eFame, ePeen & Eve: Part One

We all know the usual rant. By now it is almost a mantra, an accepted part and parcel of being on-line and interacting with your fellow human beings. Emotionally insecure people are empowered by the shield of internet anonymity and their baseless egos are feed by the resulting buzz of activity surrounding their activities on-line. In other words, deprived of any real world basis upon which to base success, accomplishment or feelings of security in who or what they are, these people feel empowered to do so based solely on a self-constructed virtual reality in which consequence has largely been removed, or at the very least held within a blurry, indistinct foggy realm.

Straight to the point, they turn into asshats.

While the on-line community of the internet is eternally fascinating to me professionally, the business of this blog is focused mainly on our own on-line community built around Eve Online. Which is famously or infamously well known for its share of arrogant pricks. Both in and out of game.

Before we examine the origins of this issue within Eve, I think it is important to make note of something important that is often overlooked. While it is easy for the gaming community and some of its participants to focus primarily on the negative aspects of the above opening statements, it is equally important to note that every coin has two sides. Certainly the negative gets the press, but in my experience the positive aspects are also important to consider.

Equally, not all people that play Eve or comment on the forums, or write a blog, or otherwise contribute to the community, are emotionally immature proto-adults. That would be a ridiculous assertion and one not being made in this series. But, fairly, a proportion of the audience does fall within that group. The exact percentage could be argued forever. But it isn't an insignificant percentage.

It makes sense. Eve is extremely attractive to this psychological subset. Not only is it an on-line community, it is also an on-line gaming community built upon a system that encourages anonymity and aggression. In fact, aggression is encouraged, expected and rewarded. That is a soup made from some dangerous ingredients. And like any soup, magic is in the balance of those ingredients. Too little and you run the danger of creating a bland mixture, too much and the results could be overpowering.

So Eve is extremely attractive to this type of personality. It would be easy to label such a personality with stereotypes, socially awkward individuals that live alone in their parent's basements, but that is exactly the opposite of the real truth. As in most things, reality is much more complicated than that. ( To be fair, many of them do indeed fit the stereotype. Truth is truth. ) No, the truth is that these types of personalities function within society and are found in all age groups. And while they trend towards younger, middle to upper-class, educated, white collar families, they can be found in all demographics and ethnic backgrounds. The important thing in defining them is not what is on the outside, rather what is inside.

It is the rare individual who starts out to be an arrogant prick. Self-realization is not a strong suit among the group, denial runs rampant. The origins are much more evolutionary in practice. It is a lot like testing the waters, dipping a toe in, slowly wading out, equalizing temperature before plunging into the deep end. It starts slowly. It is critical to test the waters and learn the rules of conduct, the boundaries, what is expected, before exploiting them. In all cases it is the feedback that is the most important factor.

This is where group dynamics and pack behavior take over. It is critical to both feel a part of a sub-group and to feel slightly better than that same sub-group. To be admired, even if negatively, for some accomplishment (like a great slam, rip, or snarky comment) and to strive to be "good" at it. This feeds the basic need and in many ways it is like a powerful drug. Or can be, to some. Tears, rants, raves, bans, kicks, all are feedback of one sort or another, and all feed the hole that needs to be filled.

Ok, so I went a tad crazy with the psychology bit. The larger question is this, does this all add up to anything important? Or is it just interesting psycho babble? Does it mean anything to the long-term success or failure of Eve? Or is it just part of the larger community?

All good questions for Part Two.

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