CSM: Voter Apathy
There is a bunch of hand-wringing going on around the Eve Community lately. Jester is doing it. Rhavas is doing it. Despite the myth perpetrated that anyone knows anything about where, when and how votes actually happen - the biggest issue seems to be some concern over voter turn-out. In case you are wondering, it was very low.
I took a lot of grief back in 2011 when I compared the CSM to a Student Council, so I won't debate the merits of having a Student Council for an on-line video game. Although it could be argued that Twitter has done more for CCP's responsiveness to the players than the CSM has. But, like I said, I won't mention it. A lot of people have a big stake in maintaining the playing field. 'Nuff said.
So 99% of the players that make up the game couldn't be arsed to vote. Essentially this is what the numbers all boil down to. Give or take a few percentage points. Commonly this kind of turn-out is blamed on Voter Apathy. The voters simply don't care enough, weren't communicated to properly, or somehow missed the entire idea of just how important the CSM is to them. Silly voters. This same line of reasoning pops up out here in the real world each election cycle, and the same excuses are bandied about. What is wrong with these darn voters? Can't they see how important we are!?!
From a real-world perspective I can tell you right now that the most common and prevalent reason people don't vote isn't apathy. And this is based on actual, real, paid-for research and experience by the way. It isn't apathy in the way you might think of it, as an expression of ignorance, or "I don't care". It is, instead, a powerful statement regarding voters feelings towards the government. There is no connection between the voter and the workings of that government, a lack of investment, and a sense that the government is going to do what it is going to do - with or without me. So f*#k them, I have better things to do with my time. You might be tempted to lump all of that into "apathy" and many people do, but that would be a mistake.
I suspect that most Eve players feel the same way. I suspect this rather strongly now that I represent 300 of them in-game. This is the first voting cycle for me in which I was running a rather significant collection of Eve players and it was rather eye-opening. We discussed the upcoming CSM elections, I posted about my suggested picks on the forums, and we openly debated the merits of each candidate in chat. I also heard a lot of what I am talking about directly from the players.
It is important to remember that for many, many players, the summer of Incarna is a distant or never-even remembered event in the history of Eve. I mention Incarna because it is, in so many ways, the benchmark against which the value of the CSM has to be measured. Incarna represented a lot of things, but primarily (in the long run) it represents a spectrum change in how CCP deals with its players. It isn't a coincidence that it also happens to represent the collision of social power expressed thru Facebook, Twitter, G+, and other avenues outside of the former powerhouses of Forums and Reddit.
Since Incarna, CCP has gotten much better about communicating and keeping Eve focused. And while I personally believe the CSM has had a hand in this progression, to most Eve players the CSM might as well be a non-entity. For a significant part of the player-base the CSM doesn't exist. Doesn't affect their play. And doesn't represent them in any significant or potentially meaningful way. Period.
What can be done about this? And should anything be done about this?
First things first. Despite my personal feelings, Eve is better with a CSM than it is without one. Now that the darn thing is up and running for nine cycles, it is better to keep it running than it would be to stop. (Although I find it interesting that people complain about the lack of significant content and "jesus" features in expansions, when this all began with the rise of the CSM. Those two things are not un-connected by the way. Along with other factors. But that is the subject of an entirely different post.) So let's keep things going.
So we have a vast proportion of the playing public that effectively doesn't vote. What to do about it? Normally I'd recommend a rather robust grass-roots campaign, surrounded by great Public Relations, social media, and compelling television commercials, billboards, and assorted whatnots. But this is Eve and our tools are rather limited. And perhaps that is part of the problem? Maybe we need a new tool? Or a way of thinking about an existing tool in a different way?
How do we reach ALL players? There is only one way and that is thru Eve Mail. And while I would be the last person to advocate for the introduction of spam email into my Eve, perhaps a limited, quarterly email blast is not out of the question? This could simply link to something more robust, perhaps an on-line representation of the CSM's efforts to date. Videos. Photos. And some actual action reports in simple, easy-to-understand language. When I think of the amount of time spent on those White Papers it boggles the mind, they are a lot for a regular player to wade thru.
The key here is, if you think you have value, then communicate that value. Because right now the vast majority of Eve's players don't believe you.
PS: Just to be clear, I am not advocating spam email. I mentioned it as an example of how difficult the current tool set is in communicating to the wider player base. I should have been more clear about that. It is however, the only current tool we have to reach ALL players.