Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Ocean of Heroes’ Blood

So, I’ve never done a Blog Banter before, but I’ve read a few in response to Kirith Kodachi’s recent question about heroes that drew my attention.

First, I read this post on the Point Blank Diplomacy blog.  I kind of liked where he was going.  But, in it he identified a hero as “skilled, selfless, calm in the face of danger, and willing to risk themselves for the well-being of others.”

Then I read Ripard Teg’s response on Jester’s Trek.  What strikes me about the groups and player types who made Ripard’s list is what it says about his definition of “hero”.  Look at that list.  Three new-player organizations, two “open arms” homes for players looking for a change, a number of community contributors, those who give to charity, and those who have close ties with (or are) CCP.

Now, CCP is making off of their involvement with Eve, so “hero” can’t really be applied to them, can it?  We have a habit of applying that moniker to everyone who contributes meaningfully, but being influential isn’t quite the same as being a hero.  Likewise, Red Frog is making money from their involvement, so it’s not as if they have altruistic ends.  Since he’s on the CSM, I’ll trust his opinion on their intentions.

I’d argue that those who give to PLEX for Good aren’t heroes in Eve; their contribution reflects on their character in real life.  For the purposes of this blog banter, we’re talking about direct interaction with the game, so I feel pretty comfortable excluding them.

That leaves newbie orgs, homes for lost souls, community organizations, and service providers.  That… that looks a lot like the common list of real-world hero organizations, doesn’t it?

Only… Eve isn’t the real world.  And therein lies the problem.

When studying heroism in ancient Rome, you don’t apply a modern morality.  Why?  Because a modern morality does not reflect the reality of life in ancient Rome.  And that touches on the very definition of a hero.

Quite simply, the definitions of “hero” I’ve seen thus far, either blatantly stated or implied, all root that definition firmly within a modern morality.  But isn’t the truth of the definition more universal than that?  Isn’t a hero more accurately defined a “an individual or group who best exemplifies the most admirable and most esteemed characteristics as determined by members of his/her culture”?  Hannibal was a hero to his people.  Genghis Kahn is a hero to Mongolians.  Many Romanians view Vlad the Impaler as a hero (he did stop a Turkish invasion, after all).

This definition is a bit more universal, and can be applied to any group.

My long-winded point?  A hero in Eve should exemplify that which the collection of Eve players admires within the game, not that which we as the people of Earth as a whole admire.  And Eve players interacting in a fictional environment free from a modern morality deserve a different definition.

What ideals do we all strive for in Eve, even if we don’t exemplify them all the time?  Good fights.  Honoring ransoms.  Honoring 1v1s.  Helping the members of one’s own group improve themselves and learn more.  Daring.  Innovation.  And, most of all, generating enjoyable content.  At least, that’s what I tend to admire within Eve.

So, who does that?

Yes, I would count some bloggers as heroes, but only those who try to spread knowledge, start discussion, and respect healthy debate.  There are some who use their blogs specifically as a platform to destroy others, or to brag about themselves.  Seeing as they seem hell-bent on curb stomping their opposition, that seems to fly in the face of “generating enjoyable content”.  Just because you do something incredibly difficult (and blogging on a regular schedule is) doesn’t mean you’re contributing meaningfully.

So who would I include?  I tend to identify people not by groups, but by behaviors.  After all, there are always a few bad apples in every group.  But behaviors are pretty easy to agree with.

1) Players Who Honor their Word: Taking the easy path is incredibly seductive.  It’s quite simply to agree to a 1v1, then drop an entire fleet on your enemy.  It’s even easier to have an enemy scrammed and burning in space, extract a ransom, then kill him anyways.  Space honor is sometimes a rare thing, but when a player makes a pledge and keeps it, that’s something to be admired.  When he gives up a great deal of personal gain to do it, it’s even more laudable.

2) Players Who Don’t Smack-Talk in Local: After a fight, we’re all tempted to throw insults, regardless of whether we won or lost.  Particularly when we lose a ship, it’s easier to rage and call your attackers names than to realize the mistakes that led to you flying home in a pod.  Self-reflection is hard, and being able to congratulate your attacker for a good kill separates the good pilots from the bad ones.

3) Players Who Chat Civilly With Their Opponents: While it’s admirable to toss a “gf” in local and keep your composure, the players who are willing to open up a chat, share the fitting that killed you, explain what they were thinking, listen to what your strategy was, and discuss what each of you could have done better are even rarer.  But these players understand that the only way to improve is to understand why things happen.  Being willing to share that knowledge with an opponent strengthens both of you, and is a sign of true character.  It’d be far easier to simply talk to your alliance mates and keep that knowledge to yourself, even if it does nothing to up the game of those you fight.  And as we all know, we’re only as good as the pilots we battle.

4) Solo Pilots and Small-Gang Pilots Who Don’t Blob: Those who are willing to bring appropriate force understand the nature of “content”, and acknowledge that a battle has two sets of participants, both of whom need to get something out of it for them to seek it out in the future.  Sure, having a Titan on stand-by with reinforcements will let you win the battle, but choosing not to deploy them for the sake of a genuine “gud fight” generates much more satisfying content.

5) Theory-crafters: Developing new fleet doctrines – for all sizes of engagements – involves a tremendous amount of work to develop a differentiated experience.  Endless hours in EFT, on Sisi, and discussing possibilities with your peers results in a doctrine with a life span of perhaps a couple months.  It’s small reward, but it generates a truckload of content for the entire game.

6) Organizations That Teach “Real” Piloting: Yes, this one is in direct response to Eve University.  Don’t get me wrong, they do a great job of teaching mechanics and basic concepts, but they also impose rules which tend to limit the thinking of pilots, particularly after they’ve left the Uni.  Rules of engagement and limitations on behaviors are always a disservice.  E-Uni will teach you to be a decent pilot.  Brutal training, harsh lessons, outnumbered fighting, off-comp engagements, and a heavy emphasis on individual thought and orderly reactions will teach you to be a great one.  The organizations that understand that excellence comes with difficulty take the harder path, but the more rewarding one.

7) Propagandists: Ooo, we hate them, don’t we?  Yet we must acknowledge the tremendous value they generate.  They know their path will make them pariahs, but they spread their narratives anyway.  Why do they do this?  Quite simply, they create the storylines and remind us of the slights that provide the emotional investment that makes all our metagame activities satisfying.  Without the passion they nurture, what we do doesn’t resonate as strongly.  And that – contributing to a culture that increasingly hates you – is heroic.

Not the list you expected, was it?

Is this a traditional heroism?  I would argue it is, since I truly believe each of these is done with good intentions, for the benefit of the overall culture in which they operate.  What would be an anti-hero in the real world is a traditional hero in Eve.  Moreover, they each exemplify the traits we admire in our Eve culture.  And to me, that’s the essence of heroism.

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