Is Mittens Real?

Alexander Gianturco, better known in EVE parlance as The Mitanni, and columnist on Ten Ton Hammer has become the subject of not inconsiderable discussion in the wider blog’o’sphere.  I’m not so interested in what The Mitanni says, but in how he says is. He has, in general terms, been dismissive of that community commenting for example on The EVE report

“…the ‘community’ in the context of sites like Eve Report means ‘the eve blog community and #tweetfleet’, which is a niche of the game’s population with an unfortunate tendency to assume that their echo chamber actually represents /everyone/, rather than people who blog about a space game – and eve bloggers don’t seem to have much to do with nullsec”.

The Mitanni, as an EVE “celebrity” is a interesting character.  He is a proficient communicator and propagandist as one might expect.  For example note how his comments on The EVE Report and later on the Lost in EVE pod cast align very closely.  He has carefully considered and prepared his message.  Notice also how he makes specific reference to his previous experience…

“….when I spoke at the Game Developer’s Conference on the topic of the EVE metagame, my identity as ‘The Mittani’ was a secret. I was a practicing attorney and didn’t want my in-game enemies attempting to interfere with my career since some of my friends, including Darius Johnson, were harassed at their workplace after running for CSM ”

I’ve bolded the key elements here by way of illustration.  The mention of GDC and his career as a practising attorney add credibility.  He also reinforces his ‘secret’ identity, the spy master of GoonSwarm.  It’s all very cloak and dagger stuff in a John Grisham thriller style.  He implies, that his enemies could have ‘interfered’ with his career exemplifying the wider ‘meta-game’ of EVE suggesting a much wider conspiracy out of EVE.

A self styled spy master of course is a perfect fit with the back story and flavour of EVE Online – a game that is set in the shadowy world of deep space filled with intrigue and nefarious characters.  The Mitanni’s column at Ten Ton Hammer is also cleverly titled ‘the sins of a solar spy master’ – not only is his persona a spy but one who is prepared to ‘sin’ – presumably by revealing the dastardly machinations he has wrought upon his enemies to us through his writing.

The generation of this alter-ego is fascinating in so much as how it illuminates EVE Online as a game.  Message and the ability to communicate that message are fundamental in terms of player ‘status’ within a single sharded MMO.  We need not be surprised to see that the Mitanni is less than enamoured with the blogging community or tweetfleet – theses are players who after all are likely to be ‘off message’ so it makes considerable sense to dismiss them as irrelevant.

Alexander Gianturco you will recall was invited to GDC, ostensibly to talk about his role in the usurpation of Band of Brothers through the defection of a key BOB director and ‘meta gaming’ as a whole.  As far as I was able to judge this actually had rather less to do with the Machiavellian plots of The Mitanni and rather more to do with a disillusioned BOB player landing in GS lap.  Let us not allow however the mundane to get in the way of a good story.  Whilst this interaction between players in a game would have been interesting on the surface I would suggest that a good many of the audience were less interested in what Alexander Gianturo had to say than in what he represented.

To this audience I would think the fact that a player, of a game, had become so absorbed within its nature that he had almost assumed the role in reality would be fascinating to any designer.  Quite whether “The Mitanni” realised he was a performing monkey in this respect is an entirely subjective appraisal of course.

In game design terms the point where the player and the avatar begin to blur into a quasi singular entity is something of an ascension.  If you could bottle that you’re onto a winner.  For CCP The Mitanni / Alexander Gianturco’s election to the chair of the CSM is a considerable achievement.  Formerly the infamous ‘spy’ in game, is now working out of the game in a “political” role.  CCP’s marketing team are probably biting their knuckles to stop themselves from crying with joy.

This very much goes back to Seismic Stan’s excellent blog post with respect to “is EVE real?”.  Alexander Gianturco’s success in terms of his self portrayal is to blur those lines between himself and his alter-ego character The Mitanni.  To what extent he is doing this deliberately is hard to say.  Is he firmly on Seismic Stan’s ‘fanatical’ scale? Is any player so heavily involved able to differentiate the difference?

To exemplify this intriguing relationship between “the player” and “the game” allow me to provide a final example of The Mitanni’s earlier comment, re worked with subtly different language and let you draw your own conclusions;

“….before I spoke at the conference on the topic of the EVE metagame, it was not widely known that my character was ‘The Mittani’. I had a professional job and didn’t want in-game players attempting to interfere with my career since some of my friends, including Sean Conover, were harassed at their workplace after running for CSM ”

C.

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9 Responses to “Is Mittens Real?”

  1. Serpentine Logic Says:

    It’s called framing the narrative.

    I admire Mittens’ restraint, because his CSM campaign seemed to be only mildly manipulative, and judging by the response from the Eve community, they evidently seem unprepared to deal with someone with his skills.

  2. Oh my.

    Okay, there are several problems here.

    1. Bringing up mittens’ attitude toward the community first thing tells the reader why you are posting, which calls into question your objectivity before you even start. What I got from the first paragraph is that you are mad about mittens calling out the community (about 0.2% of eve players) as irrelevant, and I read the rest of the post with that in mind.
    2. Partly because of this, I realized that your attempt to deconstruct mittens was made with limited information. This is the same as making shit up, and is especially weak when you try to make out the target as an unwitting pawn; it makes it sound like you are trying to humanize someone who intimidates you so that you can look down on them.
    3. Scare quotes. Most semi-literate ‘people’ know that “scare quotes” are a cheap mechanism used to ‘manipulate’ unwary readers. The attempted manipulation causes the so-called ‘reader’ to resent the writer, as well as immediately revealing what ‘position’ is being pushed.

    tl;dr your poor delivery is actually working against you.

    A better strategy in this situation would be to stay factual and above-board as much as possible. For example, it would be easy to talk about how mittens tries to build a particular image of himself. You could then perhaps talk about his ability or attempts to manipulate the public discourse in general, and at the very end mention his comments about the community and say he may be using his influence to marginalize the community because they are unlikely to carry his message.

    See how that works? By starting out speaking factually about a related topic you avoid undermining your position at the beginning, while opening a route for your thesis. You have to remember that your audience is the community, which takes itself too seriously and is already against mittens — just the idea that he might be attacking them will be adequate to get their hackles up. The deconstruction is weak and defocuses the post, so it would be best to leave it out altogether if you can’t reduce it to one sentence and tie that in with something.

    • Ooh, it made it through moderation. I’m impressed.

      After checking some of your other posts it looks like I may have jumped the gun a little, but the numbered sections are still relevant.

    • You make some interesting points. I don’t think there is much to be gained from trying to conceal The Mitannis disdain for the blogging / tweetfleet pack. In fact it goes to the heart of what The Mitanni’s nature is – a political creature who would quite naturally (and sensibly) seek to neutralise or reject those who might comment against him. Whether his stance is to be condoned or not I would leave to the reader. It shows he is politically astute and is seeking to distance himself from other commentators which illustrates something of his character.

      I would say that it is interesting because the 0.2% of players who blog might be analogous to the number of players on the CSM, or indeed to any other minority selection from the player base. It is also interesting that The Mitanni attempts to marginalise the blog/twitter community (which he describes as almost exclusively from high and low sec) and then comments elsewhere that the high sec / low sec community is not organised and has no co-ordinated voice. One would assume that this is to legitimise the voice of the null sec player base as being ‘superior’ on account of its organisational structures. The blog/twitter community has a social structure of sorts however which The Mitanni does not recognise as having value. That’s a subject for wider discussion – are hierarchical structures of greater value than looser associations?

      It’s interesting that you think I am looking to deconstruct The Mitanni from a negative stand point. That’s not my explicit intention, rather to consider The Mitanni as a product of EVE; emergence if you want to call it that. Certainly that requires a view point that is external to the subject and perhaps this is why you have the impression that I am attempting to ‘humanize’ him. I would suggest that it is entirely appropriate to do so – The Mitanni (the in game persona) vs the human being Alexander Gianturco. That’s necessary in this context as we’re considering here how Alexander Gianturco adopts the mantle of The Mitanni out of the game of EVE. It looks to the wider question of how separate (if at all) the two are.

      I’m sorry you consider my writing style as a poor delivery, but of course I welcome any criticism. From my personal perspective I think The Mitanni makes some very valid points with respect to the power of the CSM and its real impact upon the developers at CCP and his criticisms of some of EVE’s failings (tedious PVE content, lagged fleet flights, dire UI etc). I don’t agree with his n+1 views in terms of large scale warfare for reasons I hope to explore in a later blog post. However I would qualify that as The Mitanni isn’t illustrating anything that hasn’t been raised before – a fact he himself admits with reference to the extensive back log of issues.

      C.

  3. Hmmm. If I were CCP I’d be mighty concerned about how real Mittens is. As a voter, I am concerned. In his interview, he says he’s retired from law practice and no longer worries about the impact the game may have on his personal life. Is he then Fanatical (per Seismic Stan’s post)? Does he now live and breathe Eve without a real job to distract him? Is he still playing the game as the chair of the CSM? Does he ever log (his mind) out of the game? These are questions I ponder about him.

    He is the head goon, the goon of goons (at least in Eve). Given what he has done meta-gaming, playing the game while logged off, being the master spy, it is quite conceivable that he is just continuing to play the role in the CSM. Which would be scary because it implies he’s there for an agenda other than the representation of the players to CCP.

    So is it Alexander or The Mittani who attends the CSM meetings? The player or the character? Are they distinct? Which is real?

    If I was CCP, these are questions I’d be asking.

  4. A very thought-provoking post, nice one. Ever since his interest in the CSM caused the Mittani to have more relevance outside of null-sec, I’ve been trying to make sense of him. I am fascinated by how his brain works, I’m just undecided whether a conversation or a blunt object would be my preferred way to gain access. 😉

    I agree with parasoja’s second point, it is a bit harsh to jump to conclusions based on heresay and conjecture, so I’m trying to keep an open mind as he starts interacting with the wider community. He’s started to be a bit more active in the community beyond his normal haunts, in an unsurprisingly confrontational manner.

    It’s interesting that he seems to think that an association with the morally-challenging EVE universe entitles him to behave as he does in anything he deems as the meta-game environment.

    However, he’s signed up to “get shit done”, so ultimately he’ll be judged by his successes in that arena. He would probably argue that he’s already won the popularity contest. Let’s see if he delivers, I honestly hope he (and his fellow CSM members) ‘do good shit’. That’ll be the best way to determine how ‘real’ he is.

  5. Just One of the n00bs He Hates Says:

    I always have found it VERY fascinating that he “retired” from the practice of law considering the fact that if he really is Alexander Gianturco, he was admitted to practice law in January 2009 in Washington, D.C. I bet after four years of college, three years of law school, studying for the bar exam, taking and assumedly passing the bar, and a whopping two years of practicing law, the little darling is all burned out.

    Is it ironic to anyone else that he has been involved with and/or running Goons for longer than he has been licensed to practice law and has not “b urned out” on that? He is nothing more than a well-spoken Eve addict spinning his career failure into “I didn’t want that law career anyway.” He has subverted his career with his desire to be relevant in an online game. Bravo! A fine role model he is.

    Take a look at the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder:

    A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:

    1. React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation

    2. Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals

    3. Have excessive feelings of self-importance

    4. Exaggerate achievements and talents

    5. Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love

    6. Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment

    7. Need constant attention and admiration

    8. Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy

    9. Have obsessive self-interest

    ——————–

    Looks to me like the reality of “The Mittens” is that he’s just another internet whack job who needs a LOT of medication and therapy.

    Pursue mainly selfish goals

    • *snerk*

      I’m sure some people would rather be a lawyer than retire to play internet spaceships and LARP with their hot wife, but don’t you think you’re making quite a lot of assumptions about somebody’s personal life based on not a lot of information? Unless you have actual information about mittens’ financial situation, you’re just making shit up.

      Also, your information is wrong to begin with. He was licensed in 2004 in Maryland.

      As far as narcissistic personality disorder, you fail to understand the meaning of the word “disorder.” Every politician who has ever lived will exhibits most of the traits you list for narcissistic personality disorder, but in fact for a set of personality traits to qualify as a disorder they need to impact the person’s life in a significant and negative way. I have traits of obsessive compulsive and schizoid disorders, but because they don’t affect my life in a negative way I would not qualify for a diagnosis of personality disorder.

  6. […] Mittani (often called “Mittens” on EVE blogs, rofl) seems to respond to that insight by gleefully piling on; my choice is more like bitter […]

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