What kinds of online platforms do you interact with others in, such as social media, for example?
Well, I use the ones I’m forced to. I use the typical things, Facebook, LinkedIn.
I use them less these days than when I first jumped on board. I used to use FB to stay in touch with my friends in the States, rarely posting things of myself. LinkedIn I only keep for job opportunities – and even then it’s reactive rather than posting on it. FB usage has dropped considerably. I see it as a brag wall more than anything. But I have found its Messenger helpful. I will keep my LinkedIn account up-to-date though. A previous employer reached out to me through it, so it’s worthwhile keeping.
I’ve also had an account on EVE [a massive multiplayer online role-playing game] for probably 4 years. Maybe longer. Its over $100 a year for the privilege. I used to hop on most nights. It started becoming almost too serious. The concern about losing a space pixel (for the sake of argument, let’s call it a spaceship) started actually influencing how I played. You invest so much time and money in building up these things, that you don’t want to lose them.
But I used to enjoy the occasions of forming 100 – 200 person fleets that 1 – 2 people would be commanding. I always found it very impressive that they could bring order to the chaos of such a large group of space nerds. Everyone has a role to play though…
I think you can select different character types in EVE – what was yours?
Well, you don’t really select from pre-built characters like those other RPGs… EVE has one of the most complex and customizable character builders of any game. They released an updated version of it last year – anyway you don’t really see two people with the same character. Although you can select from a particular civilization I suppose, but it has very little baring on the game.
It’s more how you choose to play the game. You can decide at any time to be a miner, or build things, or shoot things… there aren’t races that are better at it than others. You still have skills that you learn (passive skills…some take months) which help you do whatever it is you’ve decided to do in the game. But there’s no “end” of the game, so people do what ever interests them.
I selected Caldari – which from memory was focused on commerce but didn’t mind the occasional hostile invasion of a neighboring solar system. My character is a pretty inoffensive looking dude named Airbag. Once you build your character, you are effectively thrown into a world of 40,000 online players at any given time. Most of whom want to trick you.
I feel strangely guilty about misleading people in regards to my online vs. real appearance. Not that people would for a moment think I look like this square-jawed military type.
Why did you choose this particular look for Airbag?
He has the mohawk (albeit a barely noticeable one), like the one I never had.
As far as the rest of him, well, I think I just went for something that wasn’t too ridiculous and could pass as something real. Didn’t want to portray myself as some hulking giant, or something utterly different from me. I think we have the same eye brows.
Why did you want him to kind of look like you?
I feel strangely guilty about misleading people in regards to my online vs. real appearance. Not that people would for a moment think I look like this square-jawed military type. I assume… But I felt it was less of a stretch than a gray haired, tattoo-faced cyborg.
There’s no advantage of choosing one appearance over another really, so it never made sense to me to deviate away too much from the ‘real me’.
What’s it like owning a spaceship?
You start off with throwaway ships… not hard to replace which is good because you loose them a lot. So you don’t have much vested in them. Over time you can afford bigger / better / faster ones once you have the money (or in EVE world – ISK) and the skills to use them. Again it can take years to fly certain things…. people take a fair bit of pride in owning them though. Like many games they can have real money tied into the ship.
So because you have put so much time and potentially money into these things, it can be pretty devastating when you do something stupid and get blown up, or fall for some trick and…get blown up. There are a lot of “rage quits”.
It’s very strategic – it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the people who excel at organising such an activity would use those same skills in RL: thinking managerial, military, planning types.
You mentioned that it’s really about “how you choose to play the game”. So how did you choose to play it?
Well, for a number of reasons, I would generally let others lead when it came to organised battles. There is a lot of information to process quickly, you have to understand the mechanics of the game very well, as well as understanding the capabilities of individual ships, and the people who are flying with you. In smaller groups of 10 or less it’s important to know the group. In large groups of 100 or so, there is zero room for deviation from the plan, ie the leader will choose the types of ships, organise the people, call out orders, etc. I never wanted the responsibility of not ruining the day of 100 people. As I mentioned earlier, some people get pretty stroppy about losing ships.
I was very impressed by anyone who could control that many people, all remotely… keeping track of individuals as well as the whole. It’s very strategic – it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that the people who excel at organising such an activity would use those same skills in RL: thinking managerial, military, planning types.
So, do any of your EVE skills translate into real world skills?
Maybe not skills, but certainly personality traits manifest themselves in EVE. You can do well by being ‘tricky’, like duping people one way or another. I don’t have that in me, so I don’t play that way. I’m fairly cautious, so I generally only fight when I think I can win.
I’m also competitive so I get ticked off when I lose. It’s a game, but there’s still pressure and tense situations I suppose. I like to think im fairly level-headed, and less likely to make huge errors in judgement.
People are generally pretty happy to follow me as well… let’s call that diplomacy more than leadership though.
You say “its a game”. How is a game different from “real” life?
Well, the decisions you make a real and the consequences can be staggering, so yes – in that respect I suppose it’s not too dissimilar. For example this player lost $1500. So it’s real stakes.
Of course, if you have the time, you can make that equivelant money in EVE. But it takes time and for those with the patience to make things rather than buy things, the rewards can be significant and you don’t have to invest your own money. If you play it right you can make enough in-game to pay for your subscription. But it’s the equation of time vs. money, and how you want to spend your time in EVE. So if you want to fight – you will likely buy (sometimes with real money) your ships and so on. But if you’re not so into fighting you may gravitate towards manufacturing and make money.
You were a fighter?
Yes, I was a fighter.
If we had space crafts like this tomorrow, in real life, would you fly in them? Would you do what you do in EVE if you could?
Umm…YES. Well, if you looked at my character and what he does, I would effectively be in the military or a mercenary. Of course the risk of death (real death) would probably make me consider less risky lifestyles if this were to be real.
Only a small number of people have gone across the entire EVE space, it’s that huge. Might be cool to be an explorer. But exploring by itself in EVE isn’t what I’d spend my time doing. If the option were to present itself in RL, I think I’d be very interested.
Did you interact much with other players?
I was in a “corporation” of mostly Aussie players. Good people – largely over 30, including a cop in Queensland who was the biggest bogan I’ve ever known. I’ve never met any of them in RL, although one lives quite close by and has often brought it up.
I guess there’s still a level of anonymity that you get with most social media platforms that lets you share without worrying about being judged.
Do you guys mostly chat about game things, or other things as well?
Well the game supported audio as well as chat so it often devolved into a number of conversations. After 3+ years of that you get to know a fair bit about the people. Where they work, relationships, hardships (often linked), RL interests… many of us took the leap and became Facebook friends which I guess takes it to a personal level.
Like RL relationships, you probably gravitate towards some more than others, and therefor share with some more than others, but certainly we had more than just superficial discussions. I guess there’s still a level of anonymity that you get with most social media platforms that lets you share without worrying about being judged – if things get weird you can just ignore that person or find some other way to leave… try ignoring someone in “meat space” and you’ll see its a bit harder.
Most of the people on there are more “adult” and you can have meaningful conversations. You never know who you’re dealing with on Twitter etc… the anonymity in that case leaves it very open for the…shiver…trolls.
Did you get trolls in EVE?
You get them. Mostly in the startup locations, i.e. the highly populated areas where you start off the game. It seems fairly infrequent though. There are easy mechanisms to ignore them and racist / sexist comments are highly regulated and will result in banning. Because there are financial repercussions to that, I think there’s a natural limiting factor. Put it this way – Godwin’s Law doesn’t appear apply.
I think there is some level of automation behind the abusive language warnings, but the company who manage EVE have a lot of employees who play the game throughout the day as their job. Moderators if you will.
What’s Godwin’s Law you ask?
Ok then, if I must. Godwin’s Law describes the tendency for chats/posts to devolve to conversations about Hitler/Nazis. I learned this recently from Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Like when Microsoft’s Tay chatbot declared on Twitter, “Hitler was right”?
Your ability to get along with someone is largely dependent on mutual interests.
You mentioned earlier you have shared quite a bit of personal detail over the years. Are there things about you that you feel are important for others to know or vice versa?
I think talking to someone roughly your age automatically sets the tone for how you’ll get along with the person. Same as in real life really. Your ability to get along with someone is largely dependent on mutual interests… if the 15 year old you are talking to is into Pokemon, stealing money from their parents wallets, and can’t play because they have to do homework…. well, it’s going to be a different sort of interaction from a cop in Queensland who arrests people for a living.
So…why do you dislike social media so much?
Why I don’t like social media…
It’s hard to say. I think it’s a series of things that has probably built up into a general distaste of it.
For example, I became quite frustrated on one occasion with Facebook and deactivated my account… only to have it automatically re-activated when I logged into Spotify, which made my rage intensify. This inter-connectiveness of everything… everything seems to link back to it, you can’t escape it. The very notion of NOT being on Facebook is so foreign to people these days they would think you’re some kind of left wing nut if you didn’t sign up.
The online personalities are clearly tailored to the platform you are using, which makes me think its all hogwash. So, Facebook is all about showing off your happy life, LinkedIn is showing the world how professional you are, while Twitter allows you to prove how passionate and enraged you are about topic xyz.
I guess its the same in RL… you wouldn’t generally talk casually about getting wasted on the weekend with your work colleagues (depending on where you work). Likewise you probably wouldn’t share your view on politics with your workmates or potentially even some friends. So there it is – I end up coming up with a good PRO-social media argument.
I can persuade myself out of / in to anything.
Forget it, I like social media.
A friend and I talk about how drivers often behave poorly because they have a sheet of tin and glass between them and the people outside their cars, which means they are protected from actually having to behave like a good person. Effectively they are Road Trolls. They do the same thing that internet trolls do, because there isn’t much in the way of consequence from bad behaviour, unless they crash.
Social media is really just a reflection of offline life?
Well, I suppose it’s a reflection of parts of it. You never seem to get the whole. The whole thing is that you can project the person you want others to think you are.
Added to that, the anonymity of it.. but sigh…again that happens in RL. A good friend of mine and I often talk about how drivers often behave poorly because they have a sheet of tin and glass between them and the people outside their cars, which means they aren’t personally impacting anyone, they are protected from actually having to behave like a good person.
Effectively they are Road Trolls. They do the same thing that internet trolls do, because there isn’t much in the way of consequence from bad behaviour…
…unless they crash.
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