EVE Online is an unusually nationalistic game. People tend to form corporations and alliances with people that are from the same country as them. There are plenty of reasons to do so, including the use of a shared language, the benefits of cooperation between players that are active during the same time zone, and a general familiarity with compatriots. This is all well and good. Except when it isn't.
Throughout EVE Online's history, the political end-game of lawless space has been dominated by European players, or at least players that are chiefly active during European time zones. This is unusual because more players in EVE Online come from the United States than any other country. Yet players from the U.S. and rest of the Americas make up an apparently low portion of the players living in lawless space and taking part in alliance politics.
style="font-style: italic;">Plenty of Americans end up in null-sec alliances, but (usually) not as alliance CEOs.
Sure, there are plenty of American players in null-sec alliances, and they often play an important role. But despite nearly 40% of the players in null-sec from the Americas (according to the most recently available information from CCP), they are clearly underrepresented in the nominally end-game areas of lawless space. This you may be sure of, though I am unaware of any hard numbers from CCP about this. And leaving pure numbers aside for the moment, where are the American-themed corporations and alliances? Not in null-sec space or otherwise making waves as a big fish, if they exist at all.
Are Americans really so uninvolved with the politics of EVE Online? Are they as underrepresented as they first seem? If so, why? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? And what might this portend for the future of EVE Online? This article examines these questions and speculates about the future.
Where Are The Americans?
There are no shortage of Americans in high-security space. Since people from the United States make up such a high portion of EVE Online's players, and high-sec is the default location for players, it is obvious that the majority are going to end up there.
But when one looks at a sovereignty map of the big alliances out in null-sec, and begins attaching majority demographics to alliance names, one finds a near-complete European prevalence. The big guys on the map have long histories of European leadership and membership. This is only now beginning to change, and only in very limited ways.
Consider some alliance names that are currently big on the map: IT/BoB Alliance, Against All Authorities, RAZOR, Legion of xXDEATHXx, Tau Ceti Federation, Solar Fleet, RED.Overlord, Morsus Mihi, or Atlas Alliance. Of all of these, only the last has any association with the United States. The rest have now or previously had a distinctly European member demographic, even if they are not built around a specific national identity.
Though there are United States citizens in positions of leadership within those alliances, none of them other than Atlas have an American as their alliance leader, or at least not until recently. The question is, why not?
Europeans Had First Crack At EVE
Some of the explanations about this are probably the simplest: EVE Online is a game that favors older players, and the game was available in Europe first. Certainly, it became popular there, first.
This gave European players a huge advantage in terms of skillpoints and, more importantly, player expertise. Europeans also had a chance to organize themselves into corporations, often along nationalist lines, and occupy stretches of null-sec space.
This meant that late-comer Americans had to deal with already established groups in order to carve themselves off a piece. Because EVE Online's end-game has a sort of inertia about it, it was difficult for new organizations to compete with the already well-entrenched European groups. Far easier to just join them, though this would not be in a capacity of leadership, since trust is such a rare commodity in EVE.
American-led corporations in null-sec tend to rent space from larger alliances. Or, more likely, they never go out into lawless space at all. A lot of European wise-acres would probably like to attribute the poor performance of US-led organizations to a general cultural deficiency. I find this unlikely (and unfriendly).
A more plausible explanation is that Americans do not take their hobbies as seriously as Europeans. It has certainly been observed of war game enthusiasts that Americans trend toward dilettantism in contrast with European-associated obsession. Not to say that there are not similar enthusiasts on both sides of the pond, but that there is a noted difference in the approach that players from each continent take toward their hobbies.
Another, more political theory is that Europeans are somehow inherently better at cooperation because they largely hail from countries with socialist governments. I do not think this is very important. First, the governments and societies of Europe are as different from each other as they are from the United States. Second, the character of a nation is not necessarily imprinted on every citizen's personality or capabilities.
No Successful US Corporations? Really?
Why don't Americans form corporations or alliances that are explicitly for Americans? There have been famously successful corporations formed around identification with Russian, Italy, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and many other European countries.
So why no big-ticket, explicitly American corporations? Is it because Americans are less picky about who is in their corporation? Is it because English is the lingua franca of EVE Online, and they have their pick of the litter? Is it because it is easier to form corporations that have members from any English-primary country, and thus forming an explicitly American corporation is unnecessary?
One idea that I think we can safely rule out is the notion that Americans somehow have less of a sense of national identity. That just seems silly. Though it is possible that Americans (or at least, video game playing Americans) are more likely to check nationality and politics at the door when they are doing something recreational.
Are EVE Online's Game Mechanics Prejudiced?
style="font-style: italic;">Though Americans are becoming more prevalent in EVE Online, there are sometimes problems with time zones.
Whatever the reasons that Americans were not prominent in EVE Online's larger political landscape in the past, things are changing. In the past, the only really important US-majority alliance was Goonswarm. Now, we have Atlas Alliance as one of the major alliances in the southern portions of EVE. One big player on the alliance scene isn't exactly a major trend. We also have various client-alliances with a US-majority, in places like Providence, Fountain, and so forth. Many of them pay rent.
Why has nobody other than Atlas Alliance made a breakthrough to taking real space and becoming a power in their own right? The manpower is there, in theory. So are the skillpoints and personal expertise, by now. Well, there are a few reasons for this.
As of this writing, the game mechanics of EVE Online so favor defenders during war that major amounts of space are not changing hands. So, even if more Americans are finding their way into null-sec, the time is not ripe for them to take space. The other issue is the sovereignty mechanics.
As things currently stand in EVE warfare, it is generally advantageous to force an enemy fleet to jump through a gate into a solar system where your fleet is already set up and ready to fight. In the huge fights that are so big EVE Online can barely handle them, getting there first usually translates to victory. Unfortunately for players that are active in the U.S. time zone, this means that European players always have a chance to get there, first. While American players are still at work, their European fellows have ample time to finish work, go home, and log into EVE for some serious butt-kicking. Recent changes to safe spots have made this solar system superiority even more complete. Whereas previously, titans could teleport entire fleets into "deep safe spots" that were too far out from the center for enemy fleets to attack or effectively react to, doing so now risks losing a titan. If some of the lag issues that have been occurring were not so much of an issue, there would at least be some chance of forcing one's way into a system (though not a great one). As things stand it is generally considered suicide to jump through a gate with more than a few hundred people on the far side, no matter how many people are in your fleet.
A Red, White, And Blue Future For EVE?
More likely than any U.S.-identified alliance rising to prominence, is the slow co-opting of another alliance. A good example of this might be Against All Authorities that, at least if rumors are to bebelieved, has lost a great deal of its Russian character over the past few months.
There is also the possibility that alliances limited to one set of time zones are a dying breed. Modern warfare in null-sec space certainly incentivizes having an organization that is active during multiple time zones, to take advantage of when an enemy is weak or destroying a sovereignty-related structure during a different time zone than when it is first attacked. If this trend continues, alliances will be forced to collect pilots from multiple time zones or risk losing their edge.
This might not be the worst outcome, all things considered. If nothing else, it will make alliance politics more interesting.
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