) of those lobbyists are focused on those ideas that give their clients the best edge without considering how it affects the country as a whole. If that were not the case, then we would not have had the banking collapse in 2008. Lobbyists would have realized the bank deregulation laws they lobbied for successfully would lead to unbridled leveraging that would leach into the insurance industry and put the whole economy on the gangplank. But they didn't think about the system as a whole and that is why lobbyists can never be considered "elected" in a democratic sense.

      I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like placing my future in the hands of such narrowly focused and self-interested advocates - unless I hire them myself of course. But, would you trust that my lobbyists have your best interests in mind?

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    2. "But the concept is billed as player-elected, and that is generally assumed to mean all players"

      But IS that generally assumed? I know CCP doesn't assume it, all but the most naive candidates would assume it, which leaves the players involved/aware of the CSM process. Since that's less than 20% of the whole player base (not a great turn out by ANY measurement but trending up which is positive) and I'd doubt that all of those people hold that assumption. Frankly I'd doubt more than half would believe that "player elected" is to mean "elected by all the players."

      I get where you're going Mabrick. And functionally the CSM really are more lobbyists with a degree of oversight than legislators. Voter turnout is a problem, but I don't think it's a problem with the concept. Chanina probably hits closer to the truth, and I personally think it has to do with the relatively young age of the institution who for nearly half of its existence really DIDNT matter in a way players would describe as meaningful.

      Aside from the drop in participation following CSM3's Larkonis scandal (which understandably shook voter confidence) we have seen voter participation go up every election. Simultaneously, the influence and role of the CSM has grown by leaps and bounds. Having been involved, I don't think these two things are directly related but they do reinforce one another and look to continue going forward.

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    3. Would i trust your lobbyist to protect my interest? No but you knew that answer.

      Fortunately the CSM is a communication body for CCP and not there game designers. In RL we have the problem that the lobbyist not only talk to the politicians but the lazy politicians let them WRITE the "to be changed" statute and just bring those in. Thats like CSM would say I want Titans be able to jump anywhere within eve (even w-space) and CCP would simply does it.

      On the other hand, you don't need an evil lobbyist to make a short sighted change or miss something in your design. If game design has a great idea (like say: payout parts of kill mail value in LPs) it can happen that they miss some ways how that mechanic can be used (or exploited). I don't think they did that on purpose but it could have been avoidable if more people had a look at the greater concept.

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  5. I think fretting so much about CSM voter turnout is itself a red herring and in the end really has very little to do with what CSM is about. The observation that CSM operates more as lobbyists rather than political officials is spot on, that's exactly what the CSM is, they're non voting members of the development process (for what part of the development process they are made a part of).

    Does the fact that a minority of the players involve themselves in electing this group really change much? Obviously more participation is always better but the bottom line is this:

    -This is a game and not real life, people already care little for actually voting in real life and they're going to care far less about it in a game where the representatives have no power.

    -Is there any voter disenfranchisement going on? Is there anything going on that we can't logically count a player not voting as a pass/abstain?

    Would the voter turn out make any meaningful change to what the CSM is accomplishing? You said in a comment "I don't particularly like placing my future in the hands of such narrowly focused and self-interested advocates" but you're not because the future of your game is solely in the hands of CCP, the only people who have a true stake in the success of the game.

    The CSM is a player elected council, a player who's voice was not a part of electing that council only has himself to blame. They successfully work in providing feedback to CCP from a player perspective and who can say that that perspective would be meaningfully different with a greater electorate involvement? And why should it be any different than it currently is with how easy it is for any player to cast their vote? In the end does it matter that an advocate for a specific player's voice didn't get a seat on the CSM when that player themselves can still provide feedback to CCP and well thought out and backed up with numbers arguments will provide sway to future game design decision regardless if those who articulated them have a CSM title or not.

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  6. Not really sure about the CSM. Since I have been playing when CSM5 was elected, it has bothered me to see the number of people that pull away from the game after there term. Is it the players and there perceptions of what the CSM should be versus what it turns out to be or is it things they learn about the way CCP works (or doesn't)?

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  7. "It isn't what anyone thinks it is."
    As the old joke puts it: What is this we s**t, paleface?

    So, the CSM is a lobbyist organization....fine. I'm one of the many refugees from World of Warcraft where there isn't even that much. Heck, Blizzard fired a developer last fall for, among other things, actually asking players for input about design questions. Eve is CCP's property and they get to do what they want with it. We, of course, have the option of not buying but that nuclear option, while effective, doesn't really help either of the sides who all really want a successful and continuing game. It's nice to have some option short of pulling up stakes.

    I think the turnout issue is simply the standard public choice rational ignorance problem. Historically, CSM didn't matter that much until CSM6 leveraged a crisis into an opportunity. So before then we had a body with no hard power just influence, had influence only in a game. and what influence they did have was fairly minor. Then of course you add in the normal perception that your vote doesn't matter. Under those conditions not voting is a perfectly reasonable response.By comparison, in RL the turnout for modern US Presidential elections hovers around 60% and no one can argue that the US President has no power. I expect that, as/if the CSM becomes clearly more relevant to the average player the turnout will increase, though still looking anemic compared to RL elections (it will after all, always be just a game).

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Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.