Groupthink in EVE Online


Header Art By Quendan Comari

On August 21, 2020, a battle took place in KVN-36 which resulted in a crashed server node. An analysis of the reactions to the crash demonstrates the power of groupthink in EVE Online. Put briefly, we see what we expect to see, or possibly more accurately, what we are conditioned to see. Psychology Today defines groupthink as “a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people make irrational or non-optimal decisions spurred by the urge to conform or the belief that dissent is impossible.” The server crash clearly prompted some “irrational” responses.

No one knows why the server crashed, making this particular battle an interesting one to analyze from the perspective of post-battle reactions. We cannot declare that any group “won” or “lost,” though we can say the end result was favorable for Goonswarm, as the technological failure resulted in the repair of the armor timer.


After the crash, the EVE forums started blowing up with a variety of comments regarding the battle. These comments fall into several clear categories: 1) copious complaints against CCP for poor service, 2) recriminations against Goons, and 3) recriminations against the blue donut (non-Goons). 

I see the latter two categories as a form of groupthink: people see what they want to see, or are programmed to see. Let’s look at some actual posts:

After a few irate posts which complain about CCP’s service, we get the first attempt at finding fault. Oksara Twim, a member of Perkone, was quick to blame Goons. This poster supplies no evidence for why we should blame Goons; nevertheless, they strike out wildly at the dark forces working against anyone not a Goon. In all caps, too! Sounds like a kind of “deep state” attack reminiscent of current American political conspiracies, but I digress. 

A later poster follows up on this line, but focuses on the head Goon himself, The Mittani, despite the fact that The Mittani didn’t participate in the battle:


According to this mode of “thinking”, The Mittani bribed CCP to “crash” the server node, which clearly saved the Goon’s Keepstar. Remember the definition of groupthink: “a phenomenon that occurs when a group of well-intentioned people make irrational or non-optimal decisions.”  The above post makes no sense in a logical world. IF The Mittani could bribe CCP, why wait until virtually all of Fountain had fallen into PandaFam’s hands? But to make a counter-argument to an irrational idea is itself irrational, so I won’t provide any other critiques of that particular line of thinking.

Many posters provide their own take on the blame game. Responding to a Snoogs post, Axhind, a Goon from Eternity corp, writes:

To give Axhind credit, his post goes beyond mere finger-pointing and suggests a reason the server node crashed. Since Axhind is responding to Snoogs, a member of TAPI, the “don’t spam drones and SB’s” implies that TEST’s side crashed the node by spamming drones and smart bombs. Once that suggestion is on the table, the number of blaming posts really skyrocket. One poster clearly liked the idea that something fixable crashed the server, so he riffs on Axhind’s post with this counter:

So, Goons believe the blue donut crashed the node with their smart bombs, while TEST/Legacy/PandaFam believe Goons crashed the node with ECMs. We see what we want to see or are programmed to see. 


Here’s a sampling of other posts in the thread:

While it may seem ludicrous to blame one side or the other for a technological failure, some of the above posts attack specific individuals, as if the behavior of a single pilot could have this type of catastrophic effect on the server. If one pilot, like Dave Archer, is so powerful that he can choose to crash a server node at will, I again wonder where he was when Fountain fell.

We note that wherever a poster blames NCdot or TEST, they are aligned with Goons. The reverse is also true: blue donut-aligned pilots blame Goons in general, specific Goons involved in the fight, or as the posts below demonstrate, The Mittani himself:

The comments fit in with the conspiracy theories, suggesting that The Mittani somehow has CCP in his back pocket or he would have been “permabanned” like Gigx.

When the thread gets back on track, Axhind (probably the most logical poster on that particular thread) sums up the problem illustrated by many of the over 300 posts on the thread:

As Axhind’s post suggests, groupthink allows for some people to do a complete 180 degree shift in thinking, finding  what was previously accepted to now be outrageous, all the while maintaining a self-righteous sense of correctness. Very few of the posters on this particular thread show any independent thought. Most seem content with ad-hominem attacks, grossly illogical statements, or claims unsupported by evidence. Kudos to any poster on that thread who endeavored to use logic or provide evidence and examples.

Psychologist Dr. John Grohol notes: “conspiracy theorists come up with ideas out of thin air to match whatever ‘fact’ they think is true, and often use paranoia-based beliefs to convince others.” Conspiracies and groupthink can be comforting in a way. In the battle at KVN-36, hundreds of pilots ended up wasting hours of their precious time only to have the server node crash. If they cannot find a bogeyman to blame, they might decide the next battle for a Keepstar isn’t worth the effort and that thought is too unsettling for some people to handle. To blame is to find a reason for an unreasonable or random event. It’s comforting to blame The Mittani for the server crash, or G5 for the spread of Covid.

A forum thread is not a site meant for informed debate. I get that, but still . . .

This small squabble over a video game is being repeated over much larger world issues: global warming, Brexit, Trumpism, Covid-19. People see what they want to see or are conditioned to see. Maybe we should try a little harder to be more logical even in our video game rhetoric and see if we can gain better rhetorical skills than those that lead to groupthink.

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  • Caleb Ayrania

    Killah-bee who was actually in the fight FCing for PAPI, came on TiS and explained what he suspected had happened. There was already a lot of servercalls from ECM and Smartbombs, but the last PAPI/NC Smartbomb run was most likely what killed the servers. That is IF its even a traditional “lag issue” and not something new that is causing increased lag and clutter.

    My personal suspicion is that its tied to the BS frigate bays, that force a ship on field that is very variable in fits, and skills etc, and which most likely has a higher priority on the server than other calls. Thus the BS exchanges and the Smartbombs, and ECM combined made the server go Guru.meditation and die!

    September 5, 2020 at 7:55 AM
    • Menaiya Caleb Ayrania

      Caleb that does seem to be one of the more likely points. There’s a reason why citadels in wormhole space take a long time to spawn all of the loot containers. I expect the added burden of moving a player’s point of view to a spawned ship in tidi just added fuel to the raging fire on a server.

      September 5, 2020 at 5:07 PM
    • Gray Doc Caleb Ayrania

      Interesting theory and coming from Killah-bee, I put great weight in it. He always gives thoughtful responses.

      September 5, 2020 at 7:37 PM
  • Rammel Kas

    Funny how things turn full circle. Bit over a year or maybe two ago NC. saved a keepstar in Clown Ring in nearly exactly a similar fashion. Record-breaking numbers showed up from either side but the server node also started disconnecting people, then crashed. Only that time it was believed the straw on the camel’s back was an intrepid group of Pandemic Hordelings fitting ECM frigates, putting bounties on each other and going to a deep safe in the system to “fight” each other with the ECM bursts. CCP muted the said wardeck and bounty systems for the next fight and it scraped by in sub 10% tidi.

    Like this prior instance both sides had reserve fleets waiting to move into the system. Although I think they were all kept quite a few jumps from the area to try avoid this exact loading issue. I’ve been to a few of these now and it seems that either side do usually try to manage or take steps to mitigate the worst perceived problem weapons if they aren’t critical to their battle grid.

    That being said the KVN fight was already starting to show missed commands and red-cycles as the massed Ferox fleets warped onto the keepstar at 0km to fight the Imperium Supertrains, and the combined Ferox, Hurricane and support fleets started breaking tether to take the fight. The NC smartbomb run itself was simply the final straw and shit happens. It wasn’t them by themselves. There were massed carrier fighters out. There were bomber fleets. There were keepstar weapons and people warping fleets off grid all the time.

    But having been in these for so long I can say there’s a bit more tolerance for things going :ccp: wrong in Imperium veterans who have been to X47 and several such fights. You clump the critical mass of pilots into a grid fight you have to accept this is a potential outcome and deal with it.

    September 5, 2020 at 10:21 AM
    • Garreth Vlox Rammel Kas

      “Only that time it was believed the straw on the camel’s back was an intrepid group of Pandemic Hordelings fitting ECM frigates, putting bounties on each other and going to a deep safe in the system to “fight” each other with the ECM bursts. CCP muted the said wardeck and bounty systems for the next fight and it scraped by in sub 10% tidi.”

      But that’s really difference here isn’t it? In KVN the server collapsed under normal circumstances of Fleets killing the enemy with smart bombs that pushed the server just a little too far, in X47 there was a clear and intentional effort by one side to overwhelm and break the server with the goal being node collapse.

      September 5, 2020 at 11:30 PM
  • Simon Chui

    Groupthink exists because being factually correct is often less immediately conducive to one’s survival than being a member of the angry mob, as opposed to being it’s target. Vocal independent thinkers end up being attacked from all sides, and when people finally realise they were right after all, they get a nice epitaph.

    September 5, 2020 at 11:06 AM
    • Menaiya Simon Chui

      That is a very apt way to describe it. Though the term Groupthink seems very Orwellian in origin. People are less concerned with “facts” that others bring compared to their own. The lack of research into a topic is what has really become an issue.

      September 5, 2020 at 5:05 PM
    • Mick Simon Chui

      Many politically polarized people will admit as much – the only thing they hate more than the other side of the debate is a centrist.

      September 7, 2020 at 1:01 AM
  • Alaric Faelen

    There is one factor that unites all these people, regardless of what ‘side’ they are on…..they all take this video game WAY too seriously.

    September 5, 2020 at 1:09 PM
    • George Ewing Alaric Faelen

      Yea? Well if you don’t, maybe it’s not the right game for you 🙂

      September 5, 2020 at 6:40 PM
  • Mittani bribed CCP to crash node with ISK, the in-game kind.

    September 7, 2020 at 7:37 AM