Research into the social sciences suggests that people interact with each other in two separate modes. One mode is governed by primarily social influences and the other by basic market forces. Which one we choose in any given interaction has a profound impact on the way we interact with each other. Perhaps nowhere in the gaming world are these forces played out as strongly as in EVE Online, with its lack of economic regulation and tight-knit social structures. EVE players routinely form social relationships with other pilots, their corporation leaders and corpmates. On the flip-side, we interact with hundreds of players we don't know using more selfish market-driven rules as we trade, haggle over prices or even just buy something from the market. But how do these two types of player-to-player interaction coexist in the same universe and what problems can arise when they collide?
In this complex and in-depth article, I examine the relationships we form with other players, why they're important and what can happen when we inadvertently cross the line from an implied social contract to a market-based business one.