XVI – Where You Been???

Well, gentle reader, the more interesting question might be where have you been.  There’s far more of you than there are of me, so the answers would probably be pretty varied (though if I know EVE players the answer is probably either “at my coding job” or “at my PC playing other games”) and, if the few thousand readers I had before the Dr. Who event made me quit blogging are still alive, delivering all those answers might nearly measure up to the honestly ridiculous length of some of these posts.  Seriously.  Looking back, I’m humbled anyone took the time.

Here’s some theories for where I’ve been:

  • Living in a cabin in the woods with an internet connection that begins to smoke if you say “4K” too close to it.
  • Eating lots of parsnips.
  • Securing funding for a new blockchain-based blog that, shit it just got canceled.  
  • Looking at nullsec propaganda on reddit while I sit on the toilet each morning.  I don’t know why but it encourages me to be less full of… you get it.
  • Going into theorycrafting withdrawal and beginning to suggest things like a chair with two legs, snow shoes you wear on your hands, and at least five different ways to eat parsnips, some of which aren’t considered abuse.
  • Checking my killboard once a month to make sure if my accounts all got hacked at least they’re not feeding ships with badly heat-distributed modules.  That would keep me up at night.  
  • Wondering why parsnips look like Amarr stations…
  • Being the exact same age as BrainStraw and playing EVE for exactly as long.  The things you learn on FC Chat![1]
  • Not thinking about EVE.  Not doing it.  I will not.  Not even if it has my brain hic-scrammed and vindi webbed and… shit.

Ok but maybe the simplest answer is that I’ve not been in New Eden.  Not much.  I’ve played for a few weeks here and there over the last year, but I’ve never kept an account subbed more than 3 months, never redownloaded Discord on my phone, and definitely never consolidated the assets I’ve now got strewn all over the galaxy.  I have learned that the hard way – taking breaks from EVE is the single most disorganizing thing for your in-game possessions, because each time you quit, you’re so disillusioned or busy IRL that the last thing you can do is scan chains, make contracts, move alts, and so on; so, each time you come back, it’s harder and harder to settle in anywhere.  Which is a bigger deal than I thought, because if there’s one thing I’m not interested in paying $20 for, it’s doing a month of space chores moving DSTs full of abyssal mods and dictor hulls out of a half dozen somehow intact wormhole citadels to, I guess, lowsec spots where none of those fits or ships work anymore.  

I’ve found this to be the big oversight of CCP’s decision to move to “retail pricing,” in which they have a high base subscription price and run a lot of sales.  You know what I’m not doing when unsubbed from EVE? Watching for sales.  You know the easiest way to talk myself out of resubbing?  Paying $20 a month or committing to many months to bring that price down when I don’t know if I’ll be playing in a week.  I’m really busy IRL right now, with two jobs, school, and big happy things moving around in my personal life—maybe it’s just me.  But I’ve tried really hard to play EVE again.  I’ve actually tried to do it, not the other way around.  But I just keep missing the sales and then being too proud to impulse-buy when the mood strikes me.  What’s more, I’m not likely to jump back in with a half dozen premium accounts, which means I resub one at a time, play kind of casually, and then drift off again.  If it was easier to (convince myself to) resub many accounts, more gameplays would open up—solo evictions, C5 dread ratting, blops and capitals, all the fits that need a “backpack” booster[2] or other support ship, and all the corporations that need you to play this way.  If I was getting into that stuff, I’d be much more likely to stick around for more than a few weeks, fun as my single-box casual pvp can be.  

All put together, while the retail pricing model might mean more revenue for CCP, better overall prices for players locked in for the long haul, and more or less equal prices for those able to casually watch for sales, it is a significant deterrent for returning veterans.  And there are kind of a lot of us who’ve quit or hugely de-escalated in the last few years.  Most of my friends, anyway.  And when playing, pvp veterans make more content per capita than almost any other group, and carry unquantifiable wealths of gameplay experience and, maybe more importantly, stories about the game that keep others interested.  It sucks that this system seems to make it uniquely easy for them to stay away.

Ok that’s my rant.  I still might resub everything at some point.  But I might not.  I continue to have no idea, whereas during other breaks, two of which were each several years long, I always knew I’d come back full-force at some point.  

But I really missed this blog.  When I quit, I had a half dozen posts in various states of undress in my “Isk Averse” folder.  Over the last year, I’ve touched and tweaked them.  I think I’ve got a few ready to roll.  

Here’s a few ideas I’ve been working on:

  • Videogames, unlike most other mediums, have never existed without capitalism.  That means it’s hard to see what they are at their core, versus how they’re sold and packaged as we’ve ever known them.  EVE gives us a few helpful clues, and these clues both defend it as a project and indict CCP’s uncreative management of it. 
  • What does “content” mean?  How can this word mean both streams, podcasts, memes, and also gameplay?  And, within gameplay, how can it mean both organic fleet fights and new storylines from CCP?  Why are apps like PyFa not considered “content,” and their producers called “developers” instead of “content creators?”  And what is all this content contained in anyway?
  • Why is there a gender binary in New Eden?  Picking male or female, rather than something like a slider, in EVE’s character creation already seems behind modern Western culture IRL.  What would undoing the gender binary look like for gameplay, and how would it help enrich the world?
  • Herding.  In a narrative piece, I’m talking about my work on a farm, and how, on my first day, I took to cattle herding really naturally because it felt like nano, both in positioning and communication with the other farmers.  Humans can be prey or predator animals, and I’m looking at how different fleet psychologies can make us switch, and how prehistoric herding and hunting psychology comes alive in smallgang.  

This fall, I read James Salter’s novel Light Years, which is a brilliant and poetic story set over about two decades of the life of a family living just north of New York City.  In it, they can descend into the city almost like dropping from a pinhole in the ceiling, into this great threshing thing of love and culture and violence and splendor and decay.  This struck me, in part because I went to college a few hours north of the city (further than the characters in the book) so I’ve been close enough to sense that.  Every time you drop out of the woods into the concrete, even just to go to the airport or meet a friend, the city is so different that it’s actually the same; it just keeps going.  I once heard a friend say that living there is like living in the cylinders of an engine with pistons as big as buildings and just trying not to get hit while they fire.  It’s beautiful, it’s raw, it’s totally, totally human.

Ok and just to show how much this stupid game sneaks into everything (though if you’re reading this you probably know… bless you), I was thinking while reading Salter’s novel that living in a wormhole sort of feels like living just outside of the city.  It’s not just a neat sort of gameplay, in which you’ve got a conveyor belt of doors like in the end of Monsters, Inc. that open all over the galaxy.  It’s like a reality within a reality within a reality.  It’s like living in an impenetrable dream with your ten best friends, waking into different places every few minutes until you find one you… want to go kill everything in.  Or haul stuff through.  Or map out for your friends.  And known space—the rest of that universe your wormholes drop you into—that is, when the game’s healthy, also a great, threshing thing.  I literally don’t think it’s all that weird to say dropping into New Eden, from real life or from a niche within it, is a little like dropping into NYC: the world is manifold, vicious but in a way that bring the best out of people, full of scams and pitfalls and masterpieces and great thoughts and performances, the setting of so many great stories.  And, without you, it just keeps going.

Having EVE in your life is like that too.  It’s like having a secret.  It’s like having a dream with thousands of other people at the same time, that the outsiders only know about if you, like me, ramble about game mechanics until your very patient girlfriend knows more about ansiblexes than the average CCP executive.  (Bless her, too.)  So that’s the argument for keeping a relationship with the game.  Even if you’re not gaining wealth, scoring kills, getting better, not innovating or streaming or helping others, just keeping up that relationship, keeping the pinhole open so once in a while you can fall into the madness again, whether it’s through propaganda and politics, PyFa and zkill, a labyrinth of Discord servers, or even *gasp* the EVE client.So that’s where I’ve been, where I’m at.  I don’t know where I’m going, but if you’re curious, keep an eye out for new posts, on no particular schedule.  It’s nice to be back—a little confusing, but nice.  And it’s an honor to have you reading alo

[1] Pando’s FC Chat, “Ep. 101: Casper24 & BrainStraw”

[2] A common smallgang practice in which one account is set to passively following the one you primarily play on, giving it bonuses without requiring much attention.  This is sort of like “1.5 boxing” instead of true dualboxing two accounts.   

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