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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

BB54: Like Kelly's Heroes

Today's topic comes Diaries of a Space Noob blog and other sources:

Quick post. I was listening to a song and a question occurred to me. Where are the EVE heroes? Against a dark background surely all we have are anti-heroes? A lot of mockery is aimed at any who attempt to be white knights. EVE is a dark place and yet pretty much all other MMO's try to place the player in the role of some form of hero, boosting the ego and taking the player out of the humdrum 1 in 7 billion that is RL. Why have I fitted into EVE? Did I never want to be that? So I guess my question is:

Do classic heroes exist in EVE? Is such heroism even possible in EVE? How would you go about being one without opening yourself wide open to scams? Is the nature of the game so dark that heroes can't exist? How do you deal with that irony? What effect does this have on us and the psyche of new players coming in from other MMOs? Is it something special that we don't have classic heroes, or should we? Are our non classic heroes more genuine?

And I would add to this, who have we elevated to the level of larger than life heroes ourselves in the game, and do they actually deserve it?

One of my favorite all time moves is Kelly's Heroes. It's about a rag tag bunch of Army misfits in the waning days of World War II who band together to steal a horde of Nazi gold. If you have never watched this movie you must, must, must watch it. You will not regret the time spent. If you have watched it, then you know exactly what sort of guys Kelly's Heroes are. For those that have never seen it, here is the plot summary given by Wikipedia,

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="400"]Movie Poster - Kelly's Heroes Movie Poster[/caption]

"In World War II France in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the town of Nancy when one of the division's mechanized reconnaissance platoons receives orders to pull out while under attack from the Germans. Kelly (Eastwood), a former lieutenant who has been demoted to private following a disastrous assault some time earlier, captures Colonel Dankhopf of German Intelligence. When Kelly notices that his prisoner has a gold bar in his briefcase, he gets him drunk to try to get information about the gold. Before he is killed by an attacking German Tiger tank, the drunken Dankhopf blurts out that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont.

Kelly recruits the rest of his platoon, including skeptical Master Sergeant "Big Joe" (Savalas), to sneak off and steal the gold. With their commanding officer, Captain Maitland (Buckley), neglecting his duty to sample his personal spoils of war while denying them to his weary men at the same time, the platoon is only all too eager to sign up for the expedition. Eventually, others have to be recruited (or invite themselves) into the scheme, such as an opportunistic supply sergeant "Crapgame" (Rickles); and a Sherman tank commander, "Oddball" (Sutherland).

The expedition successfully breaks through a German-held town during a mortar barrage that has been arranged by Kelly. An American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, strafing their vehicles and destroying them with rockets, forcing them to continue on foot, and three of their number die in a subsequent skirmish in and around a minefield. Meanwhile, Oddball's tanks battle their way through the German lines, but their route is blocked when the last large bridge is blown up by Allied bombers, prompting Oddball to let a bridge engineering unit in on the deal. When intercepted radio messages of the private raid are brought to the attention of gung-ho American Major General Colt (O'Connor), he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patriots pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front line to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men race to reach Clermont before their own army. There, they find it defended by three Tiger tanks with infantry support. The Americans are able to dispatch two of the Tigers and most of the German infantry, but as they prepare to take on the last tank, which is parked right in front of the bank, Oddball's last Sherman breaks down and cannot be repaired. Powerless to defeat the tank, Kelly offers the German tank commander a share of the loot. After the Tiger blows the bank doors off, the assembled crew finds the gold cache. After dividing the gold, the men go their separate ways, just managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious Colt, who is delayed by celebrating town residents."


If that isn't a description of what goes on in New Eden on a daily basis, I haven't been playing the same game you have. Capsuleers are pretty much a self-serving lot. They're all about, "What's in it for me?"  This is not the stuff of classic heroism. But then again, EVE is real and classic heroism is a fantasy. It's romantic claptrap invented by those that wish people were different than they actually are. Any student of humanity can see people have been the same for as long as our species has memory - and we are not the stuff most classic heroes are said to have.

Knowing this, what is it that makes Kelly's misfits and scam artists heroes? It's the fact they unite to pursue a common goal. That along the way to that goal they make sacrifices for the common purpose. Some even die to achieve the goal they'd set for themselves. They were heroes in that they did not give up when everything began to come apart at the seams. They stuck together, even when the sticking was hard. Though individualists in the extreme, their creed got them through. In the end, they got their reward for remaining true to it.

I think one of the issues with the classic hero, what makes it more fantasy than reality, is we want to look at heroism as a character trait. Heroism is not a character trait. Heroism is an action. It is the end result of doing something others judge as good. But heroism isn't the "thing" that enabled the hero to accomplish their feat. It was that person's character traits that lead to an act of heroism. What are those character traits? Well, what is considered "good" in a person? Courage is good to have and most heroes have that character trait in spades. Altruism is another character trait many heroes have, but not all. There was nothing altruistic about Kelly's Heroes. They were in it for the gold. But they had determination, and that is also a good character trait. Kelly's Heroes also had honor. They honored their agreement with one another, and they honored their agreement with the Panzer 115 commander - their "official" enemy. People generally consider these and other positive character traits as "good." And that sense of "good" can be different from culture to culture and even situation to situation. What Vlad did in Crimea many Russians consider heroic. I know the Ukranians have another word for it.

When faced with difficult situations, positive character traits can lead to heroic actions. And the hero doesn't even have to start with what are generally considered positive character traits. A hero can begin with negative character traits and through experience and personal growth learn those traits that allow heroism to happen.  The book Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is perhaps one of the best known examples of how heroes can emerge from those we don't believe can be heroes. Or try Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo, if you don't want a war story. Even those who have a checkered past can overcome that past to become a hero. And in the same vein, heroes can fall from grace and become the most reviled among us. We need look no further than modern cycling history to learn that lesson.

So when you ask whether EVE Online has heroes, don't fall for the old fallacy the only hero is a classic hero. Classic heroes don't really exist. Real heroes are just ordinary men and women thrust into extraordinary situations who just happen to have positive character traits guiding their actions. It happens every day. Heroes happen every day. We all have the capacity to be heroes. We only have to overcome our own self-limitations and let our positive character traits flourish; even if in the end we are only serving ourselves.

Fly Careful

1 comment:

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.

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