Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gettin' Itchy

Now it's been about four days since my PC stopped working properly, and I'm really starting to miss it. There's so much I've come to take for granted since I've had it, such as being able to run basically any software currently on the market, virtually instantaneous websurfing, and a lot more that I just feel out of synch when I use this old Dell. Normally, I'd never touch this machine except to keep it updated. Now I'm on it for long periods every day until I get my own rig back and it just feels "off".

In order to get my EvE fix and to try to catch up on some of what's been going on in the game while I was gone, I've been watching some of the 2009 Fanfest videos. Some are very interesting, others are...less so. I'll no doubt be watching at least a few more of these today. Playing video is one thing this PC does pretty well, even though I have to play 'em on lo-res or they take too long to download. Another advantage my PC has that this one doesn't is that it's directly connected to the cable modem via the wireless box. This PC is connected wirelessly and gets roughly half the upload and download speed mine does. Even if this PC could run EvE, I'm not sure it could maintain a stable and strong enough connection to play, or play well.

Y'know it's funny. Since I've been back in EvE, I'm tending to focus on it more and more. Two weeks ago, EvE rarely crossed my mind and hadn't in quite some time other than the occasional gaming media article about bank collapses, etc. I completely missed the whole BoB thing. Now that I find myself without the ability to log into EvE for a few days, I'm spending more and more time searching out EvE-relevant media.

The truth is that I'm a media whore. I love it, especially when it's about something I care about. I'm not just a media consumer though, I'm also a media-maker. In fact, I'm making EvE-relevant media right now. It's because I'm a media-maker as well as a media consumer that I understand how important it is that there's both "official" and "unofficial" media being created around a game like EvE, or really around any product, cause, or idea you're seeking to promote if you're hoping to market it effectively in modern mainstream culture. EvE is a game that succeeds at both, though it's arguable which is the more potent.

CCP has released a plethora of videos through its YouTube Channel and there's a pretty regular trickle of dev blogs. Yet at the same time, there's also a buffer between CCP and the bulk of the player base, the Council of Stellar Management. Ideas flow from the player base to the CSM, and then those which get support are passed upwards to CCP. From what I've seen and read, the system works pretty well as far as getting good ideas passed upwards to the devs, but it's nonetheless a filter between the average EvE player and the game's creators. We've heard that COSMOS/New Eden/Spacebook will enable new levels of communication between players and CCP but we've heard precious little detail on what this actually means in the practical sense as yet.

On the other side of the coin, there's the unofficial EvE media, the underground, if you will. It's blogs like this one. It's gaming forums where EvE comes up regularly in conversation or even has its own separate discussion forum. It's everywhere EvE is being talking about and CCP isn't starting or participating in the conversation themselves...and that's a lot of places.

The fact is that there's enough media out there about EvE that I could fill my day with nothing but EvE media if I wanted to (and that's not counting the EvE novel I'm reading right now). That's a great thing as far as I'm concerned. The more of it is out there, the more people read, watch, enjoy and participate, in the media and in EvE. It's a winner all the way around, and especially for the game we all love and are seeking to promote.

In addition, underground and unofficial media serve another, equally important purpose. It fosters a sense of community among EvE players beyond the confines of the game itself and the official website. The reality is that very often players will feel freer to speak their minds outside of official media sources where participants are often identified as they are in-game. That's not to say that many official forums, including EvE's, don't have plenty of trash-talking and negativity already, but there are no doubt many players who either ignore the official forums entirely unless they no choice (such as an official CCP announcement) because of the tone often seen in these places. Those players who still wish to read about and discuss EvE will look for other places, places with interests and social interactions more in keeping with what they're comfortable with.

Personally, I think the prevalence of unofficial community media that springs up around an MMO is a great gauge of the overall level of interest in and commitment to the game in its player base. People who don't really care much or who aren't really interested in playing a game over the long haul don't (usually) create blogs and other media promoting and talking about it. Only the players who are in deep and looking long-term do things like that. Of course, I should also note that I'm talking about real fan media here, not commercial enterprises. MMORPG.com and Ten Ton Hammer have some great stuff quite often, but their content is written by paid professional writers, and that's just not the same thing.

As someone who has worked professionally as a magazine and newspaper columnist as well as someone who has maintained a personal blog for six years on and off, is a contributor to a popular group political blog site, and has created, written, and moderated three different gaming blogs (so far), I think I'm pretty well-qualified to address this issue.

First, the commercial gaming media does not enjoy the same kind of popular deference as mainstream newsmedia like the New York Times, NBC News, or even Fox News (assuming we're still calling what appears on Fox actual news). Unlike the knotty social and political issues of our time, there's usually no one right answer that even people on the same side of the issue can agree on. Games, unlike real life, are entirely subjective. Except in the more extreme cases, video games are not good or bad by definition, that can only be determined by those who participate, and only by and for themselves. One player's alliance collapse is another's reopening of valuable null-sec territory.

In my experience, the commercial gaming media doesn't really get any more credibility from the gaming community than the more well-read unofficial media, even though the folks in the marketing departments apparently think they do. They'd do well to learn from the punk movement of the early 80's where the record reviews that really mattered to the hardcore punks didn't appear in the big glossy magazines, but rather in mimeographed 'zines, usually created by a single person or a small group and sold at local clubs, concert venues, and on the street. The people creating non-commercial 'zines were seen as doing it for the love of the music and the band, while the commercial media was seen as doing it for money. Thus, the reviews were seens as far more honest and credible and carried far more weight with the hardcore faithful.

I believe that's what we're seeing now. The blogs and online fan media are, in fact, the next evolutionary step of the 'zine, and I believe they're being perceived by the truly hardcore much as they were thirty years ago.

Companies like CCP could do more to support us. For example, have you taken a look at CCP's fan sites page? I don't think it's changed much in the two years I was gone, and that's really sad. Crazy Kinuk's on there, but he's the only EvE-relevant blogger who is. Frankly, that sucks! There are literally dozens of great EvE blogs that should be on that list. This is something that would require just a small amount of effort on CCP's part, and considering how much effort we put into our blogs and media in promoting their product you'd hope that CCP would do whatever it could to make it easier for us.

Methinks I might pose this issue to the CSM. Any other EvE bloggers and blog readers think this is a good idea?

4 comments:

Alexia Morgan said...

www.evebloggers.com is on there; it's called The Eve Online Portal (4th from the bottom). I've told CCP to change it to The Eve Online Bloggers Portal quite a few months ago, but they haven't got around to it yet...

Most of the Eve blogs are accessible via www.evebloggers.com - including your own.

Cheers

Bekka Jae said...

This is very interesting. My question is why I'd never heard of this site until just a day or two ago for the first time. Probably because I haven't been a regular forum reader for about two years. This is a CCP-operated site? Cool that I'm listed too, thanks!

Alexia Morgan said...

No, this is a player-run site, and I'm the player running it. :)

It's been going for quite a few months now. You probably haven't heard of it 'cause you've just come back into it all, but your blog was added to the list some time ago.

There's currently 450-something blogs about Eve Online listed via evebloggers.com

Cheers

Bekka Jae said...

It's an awesome idea and a great site! I've added a link on the front page! :)