Goons are different from other organizations in EVE in many ways. Among these are a strong culture, a strong identity, and a strong out of game community. One of the most important differences we have is our attitude to failure.
Rather than avoid failure, we embrace and celebrate it. You don’t learn anything from winning every fight – you learn from making mistakes and picking those mistakes apart. We may haze pilots and FCs for their errors, but at the end of the day, all is forgiven, so long as everyone involved learned a lesson from the experience and became better as a result.
This philosophy shapes our attitude to killboards, our processes for training fleet commanders, and the experience of our line pilots.
The After Action Report
After action reports (AARs) are one of the most important tools we have to learn. We’re not unique in doing these, but our attitude to failure means that we can be brutally honest in our AARs. Promotion of FCs within GSF and the Imperium is in part linked to the quality and candor of their AARs – people that are not afraid to make mistakes, and demonstrate a willingness to learn from them make it farther and faster than someone who wins every single engagement.
Our line members are encouraged to give feedback to the FCs as part of the AAR process as well – often, they had a different perspective of the fight than the FC, and that gives us a clearer picture of what happened.
I hear it repeated over and over again that we don’t care about killboards, and it’s largely true. Sure. we’re aware of them, we’ll brag about a good kill or a fleet we dunk, just like anyone else would. But we don’t obsess over them. Nobody gets kicked for “making our killboards look bad”, nobody gets kicked for not having enough kills, nobody gets kicked for ISK efficiency or K/D ratios. These things simply aren’t important to us.
The things that are important are accomplishing objectives, having fun, and being able to provide the best experience possible for our members and allies on and off the battlefield.
We use a participation tracking system rather than killboards to establish whether or not pilots are active, and that activity is tracked against forum accounts, rather than characters. We’ve been criticized for this, but, the experience here has been that it’s a more fair system than trying to infer activity levels from killboards, because it accounts for the pilots who step up to do vital support roles rather than whoring on kills.
Goonswarm Federation and its allies have had a Ship Replacement Program (SRP) of some sort or another for as long as I can remember. In the current iteration, there are basically two types of SRP. Strategic and Peacetime.
Strategic SRP is designed so that in conjunction with insurance, it will fully cover or exceed the replacement cost of a covered hull and modules. Strategic SRP is only offered for doctrine ships, and only for designated strategic ops. This recognizes the necessity of such fleets, and means that pilots that turn up to fulfill our military objectives do so at no personal risk.
Peacetime SRP is set up as an incentive to PVP, and usually doesn’t cover full replacement costs – it’s a supplemental payout that softens the blow of a loss a bit. This helps get pilots into fleets where they can get experience.
Both of these SRP programs are designed to get people in fleets and make it possible for them to afford to make mistakes. Again, here, pilots are encouraged to explain their losses, and what lessons they learned when they file for SRP.
Debriefing and Postmortem Analysis
When AARs aren’t enough to fully understand our mistakes, or when our mistakes happen in other areas besides fleet operations, we sit down together to figure out what happened. This might be an FC sitting down with their peers and line members that were on their fleet and talking it over, or it might be directors meeting to discuss and organizational SNAFU. At all levels, the focus though is on improving our knowledge by learning from our mistakes, and then taking our lessons and making changes so that those mistakes are not repeated.
A good-natured sense of self-deprecating humor is a critical element of our culture. We laugh at our mistakes and celebrate our successes. We die gloriously for the swarm, and sometimes, tell the story for years. I think you have to be able to laugh at failure first before you can give it the right kind of attention – otherwise, things become so serious that the lesson becomes “don’t make a mistake” instead of “learn from your mistakes”.
We say things like “Kick SNOOO” in jest or even as a form of greeting. We remind each other that “Goons are bad at this game” even though were a lot better at it that many of the groups that play.
We have no illusions about being “elite PVP” in Goons. That sort of attitude is frowned upon within our ranks, and mocked when we see it in our opponents. To us, it represents an intolerance of failure. an extreme aversion to risk, and an unhealthy attitude towards the game.
Feeder corps are frowned upon within the Imperium, especially within GSF, because they segregate new players from experienced ones and impede the learning process. There’s no standard of “you must be at least this good at the game to join”, because we know that players will learn from each other and from their own mistakes.
With all that said, “elite PVP” isn’t entirely absent within the Imperium. Some of our sigs and squads have high standards out of necessity. This is driven by where they operate – they are groups that we put behind enemy lines to demoralize our enemies. Even within such groups though, a single mistake isn’t the end of the world, and the emphasis on learning from mistakes remains.
The philosophy of embracing failure has been at the heart of the Goon organization for far longer than most of us have been playing EVE Online, and you can see here how it’s deeply embedded into our organizational structure, culture, and alliance programs.
Failure is how the big lessons in EVE are learned, it is how players become better, and how corporations, alliances, and coalitions become stronger over time. Having the right attitudes about failure and loss allow us to learn more from one mistake than we would from 1000 kills.
To put it bluntly, If you aren’t making mistakes as a pilot or as an organization, you aren’t pushing your limits far enough. You’ve stopped learning, you’ve stopped improving.
Learn to take sensible risks. push your boundaries until you fail. Then pick yourself back up, figure out what you did wrong, and then figure out what you have to do to get better. That’s how you become better in a game just as in real life.