"We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?"Four men, armed with swords and axes approach each other on a spit of sand. A fight ensues. One man takes an axe to the neck and goes down. The axe catches in the victim's collar bone and as his killer tries to jerk it free he's (quite literally) disarmed by the other opponent. The remaining two face off for a moment, then come together in a clash of steel. Meanwhile two more men approach from either side of the sand spit.
- Steven Moffat, Doctor Who: The Big Bang
The scene continues in this wise for some time with never more than two to three men on either side. Eventually, men stop joining the fight from one side. The two fighters on the other side wait a while, talking quietly with each other, and then return from whence they came.
I could provide the details of each pass at arms, but after two to three cycles it would be as tedious for me to write as it would be for you to read. I would have to work very hard to keep it interesting; to make each fighter and each blow they struck or took meaningful in order to keep your attention. After the twentieth or thirtieth death, dismemberment or disembowlment, you'd probably have moved onto another blog or be shaking your laptop while screaming at me to get to the point of all this bloody mishigas.
Now, if I pull the story's point of view camera back a bit, you would see that the narrow spit of sand is the only way of fording a tidal pool that stands between two small armies. On one side is a raiding party of about three hundred battle-hardened vikings. On the other is the local Saxon Earl, his fifty armed retainers, and an assortment of two hundered or so irregular fighters brought in from the surrounding countryside to defend it from the raiders.
The Earl's retainers, while fewer in number, are better armed and better trained than their viking counter-parts. If they can hold the spit of sand, the vikings won't be able to bring their superior force to bear, kill the Earl and his men, and raid the countryside. The vikings, on the other hand, can't simply wait out the locals, lest the inevitable reinforcements arrive and cut them off from their ships. Knowing this, that spit of sand becomes a piece of real estate upon which a larger story, and the fate of many, turns.
In short, fights are more interesting when their outcomes have, or contribute to, larger consequences. And this is at the center of a narrative gap that divides lowsec and nullsec.
Small gang PvP as commonly practiced in lowsec operates at a much faster pace than the large fleet combat that drives the nullsec sovereignty wars. The mechanics of lowsec allow a small gang to assemble, encounter and engage targets, and then return home to refit and either go out on another sortie or call it a night in fairly short order. Gate camps notwithstanding, it's a quick-action format and very attractive for those players who are in the game for the pre-fight adrenaline spikes and the apre-fight shakes that follow.
However, one characteristic of this style of play is the absence of a larger narrative. Like the fighters on the spit of sand viewed in isolation, there is nothing but the fight itself. One lowsec resident recently wrote that, among lowsec's PvP community, "you aren't judged on where you live, you are judged on what you kill". Which is to say that, for a majority of that community, there is no overarching strategic goal to combat. It is both means and end in and of itself. Nothing is at stake for the combatants except for cost of the loser' ships and bragging rights once the fight is over. It is battle without substantive risk or consequence.
The goings on in nullsec, on the other hand, are driven by events and characters that wouldn't be out of place in an Homeric epic. They feature a cast of characters that range from heroic to tragic to venal. On each clash of arm and each act of heroism or treachery hangs the ultimate fate of fortunes and empires. The disbanding of Band of Brothers, the betrayal of Paxton Alliance, the Fall of Atlas Alliance and the return of Against All Authorities are each a story with epic sweep driven by fallout from the actions and inactions of thousands of capsuleers.
And this, I believe, is why nullsec gets so much more love in the Eve zeitgeist than does lowsec.
There are a lot of lowsec blogs out there. I read a few regularly and drop in now and again on some of the others. Most of them involve descriptions of good fights recently had (or bemoan the absence thereof) and/or focus on tactics and fits for small gang PvP. All valuable in their own right for the aficionado of small gang PvP.
The technical blogs I find useful and interesting. The fight recaps were interesting for, oh, about the first hundred. After that it all became a bit repetitious; sort of like listening to crazy uncle Billy, who corners me after every Thanksgiving dinner and holds forth in excruciating detail about his adventures on the golf course, like the time he broke par at Saint Andrews using nothing but a mashie niblick.
Human beings are suckers for a good story. One of Eve's selling points is a player's ability not only to hear a good science fiction yarn, but to participate in one; to be immersed in it as a character capable of driving events in the larger tale, even as it is being told. I am certain lowsec is rife with stories and characters that the Eve community and gaming fans at large would find riveting. They may not involve the clash of great fleets or the fall of empires, but are compelling and engaging in their own right. However, they pass quietly through the deep and go largely untold.
Someone once suggested that Fiddler's Edge was biased in favor of nullsec. I hold that it is biased in favor of good stories, of which more are told in nullsec than in lowsec. Closing that narrative gap is the challenge I throw out to my friends in the lowsec blogging community. Doing so involves a commitment to nothing more than engaging in one of the most primal of human activities.
Tell us a story.