There is a blog banter again, and this time it's actually touching on one of my pet-peeves in life and in EVE online. So be warned, I am going into full controversy mode now:
In a socially-driven game environment such as EVE Online's,
everyone has an agenda. CCP promotes its products and has an army of
volunteers to do the same; corporations and alliances deliver
entertaining recruitment drives, CSM election candidates solicit for
voter favour, bloggers and podcasters opine to their audiences.
In this intricate web of communication, influence and control, what part does propaganda play in your game?
Throughout my life I have been subjected to all kinds of brainwashing attempts, media manipulation, peer pressure, role model enforcement, advertising and other such things which usually get transported by propaganda.
There was even a time when I believed some of it.
I learned how wrong I was the hard way.
From that point on, I became an obsessively independent person with a defensive perimeter against outside influence that puts the U.S. embassy of Baghdad to shame. I have an active aversion against any organization that makes heavy use of Propaganda. To me it is the hallmark of a society that is in a state were things are wrong. Nations at war use propaganda. Religious fanatics do. It is a staple of dictatorships and disingenuous corporate moneygrabbers.
Whoever uses propaganda wants to reduce the discourse to populist oneliners and forge a unified group of people with only one goal: To do what their leaders want them to do.
Back when I started playing EVE I knew nothing of big alliances and all that. Very soon, though, I encountered the propaganda videos of Goonswarm on youtube. While I have to admit, that they are very good, I immediately developed a mistrust for those Goonswarm guys. I didn't even know who they were, but I disliked them because of those videos. Despite all the admirable creativity and skill that had gone into them.
I guess that mistrust saved me quite some grief in-game.
I fully understand how all that works. Like I said, it used to work on me too. Even now I still feel the lure. Sometimes I rewatch old Goonswarm or BoB videos and I feel the tingle of that dangerous desire to lose myself in the collective entity. To feel like you are part of something greater than yourself.
Of course I quickly realize again that it's all an illusion. The last thing the propagandists want is to make you great. They want you to stay within the borders they have established and toe the party line, so they can stay on top and remain the rulers with absolute power.
Of course EVE is a game, and Goonswarm and all the other big nullsec powers of past and present are not communist Russia or Nazi Germany, but the psychology remains the same, and the effect on in-game behaviour as well.
Just look at how it works out there.
It is a naive assumption, that nullsec is a lawless zone. Far from it. Actually highsec with it's griefers, scammers and ninja looters is far more lawless than wide stretches of nullsec. At least the people in highsec do whatever the hell they feel like doing within the constraints of the aggression mechanics and PVE content.
In nullsec, where such constraints do not exist, you have people who will only rat in systems they are allowed to. They can only settle in systems assigned to them, They are required to fly certain ships with certain fits and they will even get up late at night to be in time for some structure timer. They will vote for the same CSM candidate, post in support of the same forum threads, say the same things in local, and they have the same friends and the same enemies.
That is what propaganda makes them do.
Of course that is then whitewashed with even more propaganda. Supposedly it's about community, friendship, lolz and mutual support. The members are kept happy by scraps they get from the table of their masters: Free ships, skillbooks and ISK. For the top tier that is mere change. The glass baubles with which they impress their gullible underlings.
In the end many nullsec alliance members become almost incapable of independent action. That is most evident when some truly independent, self-sufficient and skilled players run into a group of them that flies without leadership. The members of large powerblocs then usually end up on the killboards of small PVP alliances or even solo PVPers, because those people have not been stunted by propaganda and pampered with free gifts from seemingly beneficial masters. After that, the losers get ridiculed by their peers for getting destroyed. But it's all good. After all they are part of something big and powerful.
It is sad to look at actually.
Ok, so the question was which role propaganda plays in my gaming experience.
The answer is: In my personal environment, none. Apart from that, it serves as a constant reminder of the freedom which I have in game and as a warning sign for myself with whom I do not want to get involved no matter how great their propaganda art is.
Also it often annoys the hell out of me because I have to constantly second-guess everything that is written by the propagandists and their servants. Sometimes I get a bit tired of that and would just like to really know what is going on in game. Without some spin added.
The propaganda videos from the old Goonswarm vs. BoB war are still great pieces of modern art.
What a shame that they serve such a purpose.