Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cast the first stone...

Gaming news and the current media environment make strange bedfellows. There was a time when CCP was a sort of media darling, at least from my vantage point. Here was a plucky little Icelandic software company that bucked the trend of railroaded MMOs and gave its players a massive sandbox to play in. The T20 scandal quickly became the groundwork for the CSM, which got a bit of an eyebrow raise from the New York Times. Later that year, another article set a quite bemused tone about the sandbox with all the crazed inhabitants blasting away at one another's space pixels. In a market that was hiccuping, there was really only Blizzard's juggernaut, aging relics, a series of false-starts, and the plucky little sandbox.

Inside that sandbox in 2007, the T20 scandal was more than a news story, it helped kill one of EVE's own juggernauts. Even Hilmar saw what a scandal could do to an alliance once it reached the media. In the second NYT article he stated (emphasis mine), “What happened first and foremost was that the controversy created demoralization within BOB and a downward spiral because they started to doubt themselves and the legitimacy of their achievements. GoonSwarm’s P.R. campaign was effective in creating this impression, and a lot of people left BOB, I think, because of this idea. And kudos to GoonSwarm for having good P.R.”

Since that time, CCP has had its own share of rough days in the press. T20 began it, but Monoclegate (for which I was admittedly not subbed to the game), general vocal dissatisfaction, falling numbers and their coverage in the press, and the eventual restructuring and downsizing of the company all doubtless took their toll and frayed some psyches over Reykjavik way. Now, after what most consider a step in the right direction with Crucible, Fanfest no doubt caused a few head to desk collisions.

Anyone reading this almost certainly knows what was said by The Mittani, and can generally agree that the statement was somewhere between absolutely reprehensible and in rather poor taste. That being settled, the story has burned through Massively, Kotaku, Ten Ton Hammer, as well as other sites. I haven't seen the crossover into IRL media yet, but with the writers (rather shamelessly) using buzzwords like "cyber-bullying," it may only be a matter of time. Many of these stories, as is typical of the world of the 24 hour news cycle where he who scoops first scoops the most hits, the details get fuzzy and often distorted. The result is that a guy with whom I have had very little personal interaction is getting raked over the coals by the gaming media, and if my fears prove true, perhaps soon the mainstream media.

The thing that always strikes me in situations like this is the frank hypocrisy on the part of most humans. Yes, I think what Mittens said was wrong, but as I put it to my CEO as I watched the video, I was waiting for the really shocking stuff. What I saw was a dude in a wizard had surrounded by alcohol bottles make a comment in poor taste that he'd likely regret on his own accord. My somewhat jaded reaction is no doubt fueled by the time I've spent in the rough and unforgiving lands of both EVE and the internet in general. Truth be told, 99% of us have griefed someone in some way in this game and probably thought it was hillarious (the remaining 1% haven't figured out a good method). If the person we griefed were then to convo us and maybe rage a bit, or maybe tell a sob story (true or not), a lot of us would either laugh or simply shrug it off. It's what the now-famous anonymity barrier of cyberspace does to us.

That cruelty gene is inside most if not all of us. I know it's in virtually everyone I have ever played this or any other game game with or against. When someone gets called on a slip-up that exposes his own cruel gene, even in a manner pretty clearly meant to be humorous, we pounce. We want that person dragged into the street and ridden out on a rail because it's cathartic to us. Afterwards, we get to tell ourselves we're better people because we stood up to the cyber-bully. Truth is that Alex "The Mittani" Gianturco may have a wider mean streak than most of us. After all, his exploits scamming, spying, and generally wrecking other alliances is legendary. Underneath, though, he's just a guy. Personally, I believe the contrition in his apologies, and think that he has gotten a fairly good taste of how the other side lives. My only hope is that it doesn't change him. Despite what we might stand on the internet mountaintop and shout, there's a little of The Mittani in all of us.

Enjoy your break, Mittens. We'll be waiting for you on the flip side.

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