Greedy Goblin

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why doesn't democracy work in EVE?

"Democracy doesn't work in EVE" is one of the most often reiterated cliches. Every successful alliance is clearly a dictatorship with a top-down command structure, providing the lower guy no other option to change the course of the alliance than leaving it (and maybe awoxing on the way out). Any attempt to form democracy, even in the slightest form: a small council of equals, ends in nothing but drama and embarrassing chatlogs.

This is pretty interesting considering that most rich and powerful real world countries are democracies and it's widely accepted that autocracies are worse performers. Why does something that fails in real life succeed well in EVE?

The solution is that the aim of a real world government is very different from an EVE corp. A real world government wants to provide safety and economic growth to the people. These are numerically measurable, objectively existing quantities. Therefore you can have a fruitful discussion over them: if you convince me that a new policy provides more GDP, I'll be happy to change my position. The more people are included into the discussion, the more ideas and more critical views will be presented, contributing to a better way to our common goal.

Theoretically an EVE alliance is the same: a group existing for a common goal, be that topping the killboars, getting trillions or capturing land. The way to these goals could be discussed in a democratic process. And it often is. CODE, formed to farm highsec ganks is pretty democratic: you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as it provides kills and tears. While I was in CODE, I ganked miners all by myself and no one told me that I'm doing it wrong and should fleet up.

However most alliances aren't like this. Their goal is to have fun in a video game. Now "fun" is the most unmeasurable and person-specific thing out there. There is no way in hell you can implement a change in my fun that would provide me more fun. Any "suggestion" is made for the sole purpose of increasing your fun at the expense of mine. Since there aren't any numbers to work with, any discussion devolves to drama. There is simply no point talking about fun: you do what's fun for you, end of story.

On the other hand the idea of fun is pretty stable in a person after maturation. If someone finds it fun to camp titan logout points today, he'll likely have fun doing it years from now. So if you join his corp dedicated to such activity and like being there, you'll likely have fun later too. This isn't really dictatorship, since the "underlinks" join willingly. It's rather that the personality of the leader defines the "fun" for the group. This definition is threatened by any change, so any argument against the leader is an assault on the fun of everyone.

It's no miracle that the most drama-driven group in EVE is BRAVE: their sole reason of existence is "most fun per hour", which gives no directions to anyone joining (while the reputation of PL gives you pretty good impression what kind of activity they consider fun). They are also new to the game, unaware what activity they'll find fun. For example a newbie might find flying $1500 ships against similar ships awesome, but when inside, he'll realize that Asakai and B-R are a once a year-or-two events and not something that he can count on every time he logs in. Had BRAVE switched to a clear dictatorship, with a visible and outspoken dictator, everyone who agree with him about "fun" would actually have fun and everyone else would leave BRAVE and seek fun elsewhere. Now they are all stuck, fighting over what to do in every level of the organization.

PS: we can agree in one thing, watching dumb minions of Evil die in expensive things pointlessly is fun.


Anonymous said...

You have oversimplified a great many things here... here are some thoughts:

> Every successful alliance is clearly a dictatorship with a top-down command structure, providing the lower guy no other option to change the course of the alliance than leaving it

The "lower guy" probably has no chance of running the coalition, but directorate level positions are usually open to appointment.. so if the lower guy is deemed to be trustworthy he may end up in a position of power.

Coalitions have many levels of leadership, from corp to alliance to block level directors to an autocrat - to say that there is no chance to change the course other than leaving it is a gross oversimplification.

Take for example VileRat - he changed the game in ways that mittens could only dream of.. and he did that without being the supreme commander of the CFC.

> This is pretty interesting considering that most rich and powerful real world countries are democracies and it's widely accepted that autocracies are worse performers.

This is true today, but hasn't always been so. Right now in this time in history humankind doesn't like autocrats, but in a bygone era it was fairly normal.

Further, most countries which say they are democratic are in fact not. Take the USA for example - democratic on paper but in actual fact an oligarchy.

> you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as it provides kills and tears

Same is true in N3 or CFC... so long as you turn up for red pen, all hands on dick ops, you can basically do whatever you want..INCLUDING creating special interest projects which may land you a directorship.

> Since there aren't any numbers to work with, any discussion devolves to drama.

Your faith in your questionable statistics is rather disturbing. You can measure enjoyment by looking at login trends. Do people continue to log in or do they tire of the game and move on. If they continue to play they probably enjoy it..

Provi Miner said...

democracy's exist it just doesn't look like what we consider democracy. lets use an extreme example PL: lets say tomorrow 1/4 of PL decide blipping hero is boring and tell leadership they are going to do something else (this is just a minority only 25%) PL as a whole will have to pivot 180 degrees and find some new project that pulls in a solid minority and still satisfies the majority. Let me rephrase that a bit if 1/4 of the those who log in. 1/4 is a meaningless number if they don't log in. Take a small corp the dictator has to be far more attentive to what his few members want than say the same situation at PL yet they both have to listen to the minority. Democracy RL vs democracy eve: RL you vote for the fool who promises you the most without any thought given for what is good to the most. Eve your director has to listen to the people and try and find balances that work. People are just confused over what they consider democracy and always have been. Technically there are almost no true democracy's in the wold. Most are just hybrid representative republics which is different. Fun is quantifiable: 1/4 enjoy it, 1/2 don't mind it 1/4 hate it you have just quantified something fun. Most player corps that I know of work on the "do something for us, we provide X" and "the rest of the time is yours to go play with".

Anonymous said...


In times of relative peace and/or prosperity, real-world organised groups of humans use discussion, debate and consensus to further their aims.

In troubled times or times of contention, they look for strong leadership; "We've hit critical. This is no time for dialectic, we must act now!"

No expert, this Highsec dweller, but it seems to me that Nullsec Alliances in particular exist in a constant state of perceived imminent conflict, which colours all their behaviour, especially that of those in leadership roles. Credible and effective belligerence are seen as desirable qualities, even if they are also seen as somewhat embarrassing by those who have at least one foot in comparative reality.

Winston Churchill, regarded as something of a buffoon either side of WWII - even among those of his own party, was the leader of choice in those precise circumstances in which his particular brand of leadership was seen as likely to deliver results. He didn't so much catch the mood of the nation as represent what the fearful wanted to hear.

The problem with EVE Online is that "Cometh the hour" is sometimes followed by "cometh an assortment of men, none of whom is particularly well-qualified to lead as much as a pub-crawl at Fan-Fest".

tl;dr Democracy doesn't work when the knife is already at your throat.

Gevlon said...

@Sasha Nyemtsov: in EVE there wasn't a major war in a year. Also, losing space isn't an existential threat.

However there is a point that people might perceive that they are facing serious threats.

Anonymous said...

Democracies are not ruled by "the people" but by people elected by them. Since elections are mostly a sham(populist circlejerk about who can lie more and look better on the TV), what we call "democracy" is really more of an oligarchy.

Also, the success of a country is not determined by its political system but by its economic system, specifically the free market model. It's just so happens that democracy and free market go hand in hand. But democracy is not a prerequisite for a free market(See: China).

Zyan said...

I think also a factor, why democracy don't work in MMO's is time.

In RL politics can talk about more or less important topics for months till they came up with a solution. In games the world ticks faster, you can't take 2 or 3 months time to discuss if you want to deploy to a new region, or to set someone blue, or join/leave a coalition. Sure you can take that time, but in 99.99% you will be overrun by a leaner and faster working group.

Plans are much faster in progress if you decide it on your own (or with just a few experts), than asking the whole 6000 base members for their opinion. The downside you are responsible for that decision.

Ryanis said...

There ARE some successfull democratic corp/alliances. They are just not interrested in null sov.

Also, if you want to make a parallel with real life, state democracy is more like the CSM while corp/alliance are more about enterprises which mostly have a PDG in real life and thus, are not democratic at all.

Anonymous said...

countries that collect taxes from their people are somewhat responsible for them. because people would stop paying / doing strikes etc if their money would be completely wasted.
that's why they get representation etc.

-> state needs taxes
-> taxes need people
-> people want participation
that's why countries that do not require lots of taxes (oil or other ressources in latin america) are less democratic.

Anonymous said...

Looks like two of the three 'pointless' deaths you point out were part of fleets. In particular the crane with the SBU

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is democracy or councils that are particularly the problem. I think if you took the board of JP Morgan and asked them to run an alliance they'd probably do a good job. Even the local PTA could probably do better.

The problem is EVE "leaders" got their not on merit, but by being the most "social", using your definition of the word. Sometimes just being appointed by attrition ie, they've just been around a long time and everyone else has burned out.

Arrendis said...

There's also the consideration that RL, you're going to be attempting to plan for the long-term, and seeking safety and comfort in the best conditions you can get, yes. But more importantly, you're going to be looking to get what you want out of the government you have. Just up and moving to another country isn't easy. Up and moving to another alliance that lines up more with what you want is, by comparison at least. So there's less incentive to require representative governance, while at the same time, there's more incentive for the leadership to be responsive and see to the needs of the populace.

IRL, the best form of government isn't democracy, it's a benevolent totalitarianism that's responsive, flexible, and truly interested in meeting the needs of the people.

Good luck finding one, though - there's simply too much power, too entrenched, in the hands of too many people, for any large government to be responsive without selfish bad actors being involve somewhere.

Consider: there's what, maybe 600,000 EVE players, total? 16k in the largest alliance? I live in a small suburban town with over 100k people in it. The island I live on has over 8 million. There's no way any governing apparatus could see to the needs of that many people with a strong autocratic nature, without internal corruption becoming a problem.

By comparison, an EVE alliance actually has a chance of minimizing corruption, simply because the number of people needed to run things is so much smaller. Points of failure are easier to identify, and so points of corruption can be rooted out, taken out behind the fleet hangar, and shot.

Also, as a small aside, I wouldn't call that carrier loss 'dumb'. That's a triage carrier on a stratop. It's fully reimbursed and replaced, unlike the ratting carriers you normally (and correctly) showcase as foolish losses.

The other two, though? Keep on financing the good work of culling our stupid, man. Thanks.

Jim L said...

Why do people keep comparing Eve corps/alliances to governments?

They are not governments. They are corporations. All of the employees at a company do not get to vote for who the CEO is. That would be terrible way to run a company.

Gevlon said...

@Jim L: in corporations employees don't risk assets and they get paid regardless of profit, so they have neither right, nor reason to have a word in decision making.

Arrendis said...

Why do people keep comparing Eve corps/alliances to governments?

Well, when you're talking in terms of Sov Null, they most certainly are. The Alliance owns the space, and it sets the rules people live by, or face punishment, up to and including removal from that living condition.

posix compliant said...

> their sole reason of existence is "most fun per hour"

Nope, their reason of existence is to provide new players a home in a player corp. "fun per hour" is a term that is used defensively to counter the argument that something is non-optimal, when looked at financially. For example: whelping a fleet of ridiculously fit ships into a fight they have no chance of winning.

It doesn't change whether things are efficient, but sometimes there's an absence of a real goal.

Tahna Rouspel said...

The eve corp are much more like hats. You put on the one you like and when you feel its no longer stylish, you switch to something else.

You dont argue about changing a hat, because its much more convenient to get a new one.

Unlike the real world where its incredibly difficult to change country.