Esprit de corps

Let’s talk about identity a bit.

EVE is demographically overwhelmingly male – 94.89%, according to the latest information. Players tend to be in their late twenties or early thirties. (The average age of an EVE player was 27 in 2006, while the average age of a CSM voter was 32 this year.) 54% of all players are from English-speaking countries – primarily the US and UK, with a few percentage points from Canada, Australia, etc. A few other things we can infer? EVE players are well off enough to own a computer and pay a subscription (or play enough to work it out). They’re mostly white, straight, and cis.

You probably just skimmed that last paragraph because ew, numbers. Here’s the takeaway: The EVE community is overwhelmingly western males, with an American plurality. Not teenagers, but young adults. Privileged young English-speaking male adults. These people drive the conversation and set the norms of EVE. You’re probably one of these people. I am.

We have a lot in common, EVE players, as you can see. Generally similar lives and convergent interests. Maybe a bit of misogyny and/or homophobia and/or racism. I’m ignoring all that right now. This post is about the differences between us – particularly on the corp and alliance level.

My spy and infiltration work has mostly been with highsec groups. Small corporations, sometimes part of a no-name fledgling alliance, sometimes independent. These tend to have a clique of friends or CEO at the center running the show with very little interest in what the average member does with his time. Random newbies pass in and out of these corporations like shadows, unacknowledged. There is no group identity because there’s nothing special about being a member – you just have to answer a few simple questions and boom, any mouthbreather is now a proud member of Boring Corp, which follows a strict NRDS policy, honors all ransoms and mostly manufactures ammo to sell in Jita for a tiny profit.

The worst alliances are composed of a whole lot of these corps mashed together. Sure, the arrangement might work in highsec.. until someone wardecs you and half your members vanish. As for nullsec, it is littered with the wreckage of eager-beaver young organizations that worked just fine until someone decided to push them over. Check out The Methodical Alliance if you’re interested in seeing this process in action.

On the other hand, there are smaller groups that stick together for years, grow, and bounce back from defeats. UK Corp is a good example of this, and it’s no mistake that they’re a member of RAZOR, an alliance that has forged its own identity through years of play, win or lose. So what leads to these different outcomes? I’ve already thrown it out there: a strong group identity. Being a member of AAA, of PL, of TEST or RAZOR or Goonswarm, these all mean something more than “I play EVE with these people” – at least in the eyes of some.

Against All Authorities is a good alliance to start with. They were formerly a Slavic alliance, but are now mostly American. The new identity has come with some interesting baggage. The ideal that AAA members aspire to? The touchstone they’ve built their alliance around? “Eliteness.”

They are, as a rule, extraordinarily fixated on killboard statistics and small-gang tactics. Their strategic op participation is almost entirely dependent on which FC leads it. I saw a AAA guy last week who had meticulously copied his eve-kill.net stats into his ingame bio, with a little note for when he’d last updated it. When they took in a few ex-Morsus Mihi members, there was a hilarious series of alliance mails picking on embarrassing losses and individual line member’s fits. (No one really cares how Macabre Votum fits a Rattlesnake, silly as it may be.)

So that’s AAA. To generalize: massively overweening and smug (and unlike Goons, they usually aren’t faking it to troll you). Still, there’s got to be something else there. I’d like to know what it is.

Pandemic Legion is an interesting edge case, since it’s typically referred to as an “elite PVP” alliance (and attracts the sort of player who wants to be seen as elite), but is beginning to develop into a broader gaming community with frequent forays into Minecraft, DayZ, Battlefield 3, etc. A few years ago, they were pretty similar in attitude to what AAA is now (minus the lack of irony). Nowadays, without sovereignty to maintain, PL can dodge some of the least enjoyable aspects of EVE and spend the rest of their time dicking around in Jabber or playing some other game. They’re chilling out, which is good for PL as an institution.

There’s the national alliances. Ev0ke (ze Germans), Romanian Legion, HUN Reloaded (the Hungarians), HELL4S –  I’m sure there are others, and these guys are never going away. If they do go away, they’ll reform under another name, because the linguistic bond is so strong. The only national alliance I can think of that fell apart was Tau Ceti Federation’s French. They had years of success, but internal drama brought them down. Even so, the individual corporations regrouped, and are now almost entirely a part of GoonSwarm (which has become a small haven for the French of EVE).

Then you have TEST and GSF, the big ‘posting’ alliances. Redditors and Goons have a distinct sense of community even before they start playing EVE. Playing together accentuates it and creates new cultural touchstones. A sense of shared journey. GSF? The war with BoB, for starters. There are so many people who define themselves in opposition to Goons that there’s never a shortage of enemies, conflict, or threads to shit up. TEST? Bad memes, I guess. My Little Pony. Maybe accepting pubbie corps and then laughing at their ratting losses. I know some good TESTies, but the alliance reminds me a lot of GoonSwarm 2006-7. Montolio is basically Remedial, after all.

Anyways. What should you be taking away from this?

I try to read the comments for EVE articles on mainstream gaming websites like RPS or PC Gamer. The top two cookie-cutter responses are “I don’t like EVE, but I’m glad it exists” and “I tried it and didn’t like it.” I think a lot of folks started a trial account, trained it into a Retriever, made no friends or attachments and quit. Something similar to that, anyways.

EVE as an isolated newbie is hell. When you play this game, you need to join a like-minded group, or create one. Read RPS? Join RPS Holdings. Identity matters, and not just because it creates strong, functional alliances and corporations. Without it, you’ll eventually find a reason to stop logging in.

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4 thoughts on “Esprit de corps

  1. If newbies are supposed to join like-minded groups and actually want to keep playing the game, corporations and alliances will have to start accepting them.

    That is to say, corps that aren’t Boring Corp, because *of course* they accept newbies. I mean corps that actually have identities and give you a reason to log in, that make you want to play the game.

    It seems that unless you’re a ‘redditor’ or an SA member, that’s impossible.

    • Yeah, I think it’s really silly and ultimately self-defeating when corps have an SP minimum.

      The best suggestion I can give is to go through DOTLAN and check out an alliance you identify with. Go through the corps and look for open recruitment policies or public channels. A little work can usually do it. Of course, newbies don’t know about DOTLAN and end up giving up. :/

      • In my case, I’ve read about this game and been rebuffed by both the sub fee and the difficulty of getting into the game, since.. I don’t even know. When BOB still existed and GS lived in the south. I think my decision to ‘eventually’ play was not just cemented but arc-welded when Apocrypha came out.

        I’m pretty dead-set on joining a wormhole corp personally, so I’ve resigned myself to training skills for a while. I’ve got a couple scoped out personally, but still.. It wasn’t easy to find ’em. More like blind luck. :p

  2. Read this a number of times now, it really hit the mark. I really enjoy your writing and hope this isn’t the last you have to say on the subject.

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