With great power….

.. comes great responsibility. A saying attributed to Voltaire and widely used as a caution to the opposite side of the insight that ““Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” by Lord Acton.  Both are written from the viewpoint of someone without power, of course and that is where the dichotomy lies.  We are aware that power carries a burden but we seek it nonetheless.

But what exactly is this burden that comes with power? First of all “power” is  the ability to influence other people’s lives.  A gun gives a person power over another person’s health.  Money gives me power to buy politicians who will then do as I demand.  In that, we seek power as it allows us to control the people within our sphere of influence.  And whilst most societies implement some form of checks and balances to control the power someone truly has over others, the ultimate decision on how to use power lies with the who has it.  Ayn Rand famously stated it this way “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others. ” (This may lead into a weird discussion what achievement is in her context other than domination of others but that will likely be a different post).  The burden of power is therefore mostly based on my ethics,  i.e. to what end do I want to use the power given to me?  Power in this context implies that I have a choice.  I can chose to wield it for the good of others or chose to use it against them.

So.  Back to games. Online Games.  EVE Online.

One of my favorite podcasters in EVE Online, Ender Black from Podgoo frequently lectures about topics of social interest rather than straight game mechanics.  He comes across as a rational, knowledgeable guy and often references his service in the US Navy in context of the game.  I really enjoyed his balanced view on the game and he certainly seemed like a guy who is as good as his word.  In other words, someone trustworthy, someone you want to have by your side in-game and out.

And yet, in his latest podcast Ender revealed that he took part in a scam to utterly steal and destroy assets of an inexperienced in-game corporation that was naive enough to promoted Ender’s friend to a position of trust.  Ender seemed pleased with his role and reveled in the cunning of his friend (faking to be deaf-mute).

Now, I know that EVE Online is – in contrast to World of Warcraft – a harsh world and that one can never really trust anyone.  Power is routinely used against unwitting players, the more brutal, the better, the more destruction, the more bragging rights.  But in this climate – as discussed before – social bonds thrive also more and hence “trust” becomes a valued commodity.  People trusted Ender’s friend which gave them both power and they used it to destroy them.  For cheap Lolz and a little in-game currency, Ender and his friend chose to wreck their reputation as persons of integrity.  And as per podcast, now even publicly.  Congratulations.

The CEO in the corp I currently play in decided that he would make me “Director” based on a bunch of factors.  One of them is that have a track record of working for the corp and with people and I genuinely want the team to succeed. This is my goal in this game and while I am not very experienced, I will pitch in wherever I can.  But with this power also comes some responsibility.  As Director I have access to information and in-game resources that influence other other people – my corp mates, the reputation of the corp to the outside and so on.  It is not great power but some and I could do some rather serious damage to the group at this point.  Of course I will not as I believe that people act in the game world the way they act in the real world.

If you are a the kind of person who screws friends over in-game, I don’t want anything to do with you in the real world.

Thank you Ender Black for that lesson and fly safe

5 responses to “With great power….

  1. Thanks for mentioning me. I have to say, I really like your blog. I’ve enjoyed your writing…it’s a treat to find a blog for EVE that is written well with cogent discussions. Keep it up! I’m now a fan.

  2. I actually re-listened to that episode after reading your comments. While I might be completely wrong, I did not have the impression that Ender “reveled in the cunning of his friend”. His words were something to the effect of “A corpmate let me in on a scam.” and most of the discussion of the event between him and his co-host on the War College dealt with ways how to prevent such infiltration action.

    That being said, I find myself pondering many of the issues you adress in this blogpost quite regularly. The whole RL vs in-game personality for example. I guess everyone acts different online than IRL, and EVE encourages us to bring out the worst and meanest sides of our personalities. I do think, though, that the most valuable commodity in that game is trust, and if you build it up just to squander it, then you basically play on the sophistication level of someone who autopilots multibillion ISK faction fit PvE ships through lowsec. 😉

  3. @Mme. Thalys, thanks for your comment. You are right, I re-listened to the podcast and Ender was not “reveling” but just telling. Agreed. I likely overreacted in my wording because I had created a representation of “Ender” as a trustworthy person in my head, based on little evidence. I also reacted sharply as our corp is involved in something where we as a corp and I as a person have been granted a lot of trust by others. We / I could abuse it and we / I choose not to.

    Other societies work differently, again, in-game and out. Mortgage lenders and the goons thrive on deception and screwing people over. How you interact with a world is a matter of choice. I wrote a quick post just now to lead into that in future posts. Comments are more than welcome.

  4. I would have to say in the light of day that you are both right. I may not have been reveling in the memory of that exploit but it was certainly something that I had fun doing. It was exhilarating to be so wicked. This touches on a very interesting topic as far as roleplaying goes and I’ll be talking about that in my next podcast. So thanks for the material ;p

    Essentially, I deny the theory of “The Duality of Man.” I deny that theory because it implies that a man is binary when in truth we are all lovers and killers, tormentors and nurturers. It is the situation that we choose which to be that decides in the end if we are lawful or chaotic, good or evil (to steal from D&D).

    This is what happens when people write good blogs, they start conversations that carry on in other blogs and medium. So, good job splatus.

  5. @Ender. Scary but I had a half-written post dealing with exactly that, the weird dychotomy of online behaviour. And before you scoop me in your next podcast, I finished and posted it. Ha, take that!

    No, honestly, I fully agree with your disdain for the “duality of man”. It is so flawed, I don’t even know where to start to think about it in rational terms. We all contain the desire to build and destroy – the question is, how do we deal with this conflict? Who will be on the receiving end of our decision?

    Btw. Thanks for the laurels on this blog. It is more a brain-outlet and a place to challenge my own thinking about the online world. If it grows into something more, I will be ecstatic. And just to return the compliment, I still think your podcast is the best out there (well, I do like Jade’s but then I am biased….). Keep that going!

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