EVE Online is a game-playing virtual universe developed and published by the Icelandic company, CCP Games, where users from all over the world compete with each other, singularly or in alliances, for supremacy. With over 500,000 people subscribing to the online service the title has developed its own cyber-based societies and politics, the motivations for both not too dissimilar from those that shape the real world. Given the purpose of the game, “violent” rivalries are the norm, occasionally flaring up into confrontations spanning thousands of virtual solar systems and tens of thousands of players. The “World War Bee”, also known as the “Easter War”, is the latest conflict to convulse the EVE universe, and Vice Magazine has a fascinating article on its origins and the in-game and out-game propaganda being issued by its participants.
“Icelandic developer CCP’s long-running space-opera MMO, in which players zip about a massive galaxy in spaceships, trading and building and fighting and destroying, has been turned into a warzone on numerous occasions – and these eruptions of violence bear stark resemblance to actual historical conflicts. Empires have fallen and risen, alliances have been forged and shattered, and thousands of players have taken part in epic battles racking up damage that’s been valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds in real-world currency.
Obviously a crucial way in which EVE: Online’s wars differ is that there are no actual fatalities. You can lose ships, status, money; but nobody’s showing up at your house with a signed death warrant. But in many other aspects, watching a war unfold in EVE bears an eerie similarity to any other human conflict.
And as is the case in any war, only those with their boots on the ground – or in this case, the bridges of EVE’s array of armed-and-dangerous spaceships – know the reality of the situation. For those watching at home, doing their best to follow the coverage, it’s difficult to know what precisely is going on.
EVE: Online’s current war (widely known as World War Bee, and also The Easter War) is being fought between two alliances – The Imperium (formerly CFC and collectively known as Goonswarm) and The Money Badger Coalition (MBC). Across the game and into associated online media channels, communication platforms are being flooded with propaganda, misinformation and outright bullshit, making accurate coverage a real challenge – just as we see play out on the nightly news, where the stakes are higher but the methodology’s the same. Every EVE-related missive posted on the web usually features a ton of comments railing against the author for taking sides.
In a way, EVE’s metagame trolls the very people trying to cover it – both for the game’s audience and any curious onlookers. It’s a problem that even those who have taken it upon themselves to chronicle the game’s history have had to contend with. Andrew Groen, a journalist and self-styled EVE historian (who has written a book on the game,Empires of EVE, documenting its greatest wars), says that accurate reporting requires any interested parties to take every metagame statement with a skipload of salt.”