You're thinking, 'What's gotten into Mord? Why is a guy who normally takes a thoughtful, arms-length approach to Eve Online suddenly getting in Mitten's face? Why is Mord baiting Mittens, teasing Mittens, tugging at Mitten's chin pussy and all but double-dog-daring him and his 9,000 Goons to come get some?'
And I can't blame you. After all, there's not much in this blog's DNA that would lead a reader believe the author given to picking any sort of a fight, let alone one so obviously out of his weight class. Normally, I prefer to go my way. I observe. I think. I write. I chronicle the times. Jita burns, yet I am well. Hulkageddon rages, yet I am well. Wars abound, yet I am well. On most days, the accompanying sound and fury are no never mind to me except insofar as they are leading indicators of events yet unseen; vibrations in the Eve zeitgeist that tell a larger tale.
So why am I suddenly afflicting my intelligent, insightful readership with a steady diet of Mittens-related slapstick and hijinks? Well, therein hangs a tale.
Pull up a chair.
From an emotional standpoint, Mittens does not appear to be dealing well with the loss of his seat on the CSM. And I get that. It was brutal. It was humiliating. There he was, hero of the Incarna wars, bane of the Drone Russians and newly elected Council of Stellar Management 7 chairperson. The gaming media loved him, a much humbled CCP was in all manner deferential, and even his in-game enemies were giving him props and high-fives. He was riding a high. He was holding the brass ring. He was living the dream.
And...he booted it.
The details surrounding Mitten's removal from the CSM are well documented elsewhere. Most of you will know the words to that song by heart, so I won't bother you with an encore. Personally, I'm neither here nor there on the events themselves or how they were handled by the involved parties at the time. Looking back at the coverage of the matter in the gaming media, the blogosphere and the podcast channels, commentary on the subject ran the entire spectrum of opinion; from condemnation of Mittens as a calculating cyberbully to outrage over the the unjust persecution of Mittens the internet hero. Many opinions were opined. Thus was Mittens welcomed into the harsh reality of internet celebrity.
Celebrity, particularly internet celebrity, is like a sociopathic girlfriend. When things are going well they're astonishingly, breathtakingly, wall-bangingly amazing. When they're not going well and she's setting fire to your bedroom or nailing family pets to your front door.... Well, less so. Confronted with the bunny-boiler manifestation of internet fame, there's not much to do but put your feet up, crack open a Raging Bitch (a very aggressive IPA by Flying Dog which I heartily recommend when the winds of celebrity blow ill), find your happy place and plan for a better day. Unfortunately for CCP, Mitten's happy place seems to have a zip code somewhere between retribution and vengeance.
It appears Mitten's Alliance Panel faux-pas during this years FanFest put CCP in a bit of a PR bind. This occurred as they prepare for the release of Dust 514 and, it is understood, court partnership with a larger media concern. After all, selling games is about selling fun. There's not going be a lot of investor interest or growth potential in Eve Online if it becomes perceived as a game that's only fun to players prone to acts of mental cruelty. Internet spaceship MMPORPGs is already a niche market. Sequestering your product to a niche market within a niche market is not a good business plan. Thus, when announcing Mitten's subsequent removal from the CSM, CCP Navigator wrote:
“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."CCP's call for a 'base human level of respect and decency' in the midst of an important business transformation provided an obvious angle of attack for someone with an ax to grind, access to vast in game wealth and an army of 9,000 self-proclaimed griefers at their beck and call.
Burn Jita, funding lavish bounties on highsec miners, the systematic in-game harassment of writers and bloggers critical of Mittens, all have the tang of an in-your-face rejection of CCP's call for a bit more maturity in the Eve community. And Mitten's rather frothing-at-the-mouth polemic against New Eden's PVE player community on Ten Ton Hammer, published just as the CSM7 summit began without him, reads as a declaration of war against any attempts by CCP to keep Eve online enjoyable for players not of a predatory mind-set.
Now, I normally find Mittens a wily and nuanced thinker (Either of these is unusual in an alliance leader. Both at once is a rare gift.), but his current acting out is a bit...unrestrained. He's obviously hurt and angry. And anyone who's parented a hurt and angry teenager knows how quickly they can go all Kim Jong il on you. Of course Mittens is no teenager. However he does have an army of followers, fan-boys and sycophants constantly force-feeding his self-esteem and waxing endlessly on about how horribly, horribly wronged Mittens has been; which subs in very nicely for the underdeveloped superego that comes standard in most teenagers.
So, this is how it looks from here: Mittens is hurt. Mittens seeks relevance. Mittens is lashing out. Mittens needs a big hug and some honest comfort and consolation (It's OK Pooh-bear) but he'll settle for pay-back from his perceived enemies. Cue images of Godzilla curb-stomping Tokyo.
Happily, this is a self-correcting problem in the long run. Hubris has a surprising amount of mass in nullsec. Take on too much and it drags those on the top down the bottom. It makes rational people do irrational things. This is unlikely to end well for Mittens if he continues his present trajectory. And it is very likely that Goonswarm will get caught in the downdraft when he falls from grace.
Of course, if all that's true, why involve myself? Why involve you, dear reader? Why not simply stand aside and quietly watch the play unfold?
Alas, I am burdened with principles.
As I mentioned above, Mittens is leveraging Goonswarm to silence voices whose opinions he doesn't like. Having received negative coverage by some members of the Eve blogosphere during the CSM elections and after his Alliance Panel performance, he announced his intent to punish those bloggers by harassing them and any organizations with whom they are affiliated in game. A number of posts and chatter in Twitter indicate that this is not simply a one-off suicide gank or a week or two of wardec, but rather a relentless campaign to isolate the offending blogger and either pressure them out of Eve altogether or make them knuckle under. The obvious goal of this exercise is two-fold. 1) To silence voices in the blogosphere unfriendly to Mittens and 2) to intimidate the remainder of the blogosphere such that they will think twice before offending Mittens and risking the same treatment.
The quickest way to get me to speak out on a matter is to try to muscle me into keeping silent. Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with the writings of the bloggers currently targeted by Goonswarm, I stand four-square against any attempt to silence those bloggers by coercion. Yes, Eve is a just a game. And yes, the writers and broadcasters who populate the Eve blogosphere and podcastnet are hobbyists, writing and speaking about a game. And, yes once more; even within that limited context, Fiddler's Edge is a little blog with limited influence. My small voice and my little one-man corporation will not flatten any tides set in motion by Mittens. So again, why not stand aside?
Because words, logoi in the larger sense, matter. Even here, in the universe of internet spaceships, they matter.