The recent spate of conflict between the EVE Player council CSM and the company that makes our game, CCP has reached a new low (or, if you are the gaming press and live off click-through-ads, high) with Sion Kumitomo’s manifest. Whether I agree with it or not is not of concern here, my concern is how to help CSM to regain its trust and usefulness so that we – the players – can continue to have insight and input into the design of our hobby.
As eluded to, I want to emphasize trust. Read Sion’s post carefully and you realize that the lack of trust is at the center of the issue. Players don’t trust CCP to design a good game which is of course the reason of having a CSM in the first place. CSM members don’t trust players’ ability to rationally vote and hide behind bombastic, Trump-style campaigns designed to gather votes no matter truth. CCP doesn’t trust CSM (never fully have) and shuts down communication, releases features without discussion and shuns specific members in public. And of course, in a system where nobody trusts anyone, the progression from working relationship to hidden conflict to open conflict to apathy is a well trodden path – we all experienced this in real life corporate situations.
Speaking about real life corporations and trust – did you notice the odd little effect that telecommuting and the ubiquity of conference calls had on body language and facial expressions? Its much harder to read the mood of your colleague on calls and certainly where I can’t read someone’s emotions, I can’t develop trust.
Given that virtually all CSM / CCP / Player interaction is either written or by telecommunication but rarely in person, the absence of trust is an anticipated side effect and shouldn’t surprise us at all. But instead of sitting on our hands, lets do something about it.
A Modest Proposal
Over the last few years, consumer electronics companies have developed a dizzying array of wearable devices promising to measure physiological parameters such as heart rate, galvanic skin response (GSR, i.e. the amount of “sweat” following a stressful stimulus), blood pressure, skin temperature and motion. There are many more, recently, the well-known company Philips launched an App that ascertains heart rate through interpretation of a webcam image! Together, these data offer an incredible insight into the emotional state of the participant and – through the magic of Bluetooth and the internet – make it available for all to see. So, it is logical to use this technology developed for the improvement of sports performance and “wellness” to enhance trust among ourselves.
I thereby propose that each CSM member throughout his or her term shall wear above mentioned monitoring devices on his or her body and stream their emotional responses live and unfiltered into the internet. Given the asynchronous nature of communication, these devices need to be worn 24/7 to assure unlimited coverage. What better way to create transparency and avert accusations of lying if the scientifically acquired data clearly shows that one was speaking the truth? How better to prove one’s innocence of making backroom deals (“proven” by fake screen captures) if one can demonstrate sound sleep, even which phase of the sleep one was in?
Of course, the concept of using devices as such in the detection of the truth is not new. The most commonly cited device is the Voight-Kampff Machine that is reported to detect lies within 20-30 cross-referenced questions. A little clumsy device by today’s state of electronics but the principle remains sound.
In this scenario, transparency is total and thus trust can be restored to the benefit of all players and CCP employees alike. A hard working and honest CSM member has nothing to fear as he is virtually immune from malicious attacks and someone like Sion wouldn’t have spend minutes of his valuable time writing manifestos – he could point at his data stash assuring his innocence.
There are of course legitimate privacy concerns and I take them very seriously. After all, the need for 24/7 monitoring even covers those few moments in a CSM member’s life where he is not working on shady backroom deals or stabbing a fellow delegate in the back. Some delegates are married for example and concerns were raised that their physiological state during the execution of marital duties are not fit for public scrutiny. To this I have two points,
1) for this limited term, a CSM member must put the good of the many over the good of the few. A CSM seat comes with distinct benefits and those need to be earned. Monitoring their vital signs during “private time” is simply a consequence that they have to take into consideration.
2) most CSM members are trained or employed in IT or related professions. Their involvement with EVE online in itself is a deterrent to real human relationships, especially romantic ones and the probability of extended and intense “private time” is extremely low in this demographic. In addition, this demographic is not expected to experience these periods much different than for example, a fight in T1 frigates, high intensity for a few seconds that may not even register on the monitor. Certainly, we don’t expect the same level of emotional intensity as leaking NDA data would cause for example.
While I maintain that continuous monitoring and public display of the physiological data will create a unique environment of trust and transparency, what can be done when a real infarction is discovered?
Well, as it happens, the mechanisms mostly exists. An offending CSM member can be silenced from specific sessions and expelled permanently or temporarily.
Also, in conversation with my EVE friends, the suggestion came up to use the wearable devices to administer electric shocks as punishment for an offense. For example, a nullsec delegate who claims that he has not handed over early Sov change information to his alliance leader may be exposed to a single burst of moderate voltage. Painful but leaving no lasting burns. And to make this more effective, I would recommend that the electrodes are not applied on hand / feet or torso but more sensitive and private parts of the body, scrotum for example lends itself very well. A small clip, a discrete cable and the circuit is closed.
I am however a little weary of this method since routine, small electric shocks allow the body to train itself to ignore them (or even desire them but lets not go there, that’s too weird). This “immunization” could render the entire system useless and must be taken very seriously. I would therefore propose to hold these punitive shocks at a very minimum and look for other systems as negative feedback. For example, small bags of skin-dye applied to the CSM member’s eye glasses can be set off with a remote trigger and stain his face green. Similarly, discharge of a foul-smelling odor may be repellent but this needs to be tailored to the delegate, considering their unwashed demographic origin, nothing below the smell of a rotten shark may work. And in Iceland that may make them more attractive, so the need to personalize these measures is absolute. Equally, application of electric shocks to the life-partner of CSM member has come up as a possible deterrent but given the general sociopathic nature of EVE players may actually evoke the exact opposite behavior.
Lastly, termination of CSM membership due to an infarction can be made more memorable than the existing formal letters and semi-public shunning. A triggered discharge of the wearable device’s entire battery resulting in 3rd degree burns, smoke inhalation and black scorch marks has been discussed among the team but the details on local safety rules (CE mark for example in EU, UL in the US) may mean that lasting harm may not be elicited remotely. I personally would prefer public shaming by plotting selected vital signs during strenuous defecation but again, given the nature of EVE players, this may be a badge-of-pride rather than punishment. This certainly needs more detailed analysis.
Overall, I believe that real-time, mandatory physiological monitoring of CSM members is a viable, secure and highly effective way to assure transparency and honesty among our delegates. I understand that privacy concerns exist but can be safely set aside and I do not advocate punitive methods beyond the bare minimum to assure compliance and entertainment.
A brave, new and transparent world awaits.
Disclaimer for those readers who don’t get it: This post is intended as satire and black humor to ridicule the behavior of online computer gamers. I do not suggest or endorse to cause actual bodily or emotional harm to anyone and recommend using all devices safely and according to manufacturer’s instructions.