Every blog post, every comment, and every hour spent reading and writing about Eve is dedicated to the pursuit of an idea, of a single moment when all that fodder caramelizes into a breathtaking insight. It’s a slow process, but when it finally appears, the absolute satisfaction and delight of a true paradigm shift strikes you like a thunderbolt of awareness. At no point do you feel more aware that all is perception and representation as you do in that moment.
For several weeks, I’ve posted about “what Eve is”. I argued that CCP wants – and the gameworld needs – players who are highly engaged and passionate about what happens in-game, that we needed people who argue. I’ve argued that players who do solo PvE aren’t as desirable to the game as players who interact with lots of people. I’ve argued that direct player interactions are preferable to indirect or non-interactive actions. I’ve posited the belief that while all activities are intensely satisfying to someone, we need to keep a hierarchy of value in our minds based on whether those activities create content for others, improve the vibrancy of the gameworld, and retain players long-term. I’ve still said that Eve is a complex game and should use every tool at its disposal to gain that initial player interest, then quickly draw them into other areas to guard against boredom. I’ve argued that the passionate player-created content is Eve’s major competitive advantage, and that CCP should not try to complete based on its poor PvE offerings (which is a losing long-term prospect in even the best cases; look at WoW’s subscription yo-yo).
Through it all, I’ve been sniffing around a larger point I couldn’t quite articulate. I’ve been intentionally provocative with the deliberate goal of triggering discussion that could lead to that thunderbolt. Other bloggers have chimed in, both in favor of and against things I’ve written. Other commenters have argued with me. Some made good points, and some expressed their own biases and the flaws in their thinking. And all of it paid off.
A paradigm shift is a radical, yet sometimes subtle, change in the way one views the world that has massive ramifications. I’ve said before that we create our own perceptions of the world. This can lead to a lot of doubt and confusion when we reject an idea of absolute truth, but it can also lead to delight and awe when we replace an old world-view with a new, better one. For me, that happened last night at about 11:45 pm.
You see, Eve certainly isn’t a PvE game, but nor is it a PvP game. It’s a PeP game: Players Engaging Players.
The phrase “eve is a PvP” game doesn't catch the real essence of the game. It isn't a versus every time…it’s a PeP or Players Engaging Players game.” - Chanina
My God, this woman is wise. Yes! This is the definition I was seeking. This can be the bold statement that defines Eve’s value. Eve has always been an odd duck in the MMO world, and required a definition that is novel, yet still understandable.
Like all good revelations, it seems self-evident once you hear it, though it takes months or years to emerge. And that obviousness was paved with every argument and interesting thought over the past few years. In a way, it validates my view of argumentation … without the intense (and, at times, heated) discussion, comments, and counter-posts, I doubt this idea would have emerged. So, score one for catalytic debate!
Eve is a Player-Engaging-Player (PeP) game.
On its surface, this definition is still aspirational enough to withstand criticism, yet concrete enough to actually have meaning. This definition can still support a value hierarchy: that which is better for the game and for the overall group is that which creates engagements and complexity of interaction (http://targetcaller.blogspot.com/2015/05/player-interactions.html).
Yet it doesn’t limit itself to one myopic view the way “PvP” does. PeP doesn’t carry the implication that players be against each other all the time. Even though I use the term PvP to refer to player brains interacting with each other, compared to players interacting with a machine, the term PvP can also be taken to mean players conflicting and destroying each other. But in Eve, cooperation and teamwork have a role, too. The old paradigm, PvP, just doesn’t capture it all. But with PeP, it’s all there. The essential element that makes Eve unique and gives the greatest value – players reacting to and engaging with each other – is brought front-and-center.
“Eve is a PeP game,” bridges the gap between the hardcore PvPers and the group mission runners and miners. In both cases, players are engaging with each other, interacting directly and forming the social bonds that directly lead to long-term engagement. And that’s the critical element… humans interacting with other unpredictable, emotional, hostile, ridiculous humans. Whether you’re tear-farming or corp Rorqual-mining, you’re engaging in the same process… interacting with and reacting to other players to generate emotional satisfaction. Whether the dopamine comes from coordinating a supercap build chain or burning down all the things, the dopamine is real, and it interacts with our brain in a way that says, “This game is awesome.”
A “PeP” definition bridges the gap between Sugar Kyle’s market and production delight, Evehermit’s solo play, my never-ending search for the toss-up solo fight, Rixx Javix’s war against warp core stabilizers and for a pirate’s code, the null-sec fleet lover, the high-sec pilot who loves sitting in Teamspeak chatting with his corp during a mass mining op, and the CODE ganker eyeing them up as the next target while he spins his narrative. They all enjoy and delight in the same essential thing: engagement. But both creation and destruction can be engaging and can draw people in. Both urges link us to our activities with invisible tentacles that bind us tightly to this game and make us think, “This matters; I must fight for it.” Whether that fighting comes by activating weapons, restructuring supply chains, or adjusting build locations is irrelevant… the passion instigates a desire to act in pursuit of our desires, which creates interaction opportunities for others at the same time.
A PeP definition blurs the line between hero and villain, rightly identifying them just as adherents to different philosophies. The “good-evil” dichotomy isn’t as important as the “engaging-isolating” one. A PeP definition recognizes the cascades of causality that, like echoes, spread and bounce off of everything. The chaos of a thousand balls bouncing around a room creates a million interactions, which create a million more. We are those balls, and those interactions are our experience.
This is the conclusion I was driving towards. It’s one that I can put my heart behind and that captures the essence of many of my recent posts. A few times, I’ve kept silent as commenters and other bloggers took the wrong interpretation of my words. As I looked at the page, it was abundantly clear to me what I meant, but that wasn’t being conveyed. Part of it was the perspective of others coloring their interpretation, but I was guilty of the same thing.
We lacked a common term to serve as the right framing thought to provide the right context. A thought that recognizes the flexibility and freedom inherent in Eve. A thought that validates the greater importance of engaging other players over interacting with a machine. A thought that acknowledges a hierarchy of desires that places activities that create content for others as more valuable to more people than activities that merely satisfy our individual desires. A thought that can combine what is good for the game with what is good for each of us individually.
And now, we have it. “Eve is a Player-Engaging-Player game.” That’s a definition I can do more than live with. It’s a definition I’m going to rally behind and advocate.