Blog Banter 37: The Line in the Sand

“EVE Online sits on the frontier of social gaming, providing an entertainment environment like no other. The vibrant society of interacting and conflicting communities, both within the EVE client and without, is the driving force behind EVE’s success. However, the anonymity of internet culture combined with a competitive gaming environment encourages in-game behaviour to spread beyond the confines of the sandbox. Where is the line?

Oh the famous line between the real world and the online world – this is what my blog is all about and hence it should be dead easy to drop a few lines with references to my older posts and be done with it.  Yes?


My posts and thinking have been about my personal attitude towards the online world – as represented by EVE online.  I acknowledge that the personalities and characters I meet online are the extensions of other, real people and therefore my interaction with them is as real as if I went to the gym and challenged someone to a friendly match of push-ups.  For me, the anonymity mentioned in the Banter serves to mask my name, not my personality and an interaction with a person online is as real for me as an interaction with a “real” person.

There is no line.  After all, people don’t actually exist.  What exists are projections of people in my mind – formed by sensory input and subsequent analysis.  If I go to the gym, I see people with my eyes, shake their hands and (unfortunately) smell them, they form an impression in my memory that – in its totality and in context – forms the “person” as I see it.  The route the information takes to “impress” its personae is actually not that important.  If I was blind and went to the gym and shook someone’s hand, of course he would be “real” to me.  As real as a work colleague around the world with whom I interact daily by email but whom I never met – and actually never spoke to.  I don’t dispute that this person is real.  All my information about her stems from emails (=pixels) within the context of the work.  This of course does limited to “people”.  Our entire so-called “reality” is a construct that we constantly build, tweak and improve.

I hate this place. This zoo. This prison. This reality, whatever you want to call it, I can’t stand it any longer. It’s the smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste your stink and every time I do, I fear that I’ve somehow been infected by it. Agent Smith

So, within this context, the Banter becomes rather meaningless.  If there is no “real” world – or at least it is not separate from the online world – there can not be a line.  Case closed?

Well, not quite.  See, the attitude above (which I don’t include here as intellectual wank but I really do believe this btw) deals with my perception of the world, not necessarily with my interaction.  If I followed this philosophy all the way through, shooting the guy in the gym  with a shotgun when he beats me at the push-up contest would be as real as shooting his spaceship.  And whilst I have some issue shooting people’s spaceships, I would never (1) shoot my neighbor in “real life”.

Why is that?  I am not quite sure.  But I think it has to do with the my “self-image” – kind of like a over-the-shoulder, 3rd person representation of myself in my own reality.  This person (=me) moves within my reality and is subjected to the same rules that I subject other representations of people, laws that apply to them, apply to me.  Physics of course, we all experience the same amount of gravity (2).  In my created reality, shooting someone with a shotgun is not allowed.  Hence my “avatar” is also not allowed to do so or he would break the immersion (3).  Equally not allowed is to negatively mess with someone else’s perception of reality.   While I have little scruple’s to blow up someone’s space ship, I would never aim to negatively influence what they perceive as “real world”.  The Mittani saga showed just how tenuous that separation is and dancing on that line is fraught with risk.  The EULA of course aims to regulate this – but as it is a legal document, it is philosophically insufficient.  It creates a “bubble” in which certain things are allowed, others are not.  It must fail when it aims to govern interaction outside the bubble, Facebook for example.

Lastly (really), I want to turn this around.  The blog banter implies that the line separates negative interaction between the online world of EVE and the “real world”.  Huh? Where does that bias comes from? Sure, many online interaction are negative.  Stalking of a female player is just vile.  Stealing of resources by gaining trust and exploiting it is “wrong”.  But how about meeting up and buying someone a beer?  Helping a guy with his dyslexia, or his fear of public speaking?  Coach someone to be confident as a leader of friends, teach spreadsheet skills and help with maths?  All of which I have done – clearly crossing the “line” between the real world and the online world.  And vice versa, a corp mate bailed me out when my Linux laptop died on a road trip leaving me stranded, a fellow blogger encouraged me to write fiction, something I always wanted to do but never had the courage. These are examples of the many people who “crossed the line” into my real world and made lasting and positive impression on me.

Bringing it home

Whilst I don’t believe that there is a line between the real and the pixel  world, what governs you in real life should govern you in-game.  Don’t be an asshat, stay within the framework and respect the other person’s line more than your own.


(1) Unless in self-defense with its weird extensions to defending someone else or my genepool (=nation). Philosophically, it gets really wobbly out there.  Lets leave it for now.

(2) I know gravity fluctuates wildly across the world.  The ability to measure defines the deviation.  In this context, gravity is constant.  I have spoken.

(3)  By the way – a separation of this projected self in one’s own reality from the actual person (akin to rolling your camera wide out and realizing that you are not actually the same person) is often called enlightenment.  Lets not go there for now.

2 responses to “Blog Banter 37: The Line in the Sand

  1. I guess there is a clear distinction between game and RL which lead to us not just running around our neighbourhoods ‘ganking’ eachother (apart from morals, ethics and laws): The finality of the consequences.

    If I spend my time dissing the biggest military force in EVE and gank some of their ships, they will wardec me, make my ingame existence impossible and possibly continue until I leave, maybe even DDOS my webpage. Ok that’s that then. The end of a nice hobby. Time to move on.

    If I am doing the same IRL (let’s say by having some minions fly some airplanes into some buildings) then that military force will come and devastate my whole country and then another one which didn’t even have anything really to do with my initial attack. In the end they will kill me. Me and all the others will be dead. No moving on.

    Even if you are religious, you can only have _faith_ that there is something to move on to, never certainty (allegedly less than handful of people ever came back to tell the story, and the last one did so more than 2000 years ago). That faith can even go a long way. As it turns out some people of very strong faith _are_ suicide ganking their neighbours. Still the people who would go that far are only a few. I guess for the majority of humanity there will always be the nagging doubt, while as a gamer you _know_ there is a life away from your computer.

    Also, as I have commented elsewhere I like the thought that there is actually a positive way to cross the line. I wonder what it says about me, that it never even occurred to me to look at it from that viewpoint.

  2. Though I agree that everyone sees the world differently, when you bring the disillusionment of perspective reality into play, the gloves come off! Just as when two run together, with a wall that should soon intersect with their path, they can either go around it, over, under or stop. Should they fly on, the experience could be painful. The same with a pit and man-eating beast (though in the case of the hungry animal, and in fair play, the faster individual would have the best chances). But there is no going through it. Oh, if there where lines in Eve’s social parallels, no doubt I have crossed them all. But as a country’s territorial boundary marked over the ocean – the sea does not acknowledge it, the vessel over its water does not respect it, and the commander does not see it. Another will say, in a way he believes is no different, that the sea has no master, and the captain does not acknowledge one. Though the latter may be true, the first is not. To lower the heart to a comparable value to that of the senses, where everyone can taste something differently, not all see as clearly or hear as good, and that some are numb to something such or overly sensitive, is a grave disservice to us. The heart is the heart and the wall is the wall. You cannot move them from their place, for if you do, the reason of their construction and place lose their purpose, though we often do not see it. The lack of hard work will make us often forget the common enemy that the laborers have: time. The lack of harsher environments removes the sense of community and curiosity and interests take the place of survival, and that is when we become our own islands, in the same sea. We are then left with the adventurer, the loafer/raider, and the farmer/gossip. There is something very comical in this, until the introduction of the privateer/puppet master who drives his workers/prices hard. I am fond of many of your insights, but on the mind of humanity, it requires much less years of study, when a happy beer with your crew can do much more in far less time with something timeless.

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