In EVE Online we are all well and firmly conditioned to the term “EVE is Real”, it’s been repeated by the CCP marketing since it was coined in 2011. The following is about how much deeper and more complicated that term really is. The choice of using Alex “The Mittani” Gianturco as the example, is based on the fact that he is among the very few visible and publicly known enough to act as such an example. Most if not all EVE players will be able to nod in recognition, and find examples from their own circles, if not basically identifying with it personally.
Maybe this is the most watered down and totally undermined term in popular culture. Role play (RP) is plastered on pretty much everything that is supposed to get geeks diamond hard, and run salivating to the shelves and after that the checkout, swiping their credit cards. MMORPG, massive multiplayer online role playing game, is the label on the EVE Online box, and yes I have one of those anachronistic things. As a label it really does not say a lot about what is inside this cookie. In classical terms playing a role, is supposed to be akin to acting, and in geeks around the dinner table, that is meant to be mostly in dialogue and imagined actions in the imagined collaborative narration set up by a gamemaster. In the online game variant, that means a lot of people running around doing things while adding the Out Of Character (OOC) or (In Character) IC tags in front of lines of text. Thus taking the dinner table narrative into something slightly bigger, but more disconnected and less intimate socially. However in early EVE a lot of players, as well as in other games, decided to ignore the RP part of the game label, and just not care about when they were in or out of character. This segment have grown steadily bigger, and the original RP and lore groups are not major in most online games anymore. In other games this fact matters very little, but in EVE there is something more afoot.
To really understand what is going on in EVE it is important to know a little bit about larping, especially the more hard core oriented type. Taking the role play into real life, staying in character, dressing up, and all of that crazy stuff, that mostly resembles method acting, is called live action role playing, or larping. Aside from the traditional running around dressed like elves and orcs, and waving fake styrofoam swords, there is a few groups that do more contemporary settings, and especially relevant to us is the World of Darkness (WoD) setting. Larping in WoD, is a rather interesting subset of the larp crowd, and tend to overlap with some interest groups in the fetish, BDSM, and Goth alternative scene. Its natural that these overlap from the lore and themes in WoD. The players attracted to WoD is also a prone to take things a bit more serious, while maybe not as far as method acting, but close.
It is perfectly possible to become an involuntary participant in WoD larp scenarios, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not at first noticing that something is strange. Before you know it someone could be puncturing your skin, or dragging you off to the “upper floors” for some nsfw aspects of in character activity. In short the nature of the contemporary tend to blur with reality, and some of the players can have trouble setting it aside in their real lives.
Hard Core Roleplaying
The wording of this practice is a bit confusing following the larp and fetish scene description, it is not actually as hard core as the term implies. In roleplay, going hard core is defined as taking your real life persona and skillsets and merely extrapolating and exaggerating these. This, so you become a heroic variant of yourself, and will need very little prep work to perform in character. Reason this type of roleplay is interesting is that it gets rather intimate, without an easy IC cop-out, and thus ties back into the above fetish and goth group’s activities. It’s easy to understand how and why these things can become a slippery slope, from one degree into more weird and exotic areas.
In EVE when we start playing we can choose to actively and voluntarily be part of the RP scene, the one that does the lore and stuff, and uses the natural safety of clear lines between character and player. However many opt out of that for many reasons, the most obvious one being “effort” or lack of experience with actual acting or role playing. Problem is that even if you opt out, you are involuntarily being drawn in, by the scenario that emerges as players are active in EVE – emergent gameplay. Just like the above mentioned accidental larping, you think everything is normal, until you start noticing that it is not. The most obvious way you start noticing you have crawled down the rabbit hole is, when you start reacting naturally to your in character name, even outside the game universe. Expanded on that is, when you stop even caring or wondering what your EVE friends real names are, because even when you are told, you keep calling them by their character name. This is where the important bit becomes clear, EVE players are ALL roleplaying, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.
This phenomena is, to the best of my knowledge, unique to EVE Online. It stems from the importance of extended social interaction. In other games logging in and out practically resets things, and whether you raid on a wednesday or friday, there is no real difference. The events you missed one day is not relevant to you today. In EVE everything is historical and all events are unique, regardless of how minor and at a glance insignificant. (ed. The Damsel in distress missions not considered) Not only does this change your attitude towards the game, it changes how you think about your character, or indirectly by how you think of all the other players. It is this effect that eventually develops your character into a “hard core character” a version of yourself, with different activities than in your real life. As you play the game for many months and years, the experiences you gather from the game and its players become almost as real as what you experience in real life. Sometimes it is even more real, the simulation begets the simulacra, and discerning real from imagined becomes very blurry, if not arbitrary.
Even if you try to distance your acknowledgement of the played persona, you will have experiences in EVE that are beyond normal. It is one thing that you need to come to terms with; the harshness of risking your assets, and the semi forced pvp environment. You will not walk away from your first severe loss, your first time being the victim of a scam, or the first time you make a great heroic kill yourself, without a rather profound emotional response. As things get more complicated and more socially integrated, you find your legs in the game, the experiences start being stranger. You will be betrayed by people you call friends, you will get help from places you did not expect, you will be viewed by others based on your actions, more so than in any other game. The exaggerated persona that shapes itself by your actions, will take on a life of its own. Even though you are still in control, you can not control the ripples you make. Most real life experiences are ofc more “real”, but the degrees of freedom in EVE makes things possible that you might never have the chance to encounter in real life. Whether that is the drama of running a ponzi scheme, the ego boost of being the leader of a big group, or by social engineering causing havoc worthy of a spy novel. In EVE these simulations feel very real, even though we all know it is only a game.
This is where the somewhat accidental emperor of the Imperium enters the story. When the Mittani became the leader of one of the largest organisations in the game, I doubt he expected the attention levels, or the responsibilities he got. As he has shaped his character over the years, the difference between Alex the man and the Mittani the character has grown rather considerably, while still not really being easily discernible. That especially true to the outsiders, that only get the propaganda persona, and the strutting and fretting on the scene. Ironically the Mittani is very much like the real historical Vercingetorix. The myth and appearance of the paraded figure is larger than life, and serves that specific purpose. The space tyrant persona is perceived as real, and the ideologies, the attitudes, quirks and offensive behavior is very real to those that forget or are ignorant of how EVE real play works. The people are deceived or they are so entranced by the simulation, that the fourth wall is never penetrated. When we add the intention of demonizing to “the other,” this self delusion takes on epic proportions.
However the same is in effect from inside the Imperium towards the rest of the EVE playerbase. Terms like plebs, and high sec pubbies, etc are thrown around frequently. The self delusions of grandeur of Imperium is very strong. One specific example of that is when the Imperium financial cabal keeps claiming they are the only long and deep meta gamers in EVE and without competition. In this it resembles real life secret societies and their workings, when someone outs themselves or a group, its because they have already moved on, and just like in real life the collusion of conspirators are not as preplanned and completely controlled as tinfoilers tend to believe. A Bilderberg Group meeting is mostly social, and actions after the event are more tending to interests and community, than any genius master plan. There are plenty of groups and individuals in EVE playing the same meta, and with considerable influence and wealth, it is just not as visible as a Pentagon, Langley, or Vauxhall Cross housed group.
I can promise any new player in EVE that if you stick with it, and crack the code of the game, you will have many years of potential fun and strange experiences, and we did not even cover what happens when all the above spills into real life player meets, truly breaking the fourth wall.
For good examples of what player can expect, check out the links below:
My Story by Modern Inferno
I Goon by Erick Ashmock