The 2012 Alliance Panel at Fanfest
We just had the most successful EVE Fanfest ever, where the players hugged and the high fives flew--and where a player in EVE Online bombarded a squad of mercenaries on a planet in the same universe but on a different game platform in real time with coordination from a DUST 514 player opposing them.
But this isn’t about that. There will be more about that later.
This is about the events surrounding the Alliance Panel Presentation, which was streamed live over the free and HD EVETV broadcast of Fanfest. It is also about introspection.
Traditionally, the Alliance Panel is an unfiltered forum for EVE Online alliance leaders to give presentations of their choosing. Historically, some panelists have chosen to use adult language and content during the panel, and the 2012 version was no different.
During this year’s presentation, one panelist, who also sits on the Council of Stellar Management, gave a presentation that revolved around dramatic readings of other player’s communications with his alliance that complained about his alliance’s nefarious game tactics and “griefing”. All powerpoint slides for the presentation were run by a CCP employee to make sure no obvious nudity or sexually explicit content was present—but otherwise it is a very open forum—much more so than any other game company would dream of having.
One of the slides in his presentation featured a transcribed communication from a player whose fleet of personal ships was destroyed in game by a member of the panel presenter’s Alliance, and whom was subsequently scammed using a typical protection racket scam. The communication contained language that hinted at depression and thoughts of suicide.
The character was not specifically named in the slide (which is why it passed the review stage), but in the subsequent Q&A session following the presentation, the panelist spontaneously mentioned and then spelled out the name of the character (important to note not the player) in response to a question, suggesting “if you want to make the guy go kill himself, his name is [[REDACTED]], it’s [[NAME SPELLED OUT]]… He has his own corp. Find him.”
Such behavior crosses the line of acceptable player conduct and breaks the Terms of Service. CCP finds this behavior morally reprehensible.
To be absolutely clear: directly calling for people to pressure someone into suicide, no matter the situation, is not acceptable in an official CCP forum.
As stated in an official statement to another player’s email inquiry following the panel:
CCP in no way condones the harassment of players, especially those who suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts, as we understand the possible consequences of such abhorrent behavior…. Our Terms of Service (TOS), which can be found here, mirror our company’s stance on this matter.
While the content of online interactions between players cannot realistically be gated within our game worlds, we do take very seriously accusations of such behavior between our players.
Furthermore, we have a suicide hotline protocol which has, in specific cases, made a difference for several unfortunately troubled players…CCP will be very vigilant in monitoring any behavior directed towards the individual named in the presentation.
We are undertaking a full internal review of this panel as well as the process used for vetting the panel’s materials. Even though this panel was billed as unfiltered by CCP, we expect public presentations to be courteous and professional towards others. ~ CCP Manifest and CCP Navigator
The panelist, of his own volition, has issued a public apology at this link and has sent a personal apology to the individual he named in the presentation.
He has received a 30 day temporary ban from game as per this dev blog.
And now to the future.
Changes for the Alliance Panel
Following internal discussions after everyone has returned to their offices from Fanfest, it is clear that we, CCP, need to revise the scope of the Alliance Panel for Fanfest 2013 because, frankly, EVE Online has grown to a maturation point where such behavior and such a forum are not appropriate. A “frat house” type presentation style may have been well-matched for a younger EVE Online, when there was a smaller community roaming the stars.
In fact we, CCP, have long enjoyed a reputation for being extremely tolerant of our playerbase. It’s a unique relationship where the culture of the company and the culture of the players have many overlaps. We typically appreciate the same “internet humor”. We can laugh at ourselves and enjoy exchanging satire, puns, sarcasm etc.
We constantly celebrate the “culture” of EVE Online in many different venues, which do often involve inappropriate language. We will continue to do so.
Yet out of control drunkenness and calls for harassment have no places in such a culture. This Alliance Panel went too far even for our very open-minded standards. Beyond even our tolerance level.
It was a mistake to hold the Alliance Panel in the way we did—and while it was somewhat “in the spirit” of EVE’s sandbox gamestyle, the session was not representative of CCP nor EVE nor the playerbase as a whole. Given that we did not have a time-buffer on the video feed, we were unable to react in time to the Q&A comments.
Should we choose to hold an Alliance Panel next year, we will still aim for comedic player-agency over the content, but will be very careful to create a different setting for the event.
The larger point.
This speaks to a larger point. We need to revise how we showcase the culture of EVE. It was clear in some comments from attendees and internet observers that while Fanfest was a massive success there are aspects of it that we can improve upon even more.
This solemn effort has already begun. Time for us to grow up a bit.
“Internet spaceships” are often called “serious business”, but increasingly they actually are serious business. It is moments like this that remind us that there are people beyond the characters we encounter and everyone in the EVE universe should always treat other players with a base human level of respect and decency—whether enemies or not. We would be remiss not to use this as a chance to revise our event and communication strategies.
CCP and the community of EVE Online need to understand this, and we, CCP, will be taking serious steps towards fostering a better environment at our panels and beyond.
CCP Navigator (EVE Online Community Manager)
CCP Darth Beta (Director of EVE Marketing)