Header art by Quendan Comari.
It is a question with two conflicting answers vying for supremacy. Andrew Groen, an EVE historian, wrote the two volume book The Empires of EVE. At the 2016 Fanfest, he gave a presentation about the book, and the lead up to “The Great EVE War” of 2007-2009. Groen says his book discusses “how the first nullsec governments began to form. It’s about how those governments began to come into conflict with each other and how their ideologies began to clash with one another. Because we kind of take that for granted nowadays in nullsec, that nullsec is the way it is because it’s always been that way. But in the early days there were a lot of clashing ideologies about how nullsec territories should be used. Should they be locked down to the mightiest power? Should they be free and open to the public of EVE? There were all these kinds of ideologues and political icons who would come out and espouse their ideologies about how this territory should be used.”
WWB Exemplifies a Philosophical Divide
Our battles today are similar in motivation to the past Groen speaks about. The current WWB is ideologically and philosophically motivated. Evidence even exists in the reasons for the assault on the Imperium, and the annihilation of Goons. It includes statements like: “[Once Goons are eliminated] EVE will finally be a game worth playing.” Or, “[EVE] could be a much better video game than the one we’ve been playing for the past four years”. Both come from TEST senior FC, Progodlegend. (The original Twitch video no longer exists.)
In them, Progod levels a fascinating accusation at Goons. He argues that EVE is stagnating, in large part due to Goon leadership. He claims they are “corrupt[ing] a once-great organization” which now gets lost in “pseudo intellectual musings about empire building in what is supposed to be a f—ing video game.”
Contrast this with The Mittani’s stated reasons for hating TEST. In his July 4 State of the Goonion Address, The Mittani states that Goons are ending the 14 year “most ruthless, vicious, and thorough campaign of revenge in the history of gaming.” He says “we are moving on, emotionally, to our new favorite enemy. I think it’s best for Goonswarm, it’s best for NCdot, and I believe that it’s best for EVE as a whole.” The Mittani levels a number of insults at TEST, but claims that “What makes TEST special is that they are quite possibly the most annoying alliance that has ever existed. That’s because TEST is an alliance made primarily out of badposters, blabbermouths, and backstabbers.”
It is this last element, that TEST are backstabbers, that receives the greatest vitriol. Backstabbing is the cardinal sin, the abomination, the taboo.
Whether or not TEST are actual backstabbers is debatable. That debate, however, misses the point. It is the concept of backstabbing that Goons and The Mittani find so appalling. It is an evil so vile, it’s worth shifting hatred from their former enemies to the new enemy TEST. This is a cultural reaction, one grounded in a specific paradigm of how EVE should be played. Such a hatred pairs rather well with Progodlegend’s exhaustion with Goons’ “intellectual musings about empire building.” A little like Roman imperial culture, the culture of Goons has somewhat of a classical value system: a belief in loyalty, in honor; a hatred of betrayal, and a duty toward vengeance when attacked.
Perhaps Progodlegend has a point: Goons have a culture that takes “Empire building” roleplaying seriously. Politics are meant to be played. Treaties are meant to be kept. Leadership is meant to be respected. And wars are meant to be fought because they make sense economically, to expand the empire, or because political grievances warrant it. Fighting for its own sake isn’t an acceptable motive. It goes against the logic of empire; it is nonsensical. That isn’t how the game is supposed to be played.
Progodlegend, however, asserts that EVE is not about empire building; it’s “supposed to be a f—ing video game.” This centers on a peek behind the curtain. Behind the narrative of empires, factions, and treaties, are people. And the people behind the bureaucracy, and intelligence agencies are just a bunch of video-game players. And they want to sit down for an evening, get into some action, and have some fun. To sit down at one’s computer screen and not have a fight to get into, or some war to mine for, sounds like a pretty boring time.
Why build all these ships , or create all these guns and ammunition to not use them?! Maybe in real life we want peace with allies and only wish to go to war when there are no options left. But EVE isn’t real life. This is a video game; I come here to shoot people! Peace until grievance means no content. It means grinding for ships that we won’t use. It means mistaking this game for real life, real politics. That isn’t how the game is supposed to be played.
To Bee or Not To Bee: That Is the Question
Neither perspective is wrong, per se. However, they are completely different paradigms, different logics, different philosophical conceptions for what EVE is supposed to be. TEST’s actions look barbaric from the perspective of Goon logic. Goons look bad for the game according to the logic of TEST. That is why many within Goon circles are asking: “Even if Vily/PAPI wins, what then? Has TEST thought this through, and thought about who might be attacking them once they’ve created a power vacuum?”
The insinuation is clear. If Goons were taken out it would lead to greater destabilization of nullsec, especially where TEST is concerned. Hence, TEST is shooting themselves in the foot. Whether that is true or not, such an insinuation is positioned within the Goon logic of empire. Within such a logic, such a culture, such a value system, such destabilization would appear to be utterly foolish, irrational, unthoughtful. But the anti-imperial logic of Progodlegend (“this is just a video game”) wouldn’t view destabilization as a problem, but a redemption from stagnation: the real evil.
Whichever cultural logic you use as a lens through which to view this war, the romantic imperial role-play of the Goons or the cynical-realism of Progodlegend, you might end up agreeing with Moomin in his recent article: “The great thing about this situation for me is that I cannot lose. . . . I would have played a small part in one of the greatest gaming moments in history. I fail to see a downside.” Ironically, this sentiment gives some credence to Progodlegend’s argument about how EVE should be played.