Art by Major Sniper
The horn has been blown and, apparently, many Imperium members are answering the call. But old Goons aren’t the only ones who’ve heard the sound of the horn. Calls for aid aren’t shouted into an empty void; the Imperium’s enemies have also heard The Mittani’s horn – and their mouths are salivating, perceiving the call for aid as a sign of weakness.
This double-edge sword is one of the problems when making any kind of announcement, distress call, rallying cry, etc. They always cut both ways. Vily’s confidence on TiS when talking about his forces’ position in this war could just as easily be interpreted as brazenness in the face of biting off more than he (PAPI) can chew. On the other hand, when The Mittani blows the Horn of Goondor, it can be interpreted as a sign that the Imperium is in more trouble than previous rhetoric let on. Getting a sense of what is really going on in EVE is complex because the content of these public messages and declarations are distinguishable from the ends those messages are trying to achieve.
Let me explain what I mean. I think any perceptive EVE player is suspicious about any and all dialogue during wartime, especially when that dialogue is coming from those with platforms like The Mittani, or Vily, etc. – anyone to whom people actually pay attention. Players are suspicious of this dialogue because information is also another form of warfare. To shake confidence, to demoralize one’s enemy, and to encourage your own troops: all this can be done with the spoken word. And because of the power of rhetoric, I think EVE players often consume messages from leaders and spokespeople with less an emphasis on the content of the message than the context of the message.
Let me go through some examples. As a member of Pandemic Horde (PH), I am not overly encouraged by Vily’s professed confidence in PAPI’s chances in this war; I think he comes across as glib. Take a look at his interview on a recent TiS. If someone suggests the Imperium is doing something well, Vily affirms it’s of no consequence. If the Imperium is getting some skilled FCs to engage more within Imperium ranks, Vily attacks their decision making capabilities. When conversation turns to The Mittani’s Horn of Goondor, Vily says: All Goons did was take their old email list to anyone that’s off and sent them an email; it’s not like a massive project. It’s a little bit spammy, mind you.
Materall: Well, [the Imperium] got some good will out of it; I mean, they picked up a trillion in change from [one older Imperium member].
Vily: I mean, power to them . . . Ya know, it is what it is. They put out the call; some people answered and gave them money and I’m happy for them. They’re gonna need it all. More likely to get us an interesting war.
Time after time, Vily refuses to concede anything to the enemy; and he comes across as less credible and blithe, even if he believes everything he is saying. As Vily’s ally in this war, I want everything he says to be correct; I also share his confidence. But that confidence is tempered at least with some acknowledgement of the Imperium’s capabilities. I believe PAPI’s chances are good, but Goons aren’t fools; they rank among the best EVE players in history and ought to be treated as such. Rhetorically, Vily sounds like his words are meant to keep morale solid, not give an objective analysis of the situation – like this is the Vily he wants us PAPI members in the rank and file to hear, not the Vily that would appear in strategic meetings. Let me be clear: I’m not insinuating Vily speaks the way he does for the reasons stated above; but the way he presents his message lends itself to that interpretation.
However, in that same interview Vily expresses what I believe many PAPI members are thinking after reading The Mittani’s call for aid:
I think this is a pretty awesome moment in the history of this war, as Goons have kinda realized that, “Ok we’re in deep shit; we need to call every able-bodied person we can get, we need to call in every resource we have. We need to take this shit serious.”
I don’t think that the intended effect of The Mittani’s message was to increase the morale of PAPI. I also don’t think that the intended effect of Vily’s impregnable wall of confidence is to make PAPI members like me feel like he’s not giving accurate information. But both these things are at work, which is why almost any message spoken by leaders cuts both ways. It is the natural consequence of EVE players reading far more into the context of the message than its content.
This situation opens up interesting questions about the net worth of announcements, or rallying cries such as The Mittani’s “Horn of Goondor.” Goons may (likely will) get reinforcements, but at the cost of a morale boost to their enemies (like me). Was that worth it? And did The Mittani think about this unintended side-effect of his message? We probably will never know for sure; no matter which way the war goes we will only be able to speculate. But for a gaming community that values meta-gaming so highly, I think we also ought to appreciate the meta-rhetoric that takes place within that meta-gaming; and we ought to appreciate, and factor in, those hidden costs to every public message we send.