MMO communities aren’t a monoculture

I went for a low-sec roam with a bunch of my guildies in EVE tonight — we’re all in different corps because we prefer different playstyles in EVE, so we don’t get to play together very often, so it was a lot of fun. (And a lot less fatal than I was expecting!)

The Retribution I flew

Not that that’s what I set out to talk about; it just reminded me of an incident that happened last week. Kris cancelled a few of his EVE accounts, and we were discussing how much stuff he’d need to transfer out of their item hangars before the accounts shut down. And during the discussion, I discovered something about EVE I’d never have expected:

If you’re in a corporation, your corp’s directors can see what you have in your personal item hangar, in the station where your corp HQ is located.

I was stunned, because I can’t imagine a situation like that in any other MMO. Can you imagine the outcry from the community if, say, a WoW guild’s officers could see into the banks of any of their guildies who were sitting in Stormwind? It’s something that just would never happen, no matter how collectivist a guild was; I’m pretty sure that almost everybody would see it as an unreasonable invasion of privacy, and in no way something a guild should expect from its members.

And yet it seems perfectly normal in EVE; it’s just a given part of the game. More than anything, that’s a lesson that I probably needed — we bloggers talk all the time about “MMO players” and what they expect, how the culture operates, and how they behave. It’s worth remembering that different games do have different cultures that aren’t interchangeable, and expectations and assumptions that might be true in one game don’t necessarily apply to others across the board.

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