Eve Online, MySpace, Facebook, Modernism to 11, Integrity and True Community

9:44 am | Technology

Yesterday the folks at CCP released a major expansion to EVE Online called Bloodlines, which among a number of updates as a few additional races to the world of Eve. Unfortunately this update was not as smooth as the recent server upgrades, which caused a number of Eve players to rub their eyes, wander outside and look at the sun. Yes, I’m being facetious.

Compared to other MMOs, Eve is complex and requires an exacting level of patience. For gamers who want to jump online and start killing monsters or aliens, Eve is certainly not the game for players who need instant gratification. As a result, Eve tends to draw an older gaming demographic, and is also more popular with European players.

Like most MMOs, Eve gives players a great deal of latitude in character generation, so that you can choose your name, race, appearance, sex, variety of initial skill training, and so on. It is a wonderful metaphor for post-modernism: If you don’t like who you are in the real world, then become someone different online. Many people do.

Of course, a healthy level of fantasy and escapism isn’t a bad thing, but even in small doses it can be humorous to watch. Male players with male characters will flirt with female characters to a stereotypical extreme. Often it’s just in good fun, but that doesn’t stop many a male player from trying to connect with the person behind the female character in the hopes that there will be a real, live girl on the other end that might possibly be interested in hooking up. Sometimes there is - I am reminded of a friend of mine who met her husband playing Everquest Online. The fact that she met him online through a game and later married him freaked many of her friends out, and rightly so. But, at the same time the female character could just as easily be a male rather than female player, and given most MMOs game demographics (majority male player base) this is often the case. The meaning of masculinity and femininity are blurred in online worlds.

One other problem common with MMOs is the warping of people’s sense of identity and community. This is not merely a problem with online games, but with almost all forms of online communication. A recent Breakpoint Commentary, “Talkin’ ‘Bout MySpace Generation” discusses in detail about this loss of true community by way of online communities like MySpace, and the Center for Parent-Youth Understanding has also written a number of articles on this subject.

For college students, there is another online community: Facebook. It is every bit as addicting as other online communities, except that it is also exclusive. Signing up requires a valid email address with the particular University community you are trying to join. This means that prying parents can’t explore and get a feel for the community unless they happen to have a valid email address at the University, or use their children’s account. Perhaps for college students who are not directly under their parent’s supervision some would argue that this isn’t a bad thing. However, Facebook is planning expansion into High Schools and beyond. These students will find in the forums plenty of artificial community, as well as plenty of unmoderated forums with often explicit posts.

Facebook addiction has been so common place at the University of Texas at Dallas that is has earned several mentions and articles written in campus newspapers. One recent mention was a comic strip in the UTD Mercury where the main character was trying to resist joining Facebook and become assimilated into the insanity, only to find his friend sending him an invite at the end of the strip.

This reinvention of community in a purely technological setting is the perfect example of post-modernism being ultra-modern, or in recent terms, Modernism to 11. I had the option last night of participating in several community activities: attending a Campus Crusade meeting where they were watching the Passion of the Christ, the DFW Unix User’s Group meeting, or an Objectivist meeting playing a recorded lecture by Dr. Nathaniel Branden, “Logic and Mysticism”. Instead, I opted to return home and play EVE Online. It’s amazing how much time one has to think about the impact of technology on the human condition when mining asteroids…




RSS feed for comments on this post

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time...

4 sp@mbots e-mail me