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CAGEO: Drama In New Eden

“Fake News” is today’s hottest buzzword in real-world current events. We all want to think that other people, whose political opinions we disagree with, are the stupid ones. Being on the correct side, we are immune to being taken in by fake news because our opinions are based on facts. Last week I learned that I’m not smarter than that, I was taken in by a ruse that I wanted to believe in. Fortunately, I learned this in EVE Online rather than in the real world. Last week, James 315 confirmed that the massive theft from his alliance that I mentioned on February 18 was a ruse. In my own defence, I started to suspect something was amiss when he kept posting his daily blog without even mentioning what should have been a huge event. But really, to be honest, I fell for something I read on reddit because I wanted to believe that I was witness to something really big happening in the EVE universe. It wasn’t true, or at least what I believed was happening wasn’t what was actually happening. The space mafia is stronger than ever. Thank goodness.

Reports of CODE.’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

At this point one might be wondering why, as an Alpha clone and something of a high-sec carebear I care so much about CODE. and vacillate between describing them using terms normally reserved for organized crime, then heaping praise on them for being in the game. It’s because nobody sold me on EVE properly before I started this series. It was sold to me as a game about spaceships and industry, which I don’t think it really is at a fundamental level. It’s a game about drama, framed by a risk vs. reward gambit. That there are pretty starfields and spaceships with lasers that go pew-pew is just the package it comes in. It’s not fundamentally about that any more than 7 Wonders is fundamentally about building classical monuments. The CODE. alliance plays a big role in making high-security a place of drama rather than a place of mindless grinding for ISK. There are other groups out there, this just happens to be the one I continue to find to be the most entertaining.

For more experienced players with fewer restrictions on their gameplay (have more time to put in, more in-game friends, willing to pay for a subscription), drama is still the main attraction. The New Yorker Radio Hour’s piece entitled Populists Stage a Coup in Space provides us with a story about Goons and BoB (two large factions in null security space). I highly recommend giving that a listen whether you are a veteran EVE player or will never play the game and only ever read about experiences on blogs and news sites. They go out of their way to explain what the story is about in plain English, much like I try to do. People don’t play EVE for the same reasons that they play other games.

Although the player in this RPG is a custom character and has choices to make, there are predefined paths to follow and a finite number of win and loss conditions determined by the game designers. Drama exists in the moment, but is in the end a theatrical experience. (Baldur’s Gate Enchanced Edition)

This all stands in contrast to games which are theatrical rather than dramatic. Most other video games are theatrical. Western CRPGs typically feature character customization and branched narratives, but there is fundamentally a beginning and an end to each instance of the game. It can be dramatic during play, but it always comes to a conclusion. Players can make choices, but in mot cases the ultimate arc of the narrative will have been something pitched, written, and designed for the player.

Neither CODE. nor the The Great War were scripted by a developer. These factions and events are 100% generated by other players and therefore have a sort of realness that a scripted story can’t attain. And that’s why the Kusion Ruse is a cautionary tale. Using the magic of science fiction can help people think outside their normal boxes. It’s easy to be smug about being a North American liberal when you see the facts as being on your side. But in this case I don’t get to be proud of myself for being smarter than those other people who believed in the absurd things like Pizzagate. I have never fallen for a player-created ruse within a game like this, but having experienced it myself, it reminds me to keep my pride under control before writing off “those fools” as idiots not worth listening to. It doesn’t mean giving up on having opinions and voicing them, but it does mean occasionally checking to see if the idiot in the room is me. I can’t say that I have ever had this kind of insight caused by playing simpler, more theatrical games.

As I am approaching the end of the road for skills that Alpha clones can learn, the next post in this series will be the last. That is not to say I will never write about this game again, but on a less frequent basis. It is my hope that people have found this series to stand out from the many other pieces written about this game. The resources on how to play the game are vast and mostly indecipherable if you don’t actually play the game. It is my hope that the Casual Alpha’s Guide is a good reference for why a person would play the game and why it’s an interesting concept for study by people who don’t play.

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