Updated Wed, May 30, 2012 by The Mittani
It is undeniable: games as a whole are getting easier each year, with more handholding, simpler control schemes, extended tutorials, and a relentless drive to seize the money of even the most drooling incompetent. Simultaneously, games are getting more immersive and addictive, with the psychological feedback loops first seen in MUDs exploding into the MMO industry with Everquest and then being refined into their most destructive forms by both Blizzard and Zynga. What does a hobby with ever-increasing levels of addiction, ease, and immersion for its users create? A sense of entitlement - an entitlement that is a threat to every ‘hard’ game out there, but especially to EVE Online.
Despite CCP’s explicit marketing of EVE as a harsh universe full of mayhem and murder, despite Hulkageddons, despite the Great War, and despite the Burning of Jita, there is a silent, ignorant herd of players who genuinely believe that EVE is just like the other MMOs on the market - the PvP-optional, hand-holding MMOs who will pat you on the back, wipe away your tears, and give you a 30-second respawn with no consequences. When these people discover that EVE is not World of Warcraft (WoW), they rush to the forums and loudly bleat out their indignation and horror at encountering loss or danger.
What is most interesting about these threads is not the mere fact that some idiot got blown up and was upset about it, but the absolutely unfounded presumption of safety expressed in such outraged terms. One recent notable flameout accused CCP of being ‘misleading in its advertising’ because EVE ‘really is a PvP game’. EVE is perhaps the single most hardcore PvP game in existence, with its combats regularly veering off into metagame and madness, and CCP advertises this fact at every opportunity - try to find a trailer that doesn’t involve spaceships blowing each other up, much less a trailer missing a full-on fleet battle.
The ignorance demonstrated by this class of players is not an isolated problem, but part of a growing and dangerous trend. As the gaming industry continues to devolve, the expectations of simplicity and ease on the part of players will grow. In almost every current MMO, PvP is entirely optional; the statistics become all the more alarming if you break that up by number of subscribers, with Gerber MMOs like WoW and SWTOR (Star Wars: The Old Republic) dwarfing those of PvP MMOs. You can even now avoid PvP in League of Legends, with a comical number of players competing purely against AI bots.
One of the stark lessons of Burn Jita and Hulkageddon is that the vast majority of players in EVE are completely unplugged from the game’s community; they do not read forums, check twitter, read blogs, or keep track of the gaming media. Every day during Hulkageddon miners would be ganked and comment that they’d never heard of Hulkageddon before, even though this was the fifth iteration of the contest. Despite more than a month of warning - with unprecedented alerts posted by CCP on the login screen - countless freighters blundered into Jita during our invasion and died, their pilots screaming their unjustified surprise, running to the forums for the first time to announce that (gasp) EVE wasn’t actually safe.
Those howling about the unfairness of Hulkageddon and the demands from entitled easymoders that the rules be changed to make EVE safer are particularly deserving of scorn because of the wealth of information and tactics used daily to avoid death in Hulkageddon. One only needs a functioning pulse and three working synapses: keep an eye on local, stay aligned, use a tanked ship, or don’t use an exhumer at all - mining battleships are functionally immune to ganking, as are exhumers being remote-repped. Or, god forbid, work in a group with guards, or mine outside of hisec. This new generation of players rejects the very idea of adaptation and demands that their desire for a ‘safe’ EVE (ie, a completely different game) be accommodated or else.
It is this combination of ignorance and entitlement that threatens EVE. The fact that games are getting easier, yet EVE remains ‘oldschool’ wouldn’t be a problem if we could believe in the comforting Enlightenment fantasies that reason and education could save the day - the hope that someone coming to EVE would do their research, understand the nature of the game, and participate in this most difficult of games with their eyes open. Of course, one of the most horrifying lessons of EVE is that the Enlightenment ideals are false; the power of reason doesn’t actually lift the population out of the muck, because they’re too busy AFK mining or undocking Kestrels full of PLEXes.