Monday, January 18, 2010
Eve Online: A different mindset
Helicity Boson penned a long, expletive filled rant detailing how much he hates the average carebear miner in Eve Online. I'm not a miner, but here's my thoughts on the subject.
Eve Online is often touted as a sandbox environment. Everyone’s free to choose their own direction! One of which is: being a miner. Miners provide much of the raw ore that keeps Eve’s industrialists occupied, and as such it’s one of the cornerstones of Eve’s economy – of which CCP is quite proud. I can’t state it with any certainty, but I don’t think Eve Online could sustain a meaningful economy without the miners. Yet the most vocal inhabitants of New Eden are those who chose a completely different career: the PVP pilots and pirates who insist it's fun to blow up these same miners.
From my point of view, there's a deeper difference in mindset separating the pirates from the miners, that's causing the strife between the two. Allow me to elaborate - I'll try not to be as long as Helicity, I promise ;-)
A while ago I read Edward Castranova's "Synthetic Worlds", which deals with virtual worlds, MMO games and such. Dating from 2006 it was, as far as I know, one of the first attempts at a scientific explanation of the MMO/virtual world phenomenon. Castranova describes four typical categories of inhabitants of these worlds: explorers, socializers, achievers and controllers. Explorers want to discover beautiful and new vistas, the new, the unexpected, "to boldly go..". Socializers seek the company, corp chat, doing stuff together. Achievers want to build value, hoard wealth, get somewhere the peaceful way. Finally, the controllers want to be in charge. They compete, defeat, dominate and if necessary decimate. And yet, in Castranova's words, "to them, it's all a sport".
I consider myself an explorer. I'm in New Eden to find out what's there, to try new things every now and then, to enjoy the scenery. I'm also a socializer, as I like the company, and I'm an achiever insofar that I want to be wealthy enough to replace anything I might lose. Most miners and industrialists (and mission runners) definitely fall in the socializers and achievers category. And pirates, well, I hate state the obvious, but they are of course the controllers of New Eden.
Speaking in Castranova's terms, socializers and achievers are really of a different mindset than the controllers, and these differences in mindset and character have always been a source of irritation between 'carebears' and 'griefers', in many an MMO game and perhaps in real life too. It's nothing new, really.
I recognize this difference, also. To me, personally, reading Helicity's rant is like reading the utterings of a completely alien mind. I can't for the life of me understand what's so funny about blowing up miners, why it's fun to deny some harmless n00b miner his achievement. I can't understand why he hates these people so much (apart from the insults hurled at him, that is). I don't understand why anyone would enjoy inflicting harm on (and triggering anger in) those hapless miners who are explicitly not looking for pvp. The whole concept is just alien to me. And frankly, I really doubt whether it's healthy to display so much hatred while, at the same time, saying 'it's all just a game, people' (as any controller would) to those who are angry with him.
So, even while I may not agree with Helicity - because I really don't recognize anything of his motives and urges - I can, in the framework of Castranova's descriptions, see where he's coming from. And I can also understand why an achiever type pilot would be hurt and confused with someone like Helicity blowing up their stuff. Achievers and controllers differ so much in mindset, world view and game perception, that they are almost mutually exclusive.
For achievers, the bad news is, that in the setting of New Eden, much of the game mechanics are geared to accommodate the Helicities, the controllers of space. There's (some) room for explorers and socializers, but achievers are, however important they may be for Eve's economy, very low on CCP's priority list. This is not an accident; this is by design.
CCP may probably have a low new player retention for achiever type pilots because of this, and because my own instincts are more akin to socializers/achievers than to controllers, I'm not happy with that. I have, earlier, advocated more protection for new players, perhaps in 1.0 space only. I still think CCP could financially benefit from that: it would make the learning curve more of a curve than, well, a virtual graveyard. But at the same time, I recognize it may be very hard to balance achievers and controllers in a better way, without hurting the whole premise of New Eden.
In the mean time.. fly safe, all :)