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.


18 comments:

  1. Arbitrary mailings, aah, no. But maybe a variation of the theme.

    An extremely cheap "newspaper" subscription from Eve store, maybe? Mails 24 hrs of Foo's Blogroll headings, for example. Since it is paid by monthly ISK it is voluntary, chosen from a list of rolls, and can be cancelled.

    As a newer player, I think others of my kind might like this. Especially the "choice" part.

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  2. Rixx, my friend, you misinterpret me. Hand-wringing worry is not what I posted. You don't see any "OMG EVE IS DYING" there. As I said in reply to your own comment on my post, "those same non voters will complain if they’re not represented. I have very little sympathy for complaining non participants."

    My issue is this. EVE players are passionate about their game. No, let's be more honest. EVE players are very liable to comment on what they perceive are CCP's inadequacies. Ah, hell, let's get down to brass tacks. EVE players bitch a lot.

    If you voted, you leveraged the one official channel CCP gives you to do something productive with your bitching. If you didn't, you didn't do anything to make your situation better, instead you decided it was just easier to bitch ineffectually. Here's a short story about someone who didn't do that more than once. There was once a new player. She spent a year learning the ropes and getting excited about the game. Then she started to see the cracks. She wanted to vote for a representative for her space, but there was no one to vote for. She voted, but was unhappy and said so to many people. A year went by. Again, there was no obvious candidate for her space, and she had seen more impact from talking to people at EVE Vegas and on Twitter than via official CSM actions. Maybe she considered dismissing the CSM and not voting, but I doubt it. Instead after complaining a bit and hearing from several people (including me) that she should just run herself, she did. She won election, and handily. You may have met Sugar Kyle.

    That, my friend, is what you need to do if you don't find the CSM effective in addressing your game.

    But instead, most of EVE's players (99% by your calculations) sit on the sidelines and bitch on the forums. Their "principled non-participation" instead moves them from little impact to no impact, and they wonder why others' playstyles seem to be favorites. Is it any wonder the devs get better signal-to-noise from Twitter than their own forums?

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    1. Lighten up my friend, hand-wringing is a much more dramatic way of saying the same thing you are saying. I'm on your side here, we agree. So relax.

      I am fully aware of Sugar Kyle's history. Much of which is responsible for my advocation of her run for CSM. Of which I am quite happy to see worked out rather well.

      On the other hand, you are giving the "non-participants" to much credit. Indeed, the do bitch a lot, but in general I don't think they think about it much beyond that. Everyone has a level of self-centered axe grinding to do, but beyond that I'm not sure most players think, plan or scheme. Which is again, one of the problems with the CSM - it has failed to make itself an integral, needed, valued, and important instrument to those same players.

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  3. This isn't about outreach. CCP and the CSM have declared war on the preferred playstyle of 80% to 90% of EVE subscribers. Even those CSM reps who were heavily supported by highsec players were either steamrolled by or made common cause with Mynnna and the other nullsec CSN members. This is a leading indicator: When an election's outcome is irrelevant, subsequent elections tend not to fare well. If CSM9 continues to support a game rigged to the benefit of a small subset of EVE's players, you'll likely see more of them voting with their feet and wallets next time..

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  4. I skipped this year voting becouse voting system is too complicated, also i like curent state of EVE ad mabe simply trust CCP and their willingness to react to players voice (blogs etc).
    I think CCP is better at this then my governement.....so i really dont need to vote.

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    1. You aren't the only person I've heard this sentiment from either.

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    2. +1 I like eve the way it is too.

      Got my fingers crossed CCP don't do to eve what SOE did to SWG 😉

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    3. This is another aspect that doesn't show anywhere. Many of Eve's players are just happy with the game for what it is and what is has. And only expect that CCP keep the quality and direction of what it has been doing for years.

      I voted! I always do every year, but left for the last minute and only voted this year cause my alliance really requested. Other than that I would not have voted as none of the proposals had an appeal to me.

      I'm an Indy guy (manufacturing big toys) and the changes that are coming, I'm not happy about them but they are needed. I already discussed with my corp m8s that I'll stop manufacturing after Kronos. Why this comment? Because for the overall player like me CSM didn't represent me and my needs. As said befre if I want to have my point of view implemented I should run for it, but then the fun of the game goes away as it becomes "serious" business and that doesn't work for me.

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  5. As a player, I like the idea of the CSM quite a lot. It can be and can do a lot of things. A really well informed focus group. I conduit for player communication. A sounding board for new ideas. But I feel one thing you may have over looked in your post is this : the CSM can only ever be as powerful/useful/influential as CCP will allow it to be. Members are not junior game designers, community managers, programers, or game administrators. The first step, in my opinion, towards a more useful and directly relevant CSM would be to empower it do more. For example, let's say the CSM was given the ability to break NDA and put to public discussion significant changes that might be made to the game if two thirds of the CSM voted in favor of doing so. That's just an idea off the top of my head, but so long as so much of what the CSM actually does remains NDA'd or revealed only months or years after that CSM has retired, it's hard for them to be accountable and hard for us as players to relate.

    The second change I would make would be to alter the nature of voting. I agree with you that a large problem with the CSM is that perhaps only a plurality of players have their play style and interests represented on the council. Let's be charitable and say roughly half the players in Eve live in High Sec. Realistically they have only one seat at the CSM table (Mike A.) and charitably they have two (Steve R.). To a certain extent, that's High Sec's fault. Many didn't vote, and they certainly didn't produce a roster of quality candidates. If I was Mike, I'd be building a high sec coalition for next year and assembling a ballot of nothing but High Sec candidates to give the place some bloc power. But more than that, ditch STV and district out New Eden into its four major regions. Expand the council to sixteen people. High sec gets four, low sec gets four, null gets four, and wormholes get four. Accounts are only eligible to vote for one of the four groups and CCP assigns you your group based on where you spend most of your playtime. Another rough idea off the top of my head that I'm sure the CFC could easily game in its most primitive form (legions of high sec alt accounts, for example) but I feel like they could make it would. It would create much better representation for all play styles. My only concern is that High Sec would be prone to elected low engagement casual players who might flake or drop out. At the same time, that's a voice CCP needs to hear from and they're not hearing it now.

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    1. 90+% of the player base did not vote for anyone currently standing in CSM9. That is a profound statement.

      As a player I find it absurd that CCP would spend the time and money on an organization who's charter is to represent the player base and where over 90% of the player base had no part in it. How do you consider anything that comes from such a group as legitimate representation?

      CCP is presently embarking on a journey to revamp many aspects of EvE .. I call upon them to consider revamping the idea that the CSM is an effective use of limited resources.

      Perhaps the time has come to use more effective methods to determine what the *entire* player base wants/will pay for. AND to bring the most unrepresented but most important player to the table -- the player who subscribes *tomorrow*.

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    2. You do realize that like 15-20% is the highest turnout ever 90% of the population never cared to start with. Just the vocal minority from null

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  6. You realize of course that most of the grumbling seems to come from people with a grr Goon agenda, because, hey, their top 4 all made it onto the council, they're taking over CCP now. But I won't mention that. :P

    Unfortunately, most of what the CSM does is hidden under a cloud of NDA and doesn't really come out., but chances are that in the last 2 years since Incarna, nearly every change to the game, big or small, passed a smell test by the CSM before it even saw the light of day. I was told long before running myself, that if half the ideas that didn't make it past the CSM came out, the players would be in an uproar that such things were even considered, and that seems awfully plausible.

    Finally, as a lowsec resident yourself, you have some experience with having no representation on the CSM. How was 2013 for you with regards to game changes?

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    1. That's the devblog that could keep interest in the CSM up. Have CCP post a list of all the ideas the CSM helped shoot down. :-)

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    2. I don't think its so much grr goons as it is CCP taking feedback from people who have a horse in the race so to speak. Or even worse CCP taking feedback about their content from woefully under informed CSM members.

      In the last batch of CSM minutes CCP seems convinced that blitzing missions is the optimal way to do them. This displays a shocking ignorance of the affects of completion times on payout by the entire CSM and CCP.

      It's not even hard to investigate, a nul-sec level 4 mission for a nul-sec only faction typically sees half or less the payouts of lp and isk than the same mission from an empire navy in hi sec.

      This is just one example, if you would like something far more simple Malcanis's facepalm level ignorance of the affects of crimewatch on drone assist is rather telling.

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  7. This was my first election and I voted on all three of my accounts. As a newbie I saw as an opportunity to try to vote for the areas of the game I want to see developed or at least areas where I thought need attention (in my admittedly limited understanding of the game...). I didn't think the voting was complex, as much as I'm sometimes annoyed by CCP Dolan I thought he explained it well in an interview I heard somewhere (I think it was cap stable). I agree it would be nice to feel a little more connected to the CSM although doesn't some of the perceived distance we have come from the NDA? I mean they could communicate better but how much can they say? It's my understanding they can't announce anything independently until after CCP does, maybe the new development cycle will help with more frequent announcements since new content will be coming out more often. Maybe some video updates from the summits would be cool though even if it's limited would be nice to see.

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  8. Its all about the candidates and if the big blocks are worried they will lose their seats......someone challenges goon seats u cam bet the CFC end up with a high turn out. Get a candidate thats good and people that normally wouldn't be bothered to vote will. I voted for sugar on one of my accounts, figured thats all she would need to get in so didn't bother with the other accounts. If sugar didn't run I wouldn't have voted. Didn't really care much about the other canidates

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