Posted Wed, Feb 27, 2013 by The Mittani
I’ve said in the past that EVE makes you bitter; as you get more involved in the game, it either strips you of your illusions about human nature and politics, or it destroys you - yet another confused victim who may realize that they have lost, but doesn’t know why. But while the game can embitter you, it can also teach you valuable lessons which apply far beyond New Eden. I was browsing Linkedin the other day and came to the alarming realization that most alliance leaders are managing more human beings in their alliances and coalitions than the CEOs of real-world companies. I’ve been running Goonswarm Federation for almost three years now, and while some of the things I’ve learned have been soul-scorching, a few key lessons have repeatedly proven their utility - both in EVE, and beyond it. I’m dividing this topic into two columns; the first will be the rules I’ve learned about politics, broadly, and the second about leadership and management.
What is probably the most important lesson of all doesn’t fit into a quick aphorism, however. It is this: in every society or institution there are explicit systems of rules and behaviors which are commonly accepted as ‘the way things are’. Yet in practice these openly acknowledged truths are just masks for how the society or institution actually functions. If you buy into the explicit, illusionary laws you will either be a cog, or worse, you buy into the illusion and violate one of the implicit, hidden laws. A real-world example: corporate whistleblowers. In theory, holding corporations to account for their wrongdoing should be praised and protected - upholding the law and transparency are the kind of ideals we are spoon-fed from birth. Yet actual whistleblowers are inevitably ruined, slandered, and unemployable, having violated the implicit tribal laws of not endangering their institution.
“If a gentleman commits follies, if he keeps mistresses, if he treats his wife badly, even if he is guilty of serious injustices toward his friends, he will be blamed, no doubt, but if he is rich, powerful and intelligent, society will still treat him with indulgence. But if that man cheats at cards he will be immediately banished from decent society and never forgiven.” -Talleyrand
EVE is full of situations where a misunderstanding of how implicit customs trump overt laws will lead you to ruin. Humans are essentially slightly clever monkeys, never forget this. Look for the implicit customs and abide by them, and don’t trust in ideals. Here are some more tidy and quotable maxims that apply to politics in EVE and elsewhere:
Abhor Democracy, Mistrust Reason: Most of the western world is governed by ‘representative democracies’ of one flavor or another. In practice, most of these are republics or simple plutocracies, but when players come to EVE they often try to recreate democratic governments as their first structures, as they have been taught that ‘democracy is good’ while blind to the fact that their real-world country is not actually a democracy. Similarly, there are some who believe that human behavior is governed by ‘reason’, despite decades of research into cognitive flaws. If you encounter someone so misguided as to actually believe in ‘democracy’ or ‘reason’ in EVE, run. Or, more likely, take them for everything they’re worth.
When in Doubt, Do Nothing: There are paeans to decisive action cluttering up the business section of every bookstore, because fetishizing action sells books and makes the reader feel like a bold hero. The truth in EVE is much more subtle: nullsec is often like a game of cards, and showing your hand when you don’t have to gives out free information to your opponents - who are trying to destroy you. In many cases in life there is a clear action to take, and you should certainly be bold and decisive then. However, if you find yourself genuinely in doubt as to which course to take, watch and wait: your opponents are likely to blunder and show their hand first, making your eventual decision both more clear and superior to theirs.
Use Women’s Intuition: EVE is laughably imbalanced when it comes to gender - mostly it is a game of men trying to deceive and bluff other men. Women have been shown in some research to be superior at detecting deception than men, and regardless of the research I’ve found it quite useful to ask female players for their analysis of the behavior and motives of male EVE players. Many times they have provided a more subtle analysis than my male directors.