EVE Evolved: Setting the record straight

EVE Evolved title image
On Monday the story broke that EVE Online's new CSM 7 chairman The Mittani said something extremely controversial during the Fanfest alliance panel. The story rapidly spread across the major games industry blogs, and in true telephone-game-style, it got progressively more bizarre with each version. The most disheartening part of it all was the absolute deluge of comments suggesting that the EVE community is made entirely of sociopaths and griefers. If you think that EVE has a poor community, start a trial and ask random people to help you out. You'll be surprised by what I think is the friendliest and most tightly knit MMO community on the planet.

Jester's Trek wrote an article attributing part of the whole Fanfest debacle to the various different personas that The Mittani embodies. Jester described how The Mittani wears three hats: EVE spymaster and ruthless Goon leader The Mittani, CSM chairman Mittens, and the real-life person Alex. Jester asserts that these three personas clash terribly and may be incompatible and that the alliance panel talk slip-up was made from the perspective of The Mittani and not his CSM persona.

In this week's EVE Evolved opinion piece, I drill down into some of the details of the recent drama, from the proliferation of media coverage to exactly what line was crossed.

EVE Evolved side imageThe actual slip-up

The general gaming media latched on to all the wrong parts of this story, painting EVE as a terrible game full of sociopaths. I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with scamming and ganking players, and it's even OK to show tearful evemails to a crowd of Fanfest attendees. That's part of EVE; many players accept it when we log in, and some people get a laugh out of it. It doesn't matter whether the player in question talks about a divorce or appears to be depressed; it's still a normal part of the game. You might not agree with taunting a player and airing his dirty laundry or embarrassing moments, but it's a legitimate way to play EVE as long as it remains a series of in-game actions against in-game characters.

Some of the media introduced this story as if the thing The Mittani did wrong was kill and scam a player claiming to be suicidal and then show his private communications to people. While that may be interpreted as borderline in terms of taste, it's not the mistake he made or what he was punished for. As we originally reported and CCP later confirmed, Alex's slip-up came when he said, "If you want to make the guy go kill himself, his name is [in-game player name]," followed by the imperative "He has his own corp. Find him."

This brought The Mittani's actions out of the game and into the real world; he had encouraged people to find the player if they wanted to make him commit suicide and had given them the means to do so. Before that line was spoken and the name was mentioned, this was just another anonymous in-game story of people playing the dark side of EVE, and nothing truly reprehensible had been done. But to read the comments on the issue, you'd think EVE was packed with sociopaths.

EVE Evolved side imageI have a kickass time machine

I thought it bizarre that Mittani and his supporters were specifically targeting me and the news posts on Massively, but when I listened to The Mittani's March 29th State of The Goonion address, the reason became clear. Mittens stated that my post was "was one of the first media pieces out there" and that it "sort of set the frame of the narrative." He told people that "the rest of the gaming media people just followed along the Massively lead" and that as a result, "CCP was forced to take action" against his account. This being true would require access to a time machine, and if I had that I'd go back to Monday and take this whole damn week off.

The story started at 7:21 p.m. EVE Time on Sunday, March 25th, when we received a tip email that included a second-hand account of the incident. The email contained no direct quotes or evidence of any panel misdeeds, and with such a serious accusation made, there was no way in hell we could take it at face value. This is a very common scenario for the site as we regularly ignore un-sourced tips. We held off on writing the story (even as a rumour) until we could see the alliance panel video for ourselves, and as a result we were one of the last major websites to cover the story. Only a few small blogs and forum posts ended up actually using Massively as a source, hardly enough to force CCP's hand.

EVE Evolved side imageTimeline of events

While we searched for a video of the panel, Eurogamer broke the story at 12:19 p.m. EVE Time on Monday, March 26th. The Eurogamer post contained no quotes from the panel video itself; it was composed of second-hand quotes from the same tip mail we'd received and a quote from CCP stating that the issue would be investigated. At 2:30 p.m. EVE Time, massive industry blog Develop wrote up the Eurogamer article, quoting the same second-hand information from the tipster.

From there, the story propagated throughout the media despite no evidence's having been shown. EDGE posted a writeup of the Develop post at 3:51 p.m., again citing the Eurogamer article as its source and using the tip email quotes. At 4:46 p.m. EVE Time, The Escapist published the story with Eurogamer as its source and using the tipster's quotes. See a pattern emerging here yet?

One of the Massively staff eventually found a link to the unlisted video of the alliance panel stream, and I watched it, seeing nothing wrong until the offending quote in the Q&A section. Massively's post went up at 5:30 p.m. EVE Time, after almost every major gaming blog with any influence had already posted about it. I cited Eurogamer for the response from CCP (we asked CCP for comment, which they said they'd give soon, but never did) and did not quote the second-hand tipster email; instead, I quoted the actual offending words used. Kotaku didn't report the story until 1:30 a.m. EVE Time on the 27th but did cite Eurogamer and used the tipster quotes. In fact, only a few small blogs used Massively as a source, with the overwhelming majority of them citing the original Eurogamer piece or Develop.

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The Mittani has been expressing his disappointment this week about what he sees as poor quality journalism in the gaming media and has mentioned me specifically several times. In an EVE Radio talk show this week, I got on air with the alliance leader to hash out the problem in a public forum. I've been hit with a lot of feedback on Twitter this week asserting that I'd covered the story in a very sensationalist manner. I apologised on air for this and for not reaching out to The Mittani for a quote and have since amended the offending posts.

Mittens later clarified that he was unaware of the post timeline, stating "the reason I thought Massively was one of the first is that it was the first one shown to me after I landed and I was hardly in a rational place." He maintains that he knew he'd said something wrong at the end of the Alliance Panel but didn't recall the details. "When I saw the exact quote of what I'd said, I was horrified," he told me, adding that "I felt like the bottom dropped out from under me because I recalled telling people to gank the guy, not to get him to kill himself."

This is the last I'll write on this topic, as it's been dragged out for far too long already. Normal EVE Evolved service resumes in two weeks with a look at the Inferno wardec changes and how they can be improved.

Brendan "Nyphur" Drain is an early veteran of EVE Online and writer of the weekly EVE Evolved column here at Massively. The column covers anything and everything relating to EVE Online, from in-depth guides to speculative opinion pieces. If you have an idea for a column or guide, or you just want to message him, send an email to brendan@massively.com.


Editor's Note from Shawn Schuster

I thought I'd add a bit to what Brendan wrote in this article, as I believe a second angle -- one actually representing Massively itself -- needs to be expressed.

When I break down this whole fiasco down to the facts and figures, the issue is that The Mittani said something at Fanfest that offended some people (and was seen as breaking CCP's terms of service); later, he apologized, resigned from his CSM 6 chairman position, forfeited his CSM 7 chairman position, and received a 30-day ban from EVE Online.

In Brendan's original story on this, two things offended The Mittani: the use of his real name and the word "cyber-bullying." So let's break these down and figure out what went wrong here.

First off, The Mittani's real name was already on the internet as part of his CSM application and was mentioned on Massively over two years ago. Brendan surely didn't "reveal" The Mittani's real name, and when he did mention it in his article, it wasn't meant to uncover anything on the guy's real life in any malicious way.

Secondly, the use of the word cyber-bullying offended The Mittani, which I can agree with. No one wants a Google search of his name to turn up a word like that, and avoiding that cross-over into real life is completely understandable. That word has since been removed from the previously mentioned articles. We have a code of conduct at Massively, and one of the most important things is for us (writers and commenters) to avoid personal attacks on other writers, commenters, readers, players, etc. I hadn't read the original article until all of this was brought to my attention several days later, but as the site's Editor-in-Chief, I'm responsible for all content that graces our pages. So for not being aware of the code of conduct violation earlier and allowing it to be on the site in the first place, I apologize to the readers of this site.

But that's where the apologies stop.

This entire week, we've received dozens of harassing emails and tweets about how the Goonswarm believes that we (as a site) practiced poor journalism, sensationalized the entire event, and painted The Mittani in a negative light. Well, now I can say that we're officially being cyber-bullied as it is defined by Wikipedia: "the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others." Those links are only a fraction of what's out there.

But don't take my word for it; let's allow The Mittani to speak for himself:

(3:34:02 AM) the_mittani: broadcast all-all Gentlegoons, I am delighted to report that Brendan Drain has edited his offending statements in his Massively coverage and apologized. He has now handled this properly, and we can stop sending glowering looks his way. No longer is my real name or the false label 'cyberbully' attached; hi5s all around. Tomorrow we will have another episode of Goonswarm Strikes Back: The Media Edition.

Other news sites opted to take down or change the tone of their articles after pressure from the Goons, but that's not how we operate. The changes Brendan made to his post simply aligned his original news post with our code of conduct. When Brendan appeared on EVE Radio (something else I was not aware of at that time), he did not speak for Massively as a site. He mistakenly believed that he could debate a topic with a real-life lawyer in a live format. With the main two points (mentioned above) already addressed, the case is closed.

I've asked Brendan to take next week off from EVE Evolved (not as any sort of punishment), so you can look forward to a new installment that has nothing at all to do with The Mittani in two weeks.

[Update: Apparently this article is too long for some to read, so let me summarize by saying we're only apologizing to our readers for the code of conduct violation. No apology at all is given to the Goons. Please read the article.]
This article was originally published on Massively.