Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The culture of poverty and EVE

The theory of culture of poverty says that poor people have a set of values, beliefs and behaviors that keep them impoverished, even if they receive financial help. Critics claim it's not true and the observed self-harming behaviors are either consequences of poverty (can't study because he has no proper conditions at home) or equally common among rich (rich abuse alcohol and drugs too).

We are in the unique position to judge this debate because video games create the absolutely ideal society: my 1-day old avatar is just as strong as yours, jobs (quests) are in abundance and education (wikis, fansites) is instantly available. According to leftist ideas these would be needed to stop poverty. Yet we see power indifferences that would make the USA look communist. Most players remain extremely unsuccessful they possess very little in-game currency, raiding or PvP success or fame. They live a typical poor-life: doing low-paying jobs all play time, earning little money and not even saving that, leaving very little capital. They don't even attempt anything of significance in the game world.

However we can't ignore that believers of the culture of poverty failed to find explicit and unchallenged list of values belonging to that culture. I mean while it is obvious that poor children often don't study at home, there aren't significant amount of parents who would testify the value of not studying ("I tell my kids that studying is a waste of time"). When they are confronted, they present excuses instead, showing that not studying isn't a value but rather a consequence of their messed-up lives. Many other assumed "cultural values" are scientifically defeated.

So we have an interesting situation: it's an observable fact that poor people do something that makes them unsuccesful (otherwise in the fairy-tale world of video games everyone would be rich) but we cannot identify the values of these culture.

While I've always suspected, EVE Online provides an unquestionable evidence: the problematic value is sociality, the orientation towards being loved and accepted by "friends". Why? Because EVE is the only game that actively punishes socialization: player corporations can be wardecced, awoxed and betrayed, while NPC and 1-man corporations cannot. I mean you can obviously scam an NPC corp member, but you must scam personally him, while you can scam the CEO of a player corp and steal everything that corp members had (who have no means to prevent this happen). In this "be the villain" anti-utopia, the only rational decisions available are playing solo and playing a predator (this can and should be in a wolfpack). Yet we see "highsec industrialists corps" everywhere. Their cans are anchored at every gate and the New Order never runs out of stories. These corps can't be any good even by accident, since they would be instantly wardecced and destroyed. They only survive by being so bad that no one but "highsec content creators" care.

Every member of these endless iterations of corps are desperately poor for their own fault: they prefer being with "friends" over success. They lock valid information out to protect themselves from the truth: their corp sucks. They share whatever they have with "less fortunate friends" (or scammers posing as one), ruling out even the possibility of ever progressing. This is like real world poor who donate more than the rich and more likely shelter family members in their already overcrowded home. I believe the real reason of remaining poor is helping, sharing and associating with other poors. The person who works for himself will become rich, while the one who looks after his friends will become poor.

Why isn't this obvious? Because helping, sharing and associating with peers is conspicuously valued in all classes of the society. I'd underline "conspicuously": while the rich indeed praises the importance of love and sharing, he doesn't actually practice these. He would never shelter a homeless relative in his home, despite having the rooms for it. He donates smaller part of his wealth. He is much more likely doing a competitive job (lawyer, businessman, broker, politician) than a helping-protecting-serving one (health care, education, police). He lies about this value, his true values are competitiveness and selfishness. Those who truly believe in the praised values of sociality are the poor.

This indeed leaves one leftist claim true: the rich is guilty keeping the poor in poverty by lying about the way out of poverty. If all the rich would proudly preach selfishness and laugh on helping, the poor could learn from them and fix their lives.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

the reason why helping works in real life is because of added value. that's all the market is doing as well. 1 have a hammer, you have a saw. if i can trust you, we can both use 2 tools instead of just one.
social relationships based on trust and intimacy (family, friends etc) are mostly a positive sum game. when you disregard that or activly try to profit on the back of the others, they will not support you and you lose a lot of potential ressources.

what people have to do is to invest. but to invest, they need a starting capital and need to not fear the next meal.
that's why video games are a bad example. you or your avatar cannot starve. you are not your avatar, he is your toy. like the lego blocks. you don't feel like it, then you don't play with them. you won't starve if you don't build a space ship with your blocks.

that's why giving money is sometimes really the best option:
http://www.ted.com/talks/joy_sun_should_you_donate_differently/transcript?language=en

"Dozens of studies show across the board that people use cash transfers to improve their own lives. Pregnant women in Uruguay buy better food and give birth to healthier babies. Sri Lankan men invest in their businesses. Researchers who studied our work in Kenya found that people invested in a range of assets, from livestock to equipment to home improvements, and they saw increases in income from business and farming one year after the cash was sent. None of these studies found that people spend more on drinking or smoking or that people work less. In fact, they work more."

Anonymous said...

Video games are different though because money isn't a necessity. You yourself throw isk away to do something you want to do rather than become incredibly rich. Others do the same at different levels. If someone enjoys PvP, the chances are they will have enough isk to support that and no more, because they don't enjoy the tasks that would make them more than that. Beyond rookie players, nobody is poor in EVE because they have to be, getting hundreds of billions is child's play. Most people simply don't want to do that with their time.

Gevlon said...

Helping works if it arrives to working people and not morons and slackers. The tragedy of the poor is that he is around M&S, therefore his help is wasted and leaves him with nothing. If I have a hammer, but you have no saw, then sharing means that I will miss my hammer, especially when you sold it for beer. The fact that most people don't sell it for beer and have a saw is irrelevant if you are the unlucky one with the alcoholist relative.

@next anon: but players are also poor in other ventures of game-life, like PvP kills or bosskills. They have nothing, not just pretend money.

Anonymous said...

look at our richest people. they are all very much "in the game", boasting status and "keeping in touch" with their sources.
Just watch someone like Anton Kreil (4 parts) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h3lByx59ns
it's all about bribe, haggle and keeping in touch over drinks and dinner. Sure there is a part that they want us to believe, like risk management, study of regulations and constant interpretation of news sources. In a way that too is important but will get nowhere in RL market. The only thing that will help you make and defend money is a network of people with good standing that will let you in on information that will safe your ass or make you even richer is very valuable.

That aspect of the market can't be implemented. In a way the sov holders and top leaders have that kind of interaction with each other.

The problem is that most rich people don't see the "keeping in touch" part as essential as it really is.

maxim said...

I guess i can agree that within Eve-world the game-rules do indeed push people towards becoming asocial.

Which, incidentally, instantly makes this post go into my permanent bookmark archive :D. Because it is an example that a game can, indeed, push people in that direction.

However, the question stands of how representative Eve Online is of the real world. In real world, resources don't automagically respawn and people can and do get permakilled.

Jean-Yves Kiger said...

The problem is not just "helping" or "being social". It is the lack of responsibility (and the difficulty to determine it), and more importantly the fact that help is provided without determining if the receiving person deserves it.

A successful leader is usually very social, help his followers grow their potential and achieve greater things than on their own and go out of his way to gain their trust. The key part is the successful leader will not try to help anybody without judgement. He will focus his leading efforts on people that will actually help him achieve his goal.

But I think your point is that some people (your M&S) does not deserve help. But "being poor" (whatever the currency isk, kills etc) is not a sufficient criteria to determine it. And you often have to be social to determine it. Even 10 minutes of conversation is usually enough to determine if your interlocutor is an entitled guy who will not be able to provide any effort and just behave as a leech. Sometimes you need more. Being good at saying quickly if someone is worth spending time with is a skill that require practice. Of course, just talking is not enough, there should be some actions to also show up for one's worth. It's too easy to just talk to look good (even if some cant do just that).

In some cases, you can determine it only with number (A 95% efficiency pilot with de-whored stats and more than 30 kills a week is certainly a good pvp pilot) But in some case you cant ( a new player that will be a good pvper in the future you cant predict it without talking to the guy and see how he is behaving.

Back to real life "Being rich" is not enough: you can have inherited a lot of money and be a slacker with no notion of effort. You can even earn quite a bit of money and be far from more meritant than someone earning less. When you had access to good education in a good environment, your studies were paid for and your needs during that period were taken care of by other, you can end up with a good level of studies granting you above average income without being incredibly hard at work or efficient, or clever.

Then you have ways of earning money. A professional scammer, for example can be good at his job, but I would not want him anywhere near me.

To conclude I would just want to say that this kind of posts are always thought provoking, and partially true. But you oversimplificate a lot. Saying "*THE* reason poor stay poors is..." cannot be true. There is many reasons for many people being unseccessful. The first one is that if everybody succeed at something we disregard it as an achievement. Almost everybody can speak, use tools learn complexe stuff, yet most of the life on earth cant. And success is judged after what only a few can achieve, so there is no surprise that the majority is deemed unsuccessful by that regard. If everybody was making 20B a week, you would not be judged a succesful trader.

Anonymous said...

Your example of eve is actually good.

In Eve, everyone starts equal. As everyone is equal at "birth", with the same amount of isk and ships, and access to the same items then it comes down to differences in behaviour.

I truly hope you are not suggesting that everyone starts out equally at birth in life? That we all start out with access to the same resources?

Gevlon said...

Of course not. But since the equal chances at birth in EVE didn't help, it doesn't really matter.

Anonymous said...

Trying to draw conclusions about society at large from EVE is pretty sketchy.

Maybe the reason there are persistently poor players in EVE is that they think it's a game, and don't really give a damn about in-game "wealth" as long as they're having fun.

Just a thought.

Gevlon said...

Which is exactly how "fun people" approach life: parties, alcohol, drugs, early pregnancies, crimes. YOLO is their slogan.

No wonder they are poor.

Anonymous said...

"Which is exactly how "fun people" approach life: parties, alcohol, drugs, early pregnancies, crimes. YOLO is their slogan.

No wonder they are poor."

And who is enjoying life more? Maybe the rich or the poor.
The one who plays the game for his entertainment, or the one who makes "not-fun" things to become rich.

in all cases, beeing an extreme is not good. take the best of boths/the middle and enjoy

Marek Zaborowski said...

No, Goblin useing term "rich" dosent means "he gots lots of money".

Wealthy or rich person dont have to posses vast ammount of currency. If that was so easy, an slacker could just buy 20 PLEX-es, sold them for ISK and become -rich-. But he still would be -poor-. Why so? Cause that money in his hands gonna be completly un-effective. He gonna propably fit some bling-ships and lose them, cause he was too lazy to read and learn about activity he wanted to pursue or he ignored rational arguments like "You shouldnt do that alone even in bling-fit". But at that point of time, he got lots of ISK and he gonna have his fun, right? RIGHT? I mean, its totally cool to throw away lots of money in mindless fight which he propably gonna lose. After all he is -creating content" woho.

And now we have a guy, that dont even have a single PLEX in ISK on his wallet, but he uses scarce resources he got very effectivly. He flyes cheap, but proper to role ships, constantly invest his ISK and pursue his goal. He may not have lots of currency, but from POV of others HE IS RICH. Why so? Because he secured resources for what he wants (and is able to) do. And he improves (because it is rational to do so), so from Gevlon POV, slacker that got lots of ISK is just a moron that waste rl wealth instead of in-game wealth (Euros into ISK), while the second way may not have much ISK for now, but by manging resources right (which is basicly acting rational to what happens) he is on straight way to become rich.

Tl:dr
For poor people wealth is just road/tool for -fun- or -happiness-.
For rich people, wealth is objective, while the road they take is their FUN.

Anonymous said...

If we remain at EVE and take the perfect distribution of goods between newborn characters (not taking alts into perspective), the difference comes from the utilization of the said resources. You can either follow the career agents's missions to know the basics of EVE, maybe even watch some guides, wikis, tutorials etc. Or you can just go haywire, because your friend Matt already knows all that stuff and you are sure he could educate you well enough, because he seemingly has everything a capsuleer could wish for: money, corp and killboard. Most people choose their peers over ISK and there is no changing that until someone provides an alternative to being a social carebear.

The problem begins with the education of the newborns. You either play hardball and chew yourself through the aforementioned guides and wikis until you know what kind of career path you wish to choose, but if you follow Matt there is no guarantee you possess the same skills as Matt does, but due to your social nature you tend to still follow Matt's advice, because you lack the alternative. Or to put it better: you deem the investment of work to look up a career path not worth the hassle and you just go for the lolz.

One way to motivate people to get out of poverty is to make learning a lucrative opportunity. E.g. you take de-inflated killboard data and either publicly humiliate those who misuse the data to misrepresent themselves, or publicly support those who are doing things right. You are already doing this by supporting MoA vs. Goons. In addition to this strategy I would advise that you select individual pilots who are performing below average by a given margin, give them enough money to make a nice fit and co-operate with MoA to mentor them for some test roams when Burn XY is on. If they perform well, they get the opportunity to join MoA or make a corp for themselves, get the amount of social respect the below-average EVE player strives for the most, in addition to having a perspective to get better at the game itself. MoA will receive bonuses for each successfully trained pilot. MoA wins by getting reinforcements and fame against goons, you win because you still support the key groups for your agenda while also appeasing the carebears. The poors also win because even if they don't succeed at getting into MoA, they still got a fitful of ISK they were able to have their "fun" with.

Maybe a bit too idealistic for this blog, but who knows.

Tornike said...

This is a very interesting subject. But in terms of EVE (and probably video games in general), staying poor sometimes doesn't equal being worse off in general, because you're defining your own fun and success in a video game: being in an EVE corporation that has a "family" feel to it but doesn't hold great wealth or status can for some people be a more fulfilling experience than vice versa.