Lessons from the New Eden galaxy about reforming America

Summary: Where are the people who could reform America?  Many of them are playing massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) such as Eve Online, the 21st centuries opium of the masses. How can we recruit them to a greater project, reforming America? This is part one; part two asks Is America experiencing a failure cascade?

EVE Online


“The soft enchanting fetters of the mind …”
— “Epistle to Joseph Hill, Esq” by James Thomson (1700-1748).

MMORPGs are the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. They are the opium of the people.”
— Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843).


About EVE Online


Opening of “How to Destroy a Community“, Tim Maly, The New Inquiry, Volume 17, 5 July 2013

Sometimes, Alex Gianturco is a space tyrant. As The Mittani, he is the former spymaster and current CEO of the Goonswarm Federation, one of the largest player alliances in the hypercapitalist space opera EVE Online.

EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing Game (MMO). Every EVE player exists as the commander of a space ship in a single galaxy called New Eden. Players can mine asteroids, hunt NPCs or trade goods to gain money in order to improve their ship, and their character improves over time, as in any other MMO.

But while most big MMOs work hard to minimize player suffering, Eve doesn’t. EVE is beloved for the possibility (and fairly regular occurrence) of long cons, multi-year animosities, major betrayals, scams, and ponzi schemes. What attracts EVE’s half-million subscribers is that it is a game of lasting consequences.

… In EVE, when your ship explodes, it’s gone. The lost assets can represent days of in-game effort. Wars are fought over vast swaths of conquerable space. Losing territory and star bases in a war can represent the destruction of years of collective effort by thousands of people.

Alex Gianturco has been the architect of dozens of these defeats. As the ­spymaster The Mittani, bent on the destruction of Goonswarm’s enemies, he has had to devote a lot of thought to the following problem: How do you destroy an organization made up of the undying? Though losses in EVE are painful, as long as players keep paying their subscription fees, their characters can never die. And yet, alliances fail.

{The rest of the article describes Gianturco’s amazing accomplishments in this e-world}

Imagine if we could enlist these people in the most realistic and challenging of games: reforming a nation. There is no game of greater “lasting consequences”. Samuel Adams started the Committees of Correspondence in 1764 with less. People like Alex Gianturco could become leaders, applying their skills and insights on a historic scale.

What fetters of the mind keep them imprisoned in cyberspace? How might we unlock these fetters, offering them a red pill? Post your answers in the comments.

Part two looks at Gianturco’s most important insight, and what it tells us about America:  Is America experiencing a failure cascade?

By Pencilshade
By Pencilshade.

For More Information

For more about Gianturco’s insights and Eve Online see his article Secrets of a Solar Spymasters #20: Inside the Failure Cascade at Ten Ton Hammer, 16 July 2009.

Posts about reforming America

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution.
  2. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity? — Part One.
  3. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step — Part Two.
  4. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity — Part Three.
  5. The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?.
  6. Fixing America in five steps.
  7. A third try at describing The First Step to reforming America.

Can we convince games the real world is as exciting as this?


54 thoughts on “Lessons from the New Eden galaxy about reforming America”

  1. So sad to see this person burning his apparently deep intellect, strong communication skills, and most importantly time; hopefully he is still young. He does at least seem to be monetizing his knowledge which is a very useful life skill! Better than poor Sam Adams who frittered away years and gold before finding his own path…

    I agree these MMOG’s seem to provide a balm to many in the face of “collective helplessness,” to use Mittani’s words. EVE online sounds like a true meritocracy, though, based on communication and game playing ability rather than appearance, repartee, connections, or wealth. The “real world” grants status to a Harvard-educated elite (Sam Adams) and his similarly well-connected second cousin John.

    I think it will be difficult to attract Mittani to the “real world” and it is questionable whether or not he will be successful there. Perhaps the question should instead be how can we leverage MMOG technologies to build semistable political alliances that can be leveraged in the offline world.

    1. “Perhaps the question should instead be how can we leverage MMOG technologies to build semistable political alliances that can be leveraged in the offline world.”

      Wow. That’s the most interesting new idea I have seen in a long time.

      Any thoughts how to do this?

    2. I have to say I’ve never played one of these games, so I’m not speaking from any experience. This is really a question for Mittani’s guest interview on your site, perhaps? [Hope you set that up by the way!!] But I’ll take a stab.

      Our current political system relies on the construction of factions that are stable enough on First Tuesdays to elect representatives. This made sense in an era of slow communication and travel. We now have the capability instantly connect the entire populace should we desire. Could a form of direct government work? Or semi-representative government? More direct action, more dynamic factions, and possibly even with game-like qualities to encourage the herd to participate.

      Imagine a bastardization of kickstarter (direct action) with MMOG (large scale faction construction) and the national legislative agenda.

      1. Seeker,

        That’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we need! The combo of kickstarter and structure of a MMOG is brilliant! Two comments.

        “”Our current political system relies on the construction of factions that are stable enough on First Tuesdays”

        The stability of our two political coalitions is astonishing. Every decade one of them is declared dead, but not only do they not die — but return to dominance. Even descent into madness — like the Democrats under McGovern and today’s GOP — do not serious erode their support.

        “Could a form of direct government work?”

        Technologically possible, but I find that terrifying. The average American has an astonishing degree of ignorance about America, and even more so about the world. I’ll stick with representative government.

    3. Applying Gamification to existing social networks and self-organising groups could be one way of meeting these aims. Groups form around a common need or motivation, tasks are allocated to members and completing tasks provides real or virtual rewards to participants. Once you start including real world interactions directed by the social network/game world, you’ve moved into the realm of alternate reality games, which could also help make the “democracy” elements fun enough to engage citizens.

      The downside to this idea is its reliance on individuals actively desiring to allocate their spare time to the project. This will select against the disinterested, the time poor and the technology poor, who would likely benefit most from such a project. You have the same engagement problem as with current democracy, combined with the fact that your likely competing for slices of people’s entertainment time. The upside to this is that those who stay are likely to be strongly invested in the project and its goals.

      Such a project is also vulnerable to exploitation by corporations, as with astroturfing, given that motivated rich organisations can construct their own structures that simply pay people to participate.

      1. Leper,

        I know little about the theory of organizational dynamics, but have a different perspective on the genesis of a groups

        Organizations are born when the right people meet at the right time. Nothing self-organizing about it. They will find sufficient people who share their objectives, their committment — or they’ve misjudged the moment in history. They must have good leadership. If the leaders are not obvious, then they are not the right group.

        Hence the pattern in history of many false starts before a successful organizations takes root.

    4. Flocci non Facimus

      You do know he is currently invading a region in this game because he just wants money right? He is not a leader, he is a snake.

      1. Flocci non Facimus

        Great point!

        But history shows that many of the most effective leaders are snakes. In fact, philanthropists like Jesus and Ghandi are quite rare. Too few to rely on them.

    5. “I think it will be difficult to attract Mittani to the “real world” and it is questionable whether or not he will be successful there. Perhaps the question should instead be how can we leverage MMOG technologies to build semistable political alliances that can be leveraged in the offline world.”

      If you want to find people like Mittens in the real world…Invade someone. Not some pushover country like Iraq or Afganistan. Invade someone who can fight back.

      It will be messy and a lot of people will die; but you’ll get plenty of strong, competent leaders, a new greatest generation.

      1. Piroko,

        “Invade someone.”

        Can’t argue with that! But it’s too extreme an answer.

        America is what it is because in time of troubles we’ve found great leaders without recourse to foreign war. Andrew Jackson in the great sectional struggle. Teddy Roosevelt in the progressive era. FDR during the Great Depression. LBK during the civil rights struggles. Let’s hope that we continue to do so — and that we continue to deserve such leaders.

    6. He retired at 35 from being an extremely successful lawyer. He’s done the “real world” and did it well enough to be able to leave it behind at a very early age.

  2. EvE toons have no actual needs. This greatly improves happiness (i.e. ability to make meaningful decisions).

    EvE players can drive multiple toons at once. The identity of the driver is not known to other players. This creates a “meta-game” of player – player interactions as well as toon – toon interactions.

    Finally, as the identity of the driver is not known, it does not matter who your father is, or where you went to school.

    1. Ael,

      This is terra incognito to me. Two generations ago I played RPGs, like D&D, and later played computer games (I spent hundreds of hours worried about being eaten by a grue). So I am unclear what you are saying.

      Are MMOs a Darwinian environment, and are the skills there relevant to the real world? If so, might people successful there be potentially useful recruits for action on a larger stage?

      Or are they the equivalent of people skillful at doing crossword puzzles?

    2. Eve is an extreme example, as it is extremely complex and costs money, for this kind of games, there are many free versions of simpler games. The group dynamic is still the same.

      The beauty of these games is that you as player could develope facettes of your person you are not allowed in RL, the second aspect is, that your losses hurt but do not cripple you to the same extend RL decisions would.

      However, the interaction of the characters is very, very real and in my opinion more intense than in role playing games like D&D, Midgard, Call of Cthulhu.., the lack of direct personal contact removes strings.

      The interesting aspect for me is the group dynamic how the clans grow, merge, desintegrate, re-emerge, how social ties develope in clans and often survive the dead of the clan (cooperation in EVE), or in higher organisational units (Alliances in EVE). Most games only give a framework of a few rules (economic, setting, combat), within these rules there is often real freedom to organize a state like structure with “real” government.

      If I were interested in a PhD in psychology, such a game would be my field of study.

      You find very deep thinkers in these games, people who can not only develope very clever strategies in often chaotic environments, but are also able to implement them against other human beings, not only a dump computer.

      I think these games really matter and we should think harder how to channel the creativity people show in these games into RL applications.

  3. The post and its comments reminded me of psychopathologic conditions where forcefully engaging in fantasies, day-dreaming and imaginary worlds (rather than engaging in activities with other persons) signals an attempt to seek a rewarding emotional or intellectual stimulation because one does not get it in real-life.

    If so many people devote that much time and energy to MMORPG, then perhaps they are not stray sheep misdirecting their abilities: rather, they feel and learned that the “real-life” is not an outlet for them and that it looks more like a military barrack where skills are ignored, initiative is shunned, or repressed outright.

    1) The corporate world is heavily regimented, procedural, distrusts informal networks and breaks organizations that are not aligned with its goals (such as unions).
    2) Schools are increasingly organized around inflexible programs that leave no place to originality. And, with X-ray turnstiles and armed guards, they look increasingly like jails as well.
    3) Society is supervised by an overbearing security apparatus that is prompt to assign the tag “terrorist” to any protest movement, no matter how mild.
    4) A calcified political system.

    After all, FM himself reported on his dismal experience with NGO and political parties during the past years. Too many failures, rebukes and disappointments, and it is understandable that people write off usual social venues for fulfillment, and turn to some other place to practice their ingenuity, form a community and get some positive feedback (if ultimately unsatisfactory).

    If this is true, then the task is even more difficult than FM surmises.

    1. ulenspiegel1965

      Guest, you put my sentiments in much better words than I could do myself, thank you!

      I think that MMORPGs have in contrast to real life the advantage that you do not lose too much when you make a wrong decision, it does not mean that you have to suffer for the rest of your life. Therefore, people really live their creativity (constructive and destructive) in these games. In RL they are shy.

  4. Some MMO skills are absolutely useful in the real world.

    I recall watching my 12 year old son being a main tank for a major raiding guild in Wold of Warcraft. This was essentially a leadership position where he would have to organize a 40 person attack on a “boss” and when things (inevitably) go astray react (under pressure) to the emerging situation and adjust the raid tactics on the fly.

    When the raid wiped, he would consult with the raid members, develop a new plan and educate members of the raid party on what their new roles and responsibilities were.

    The full glory of small group politics was on display. Personal agendas, petty vendetta and outside matters all had to be dealt with. (pesky Real Life issues would sometimes pull away vital raid members at the most inconvenient time)

    At the end, he became a fine “herder of cats” and has the skills to be an excellent middle manager. He also hates it. A 40 year career boiled down 40 months of bitter experience.

    I can think of no situation other than a MMO where a 12 year old would be put in charge of 40 adults in order to accomplish a complicated task over a long period of time.

    1. Ulenspiegel_1965


      very good example. You mentioned one very important feature of the game, it makes player anonymous, therefore, people who would not get any chance to prove him- or herself in RL because of age, gender,… has the opportunity in a MMORPG.

      The disadvantage is of course that people in front of a computer have the very strong tendency to act immature, here WoW with many 14-17 years old teenagers is a prime example, how not to handle loss and defeat. From my own experience, a hard core conventional game like chess, here you start with a high percentage of losses, which BTW are analysed by your better team members :-), lead to better personal developement because cheating and partailly quitting is not possible.

  5. In order to operationalize the notion that a MMOG could be developed as a framework for actual RL reform, which is a great idea, there is the bootstrapping problem that the player needs to be able to take an action in RL that has some discernible effect.

    Flash mobs or any other public demonstration lead to imprisonment, harrassment by the government and possible job loss. Swamping the switchboard of the Congress before critical votes? They’d just create a shadow phone system and turn the public off.

    Perhaps coordinated boycotts? Of American consumers?

    Anyway, this is the problem.

    1. Benign goes to the heart of the problem: today there is little support among US citizens for reform.

      Of course this is almost by definition the situation at the start of large reform projects. Such as the American revolution, abolition of slavery, and votes for women. The first stage is not protest, but building a base of support. Outreach, agitprop, organization.

      Guessing (with zero knowledge about MMO gaming), these might be skill sets that gamers have or can easily acquire. Also, many of them might be nodes — aka centers of influence — in groups that would otherwise be difficult to reach AND are potentially effective.

  6. I played EVE for several years. You should do some research on the person before drawing a conclusion. Google ‘Mittani banned’.

    1. Thanks for that info about The Mittani!

      However the point was about game-players as a group, not the Mittani as a person or his success as a game-player. I don’t care about either.

      The question is rather — Speaking as s a gamer yourself (is that still the term?), are gamers a place to look for people who might help to reform America?

    1. What a powerful comment!

      The various forms of Soma might be one of few great innovations of history. As Huxley asked in Brave New World, is revolution possible in a world with happiness pills?

  7. dismas Ofstedal

    Who says these gamers aren’t making the world (because MMORPG’s like EVE are global) a better place? You make it sound like gamers spend every waking moment obsessing about their chosen game. Most of the people I know in EVE are well educated, well employed, and making a huge contribution in their chosen careers. EVE, like any other form of entertainment is but a diversion. At least this one is interactive and based on building and maintaining social relationships. Google ‘Vile Rat’.

    1. Dismays,

      That’s a great point! Which is they are potentially great recruits to a project larger than anything possible in their family and professional lives!

  8. I’m suprised you wrote that thing without mention of Sean Smith (Vile Rat to eve players) he was the chief diplomat for Mittens’ goonswarm as well as one of the casualties of Benghazi. Kind of an important thing to mention if you’re talking about Mittens, or eve in general for that matter, and politics.

    1. Rinnosuke,

      Thanks for the additional color!

      I didn’t mention this because I know absolutely nothing about this world. Nothing but this one article. That’s why I just asked the question and turned it over to people like you, who can give answers.

      What do you think about the potential?

    2. Also Mitani sends his regards, “Apparently I’m supposed to be helping REFORM AMERICA according to some psycho’s blog. I wish I was making this up.

      *** This was a broadcast from the_mittani to all-all at 2013-07-11 00:17:05.200524 EVE, replies are not monitored ***”

      1. Rinnosuke,

        Thanks for posting his answer. That shows that Mitani is intelligent and rational. I suspect that many people replied in a similar manner to Samuel Adams when he recruited for the Committees of Correspondence in 1772. To Benjamin Franklin when he recruited for the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society in 1785. And to William Wilberforce in 1887, when he began his crusade to end the slave trade in British ships.

        Great movements require people with unusually great vision, willing to risk much to achieve unrealistic dreams. At the beginning they’re often mocked by realists.

        I asked if people active in Eve Online might prove a good pool from which to recruit. Of course most will refuse, and return to their virtual playgrounds.

    3. Fabius,

      I think you missed my point there, there is no potential, it’s already happening.

      1. Rinnosuke,

        Easy to imagine how I missed your point, since this is a trip to a new world for me!

        Can you explain what is “already happening”?

  9. “People like Alex Gianturco could become leaders, applying their skills and insights on a historic scale.”

    As a member of Goonswarm… Mittens already IS a leader, and his nation is something of a hybrid between Nazi Germany and the Fremen of Dune.

    Quite frankly you don’t want us leading something IN THE REAL WORLD, because if we were leading something IN THE REAL WORLD, most people would consider us as big a thread as extremist Islam. Because we’re an extreme meritocracy, and extreme meritocracies tend to be derided as sexist, racist, ageist, classist, and elitist.

    1. Mr. Goon,

      Thanks for replying. I think I can explain this, making it somewhat clearer.

      “As a member of Goonswarm… Mittens already IS a leader”

      Yes, that was my point. I said that he (or others from EVE Online) could become in the reform movement, a real world movement with potentially far great effects than anything in EVE Online

      “and his nation is something of a hybrid between Nazi Germany and the Fremen of Dune.”

      OK, here’s where my knowledge (ie, zip) leads to guesses — which perhaps you can answer. Is the behavior of people in EVE Online representative of their real-world persona. Might they apply their skills in different modes when working for America?

      “Because we’re an extreme meritocracy, and extreme meritocracies tend to be derided as sexist, racist, ageist, classist, and elitist.”

      That’s a guess. I would wager much on the other side of that bet. My guess is that the people in EVE Online are mostly regular Americans, with values and behaviors not radically different than in a mix of people in any politically active group.

  10. 1) people play games for fun, and can quit at any time. RL politics and the associated media circus are not fun by any sane person’s definition.

    2) in-game player groups can freely kick people to remove their ability to stir up dissent. in RL politics, you’re subjected to a constant stream of lies and ridiculous conspiracy theories (Fox News, Michelle Bachmann, Alex Jones, etc) and no one can do anything about it because

    3) RL politics is dominated by the extremely wealthy, and those willing to collect payments from the extremely wealthy in exchange for promoting bad public policy. the average MMO guild leader would probably be a much better politician than the idiots in there now, but they have no chance of being elected because they have to work for a living and can’t afford to take a years off and spend millions of dollars on campaign ads.

    1. “2) in-game player groups can freely kick people to remove their ability to stir up dissent. ”

      We can also unilaterally declare thermonuclear war with barely any fear of retaliation. In EVE, Goonswarm stands as a rogue superpower, running dressed as a clown holding the button to the bomb.

    2. Griz,

      “people play games for fun, and can quit at any time. RL politics and the associated media circus are not fun by any sane person’s definition”

      Bang on target! These are essential differences. Offsetting them is that real world success makes a difference in the live of people today and tomorrow. That’s meaningless to most, but vital to some.

      “but they have no chance of being elected because they have to work for a living and can’t afford to take a years off and spend millions of dollars on campaign ads.”

      Don’t be so quick to despair. Reform movements have achieved much in the past against equally or even worse odds. History shows that the power of a people can accomplish miracles.

  11. “That’s a guess. I would wager much on the other side of that bet. My guess is that the people in EVE Online are mostly regular Americans, with values and behaviors not radically different than in a mix of people in any politically active group.”

    You’re wrong. Mittens understands one thing about humanity…

    “A volk is defined by enemies.” -TheMittani

    If you want to lead people, and be loved by them, you have to give them someone to hate. He does that. That hate does not need to be rational, and it isn’t.

    “The greatest scam was convincing our people that we were some how different from them (band of brothers).” -TheMittani

    He understands very well that the average member of SomethingAwful is an angry adult who is tired of political correctness and wants to hate an enemy like our grandparents and great grandparents could. There is nothing civilized or enlightened about it, it’s about being the bigger guy holding the bigger stick making someone else suffer. That’s what we want and that’s what he gives us the opportunity to do.

    If we remade the world, it would look like Heinlein’s world of Starship Troopers, where franchise comes from service. Where you have no vote if you don’t put your life on the line for your country. And liberals like you would hate us for it.

    1. Mr. Goon,

      You might be right, but they remain guesses — assuming that EVE Online is the world. That the participants act in the real world like they do in EVE Online. That’s not true in paintball tournaments, poker tournaments, Diplomacy games, etc.

    2. “You might be right, but they remain guesses — assuming that EVE Online is the world. That the participants act in the real world like they do in EVE Online.”

      The dynamic is no different from Nazi Germany.

      Give people someone to hate, offer strong disincentives for people to oppose the party line, and most people will fall in line.

      You’re saying “you think they act this way in real life”.

      I’m saying “most people can be made to act this way if you do the right things.”

      1. Mr. Goon,

        “most people can be made to act this way if you do the right things.”

        On that we agree! 20th century history shows that people can be reshaped to an astonishing degree by a determined political regime (which EVE Online is, in a virtual world).

        That is one of my big fears, that the US people are in effect being domesticated in this way.

  12. http://tay.kotaku.com/everything-you-hate-about-the-xbox-one-and-why-you-re-509249274

    “When my mother heard the games would be covered at E3, her response was “What’s E3?” Those are the people this event was for. The people who don’t follow E3, and just want to be convinced why they need a cool new toy….”

    Does the mainstream even want to play games? Or only a supersized cable television. One click to channel surf? Premium buttons allow them to block commercials?

    1. Mobilized gamers would be at best libertarians, not reformers.

      The truly oppressed are not busy playing video games, they have more immediate problems.

      1. Good point,but the oppressed seldom revolt on their own. Even going back to the largely futile medieval peasants’ protests, their leaders come from the better-off.

  13. We should all be embarrassed!!! Thinking there is nothing that can be done to save our country!!!Take a look at how a “Pregnant Mom” is taking on some of the most powerful special interest in Texas and beating them. This is a 30 minute video on how to take back America.

  14. I played Eve for several years and was a part of goonswarm’s alliance for a good chunk of that. One of the interesting things about the game was how many different niches people found that made them come back to the game. Some were happy shooting little red dots on the screen, others built spreadsheets to dominate markets, others joined fleets to take part in massive space battles, and some found great joy in infiltrating rival groups and destroying them for fun and profit. A few ended up running the player organizations, though the position seemed to have a burnout rate of every year or so.

    I guess the point is that you could use this to identify people who display a talent for organization or leadership and go from there, though like you’ve commented, few will answer. Though I would point out that goonswarm was the upstart, poorly resourced and poorly trained new entity fighting an entrenched elite. The tactics they developed were interesting in light of that. Propaganda, spies, dissidents, protracted fights that took the fun out of the game for everyone involved. Nothing new really, but interesting to see them developed in the context of a video game.

    I’m also trying to square one of the blogs I’ve been reading the longest commenting on a game I sunk more hours into than I’d care to remember. I think you’ve shrunk my world a bit.

    1. Thanks for the additional color on this!

      This reminds me of the shift from 3gw to 4gw. Unlike the previous shifts, 4gw spoiled the game for conventional players of WAR. Conventional armies have no responded well to the challenge. They have learned to will when fighting domestic insurgents — but not enjoy it. They have NOT learned to win when fighting insurgents in foreign lands.

      How did other corporations respond to the new methods your team introduced to EVE? For example, did they improve internal cohesion?

      How did Goonswarm evolve over time? We’re their methods sustainable, in terms of building a cohesive corporation? Once successful, did Goonswarm become more conventional?

      Can you point to any sources describing this history? Even better, analysis of it?

  15. The first thing to say is I was part of a smaller corporation that joined Goonswarm during its rise so I didn’t experience everything. The second is that I took part in a lot of the interesting bits, but never as more than a bit player. I stopped playing a few years ago so I can’t comment on where things have gone halfway recently.

    The first thing worth pointing out is that goonswarm and the corporations that joined it all came from outside communities, something awful for goonswarm, penny arcade for merch industrial, ars ex discordia from the arstechnica forums etc. It helped establish a feeling of community that was outside the game and served as a very basic screening process for membership.

    It would be easier to show exactly how people responded to the new tactics if I still had access to the forums since periodically we would get the text from forums and in game chat of rival organizations to show the wheels coming off the bus, as it were. It usually started with name calling and deriding the tactics, saying we weren’t going about things the right way. Then there would be rallying of the troops, followed by yelling and finger pointing and threatening to kick people out who didn’t contribute. Then they’d fall apart.

    There were responses, other people built spying networks, conducted sabotage, but there wasn’t the same grasp of the overall structure of how to break an organization. It wasn’t a matter of doing damage, but of doing it in a way that caused people to stop playing or at least play the game somewhere else. I don’t think anyone even when I left had much respect for goonswarm since the average player from goonswarm had less time in game, less income and less skill so people weren’t looking for underlying reasons for the success outside exploits and spies and allies.

    Goonswarm when I became a part was a huge alliance (the main corporation was the biggest in the game) with mostly inexperienced players and what I can only refer to as a dictatorial command structure. It originated in the something awful forums with the primary objective of ruining the game for everybody else (as an aside, second life banned the something awful presence from their game entirely). It was founded on the philosophy that a day one player could make a difference and had a robust system to teach and equip new players to enjoy the game. By the time I left there was still an influx of players, but enough of the people who had played several years ago were still around that a core existed that was on par with any other organization in the game. There was as time went on a tension between staying linked to the simple approach based on inexperienced players and the demands of a large pool of experienced players. They built capital fleets and had the trappings of convention but did not abandon the focus on new players.

    The greatest strength of goonswarm was also the thing that seemed most likely to cause their collapse. Losses were fine, failure was fine, expected even. They would endure and outlast anyone as long as the conflict was ongoing. When your stated goal is to ruin other people’s days, your own failures aren’t important. Once they’d defeated the last big bad standing that had originally opposed them (Band of Brothers) things fell apart. Left to themselves they turn inward and fight amongst themselves. Comparisons to barbarian hordes and religious fanatics are not out of place. If they don’t expand they collapse. Strong leadership or at least a cult of personality could stem the tide to some extent.

    I think that at least somewhat answers your questions. I think it boiled down to goonswarm (or at least its leaders) having a better grasp of the psychology of their opponents and knowing what buttons to push to get them to collapse. In terms of playing the game they started off sub par (this was much less the case by the end) but in looking at everything surrounding the game, including why people played they were better.

    I can’t find any analyses of this history, but two links that give an outline of the history are here:
    http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/goonswarm-eve-online – great-war short with fun propaganda posters

    http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Goonswarm_(Player_alliance) – long and tedious but fairly thorough

    and an article that gives a bit more detail on one specific event.

    1. Wow. That answers all my questions.

      I don’t think the comparison with a barbarian horde is apt. If I understand correctly, these are trolls, invading games instead of blogs. However talented, their motivation to burn rather than build makes them highly unsuitable for any reform movement. In fact, the organization should work to keep them out.

      “He can’t be bought, bullied or negotiated with… some people just want to see the world burn.”
      — Alfred (Michael Caine) speaking of the Joker, in “The Dark Knight” (2008)

  16. Barbarian horde might not be right. I was thinking of a quote from Lucifer’s Hammer about certain organizations needing to expand like locusts or they’ll implode.

    On the one hand I don’t think they were trolls because the people they targeted while I was a part had come after them first. On the other, you’re not entirely off base. I’m also not sure you can categorize all of them by Peachy’s…er Alfred’s portrayal. Some joined to play games with similar people, some joined for a grand cause, and some joined to ruin others’ days.

    Then again that behavior is rampant in online games, the consequences are just slightly more permanent in Eve, so I’m not sure if it should categorically disqualify people or if it’s something about that environment that brings it out.

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