Sins of a Solar Spymaster #83: Trip Report - Eve Vegas
I was in Las Vegas again this weekend for the third Eve Vegas event. Yet despite my train-wreck fascination with this town, eyes wide open to the lives it destroys, I have had more fun and collected more absolutely wild stories in the past four days than in any other similar period in my life. Fanfest in Reykjavik was once heralded as the wildest event in online gaming, yet Eve Vegas made Fanfest - with its drunken staggering down Laugavegur and nonstop Icelandic partying - seem like a dentistry convention. And that's entirely due to Vegas itself.
Vegas has always fascinated me; I'm a student of self-destructive and irrational human behavior, and no place else in the universe combines raw American capitalism with the exploitation of our inherent cognitive flaws quite like Vegas. It sucks in the tourists and convention-goers, strips them of their capital, and spits them back out; the cycle never stops except during the slow months of November and December, an incessant balls-to-the-wall party of gambling, overpriced food, and poor decisions. You'll see more women with breast implants in one weekend in Vegas than you will in the entire rest of the year elsewhere in America.
The locals don't seem to gamble, if you catch them outside of a casino and talk to them. My cabbie on the way to the airport unloaded a horror story on me when I confessed that I avoid the tables and slots: an elderly woman she'd driven from the airport catching a one-way ticket to Vegas and bankrupting herself in just one night at the slots, losing $12,000 in a single sitting, unable to get home without begging for cash for a flight. I imagine this 'wild scenario' is more common than one would think, since the entire economy and industry of Vegas depends on this kind of degenerate gambling addiction and alcohol abuse.
Unlike Fanfest, or most other conventions, at Eve Vegas the partying is front-loaded. The very first event of the conference is a bar crawl on Friday night - from a piano bar to a sports book to Margaritaville to the Shadow Bar (so named for the dancers silhouetted behind thin panels besides the bar) to Pure, the nightclub at Caesar's Palace. Tickets ensured VIP admission to Pure - but the event began to go off the rails for me when we got hooked up with an insider connection to XS, one of the finest clubs in Vegas at the Wynn. With a handful of goons and the most reliable partiers of CCP we got a 'walk-in' to XS, skipping entirely past the massive line for admission and set up with bottle service at a prime table right in front of the dance floor - the best real estate possible.
After this, things became a blur. Gangam Style came on and CCP Guard - who was standing on top of a platform - began to do a perfect imitation of the PSY dance, then a few minutes later had to be restrained as he started taking his shirt off while dancing - a no-no in the better clubs. Girls began trying to invade our table area, and because we were a gaggle of married Eve nerds we blew them off - surprisingly well-behaved of us, when you think about it. An armada of cocktail waitresses carrying LED torches and a massive bouncer hoisting aloft a six-liter bottle of champagne invaded the dance floor; a sheik's son had dropped $50,000 on bottle service. All eyes on him and his bottle: a young Asian man, abruptly so insecure that I noticed that he had 'hover hands', unwilling to bring himself to touch the waitresses who were trying to snuggle with him. He was miserable - I'd never seen so much money wasted so rapidly before.
There are many Vegases. This was my third time to the city; I had an amusing enough time at the last Eve Vegas, and each time I've seen a different slice of the city. The first 'Eve Vegas' was thrown together in 2009 and held in a back room at the Imperial Palace, a casino so sketchy that you'd want to cremate your shoes after you had stepped on the carpets. The event was revived in 2011 by Zapawork, a former CEO of Goonfleet, and moved to Paris - not the city, but the casino. The new management and locale increased the size of the event, yet the fabled Vegas insanity was still missing. Eve Vegas in 2011 was fun, but the city hadn't yet lived up to its hype.
But in 2012 we had the hookup. Vegas - the real Vegas, or so it seems to me now - runs entirely on connections. We happened to have two mid-high rollers in our crew this year, and the gilded doors to debauchery this opened showed us the Vegas of legend. One of our boys won $32k while so drunk he could barely play blackjack; the other somehow won $18k at craps. Instead of a hotel room, we stayed at the Wynn Tower Suites in a suite which was larger than my old apartment in DC; the sponge in their shower (which had three shower-heads) was literally a dead sea-creature. True luxury, Vegas-style, is washing off a night's party-sweat with the corpse of an aquatic animal - that and restaurant-quality room service at five in the morning with a full menu. On Saturday night after the official reception, GENTS and Goonswarm held a private 'scotch party' in this palatial suite which lasted until six in the morning, which more varieties of quality scotch than I could count; I stuck with the Glenlivit 18, the Oban 14, and the Laphroaig 18 - the Glenlivet was the best, to my mind.
The time dislocation is one of the most unreal aspects of a Vegas bender. Casinos are designed to insulate you from your sense of time; windows are rare, and the restaurants do not close. Playing craps at the Bellagio with four Elvis impersonators in full costume, drinking an endless supply of mojitos delivered to you by scantily-clad cocktail waitresses, and then going to a restaurant at 1:00 AM and gorging yourself on lobster and duck because your friend hasn't used his $350 worth of daily comps from the casino - it's the kind of debauchery that leaves one bleary-eyed and exhausted. And to that was on a Sunday, as if which day is which matters in Vegas.
Like with Fanfest, if you go to Eve Vegas and focus on 'Eve Online' you're doing it wrong. There was indeed a conference where players and devs gave presentations about the game; I gave a talk on Sov Warfare, but it was a little alarming how many people actually listened to these speeches rather than skipping out to gamble or party. I am biased, of course, because of the 15+ speaker slots I only attended two - my own speech, and one immediately after. It's hard to justify listening to Eve talks when you've been out until 6am the night before and are trying to recharge to do it again. The same rule applies to Fanfest, of course - but theres not much partying to be had in Reykjavik in the middle of the day during Eve presentations, when at Vegas theres always something interesting to do.
Regarding the presentations, there was even a Jerry Springer-esque drama to liven things up. The admins of 'Eve Skunk', a website that posts alliance mails from most entities in Eve, was scheduled to give a talk - but the website had been run by two partners, and just before the event they had a catastrophic falling-out. In the midst of the presentation by one partner, the other interrupted, and a bitter verbal catfight erupted between the two speakers to the amusement and titillation of the attendees.
By Monday afternoon I found myself relaxing at a pool and drinking beer with Zastrow and CCP Guard, soaking up some sun and slowly leaching the food and alcohol out of my system. This was my first time at a Vegas pool, and it should be a mandatory afternoon drill for the serious visitor; now that I know what I've been missing, the Vegas pools will be the first stop after a hangover-recovery breakfast each day. Hangover breakfasts, of course, take place at an hour others might accidentally conflate with 'lunchtime' in another city.
My advice to anyone attending future Eve Vegas events is to make damn certain that you have proper dress. You can get anywhere you need to go in Vegas with dress shoes, jeans, and an untucked button-down shirt, yet a number of more stereotypical spaceship nerds got turned away from the clubs because they brought ratty sneakers and t-shirts despite being warned in advance about the realities of Vegas dress codes. You should also bring a swimsuit or shorts that will function as such. Don't bother overloading your bags with toiletries; just buy sunscreen and the other necessities at the many Walgreens that litter the strip, then toss them when you're done; I managed the weekend with one messenger's bag for 'luggage', the kind that can fit under an airplane seat rather than needing to go in an overhead bin. Travel ultralight to Vegas and you dodge 90% of the awkwardness of being a tourist. And if you absolutely must gamble, stick to craps, poker, or blackjack.
Eve Vegas has been an event in its infancy, slowly growing from a poorly-organized shindig in the backroom of a ratty casino towards a classier, well-run event at the midmarket Paris. As the size and administration of the event has grown, so too have the parties and insanity surrounding the event developed. Vegas 2012 was unmissable, but Im already looking forward to Vegas 2013 - which should be a particularly good year for Eve parties, with 2013 being the 10 Year Anniversary of Eve itself.