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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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Searching for Salvation in All The Wrong Places

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.

History Time


First, I want to start with a history lesson, because the philosophy upon which America was founded is absolutely critical to understanding why this distinction matters.

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 Europe.

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 America, but 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 Hannibal’s 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. 

Personal Responsibility


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.

27 comments:

  1. Gambling is not inherently evil in and of itself, but would you want a casino moving in up the street from where you live? This isn't about EVE, but goes to your statement that gambling is just a business transaction. Would you want a business moving in knowing that, as night follows day, your neighborhood will see an increase in wide variety of crimes? You and I aren't going to start a crime wave because of a casino close by, but our personal responsibility doesn't enter into it at that point. Gambling attracts people who will.

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    1. That's a valid question, and hints at the "untouchable isk source" negative effect on the game. My response would be that crime is a new action in and of itself, and should be punished when it happens. We aren't in a pre-crime world; the government is like CONCORD - punish infractions, don't get into the business of preventing anything that might trigger them.

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    2. Talvorian, your approach works right up to the point where it is you, or your immediate family that is the victim of one of those crimes, at that point you will understandably be asking why given that everyone knew that the introduction of that environment would result in an increase in crime, why nothing was done to stop introducing that environment in the first place.

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    3. That argument is a weak one: "When you come across new experiences your opinions will change!"

      I can tell you that when it comes to my core beliefs - the things like, "I'll judge people based on the actions they take, and not blame the influences", I've tested that before in personal situations and I've reacted as I expected. I'm not very idealistic, and I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that anything can happen to anyone at any time.

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  2. The question: freedom of choice or do we want someone to protect those without willpower.

    Alcohol, drugs, gambling have a negative effect. Do we give people freedom of choice to (ab)use as they see fit or not. The problem is that a person drinking too much not only affects himself but also places a burden on society. And that is when the government, lobbyists or social justive warriors step in with a one size fits all solution that is forced on everyone.

    Eve gambling is not an issue for me because for me this is not about ethics but a simple legal and economic question where CCP makes the decision for us.

    I would like freedom of choice so that is up to people if they want to gamble, drink, smoke or do drugs.
    I also don't want to pay additional taxes or insurance fees because gamblers, drinkers and smokers cost society money. That makes it partially my problem and then it seems better to criminalize gambling and others.
    In the end I would say I lean towards freedom of choice because people that want will do drugs or gambling anyway and then it is better to have some regulation as none at all.

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    1. You're spot-on about Eve-Gambling. You get it.

      I can understand the argument about the second- and third-order ramifications of something like gambling. I'd personally argue that alcohol is far worse than any other drug, because you can get into a car and murder someone else (El Salvador has it right).

      Gambling... you harm the lives of the people in your immediate family, which is true of every personal failing, and is inescapable. Other than that, who does the gambling itself (and not subsequent bad decisions) hurt?

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    2. Freedom of choice in these areas is most probably an illusion (that you participate in spreading here btw).
      The problem with most drugs is not the experience, it's the addiction and the people taking advantage of addiction to extract money from unwilling people.
      Gambling as in a "problematic regulated activity that necessitate regulation" is not a game involving skills but the totally random component frequently abused by their organizers in order to launder money or hide illicit transactions or avoid taxes.
      In my humble opinion, the first important point is to distinguish playing and gambling.

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    3. In the United States, we believe that those actions are the things you should prosecute: abuse by organizers, money laundering, avoiding taxes. We don't ban car doors because some people slam others' heads in them.

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  3. Your comments on the reasons for the founding fathers leaving the UK is a little wonky. They were religious zealots who felt oppressed by the fact they were unable to impose their religious fascism/rules and so they left for somewhere they could do that. There was never really a problem with the power of the monarchy from this group, but it was a prevailing issue in the UK at the time, as the Civil War 30 years later highlights pretty well!

    Apart form that, you're spot on. Grownups need to take some responsibility and stop being such massive millenials.

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    1. For why they left England originally, yes. I'm referring to the divergence point between western European culture and American culture , which only happened after the decision to leave was made and a couple generations passed. It really became pronounced after the Seven Years' War.

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  4. I love your writing and enjoy your summary of how the "American spirit" was fostered. I pretty much agree with your points about personal responsibility--as it pertains to adults.

    When it comes to children (14 sticks in my mind for some reason as the minimum age for EVE players, although I'm unsure if the EULA/TOS actually specifies this), it's a different ball of string. It's concerning--especially given certain psychological tendencies common among EVE players--to think about young teens developing an addiction for casino games of chance (I don't really put poker in that category, as I prefer to think of it as a game of skill). It's especially concerning in cases where their parents stupidly make a credit card available to them (the rationale for which I could NEVER understand!).

    You may reply that it is their parents' fault for not properly supervising their kids' activities. I couldn't agree more about that; I believe parents should be actively monitoring what their kids do and generally being busybodies in their minor kids' lives. But that can be very difficult to accomplish 24/7 in a world where both parents may work and kids often have a lot of unsupervised time to themselves. So I wonder how much of the precedent bans on video game gambling were predicated on that concern.

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    1. Incredibly good point. I wonder... does Eve need an 18+ age requirement?

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    2. As long as CCP declines to enforce the EULA, frankly I don't think it matters what requirements, rules or laws CCP tries to enforce.

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  5. "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)."

    More unfounded fears over Voodoo money...

    I find it interesting that arguments which apply to Casino wealth also apply to the continued wealth of alliances and coalitions like the Imperium, but that that comparison is never made.

    Frankly, I'm rather tired of reading moralistic, hypocritical nonsense peddled by people who really should know better.

    Sorry, Talvorian, but there's no argument to be made that Casino wealth earned in the past is any different from Coalition wealth earned in the past. Neither is acceptable if there's a requirement for 'a fair fight'(which is the generic argument that was made).

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    1. I don't agree with it either, but it's a case that can be made.

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  6. Next time, leave out the pseudo-history. You have a compelling argument that I almost entirely agree with...that I almost didn't get to because I had to slog through the (at best wildly oversimplified) historical background.

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    1. You're certainly entitled to your opinion. Yes, ours simplified, but I stand by both the summary and it's importance in helping a non-American reader understand my perspective.

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  7. And yet you helped out a Eve Famous artist when others were saying he needed to help himself. The hypocrisy is amazing. Oh, and those same religious zealots are STILL trying to impose themselves on us Americans, which is why we have these moral issues with racism, sexism, smoking, drinking and gambling.

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  8. I'll have to write in general, because I haven't actually read much "gambling is evil!" moralizing the last weeks on this topic, but maybe I'm just no longer in touch with the in-groups.

    "Yet, even in among the select group of Eve players, we have people who are looking for others to save them from themselves."

    Isn't that what B4R is about? Or in real life, groups like AA? Are you looking down on those people, too?

    Willpower is not an all-or-nothing thing - it can falter, and has limits. And here its you who throws out the baby with the bathwater.

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    1. AA, B4R... those kinds of things aren't the same, because the individual has to reach out for help, or acknowledge that they have a problem and seek to improve. I respect people who seek help; we don't solve our problems or improve without first recognizing that we need to.

      Personal responsibility isn't about being all-powerful or self-sufficient. It's not even about action, but rather, an acknowledgement; an acknowledgement that your actions are able to improve or worsen your circumstances, and through that ability to influence your life, you have power over yourself.

      There's a huge distinction between acknowledging that you will avoid alcohol because you have a problem controlling your alcohol on the one hand, and demanding that no one be allowed to drink because you have a problem with alcohol on the other.

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  9. I must be getting old. I believe many members of society today are not willing to take responsibility for their own actions/circumstance/situation. It is someone else fault.

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  10. Thank you for writing your thoughts. Regardless of any comments you may get concerning the topic, I appreciate you taking the time to post for all of us to read.

    :)
    SLy

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  11. "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."

    Wow !!!

    Your entitled to your opinion, but can I suggest you take a look at how addiction works. Personally I am in the camp that see's addiction as a sickness. Just as i don't blame the kid that develops leukemia for getting sick, i can't really blame the addict for their addiction.

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    1. Which microorganism is responsible for gambling addiction? At best, it's an allergy, and which external stimuli leads to physical reactions. And yes, I do blame the person who is allergic to strawberries, and continues to eat them.

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    2. Not sure but I imagine it's a different one to that which causes schizophrenia...

      look i don't have a lot of sympathy for people that inflict harm on themselves through their own stupidity. I also think it's undeniable that many addicts are complicit in creating their own addictions. But once that person is an addict, then IMHO they are sick, they need treatment, support, and assistance, and may need it for the rest of their lives.

      To say it is their fault when they have no volition to stop due to that sickness.. is in my opinion disingenuous.

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  12. Could care less about the gambling as a vice issue. But if banning the sites is what's needed to put an end to the RMT activity, I'm all for it. Even if it was too little too late, IMO. Thank you for the article.

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  13. I heartily approve this message. As an atheistic libertarian, I think any activity that doesn't directly and catastrophically affect people not partaking should be legal whether it is drugs of any colour, well regulated prostitution, unrestricted and widespread gun ownership, or yes, gambling. The people who can't handle freedom would soon Darwin themselves or learn. My reason for this is simple. No matter who you are, no matter where you are (even in a digital casino in space), you are currently under the thumb of one/both of two things; a corrupt government run by simpering dogs who lie to you to get in office and then bend themselves and you over for their corporate taskmasters, and(probably and)/or a terribly designed system that is inherently unfair and rigged against a average person. Simply put, you can only trust your government as far as you can overthrow it. The fear of what the people might do is the only thing that keeps it in check. The only people you can really trust to be looking out for you are your friends and family. I realize this sounds anarchist, bbut what I really mean is that you should be allowed to do what you want as long as no one else is hurt. If you think gambling is wrong then don't do it but let other people live their own damn lives. I fear this will be less coherent than id like since im on a phone at 4am but i think you get the point. Just remember you have the right to self-determination. No more, no less.

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