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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BB55: Famous or Infamous

Last Blog Banter we talked about heroes in EVE Online. The followup to that topic has been provided by Wilhelm aka The Ancient Gaming Noob:

Write about somebody who is "space famous" and why you hate/admire them, somebody who isn't space famous but you think should be or will be, or discuss space fame in general, what it means, and how people end up so famous.

I'd like to add another take on the subject, is there a cost of being famous in EVE and if so, is it worth the price?

This may get a little OOC. You are warned.

I'm not space famous, not really. I certainly don't have the following of Rixx Javix or Jester. But I have been in the limelight, thanks to the most space famous capsuleer of all. There are those who tell me, perhaps not every day but often enough, they love my blog. I've been asked advice because of what I write. I've been treated with contempt because of what I write. I've learned a few small things about fame because of it.

But that isn't the sum total of my experience. I'm nobody really famous mind you. My only claim to fame was a long, long time ago. But it made me a big fish in a small pond, so to speak. I became known as, "that guy who <insert accomplishment here.>" You see, I still don't want to just come straight out and say it. Humility, and knowing the whole story, prevent me from blowing my own trumpet. Unfortuantely it's something other people, well intentioned as they were, loved to pull out at gatherings and say, "hey, did you know he <insert accomplishment here?>" Then I'd blush and stammer and wish I were anywhere else. I've very strong emotional baggage tied to <insert accomplishment here.> It makes me very, very uncomfortable to discuss it with people who don't really know me, and that means all of you for all intents.

For the longest time I worked very hard to keep my personal identity and my gaming identity separate and secret. I didn't want people from either side of that fence to know about the other side. It wasn't always acceptable to be a gamer. At best it was seen as a total waste of time. At worst it brought into question my "maturity." "Maturity" was very important in my former occupation. The cool of being a gamer didn't come around until midlife for me. Yet I was still very hesitant to let the two worlds mix until recently. I felt it'd be oil and water at best. At worst, the oil might be on fire when it hit the water.

If you don't grok what I'm talking about, here's an example. I used to do medieval re-creation. You know, where you put on armor and hit each other with sticks. (Now THAT's PvP!) Anyway, the son of one of my martial instructors had recently returned from a tour in Iraq. He'd been in Baghdad, patrolling Sadr City. He'd been promoted to squad leader early in his deployment for the worst possible reason, if you follow my meaning. Anyway, we were palling around between fights one day and I inadvertently mentioned <insert accomplishment here.> I liked to have died when this recent combat vet began to praise me, loudly, for what I'd done. Like it even compared to what he'd done. Something he would not talk about except to say that's where he'd been the last year.

It's odd, but the only good analogy I've ever found for the way I feel about <insert accomplishment here> are combat vets like him. You know, you can tell a real combat vet by the way they NEVER talk about it. I've run into people who claimed to have done this or that in our recent conflicts. I can tell you to a man and woman they likely did no such thing. They might have been there, but the likelihood of them being the hero they claim to be is hooey.

So why tell you all this? Because I was gobsmacked by what I see as an insouciant lead-in paragraph to this blog banter. "We talked about heroes in EVE Online," followed by, "discuss how people end up so famous." [1] In my experience, heroes never seek fame. It's the last thing they want. Every time they hear, "here's the hero," it reminds them of things they'd just as soon expunge from their brains with steel wool. Perhaps they have fame thrust upon them, but they don't want it. How many times have you heard a firefighter or paramedic say, "I was just doing my job," after pulling a child from a fire or a wrecked vehicle? The answer is, "all the time."

So how does that work in a game? It doesn't. It's a game. Real life and death isn't a game, but we don't have real life and death in EVE Online. We are immortal. It's odd, but I now think about the previous blog banter and wonder if there can ever be real heroes in EVE Online. Is The Mitanni a hero? Only to those who idol-worship him, but they've made an error of definition (more on that in a bit.) Okay, that's too harsh. Goonswarm looks up to him a lot, but they don't idol-worship him. Do they? Nevermind. Moving on. Is Gevlon famous? Well, yes, in certain circles he's quite famous. In the rest he's infamous. The same is true of The Mittani. But I do not see them as heroes any more than I see myself as a hero.

There is a far better real world example for how a person becomes famous in EVE Online, or anywhere else. Just look at all the famous (or infamous) people the media tabloids just love to write about. To practically a person, none of them are heroes by the definition I've outlined above. Yet all of them are famous or infamous as society judges it. It's so obvious to me how a person becomes famous either in RL or in EVE Online: be outrageous, self-promoting, vocal, passionate about your place in the world order, and even a little narcissistic. Those traits aren't wrong. But none of those attributes would I ever assign to a hero.

Perhaps those traits are the price of being famous. But I think they're a red herring. The real price you pay is being snared by those with an error of definition. They are the ones looking for heroes to worship, for role models. They often confuse those seeking fame with heroes. They'll put you on a pedestal. Then they'll expect you to act like a hero. But you can't, because you'd walk away from fame if you were. And that's why the famous always let us down. We think of them as heroes. We expect them to be better than we are. But they are just as flawed as us. We just choose to believe otherwise, until they fail to live up to our unreasonable expectations of them. From the heights of that pedestal the fall can be painful. Just ask Tiger Woods, or The Mittani.

Still, in the all and all I think The Mittani would say it was worth the price. It earns him a living now, and he's helped others further their goals as writers. I don't know if any other EVE Online players can claim that distinction (riverini? Chribba? Somerset Mahm?) but I know of a fair number of other gamers who can. They have all found fame, and that fame lead to rewards. It's basically a matter of perseverance and luck; mostly perseverance. Also, an unabashed drive to blow one's own horn doesn't hurt. Oh, and you must play the part others want you to play. That last bit is very important. Just ask Jester. His post on the Bonus Round  got Erotica 1 banned. I'm certain that hurt his street cred both with other capsuleers and with CCP. Yet I had the same stance and it hurt me not at all. It was the role I was expected to play. Those who held me in contempt before my posts on the subject still do. But I will confide, I picked up a healthy dose of new readers because of it. Most of them don't play EVE Online. I'm good with that. I'm fairly certain Jester got the horns. All because it wasn't his prescribed role to call Erotica 1's actions reprehensible.

Yeah, that's got to be the real price the famous pay. To become a slave to the role into which they've been slotted. The longer their fame lasts, the more confined they become. It's like a prison cell where more bars are added every month reducing the area you have to walk around. I suppose the trick is to make it a gilded cage, where you get to say what you want without fear of hacking off those who put you there. In that regard, I think Rixx got the formula right. The same might be said for Sindel, and even Nosy. Nosy is famous after all. He's the guy with the inside line on all things RMT. There are many others, and they all play their role. Most enjoy it, so long as the don't want to expand beyond the role they've been typecast into. The trick is to pick the role you like most, stick with it, and hope your feelings about it don't change later.

But there are times when a role gets twisted into something different. Then you just have release control to the will of the masses and go with it. Have a look at Roc Weiler. Is his blog about EVE Online, or physical fitness/self-improvement? The truth is, EVE Online led to where he is today, but one article in a major publication changed his assigned role forever. Kudos to him for rolling with it. Had he not done so, he would have continued to eke out a readership blogging about EVE Online, but I doubt he'd have 1,809 followers listed on his front page like today. That's fame! Now he just has to keep those abs tight, and hope he doesn't get tired of the constant diet and exercise. Oh, and stay away from out of character activities, like shoving Big Macs in your face. Cell phone camera's are everywhere Roc! ;)


[1] Edited for clarity of point.


  1. That reminds me of this classic post from Mord Fiddle, about The Mittani's apotheosis into The Mittani(R) brand:

    It's the transformation into a Famous Person(TM), in a nutshell.

  2. Good post. Mature, most of all. If some one can argue about your arguments :) maturity of the post is unmistakable.

  3. I enjoy your posts, and this one is especially well written. Lots to think about. :)


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