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 ”