Confessions of an Elderly Capsuleer

I was fascinated to see this graphical analysis of the age of players in EVE Online over the last 11 years, published by CCP Quant:

I began playing EVE Online in the summer of 2009, so I started contributing to the above data lines more than five years ago. I suspect that my relatively advanced number of years in Real Life helped to extend the long tail distribution towards the elder end of the age spectrum.

In game age, my character is about half as old as the initial, brave pioneers who first began to fly in New Eden. I'm impressed that so many players have stuck with the game for more than a decade - those who appear in the bars further down the extended stretch of older players on the right side of curve. It's a tribute to EVE Online that a die-hard contingent continues to endure and adapt to the ever-changing and growing mechanics of life in New Eden.

Grateful for Bittervets

One YouTube commenter on this bit of graph-porn intoned cynically that this shows that EVE Online caters only to veteran players who dominate the game, but that is a gross misunderstanding of what the curve represents. If that was true, then the median of the distribution would track further to the right and at greater velocity as the entire game ages. Instead, it migrates rather slowly as more players enter the game each year - and as players across the entire distribution drop out for one reason or another.

The shape and shift of the graph curve does not surprise me. I have observed before that the average age of EVE Online players seems to be significantly higher than the usual MMO. Indeed, after trying other multi-player online games, especially that well-known ultra-popular theme park fantasy game, I have found a much more pleasant home among my fellow capsuleers. The camaraderie and generally rational level of conversations and chats I have with EVE Online players contrast starkly to the hormone-drenched adolescent blathering and expletive-filled teenage tirades I have endured in other games targeted at a decidedly younger audience.

Imagine if Blizzard tried to make a promotional video for World of Warcraft, based on in-game player comms in the style of the recent "This is EVE" video. Actually, on second thought, that might be so pathetic, it could be very funny.

To those who urge CCP Games to recruit a much younger audience into EVE Online, I say: no, thank you - I'll gladly take my older and more serious capsuleer-mates in New Eden any day.

The Next 15 Years

Personally, the most interesting parts of the age distribution curve are the short bars on the far right. In Real Life, I'm now 55 years old, so I'm well over the median - in fact, I'm more than the 95th percentile in age, compared to the rest of the population of EVE Online players. I'm now planning my retirement years, and wondering how I'll be occupying my time a decade from now. I see the smattering of players on that age distribution curve stretching up to the mid-70's - and even a few players beyond that - and I smile, because I can easily see myself running a POS or two, evading pirates in low-sec, and flying in fleet ops at that advanced age, and still having a blast.

I now have a new goal - to one day be the oldest living EVE Online player. I wonder what the curve will look like then?

Fly safe! o7


Old Timers in EVE Online

On the EVE University forums, there is an informal poll asking the Real Life age of our corporation members. The results, compiled after a few years of data gathering, are an interesting normal distribution:

Real Life age distribution of EVE University poll respondents

Real Life age distribution of EVE University poll respondents

If this poll is accurate, the average age of the typical UNI is not quite 30 years old. That surprises me. Since so many UNI members are brand new to EVE Online, I'd expect that average to be slightly lower than the typical EVE player, if there is such a thing. That means that the median age of EVE Online players is probably around 30 years old.

Compared to other MMOs that I've sampled, that's definitely a more mature group, relatively speaking. I recall my first and only foray into World of Warcraft. It seemed like everyone I encountered was in high school, and the amazing depth of unsophistication in my brief inter-player conversations reinforced that impression. I flew from WoW after only a few hours, vowing never to play it again. Having previously raised two children through their teens, I found no pleasure in experiencing that kind of inane chattering again, especially during my precious recreational time.

EVE Online players are different. As a group, EVE players seem to be a bit more seasoned. For example, most of my corpmates seem to have actual relationships in the real world, instead of imagined adolescent fantasies. "Uh oh - wife aggro," is a commonly understood and readily accepted reason for logging off. If I'd mentioned that in WoW, I suspect it would have generated a flurry of giggling taunts, at least. In EVE, most people just reply with a heartfelt, "Good luck!", simultaneously expressing their empathy with a poor fellow's experience.

EVE Online has also taught me that I'm old. Really old. After successfully completing 54 solar orbits, so far, I never considered myself to be ancient. But corp chat has revealed that I have been deluding myself.

This is not me - but I feel like this sometimes...

This is not me - but I feel like this sometimes...

I was in UNI corp chat the other day, and had this conversation... 

UNI #1 > Hey, I just got a new PC, with a new Nvidia card. This thing rocks! 

UNI #2 > Did you get Windows 8?

UNI #1 > No, I kept Win7 - I didn't see a reason to get 8. 

UNI #3 > Man, I remember Vista on my first PC. That was awful. 

UNI #2 > Vista? My first PC ran XP. I guess I'm old.

Neville Smit > Ha! My first OS was CP/M, running on an Altos PC with 8.5 inch floppy drive.  I still remember mastering PIP commands.

 (long pause)

UNI #1 > Gee, grandpa - I didn't know you played EVE, too. :-) 

UNI #2 > LOL!

I guess I deserved that. Good thing I didn't mention that I still remember the dark beforetimes - before MMOs, before the Internet, before e-mail, before PCs - as if they were yesterday. There weren't even mobile phones, once upon a time. Yes, folks, there was indeed such a dreary and scary era in mankind's history, and some of us are old enough to have lived then.

And some of us old-timers play EVE Online.

The oldest player I've ever encountered in EVE was when I was a personnel officer in the UNI. I interviewed an applicant, who turned out to be a retired military man who loved his PC. He was a fan of science fiction, and enjoyed the social aspect of MMO games.

"I really love this game," he told me. "I'm probably the oldest geek in the world."

"Oh?," I replied, "I'm over 50, myself."

"I've got a son about that age," he said. "I'm 74." 

I accepted him into the UNI, and he played casually for a few years. He loved to chat with our other members, and became quite good at dispensing helpful advice on fittings. No one ever suspected that they were talking with a septuagenarian - but I always got a kick out of seeing him online. It reminded me that perhaps I might be able to do the same thing, in twenty years.

Whenever I do an orientation class for new UNIs, I remind them that there are many different kinds of players in EVE Online. I always tell the story of the 74-year-old recruit, and say, "So, remember, you might be chatting with your grandfather here - you never know - so keep it respectful." That always makes a significant impression on our new members.

I wonder how many of us old timers there are in EVE. Compared to other MMOs, no doubt we're a larger percentage than usual. But I get the impression that we're a small minority. If the UNI poll is any indication, we represent less than 5 percent of the entire player base. 

Still, it's nice to have a game where we ancient capsuleers can feel at home. 

Fly safe! o7