I am an American. This background influences my perspective on events. This is going to be important later on, so I wanted to lay this fact down right from the get-go.
You see, a lot of things need to be said regarding some of the very concerning commentary emerging out of the Eve casino ban. Frankly, I’m somewhat disgusted by some of the attitudes I’m seeing.
I debated on whether I should post this article, but in the end, I decided I had to, because it isn’t as much about an American perspective as it is about how we perceive Eve. And that most assuredly relates to the game we all love.
There are two kind of people in the world: those who meet resistance and choose to strengthen themselves, and those who run to others to save them.
First, I want to start with a history lesson, because the philosophy upon which
was founded is absolutely critical to understanding why this distinction
The American colonists started out as typical British subjects. Sure, you had a variety of other cultures there as well, but predominantly the attitude that drove the country forward at the time was typical of western civilization at the time. You had divine right of kings being questioned, yet still defined by a rigid hierarchical class society. Generally speaking, you were supposed to know your role and stick to it, with social pressure assuring that everyone of a higher class let you know how worthless you really were.
Typically speaking, the government was seen as imposing order in a Hobbes-esque way. Men were brutish savages, brought to heel by the power of a strong government. Generally speaking, the government was seen as a force of order, forcing he unruly masses into some form of society.
This system was far from perfect, but whatever imperfections it had were brushed under the rug. The intelligista and powerful cited the fact that the government and upper classes were responsible for all of the civic projects, so didn’t that just prove that society was creating structures to better people?
After a couple generations, the American colonists started to realize that all of those European structures didn’t count for much in
North America. They were 3 months away from them, and
they needed solutions to their problems NOW. Indians were attacking? Great
Brittan wasn’t going to save them; they needed to rely upon themselves, the
resources near them, and their fellow colonists.
This created self-reliance, a pathological understanding that – like Ender engaged in his eponymous game – no one was going to save them. They needed to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. They had to make it work somehow, and that left little room for proper adherence to the forms, which had to be obeyed in every country in
Naturally, this left the European elite feeling as if the colonists were a bunch of uncultured savages. They didn’t do things the right way. They didn’t listen to the enlightened opinions of the leadership back home. Why change what had worked for centuries?
Only, the circumstances had drastically altered, and what worked in
Europe didn’t work in the colonies.
They started viewing the government’s attempts to square-peg-round-hole them as
tyrannical, and the European governments increasingly sought to “restore the
proper balance” with increasingly onerous and brutal discipline. If the
colonists were so far gone that they were actively resisting the British way,
well, they had to be humbled before the wisdom of the official, governmental
way of doing things.
The effect, though, was to harden the colonists against the British. Government was no longer a provider of order and structure, but a noose around the neck of freedom and ingenuity – the two things that were absolutely essential to survival on the frontier During the war that ensued, the attitude that government is a cancer, an evil that will always be abused by those in power, became ingrained into our souls.
When that attitude began to manifest, that’s when “Americans” were created. We started to believe that all power derives from the people, that the people had a right to eliminate and replace the government – including through violent means when no other option remained – and that government “even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.”
So, you had a people whose history and experience taught them to rely upon themselves and look inward for solutions. It wasn’t government or structure that led to the prosperity in early
the naked ambition and will of individually both separately and working
together that bent this land to our will.
But, when you add legal power to that society, you create a monster. Sometimes it serves your desires, but you always need to watch it. Like the elephants in
army, you could use them, but you always needed to keep a spike handy to drive
into its neck if it starts to get out of hand.
As you can imagine, over the years, this has changed dramatically. American sentiment has been dragged by the rest of the world into a more liberal outlook. Social programs, unemployment benefits, modern expectations of workers rights have all changed this, to the point where you’d hardly find a person who believes in full self-reliance anymore (even I don’t believe it).
But the kernel of that remains. We believe passionately in personal responsibility, that if you suffer some misfortune, you should first reflect on what you should have done differently. You lost a job? It doesn’t serve to bemoan the bad economic conditions in your neighborhood or claim “it’s not my fault!” Instead, you recall how you could have kept your job search network and resume up and running at the first sign of unease and sought to move before you were forced out. You had a heart attack? You don’t whine about your genetics making you pre-disposed to heart disease. Rather, you change your diet, exercise, accept the roll of the dice you have, and live as healthy of a life as you can.
The legacy of American history is that shitty things will happen to you, and you can’t control that. But you can control how you react, whether you passively accept it or struggle against that incoming challenge, and whether you choose to grow stronger or make excuses. That’s the personal responsibility. Even if you point to something external that causes you problems, you’ve got three fingers pointed back at yourself.
I’m not saying that all Americans manifest this belief, or even that a majority do. I’m only saying this is a cultural artifact that influences anyone born and raised in our society. The idea of it is interwoven into our culture. For me, it influenced me very heavily. I don’t think it would have if I’d not been born and raised here.
Gambling as an Evil
Here’s where we start to tied back to Eve. I’ve seen a lot of people condemning the “evils of gambling”, and praising the end of Eve gambling because it’s righteous and moral to do so. Let’s leave aside the fact that CCP’s decision to ban Eve gambling is a result of real-world legal developments and has nothing to do with moralizing. We still have this belief that gambling is an evil and that Eve was corrupted or twisted by its presence.
Hearing this – with the background of the first half of this article in my mind – incensed me. Gambling is not an evil. It’s an activity, an inert thing that people can choose to do, or choose not to do. You go to a corporation’s property, use their electricity, are dealt cards/dice/chips by their employees, sit in their chairs, and drink their drinks. In exchange, they take a cut of the stakes (the rake) for providing you the venue and opportunity to wager with someone else. Both of you know what the rake is, what the rules of the games are, and what the odds are before you place your first bet (if you don’t, you’re stupid, and there’s no overcoming that).
This is not an evil. This is a business transaction over a service. There is nothing inherently wrong in it. And, in fact, skillful and intelligent players can play some of these games to gain profit (poker, for instance), albeit not many of them. You’re still gaining an experience.
There is evil, though, but it doesn’t reside with the gambling. The evil lies in the hearts of the people too weak-willed to control themselves. When a person gambles away rent money and loses his house, the fault lies with the gambler, not the activity, the corporation, or the other gamblers he plays with.
If you make a decision related to the dispersal of your money that you later regret, you are at fault. You are the weak one. You are the problem. You don’t have the right to blame someone else who created the situation for your inner weaknesses to be put on display. The fault is yours; fix it in yourself.
I enjoy gambling, particularly Texas Hold’em. All-time, I’ve won much more than I’ve lost. It took me lots of time to practice and refine my strategy, awareness, and knowledge of the game. Yes, I’m still subject to bad luck, but by avoiding putting money down in situations where I’m statistically unlikely to win, I mitigate the effect of luck on my game.
Regardless of how I do, though, I’m the agent of action, of choice. I choose to play. I choose each bet, and whether to fold. I am in control, because I’m a well-adjusted human being.
I lose sometimes. I lost big playing Eve-bet during last year’s hockey playoff season, to the tune of 14 billion. Do you know when I did when that happened? I stopped. I hunkered down and worked to make that isk back. I didn’t bitch and moan because Eve-bet created a situation in which I lost that isk. I chose to participate. I took a chance to win about 18 billion, and I lost. Them's the breaks.
Anyone who holds the belief that gambling is an evil and should be banned/made illegal ultimately is saying, “When I lose more than I want to, it’s not my fault. They should be held responsible for my internal weaknesses, and I want to punish them for my mistakes.”
That’s cowardly, it’s untrue, and it represents an alarming shift in attitude. It’s a turn outward for salvation. “I can’t control myself, so the government should come save me!”
For it to occur within Eve Online, a libertarian, unforgiving game that seeks to put the player squarely in the chair of responsibility? The commentators and smuggers holding this belief should be ashamed of themselves. They’re acting like sheep, not the wolves they’re supposed to be.
By all means, ban RMTers because of the way they spent their isk in violation of the TOS. From the content of CCP’s statement, IWI were RMTing and deserved what they got.
By all means, argue that casino profits aren’t disruptable within the game and create an unfair, secure isk stream that can be used to directly affect in-game events. You can make a case for that, and it really comes down to a tug-of-war between two reasonable aspects of the game (disruptability of income vs. nature of the sandbox).
By all means, defend the loss of entities like Eve-bet as being thrown out with the bathwater, or bemoan the loss of pretty much every single entity who ever funded player-run events.
By all means, if you can find a blogger who actually never logs in and only engages with the game because of advertising fees (I believe this is a strawman, and these people don’t actually exist), discuss how this will affect them, and even mock them for the end of their game style.
But keep your moralizing about gambling. It only reveals your own weakness and desire for someone else to come in and save you. You clearly miss the point of Eve. This is a game in which you are responsible for what happens to you. You lost a ship? You did something stupid or negligent. Maybe you didn’t check d-scan, bring a scout, fly the right ship, etc. CCP doesn’t come in to save you when you make a market mistake or afk on a gate and get podded.
Granted, that’s my opinion, according to my eyes as I see it. I understand that many throughout the world won’t look at it that way; that’s why I provided the background about why Americans tend to view things differently. I know people think we’re crazy for our views about guns, but it comes from a history of pathological mistrust of government that has served us incredibly well over the years.
In this case, I’m very disturbed about what the tone of arguments revealed in comment sections and Reddit posts reveals about the motivations and perspectives of Eve players as a whole. I thought Eve was a game in which – despite all of the collectivist tendencies and erosions of individual will throughout the world – people of a similar mindset and predisposed to believing in the power of will to reshape their future could gather together and indulge in a lost attitude – the belief that we are responsible, and through that responsibility can control our futures.
I’m starting to question that, and it’s sad. I always took comfort from the thread of personal responsibility, self-determination, and suspicion of authority that wove through the video games of the past decade. Yet, even in among the select group of Eve players, we have people who are looking for others to save them from themselves.
A little bit more steel is lost from our collective spines.