Cultural Quicksand

What’s the culture of your corp?

Whether corps have a ‘culture’ – It’s an odd question perhaps but one which arrived unbidden in my mind as I strolled the streets of Leipzig, Germany. We are, as a species, often described by our culture. Maybe that’s the ‘coffee’ culture of Europe or the ‘pub’ culture of Britain. One of the reasons I ended up straying down this particular line of thought was just before I wanded aimlessly around the city of Leipzig, I’d just spent a couple of hours watching Jame’s Cameron’s AVATAR.

A diverting film, but perhaps best seen in 3D. If you’ve not seen it the film sets off the two protagonist cultures against each other – the gung’ho, money driven humans (predictably enough) VS the tree hugging blue skinned Na’vi. You’ve probably already worked out the plot and predicted the ending by now.

Then I logged into EVE to be faced with local full of other blue skinned fellows – my corp, alliance and friendlies and the question arose in my mind…do we have a culture? Are there cultures already extant in EVE?

My initial thinking was “no – EVE is devoid of any cultural groups”, its just like AVATAR with a black/white divide of ‘Not Blue = Shoot It’ but on reflection I think there may be some emergent cultural groups….

A ‘culture’ is generally a group of people displaying or presenting themselves in a certain roughly consistent fashion, through language, dress, music, art and so forth. And to a degree we do have these within the EVE Universe. The two most starkly contrasting are the mission running, PVE dwelling ‘carebears’. Whilst at the opposite end of the spectrum are the grief inflicting, HTFU, pew pewing pirates.

Both have a language, of sorts as do other groups; camping, gate fire, Yarr, tears, shield tank, gank fit, drag
bubble, C5 static, IPO, ABC’s, ninja, ME, PE – some of these phrases your’ll be very very familiar with, others of course will sound like a foreign language or different dialect to you. Glance around EVE and you will see other cultural markers – mission PVE fit Navy Ravens, pirate vagabonds & dramiels, ponderous mining barges or skull icons of the criminal.

A brief foray through the forums and we can also see the hints of cultural groupings – some players almost inhabiting certain forum subsections, or decrying the habits of other cultures; “carebears, griefers”.

Are these traits enough though for us to really point at and say ‘that is a culture’? Possibly. Certainly there seems to be a culture around WH exploration and those ‘living’ in W-Space and that’s possibly because these players are more easily discernible by ‘where’ they live rather than ‘how’. After all that “pirate vagabond” could just as easily be a PVE player who just happens to like vagabonds – or a squeeky clean NRDS Null Sec Alliance player.

Because cultures around the world are so often described visually (dress, jewellery etc) I think it will be interesting to see if Incarna brings about a greater visual representation of cultural groups, or indeed of new cultures. This of course may only happen if certain styles of dress / image are actually adopted by a group and are recognised by others as being a part of that group. I personally wouldn’t mind if certain activities in game resulted in a visual clue within Incarna – for example: say you don’t un-dock for weeks perhaps your avatar gets fatter over time? Or prolonged periods in space result in bright blue eyes (a la the spice of Dune)?

EVE Gate may also allow a greater collaboration and emergence of such groups – groups which have, until now at least, been restricted by the mechanisms of corp & alliance in terms of communication. EVE Gate at least will allow players to be members of separate corps/alliances whilst being affiliated with different ‘EVE Gate Groups’ or cultures.

Of course there is still a limit to how far we can go here. Ultimately, when I glanced at that blue filled local channel there was very little to differentiate my corp from any other. My Alliances is, to all intents and purposes, very very similar to dozens of other Null Sec alliances across EVE – indeed its not really so obviously different to another alliance anywhere within EVE. Our avatars exist is a pretty flat and homogeneous universe.

Should there be more differentiating between these embryonic cultures though?

What if our ships could have corporate or allegiance markings on them? Visual ‘Im in X corp’ or ‘I loath ninja ratters’? How important is it to you that you are able to visually proclaim your identity, your cultural identity, across EVE’s tableau?

Sovereignty markers for example already exist – flying the flag for any given alliance. Sure enough they also indicate who is getting what bonuses where, but what if there were other icons of intent? Very often our real world cultures mark their terrain visually as I could readily appreciate around the streets of Leipzig – be that the classical sculptures on the older buildings, or the faded graffiti along the side streets.

Would you erect a monument to your corporation in space? Or “tag” the outside of a station you’re camping?

Such questions might seem a bit obscure (Art? In EVE!?) but players have shown a willingness to create things like ‘can art’ in the past – an otherwise pointless activity which provides no ‘in game’ benefit what so ever.

Perhaps in the distant future CCP will provide the very tools for players to better style their own cultural heritage – after all what good is a sandbox universe if you cant create the odd sculpture now and again?

C.

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5 Responses to “Cultural Quicksand”

  1. paritybit Says:

    To some extent we have an aesthetic cue — though it’s not directly visual. We give our corporations and alliances names, tickers and logos and we give our pilots within the corporation titles which are more likely to denote something about the corporate culture than the pilot.

    For example, there is a trend to place a dot at the end of a corporation or alliance name which has been growing slowly to its current state where it’s nearly impossible to travel any distance without seeing a dotted name.

    From the corporation name you can sometimes determine the likely course its members have pursued. Negative Ten (there are actually three variations of this name, one dotted) is an alliance of criminals (pirates if you like). Curitores Veritatis Alliance is composed of role players (Keepers of Truth?) as opposed to the Sons of Viagara or Sharks with Frickin’ Lazer Beams.

    As with all cues, though, they should be taken in context with other cues. My almost-three-year-old son asked me “what are those things in her mouth?” about a woman with many mouth piercings — she seemed like a lovely young woman with two decent toddlers, but taking only the piercings as a cue I might have assumed she was childless and someone I should avoid.

  2. paritybit Says:

    Sadly, I said all that and not say: Yeah, it would be interesting if we could ‘paint’ our own ships, have more customization of our avatar, and generally give off more cues as to what subculture we belong to.

  3. When in the Tuskers we actually had an anthropology student join the corporation for a month or so to study our interactions and write a report upon our culture so it definitely exists in Eve.

    • Really?! Was the study restricted to the culture of “MMO gamers” in general or was it looking specifically at a small group culture within an MMO? It would be very interesting to see the results of such a study; I think there is some merit in looking at behavioural patterns by players in terms of game play development and I’m reasonably convinced that the cultural aspects of various sub groups within an MMO like EVE would have some bearing on this.

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