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.
BATTLE REFOUGHT ON EVE FORUMS
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:
- Ruune en Gravonere: “So quick question… how much do we need to bribe ‘cough’ donate to CCP to counter what Mittens has paid you to make this war go exactly as he wants it to go”
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:
- Damian Ibram (a member of Pandemic Horde): “how about you tell your goon buddies to stop ECM bursting and crashing the node”
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.
THE BLAME GAME CONTINUES
Here’s a sampling of other posts in the thread:
- “JACKDAW” DAVE ARCHER kills Node
- just in the nick of time to save the goon keepstar…friggin’ axxholes
- thats their standard practice, cannot handle anything going against them, so they go out of their way to crash server.
- Goons did it… dirty goons
- Compensation needs to be issued to all attackers, and Goons should be held accountable
- What are you smoking? It was NC that smartbombed. You do realize that action that delivered the final blow on the node was executed by NC smartbombs?
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:
- Mashiro Rima: “Gigx got perma banned. Mittens got ‘punished’”
- Maxwell12: “he should have been permabanned”
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:
- Hahahaha. When we [Goons] were attacking PANFAM keepstars and had the exact same issue then [the server] was “working as intended, adapt you stupid goonies.”
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.