Triggers, Drama, Offensive Jokes, and EVE Online

This post contains discussions of offensive language regarding sexual violence, let this serve as a general content warning for those that may be sensitive to such content.

EVE is a game not for the light of heart.  It’s a frankly obsessive game for the kind of people who enjoy extreme difficulty, crushing boredom, and screeching terror all in one game. And there’s a common sentiment that more offensive happenings or drama within the community should be, in a sense, ignored. Some also seem to believe that people taking issue with whatever the problem may be should “Harden The Fuck Up”.

Normally, people refrain from bringing personal politics or beliefs into EVE. This is usually a good idea. But as someone who considers themselves a decent person, and as a feminist I just can’t sit by and watch.

I see a big disconnect between reality and the EVE community forming once again.  This issue has long been a part of the “culture” of the internet, long before EVE. In a game that has a massive skew towards the number of players with less-than-perfect social skills, it’s almost become second-nature for EVE players to act like insensitive jerks, many of whom enjoy the hazing or belittling of others. I would say there is a definite line in terms of where in-game culture and indecency are separated. It seems some players are content with resting on the wrong side of that line.

Some would say that people who are offended or otherwise don’t want to engage with such behavior have ways to ignore it.  And to a point that can be done. The active bigotry, sexism, and generally exclusionary attitude of some players in EVE can be mostly ignored with some effort. It is much harder to ignore the unconscious denigration demonstrated through language usage. The current explosion of posts on the BNI subreddit is an example of why a lot of people feel uncomfortable with more intense communities and games like EVE.

The belittling of sexual assault, violence, mental illness and the casual usage of offensive language is a problem in EVE.  Being that EVE Online is a microcosm of a wider internet-focused mentality, and that the internet exists as a focal point for all the socially unacceptable behavior outside of it, this to be largely expected. And that’s unfortunate to say the least. This trend is likely due mostly to it’s exclusive nature. The fact that in almost all cases, the negative behavior is completely irrelevant to the game itself is not making things any easier. For instance, let’s talk about the term “Rape-Cage”. In EVE Online it means the action of placing bubbles around a Station, POS, Wormhole or Gate so that no one can enter or exit without being trapped in a bubble, helpless against the aggressors. Get it?  Rape-Cage…aren’t we clever?

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Another common term that has gained wide acceptance among the EVE community. “Sperging”, in comms it usually is used to refer to irrelevant spamming of useless info, making normal communication difficult. A clear dig against those suffering from Asperger Syndrome.

It should be obvious why these terms and any other potentially offensive terms are considered as such. Normally, people arguing against the usage of these terms will ask those using them to consider what it would be like to be in the shoes of someone who is a survivor, or one who suffers a mental illness.  I’ll ask something slightly different. What if someone you knew and cared about where the victim or the offended individual? Would you want them to hear you bandying about the terms described above, or any number of other offensive terms in comms or chat channels? After all, it is often difficult for those who have never experienced such issues or in a sense “been there” to imagine the kind of pain and trauma these terms might evoke in others.

I for one would dread to think how parents, siblings, authority figures and relatives would react to the kind of things I hear in comms. And this is my perception while being in BRAVE, where some effort is made to reduce the amount of offensive activity. In other groups where the behavior is more flagrant, I can only imagine the kind of things being said. Not that I really want to.

It’s a well known fact of human psychology that we often disregard ideas and beliefs if they don’t conform to our biases, or if they don’t represent a clear and present danger. I would argue that the casualizing of bigotry, and other exclusionary language in EVE is a danger. Both to the current community in terms of social and mental health, and the public perception of the game when new players experience it for the first time.

We need a change in EVE if this game is to grow. I’m not saying we need a massive force of moderators to enforce strict rules.  Personal responsibility and self-policing takes care of all of that. After all, nothing is lost if you simply use less offensive or oppressive language.  Human communication is an entire palette of colors. Being “decent” means using more colors of language than just the darkest hues.

Decent behavior isn’t extraordinary.  Decent is not a superlative adjective, there’s nothing extreme about it. It is unremarkably average. Ordinary. Simple. What we should practice every day, no matter where we are and what we are doing.

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ISKMogul is a growing video game publication that got its start covering EVE Online, and has since expanded to cover a large number of topics and niches within the purview of gaming.