Mob Rule

Mob Rule
Politics in a Vacuum

Jordan Deam | 12 Aug 2008 12:41
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For Valentijn Geirnaert, a 23-year-old computer science student from the Hague and CSM delegate, the Council is an opportunity to cut through the PR and give players an unvarnished look at the ongoing development process. "From the developers to the community, its like 'this is what we're doing, this is what we're planning,' and it's always a smooth story with all the edges rubbed off. Sometimes it doesn't always seem completely honest."

Where professional community managers are stuck toeing the company line, the CSM has no such obligation to CCP. "We don't have to sugarcoat anything," Geirnaert says. "We can go to the forums and say, 'You know what, we've touched all these agenda points and CCP will not give us any sort of deadlines.'"

Alex Kravitz, a 22-year-old pharmacy technician from Minneapolis, wanted a direct pipeline to the developers to express his ideas about game balance issues. "Saying things face to face to someone is a lot more powerful than making them glance through all the threads on a forum, find yours, look at it and try to comprehend it that way."

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His participation in the CSM is partly ego, partly a misguided sense of responsibility, (Kravitz claims that if his proposed changes make it into the game, he won't run for a second term) and partly for "lulz" - he's a member of GoonSwarm, a controversial alliance of novice players from the "Something Awful" forums who've carved a place in New Eden for themselves through underhanded tactics and sheer attrition. Or maybe he simply sees an opportunity to make his mark. Whatever the case, he's not beholden to the community at large. "Most EVE players are stupid," Kravitz states matter-of-factly, "and they don't know how to balance the game."

***

There's a buzz in the air on the bus ride back to Reykjavik from Thingvellir, current national park and former site of the Althingi, Iceland's national parliament, for over eight centuries. Dr. Eyjo has just delivered a rousing speech at the site of the Loegberg ("law rock"), the original podium of the Althingi. The brutal politics of EVE, he said, aren't all that different from the tribal culture of the early Icelandic settlers. However, he notes that "might is right" only gets you so far. Centuries from now, Dr. Eyjo said, the CSM delegates might be remembered as the original "chieftains of the internet."

It's an alluring argument, in part because it demonstrates how an enduring institution can develop from a humble thought experiment. In the CSM's case, the "experiment" is quite literal; the Council charter is part of CCP researcher Petur Oskarsson's master's dissertation at the University of Iceland. To Dr. Eyjo, another academic in CCP's ranks, "[Petur's] in a really enviable position for any philosopher. There are not many of them that have the opportunity to work with the ideas that they have with a community of 250,000 people."

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