I realized yesterday I haven’t been posting to the site regularly like I should. Many apologies for that. Here I am again to entertain and… more likely to irritate.
My fellow Fly Reckless cohost Priest Kristoph kindly let me stumble through a tirade earlier tonight comparing the EVE Online player protests a few weeks ago to the recent England riots. I’d like to expand my thoughts on the subject, even though the episode won’t air for a few days. For this week’s caveat, I’ll admit to being both non-English and nonviolent. If you choose to see me as uninvolved and biased… I can’t say that’s incorrect.
I was not a supporter of the EVE “riots.” I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people who joined in didn’t even think of the larger group’s various activities as riots. There were demonstrations, but no one was actually injured and ultimately it was little more than players either playing a game in an unusual way or deleting their accounts to contribute towards the proving of a point.
The merit and success of the event is, I believe, debatable. CCP Games, the company responsible for EVE Online, did respond through various media and did make a few concessions as a result, so no one could argue the movement was not at least partially successful. If I went into a bullet list of my specific views on the subject, I’d be here all night, and it’s almost midnight as is.
Before I move on, I’ll reiterate something I said at the start of the thing: everyone who chose to get involved was and remains free to disagree with CCP’s business decisions and practices. I myself take issue with a few of their decisions. I never saw the point in getting angry about it*, and I was not comfortable with the vitriolic response and what I saw as provoking of the community into increasing levels of frenzy. Many people disagree with my view, and that’s fine.
Fast forward a few weeks, and now there are daily reports of real life rioting, mass vandalism and the harnessing of social media to perpetuate a string of violence in England. While I’m not stupid enough to compare the consequences of a player base raising a collective objection to burning store fronts and murder, I do see some commonalities.
First, a major source of each outcry centered around the loss of an individual. In EVE, an individual behaved in such a way that the GM’s felt a permanent ban was warranted. This became a rally cry of injustice.
In London, 29 year old Mark Duggan was shot and killed by Police while being arrested on 4th August, 2011. Some reports hold that Duggan was unarmed at the time, spawning public outcry and eventually leading to riots, looting and lethal violence.
Again, the severity of these events will never be comparable. I’m also glossing over other sources of the EVE Community’s fustration, such as possibile of changes to the game’s payment system (which, coincidentally, is something that I’m particularly concerned about). Also, while I do believe there are similar philosophical points at work, anyone who suggests a permanent ban is anything like the loss of a life needs to go play outside for a while.
Second, both disturbances were fueled by social media. During the EVE controversy, people across many platforms (including podcasts, and I’m certainly guilty of that part myself) grumbled loudly about recent changes to the game, behaving like what we call Bitter Old Vets. This eventually reached a fever pitch, bolstered by supporters of the banned individual harnessing mass communication outside of CCP’s control. Under the banner of having the account reinstated, a growing number of people wouldn’t let the issue alone.
In London, figures as high ranking as the Prime Minister have reached out to companies like Research in Motion (RIM), who produce the Blackberry brand of smartphones, to either shut it’s London social media services down or allow authorities to bypass encryption to track riot organizers. Reports vary on this account, but, as of this writing, RIM has been vocal about cooperating with police without completely doing away with its concern for user privacy.
It’s too early to tell in either case what the long term ramifications will be. While some concessions were made, all I can point to as direct results of the EVE protests were a calling of CCP’s player-elected representation group, the Counsel of Stellar Management (CSM), a few public announcements assuring the community that the current changes would not be taken to feared logical conclusions for the foreseeable future, and a considerable internal review of the company’s handling of public relations. There are many people who will take issue with my opinion here, so I’ll clarify that I’m just editorializing.
The situation in London hasn’t even fully subsided as yet, and may continue to escalate, so sociopolitical forecasting wouldn’t be helpful.
What grand, sweeping moral edict am I going to issue that covers both of these substantially different events that I’ve cavalierly drawn parallels for? None. Earlier tonight, I would have said something trite, like “violence doesn’t solve anything,” but no actual violence was perpetrated in EVE Online. Not only that, but Priest Kristoph, a military veteran and recently ordained Deacon himself, made a surprising amount of sense when we were recording. In his words, “[Actually] violence solves plenty of things [...]”
I’m taking that out of context, but as I thought about it, I realized it was a very valid point. I wouldn’t be able to say “I’m an American” without historical violence, and I believe there are situations in which peace can only be restored through force. It’s an unfortunate reality, but as a professor once told me, “When we make unethical decisions, eventually the only options left to us are, themselves, unethical.”
To put that another way, as I jokingly remarked to a friend this week on an entirely different subject, “What tangled webs we tweet…”
*Except one one episode of Fly Reckless where I had too much to drink and went a bit off the deep end. This is your Uncle Angus reminding you that moderation is a good thing, kids.
- International Red Cross/Red Crescent: http://www.ifrc.org/
- London Riots overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_England_riots
- EVE Online controversy overview: http://massively.joystiq.com/2011/06/25/eve-online-controversy-erupts-in-protests/
- CCP Games: http://www.ccpgames.com/en/home.aspx