I was inspired to write this article after hearing that the name “Goonswarm [OHGOD]” had been captured. On February the 26 the former holder of the corporation name lapsed on a payment to maintain possession of the name. Subsequently, on March 8 someone, upon seeing the lapsed payment, has now taken the name “Goonswarm” with a new ticker “[GOONS]” and simple logo.
There was an historical irony to this event. Long ago, Goonswarm’s largest rival, Band of Brothers [BoB] lost its name to a Goon. Band of Brothers hadn’t only been disbanded, they had their name taken. Rumor has it that the Goonswarm name is on its way into the possession of SirMolle, the former leader of Band of Brothers.
The Power of Names
There is a power in names, a power hard to define but not hard to feel. Different cultures throughout history have expressed, often rather beautifully, the power of names and their affects on the mental/emotional life of human beings. In ancient Egypt, for instance, it was believed that each god had a secret name, and could gain power over another god, or even themselves, by wielding that god’s secret name. Indeed, in one myth the goddess Isis tricks the sun god Ra into revealing to her his secret name by plotting to have him bitten by a venomous snake and only aiding him with her healing words of power on the condition that he reveal his secret name.
In the Jewish religious book of Genesis, the father of Judaism and monotheism, originally named “Abram” is renamed by God: “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:5). Abraham’s wife is also renamed a few verses later: “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are also no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. . . . I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her” (Genesis 17: 15). This renaming becomes a continuing theme and practice within Jewish religious literature; when a character undergoes a fundamental shift or encounter with God, their internal alteration is reflected in a name change as well.
Linguist Ernst Cassirer discusses names in his book Language and Myth (published 1946), noting: “When, in Roman law, the concept of the ‘legal person’ was formally articulated, and this status was denied to certain physical subjects, those subjects were also denied official possession of a proper name. Under Roman law a slave had no legal name, because he could not function as a legal person.”
Names and Their Significance in EVE
Naming and renaming play a central role in the spiritual life of EVE as well. I say “spiritual” because, while names are not ore and battleships – which it can be argued construct the landscape and power of EVE – it is the names and stories of names in EVE that contain the most life in the minds and hearts of EVE’s players. Names like Jade Constantine, Chribba, The Mittani and SirMolle, at their very mention, have the power to generate diverse and strong reactions in players. Players will often remember the names of players that have killed them or wronged them, befriended them or helped them, for the rest of their lives. Names of alliances, even those given in jest and mockery (papi, passpi, etc.) invoke a number of memories and emotions in players.
EVE has also seen some significant renaming: The Imperium, formerly known as the “Clusterfuck Coalition” being one such example. Such a renaming could be thought of with reference to Cassirer’s concept of “mythic consciousness.” He says, “the mythic consciousness does not see human personality as something fixed and unchanging, but conceives every phase of man’s life as a new personality, a new self; and this metamorphosis is first of all made manifest in the changes which his name undergoes.” Perhaps the external name “The Imperium” was an organic reflection of internal changes wrought by multiple cultural revolutions.
The repossession of the Goonswarm name is an important historical event in the symbolic life of EVE Online. No, it has no bearing on the war, nor does it affect how the game is played. But, hearing about the stolen Goonswarm name makes me smile at the irony, while also making me a bit melancholy, even nostalgic, for a period in EVE history that I never had the pleasure of experiencing. I find something somber and sobering about the stealing of EVE names; I may go as far to say that there is something wrong about stealing names, no matter who is doing the stealing. Perhaps I am unique, and simply am more susceptible to a kind of “mythic consciousness” which EVE always seems to promote in me as I play it and learn about its history. But I think EVE is the kind of game that generates a “mythic consciousness” in most of its players and the names of EVE scar the landscape of our mythic, mental life.
A Modest Proposal
Whether they hover benevolently in the dusty corners of alliance-member lists, as if watching over us like ancestors and kings of yore, or whether they are placed triumphantly on trophy shelves of our enemies like a mounted head, names cast a shadow over us. While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, the same is not true of names in EVE. Altered names and the changing possession of names alter their legacy and how they are remembered. I am currently an enemy of the Imperium and hope my alliance defeats them; however, while I wish to kill the enemy I don’t wish to kill their name, nor do I think it right to take their name in victory. Everyone deserves to live or die with their name in their own possession.
I therefore propose that there ought to be a returning of the names that have been stolen. BoB is dead and the old Goonswarm has been supplanted by its modern counterparts, but the bones of these ancestors ought to be returned and buried in their homelands. I call for The Mittani and his alliance and the new holder of the name “Goonswarm” to yield up their stolen names in a proper and rightful exchange. I propose this not as a PAPI or Horde representative, but as a lone individual EVE player who has a deep respect for the history of the game.
“Polynices is dead. Don’t revenge yourself on his remains. You can kill a man once, and once only. Is there any glory to be gained by defeating a poor corpse?”