The idea of players being elected as representatives of the subscriber base is a dimension to EVE Online that sets it apart from all other MMOs. This player-elected Council of Stellar Management works with the sci-fi title's developer, CCP Games, to ensure that the game design and balancing of EVE Online reflects the interests of the subscribers. Player politics related to a divisive community of gamers can be complicated, however.

Since its inception, the Council of Stellar Management has faced intense criticism and no small amount of skepticism about how effective they will ultimately be. In other words -- EVE's Council of Stellar Management is a fairly accurate simulation of how the public reacts to real-world governance. Still, some of the original CSM delegates chose to stick it out and seek re-election for a second term. One of those delegates, now in his second term in office, is LaVista Vista. He's well-known to the EVE community for his level-headed approach to balancing the game and his experience with the different 'walks of life' of EVE's playstyles. These qualities make him an ideal representative of the interests of the players themselves and it came as little surprise that he was re-elected.

Massively recently caught up with LaVista Vista, who was happy to discuss some of his experiences as a dedicated EVE player as well as a Council of Stellar Management representative.
What drew you to EVE Online, and what keeps you playing today, years later?

You know, it's actually rather funny. Back when WoW went into beta, I was accepted as a beta-tester. I played it trough beta and on and off for a year, always looking for something better. I saw EVE Online on MMORPG.com, but my perception of EVE at the time was that it was extremely hardcore and you should spend at least 5 hours a day to be worth anything.

Well, at the time I was a member of a community where a bunch of people were playing it, even if the rest of the community thought that these people were just playing a coal mining simulator (hence my perception). They gave me a trial and I was overwhelmed by the complexity of skills. I was also bashing keys at random in order to fly around in the station to find a vendor (duh, I should have done the tutorial). I started training a skill, jumped about 16 jumps to join up with my friends and warped to a belt and got all confused, resulting in a loss of an Ibis!

"When I got elected for the CSM it only reinforced my desire to keep on playing and get more involved."

Late 2005, the day that Red Moon Rising was released, I actually went ahead and tried again. This time, I quickly joined up and became a dirty pirate with a person whom I had gotten to know through the Darkfall Online forum (*sigh, I'm not happy about its release*). We ran around and killed people in Lonetrek for a couple of months and eventually I got a tad bored. On my birthday a couple of weeks after my account had expired, I started playing again and I haven't taken any breaks since. What has kept me thus far has been a combination of the people I have flown with (mostly VETO) and the community. When I got elected for the CSM it only reinforced my desire to keep on playing and get more involved. While my ingame presence isn't as heavy due my real-life being more hectic than what I joined EVE originally, I still enjoy playing it casually while dealing with all the pet projects I'm doing and the CSM.

You're quite active in different spheres of the game. I know you're involved with the player-run EBANK, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, you also fly with the pirate corp VETO. Why does finance in EVE capture so much of your attention? And on the other side of the coin, what do you find appealing about piracy in EVE?

It's actually quite funny. I originally created my character LaVista as an alt for mining during my time in Lotka Volterra. After Lotka Volterra died, I stopped using the character until I realized that my wallet would die without a side-dish of carebearing. So I reactivated the account and joined an industrial corp. There I met a guy called Cuttlefish, who now doesn't play. He and I invested money into a Thanatos blueprint to make profit off. We quickly realized that this could scale well if we had outside funding. I gave the idea a chance and I posted on the Market Discussion forum. I quickly became quite absorbed in this rich community and came to love it.

The IPO was eventually sold out and ran for a couple of months until Zulupark crashed the carrier market with his nasty dev-blog. I paid it all back but had no desire to leave the market discussion, as I was hooked. I learned to love economics that way. (I love social and political science, so economics was a natural extension of that I found out). The fact you can explain EVE at large through theories just amazes me time and time again.

As for piracy, well, I used to be in major 0.0 alliances and got fed up with the blobbing. So when I started doing piracy it was a major morale complex. While I couldn't justify staying in 0.0 because it would burn me out, I found that some people had the idea that pirates were cold bastards (not true!). Remember that my playstyle originally WAS piracy, but I wanted to try something different. But now being involved with the market discussion which required people to trust me, the paradigm had shifted. But the main thing that kept me in low-sec was the people.

VETO is a lovely corp with lots of people. And to be frankly honest, it was the only thing that kept me there. You can conduct "piracy" in 0.0 too, even if it's a different kind. I love the idea of ransoms (after I started doing economics I realized that blowing people up was a huge opportunity cost), but there's a certain limitation which low-sec and gate-guns impose on you, meaning that I'm drawn to 0.0, but I can't put up with the blobbing and the social structure out there. A pirate's life is good. You are free to do what you want to do mostly and just have a laugh. I enjoy that and the occasional smack which can be hilarious.

Do you feel your experience with these very different sides of EVE helps you with being a CSM delegate?

I hate to appear like I'm sitting on my high horse, I must however admit that I have had help to get where I am today, which is obviously not something that happens for everybody. So I have gotten to experience the different extreme sides of EVE, which helps with seeing perspectives... It is however important to remember that one's experiences are extremely subjective. What I see EVE to be isn't the same as the guy next door however, so while I might have some extreme views about EVE which I'm not afraid of admitting, I also realize that there are other play-styles which are equally valid.

So in short, my experience helps me with representing people who play EVE the same way as myself, or see it the same way. I wouldn't know a thing about roleplaying, that's why it was great to have such people as Jade Constantine, even if I disagree with him on other subjects. Eventually we just have to realize that our view on things are at best limited by our experiences and biases.

"I have had help to get where I am today, which is obviously not something that happens for everybody. So I have gotten to experience the different extreme sides of EVE, which helps with seeing perspectives."



What's involved with being part of the Council of Stellar Management?

It's a unique experience to interact with the community on such a level. One quickly becomes forced to deal with issues which one might not know a whole lot about. I find that there's a couple of things which are critical yet essential parts of being on the CSM:

First of all, having a thick skin is a must. I can't stress this NEARLY enough. You will have arguments, you will have heated discussions and you will experience people with extreme opposite views of yourself.

Secondly, you will talk to a lot of people and you are expected to post actively on the forum. Being a bit addicted to the forum, that's no big deal. I quite enjoy my daily reads through them, even if people are rather retarded some times.

And then you need to have an idea about how to be reasonable. You will eventually have to represent the community at large. At times you might be faced with a vote which, while you don't agree about it based on your experience, you still have to consider that there's people to whom this is important. For instance I was faced with a series of issues about RP raised by Jade.

In cases like this, one must consider that one's perspective isn't the only one and then take it from there. It's hard at first, because one shouldn't vote for issues which are outright stupid (like musical instruments in Ambulation, WTF?) while still letting through issues which are well-thought out, but aren't of relevance or interest to you.

This article was originally published on Massively.