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I focus almost exclusively on PvP, whether solo, small gang, or large bloc warfare. In the past, I've been a miner, mission runner, and faction warfare jockey. I'm particularly interested in helping high-sec players get into 0.0 combat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thoughts on the CSM

With the CSM candidates having been announced earlier this week, every blog and podcast dedicated even part-time to Eve has been interviewing candidates and sharing their preferences for individual options.

Yeah, I’m not going to do that.

Quite frankly, each of you has a brain in your head, and more than half of you are probably able to judge how to apply it best to an election.  If not, well… a population gets the representation it deserves.

Instead, I’d rather talk about platforms.

I find it interesting that candidates are announcing platforms about changes they want to make.  If one thing is clear from prior CSMs, it’s that CCP has a very clear sense of what is and is not on the table for any given development cycle.  Sure, they’ve adjusted their thinking, tweaked features, and even added some features into the game that they didn’t initially plan on developing, but those changes fit within an overall plan.  There are a lot of “six of one, half-dozen of the other” development decisions out there, and the CSM absolutely has an influence on which of a defined set of equally acceptable options is implemented.

But candidates are making big promises that not only will they never be able to keep, but they don’t even have the power to implement under ideal circumstances. What historical evidence do they have to suggest that they would ever have the power to accomplish any of these?

Let’s keep in mind what we’re voting for.  We’re voting for an advisor, someone to raise arguments that promote one perspective about the game over another.  The CSM does not have any authority over CCP’s design and development decisions.  It doesn’t have veto power.  The CSM is, essentially, a lens to focus the myriad voices of the Eve community into a manageable number of arguments that CCP can consider effectively.

Now, just because the CSM doesn’t have any authority doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any influence.  Having a seat at the table grants enormous influence, and that influence has improved the game in many ways.

What the CSM can do is argue in favor of a certain style of gameplay, or promote certain theories and approaches to the game.  And that’s the type of rhetoric I’m particularly interested in from CSM candidates.  It’s ridiculous for Candidate A to say, “I will work to eliminate high-sec ganking.”  But it’s completely appropriate for that candidate to say, “I believe in Eve should offer a variety of gameplay options, including one for players who choose not to engage in PvP in any way, so I’ll encourage CCP to respect this play style in design decisions and counter those who push for a reduction of safety in high-sec.”

Do you see the difference?  CSM candidates have no control over individual decisions, but they can influence CCP’s design philosophy by making strong arguments in favor of certain play styles and revealing consequences CCP may not have considered.

And that brings me to perhaps the most important aspects candidates should say about themselves, and which voters should demand to know… how they form opinions and how well they communicate those opinions.

Ultimately, the CSM is a collection of diplomats, talking and persuading each other and CCP about the validity of their points.  A good CSM candidate is one who represents your preferred play style, yes.  But that candidate has to be able to sift through information logically, separate emotional reactions from the core issues/factors, and consider varying perspectives to arrive at suggestions that appear to benefit everyone, but favor your playstyle a little bit more.  That’s a complicated set of skills.

So, how do you learn that about your candidates?  Look for consensus-building and negotiation in their backgrounds, both in real life and in Eve.  Review their Eve-O forum posts to see if their arguments are well-reasoned and strike the core of an issue, or whether they simply respond with emotional gut reactions that contribute to threadnaughts.  Listen to how they present themselves… are they promising outrageous things, or are they focusing on their approach to the game and core skills?

In the United States, the popular wisdom is that you don’t vote for a President based on particular issues.  Rather, you take his background, his decision-making, and how he came by his opinions to understand how he approaches crises and emergent issues.  The crises during his term probably don’t even exist yet, so it’s best to vote for the candidate who you have confidence has the skills to appropriately and quickly respond to any issue that may arise.  A candidate with a good idea for health care but no ability to analyze and respond to a situation is going to be useless if you’re country’s attacked.

In the same way, CSM candidates don’t know what’s planned for the next two development cycles (with the exception of incumbents, to some extent), so why would you vote someone in purely based on a list of promised improvements?

Vote based on the playstyle the candidate chooses to follow.  Vote based on real-life skills that suggest he can develop insightful criticism for proposed changes and persuade others that his criticism has merit.  Vote based on his ability to differentiate between core issues and side effects.  And vote based on a strong character willing to stick to his beliefs, but also willing to let the larger community convince him to modify those beliefs.

Otherwise, you’re participating in a willful deception that will fill the CSM with incompetents.

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