Editor’s note: This article was written over a week ago and is not a response to recent events, although timely.
Let’s look at some of the classic pairings, shall we?
PvE and PvP
Hisec and Nullsec
Russians and everybody else
CFC and everybody else
EVE players and WoW players
the 1% and the 99%
We seem to like to have these divides in our lives. I have heard the phrase ‘tribal mentality’ bandied about, but I prefer the simpler ‘us and them’. Either works, as it is a social construct that promotes cohesion and putting yourself at a remove from the ‘others’ or outsiders that are not part of the group. It’s common in nationalism, racism, religious frictions, sports franchises – and in Eve.
There are people who manipulate and prey upon those susceptible to tribalism. We call them leaders. (Or politicians.)
It isn’t all bad; sometimes we do need to be pointed in the right direction. My issue comes when the leaders decide that the right direction is against others just because they are different. Worse is when an enemy is created, just to make sure that our own tribe stays together – and because they are not part of OUR TRIBE then they must be eradicated by any means possible. We don’t always need that. Sometimes we need to work together towards common goals. Fanfest, Eve Down Under and Eve Vegas are excellent examples of when the ‘Us and Them’ becomes just Us.
At its worst, tribalism can wind up working against you.
If you have always painted yourself as ‘the Chosen’, it makes it very difficult to do anything collaborative with those not of your tribe. If you have an antagonistic stance, then eventually you will not be invited to the parties, not be welcome at the table of the hoi polloi you so commonly abuse. This was most recently illustrated by the Fountain War Kickstarter. I honestly wonder how it would have gone if the book had not been so strongly linked to The Mittani and Goons in general. Were they the driving force, or the albatross around the neck of the project? They have often been the creators of an ‘us and them’ paradigm. Either you were a Goon or you were not (and only worthy of exploitation). Their motto of ‘we don’t want to ruin the game, we want to ruin YOUR game’ has come back to haunt them, as they are no longer trusted to not try to live up to that.
Which is, in a way, kind of sad. I like it when we present a unified front to the outside, and don’t look like a bunch of squabbling internet wannabe space-warriors. But some of this comes down to ‘you reap what you sow’. Making it about Us would have been the way to go, but I think it would have had to be spearheaded by someone who actually believes in the concept of Us (more importantly, someone who is known to believe in Us). There are lots who would have qualified – there are a lot of good people in Eve, if you know where to look. Hell, some of them might even be Goons, but they would have had to distance themselves from the Imperium’s current public image to be in any way believable. Maybe by walking across a stage to shake hands with a wormhole alliance they had just joined.
So next time you start feeling the tribal urge? Shake it off, and remember this is a game for people to enjoy. Find new people we can convince to try it and get caught up in the grand scheme of things. Oh, you can have groups and wars and that, but don’t let in-game boundaries become the defining feature of who you are. I am not the colour of a chess piece; I am not a top hat on the board: I am a person, that sometimes takes a side in a game, but still remembers that it is a game and that I am part of a larger community. One that surprises the gaming media and the world in the depth of our betrayals and the twists of our knives, but can come together for a drink and a laugh at the end of it.
There is no ‘them’ – just people who have not yet found their way to ‘us’.