Knights were dangerous strategic weapons in the Middle Ages. Supremely armed and armored, expert in combat, well-funded and supplied, knights were the most potent examples of power projection in a king's or queen's realm. They exuded more influence by their mere presence then by their actual use. They were so intimidating that the knights developed a code of ethics - a pledge of limits and ideals to control their indiscriminate use. This became the chivalric code.
Some of the principles of chivalry included:
- To protect the weak and defenseless
- To refrain from the wanton giving of offense
- To live by honor and for glory
- To despise pecuniary reward (for being a mercenary)
- To fight for the welfare of all
- To guard the honor of fellow knights
- To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
- At all times to speak the truth
- To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
- To respect the honor of women
- Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
- Never to turn the back upon a foe
Is there no room for chivalry in EVE Online?
Many players contend that the game is designed to crush altruistic behavior out of New Eden. For example, capsuleers pledge allegiance to no one but themselves - even their loyalty to their corps or alliances, from which they can depart at any time, can be discarded to pursue their own ends. Even their native racial factions have no relevance or impact on their in-game decisions.
Further, many EVE pilots seek out the weak and defenseless - not to defend them, but simply because they are attractive targets for destruction. Many hang out in Local chat only to issue offensive comments - the more provocative, the better. Some chat trolls consider it a fine art form to be admired.
For many pilots, the only glory worth cultivating is their own reputation as a dangerous and aggressive threat, not to be trifled with. Honor is a vacuous concept held only by the naive in EVE Online. It is generally regarded as a sign of weakness and vulnerability, to be derided and held in contempt by tougher, more enlightened pilots.
Truthfulness is also considered an aberration in EVE Online. All contracts need to be triple-checked, anything in Jita Local is a scam, and any unsolicited convo is a potential invitation to disaster. The EVE press sensationalize the successful execution of corp thefts - the bigger, the better.
And so it goes in New Eden. This hard reality is how it is. Those who accept this fact will learn to adapt and survive. The rest become irrelevant.
Or do they? Is there room for chivalry in EVE Online?
Knights in New Eden
I know of a few pilots who behave according to an unstated code of chivalry, worthy of respect.
Chribba, of course, is the first example who comes to mind. He has cultivated a flawless reputation for trustworthiness that is unmatched. His escrow services are reliably and faithfully executed. His EVE support applications and utilities, such as EVE-Files and EVE-Offline, are invaluable to players - and free, a generous gift to all pilots. Chribba is an admirable example of how a pristine reputation can translate into success in EVE.
Azual Skoll is a renowned PvP expert. His knowledge of the mechanics of combat are rivaled by only a very few in all of New Eden, making him a terrifying and deadly opponent. But Azual is an honorable warrior. Read his outstanding blog, The Altruist, for descriptions of his combat encounters. He never turns down a challenge from an equal, or even from many superior pilots. And he shares his knowledge with anyone, either in private lessons or on his extremely clear and articulate blog. He does this quietly, with humility - not with public bluster and exclamatory emphasis.
In each of their own but different ways, Chribba and Azual are knights of New Eden.
My own corp, EVE University, has a Code of Conduct, based on the simple ideals of honesty and respect. While not perfect by any means, the code helps us to provide a place where new players can learn about the game with at least a small measure of security.
I suspect that there are actually many, many other chivalrous players and corporations in EVE Online. We simply never hear about them. They are the "dark matter" of New Eden - they are everywhere, but no one sees them.
I see examples of chivalry all the time in the UNI - little gifts of selflessness in an otherwise very selfish universe: a veteran gifting ISK or a ship to a new player, or answering their questions in chat, or contributing their paid game time to mentor novices one-on-one. And I see similar examples in other corps, too. They just do it quietly, without fanfare - and without unfairness, meanness or deceit.
The Honor of Women
Even though it can be challenging, behaving as an entirely honorable character within the New Eden cluster is achievable, and can even be highly successful. For those players who decide not to play the game under a code of chivalry, EVE Online provides ample opportunity to play the villain, with equal or greater chances for success. Either style of play is legitimate in EVE.
However, some players extend a less-than-chivalrous play style beyond the confines of the game itself - into Real Life. A few have shown blatant disrespect for women players, which is rude at best, and downright criminal at worst.
When I was a director at the UNI, we had a few incidents of abuse of women players. Most of these were confined to in-game inappropriate chat, and were easily and swiftly corrected. But we had one incident that was truly scary - when one of our members began to harass a female player, both in game and in Real Life.
We expelled the offending member, and encouraged the female player to take protective steps, including calling the police. Ultimately, she decided to leave EVE Online altogether. This saddened me, as she was an good player and an outstanding contributor to the UNI.
My anger at the offender was exacerbated by his misogynist rationalization for his actions: "I didn't do anything wrong. It's EVE. She should HTFU, and realize that she's going to get this kind of treatment in the game, because she's a girl." (Emphasis mine.)
CCP Games' chief marketing officer, David Reid, recently revealed that 96 percent of all EVE Online subscribers are male. Even among other massively multiplayer online games, EVE Online's domination by men is an extreme aberration. One multi-year study shows that 15 percent of other MMO gamers are women - EVE Online's proportion of women subscribers is almost four times smaller.
Is EVE Online inherently sexist? EVE Online's senior producer, CCP Seagull (Andie Nordgren), doesn't seem to think so. She suggests that the game's science-fiction theme attracts a predominantly male audience, and CCP's developer team is alright with that reality. They do not intend to introduce features for the sole purpose of drawing in more female subscribers.
I disagree with CCP Seagull's assertion that a science-fiction theme appeals mostly to males. There are many women who appreciate science fiction, in many different forms of media. Some female EVE Online bloggers also disagree with CCP Seagull. The theme of EVE Online is not the reason for its failure to attract more of a female audience.
I humbly suggest that we see so few women in EVE Online is because chivalry is woefully undervalued and relatively invisible in the game, and also because women players, being a rarity, receive a disproportionate degree of abuse, both inside and outside of the game itself, with little accountability enforced upon the abusers.
Note that I am not asserting that male players are the only guilty party here.
Earlier this week, the well-known videoblogger, Mintchip was hired by CCP to do public relations work for DUST 514. Most EVE Online players in the #tweetfleet group on Twitter gave her a warm welcome to the team, but a few did not like this development, and they made their displeasure known. The welcoming thread in the official forums soon swelled to many pages, and ultimately was locked by CCP moderators - and then removed completely.
I have no idea as to Mintchip's professional credentials - in fact, no one other than CCP can say that they do. But Mintchip has made some disparaging comments about EVE Online in the past, and her on-screen video reporting manner is not universally appreciated by all. I have no problem with people who complained about Mintchip's hiring on these grounds. If you think she has been disloyal to the community, or if you don't like her reporting or her video style, that is your opinion and you are entitled to share it, if you wish.
However, some people asserted both on Twitter and in the forums that Mintchip was hired "because she's a girl." And some made this assertion punctuated strongly with language that would never be repeated in polite company.
And, ironically, many of those people were women players, as they themselves confirmed.
For example, two female EVE Online players went on a continuous rant on Twitter about Mintchip, stating repeatedly that CCP only hired her because she is pretty and female. The assaults were relentless, and increased in volume and rabidity as the week progressed. I found it so offensive that I simply blocked them.
I wonder: would there have ever been this kind or amount of negative abuse, if Mintchip was a man?
Whether or not you like Mintchip personally, I don't care - but when you start attacking her solely on the grounds that she is a woman, then I think you've gone too far.
It's so easy to be abusive in EVE Online, or on the Internet. They are anonymous media, and there are no constraints, and few repercussions, on those who wish to verbally lacerate any who happen to hear them there. But hiding behind the shield of anonymity, while launching misogynist and abusive attacks on women players, is cowardly and ugly - no matter what your own sex may be.
We need more knights in EVE Online - and fewer trolls.
Fly safe! o7