Originally posted on Crossing Zebras

If you’re old enough and hail from the United States as I do you might remember the 1980’s Daycare Satanic Sexual Abuse Panic. As Wikipedia explains, it all started in 1984 with the McMartin Preschool (quotation edited for brevity):

“The McMartin Preschool case was the first daycare abuse case to receive major media attention in the United States. The case centered upon a preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, where seven teachers were accused of kidnapping children, flying them in a plane to another location, and forcing them to engage in group sex as well as forcing them to watch animals be tortured and killed. The case also involved accusations that children had been forced to participate in bizarre religious rituals and had been used to make child pornography. Some of the abuse was alleged to have occurred in secret tunnels beneath the school.

When shown a series of photographs by Danny Davis (the McMartins’ lawyer), one child identified actor Chuck Norris as one of the abusers. When a new district attorney took over the case in 1986, his office re-examined the evidence and dropped charges against all but two of the original defendants. Their trials became one of the longest and most expensive criminal trials in United States history finally concluding in 1990 when those final two charges were also dropped. Jurors and academic researchers later criticized the interviewing techniques used by investigators alleging that interviewers had “coaxed” children into making unfounded accusations by repeatedly asking children the same questions and offering various incentives until the children reported having been abused. Most scholars now agree that the accusations these interviews elicited from the children were false.”

Bizarre religious ritual? Secret tunnels? Flying to exotic locals to film kiddie group sex? Chuck Norris?!?! How did this monument to strained credulity happen? Well it helps when the initial accuser is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic but even more than that, it helps when a society is already ripe for this kind of panic. In the late 1970s and early 1980s more and more US mothers were working outside of the home resulting in the opening of large numbers of day-care centers. Anxiety and guilt over leaving young children with strangers may have created a climate of fear and readiness to believe false accusations.

of sacred cows and bugbears

A Sacred Cow is something considered immune from question or criticism, especially unreasonably so. A Bugbear is a cause of obsessive fear, irritation, or loathing – often an imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically some sort of hobgoblin out to devour them.

In our McMartin Preschool case women’s place (at home, in the kitchen, looking after the little ones) was the Sacred Cow and Satanic Ritual Sexual Abuse was the Bugbear (what happens when women step outside that allotted role). Consider how perfectly the McMartin Preschool case fits the surrounding society’s ideological concerns. It is innocent children, a bugbear’s typical prey, that are harmed, not the women ‘abandoning’ them.

Being small, children make wonderful pawns. Looked at this way, the McMartin Preschool case is but cherry picked illustrative example used to buttress an ideological argument about women’s proper place. Looked at this way, whether the accusations were true or not wasn’t terribly relevant as long as the accusations punched hard at the women defying the prevailing ideology. And oh those accusations punched hard. At the time, expressing doubt about the accusations wasn’t necessarily understood as an act of rationality but rather just as easily interpreted as the questionable statements of a satanic child sexual abuse supporting apologist.

The extraordinary power of the bovine Sacred Cow and her concomitant Bugbear hobgoblin enforcer at shutting down rational thought can be seen in the McMartin case when one observes that it took no less than six years (6 years!) and many ruined lives before the madness died down.

a thought experiment

It can prove illuminating to ask yourself what mechanic CCP might eliminate that would drive you right out of EVE. Maybe it’s Permanent Loss (see Niden’s poetic exploration at the end of CZM: Judging Judgement). Maybe it’s EVE’s vaunted Player Driven Economy (see CCPQuant’s mesmerizing 2016 Fanfest presentation). Maybe it’s 14 years of EVE’s Single Shard/Single History (see Andrew Groen’sEmpires of EVE for deep dive into the extraordinary stories this enables). Maybe it’s something else entirely. Still, if you perform the thought experiment, I’m confident you’ll find something.

Now, having completed the thought experiment, be very careful. The experiment was descriptive exploration only. It gets at what *you* like about EVE but it doesn’t reveal one way or the other what EVE ought to be. Nothing in the thought experiment was prescriptive. Because you really like something doesn’t mean God intended it to that way. Your feelings don’t reveal Divine Law. You are not a Prophet.

ideological eve

Ideology is a comprehensive set of normative beliefs both conscious and unconscious espoused by an individual, group or society. When listed out (which can prove difficult given the unconscious parts), ideologies deliver Governing Tenets, Core Principles, Sins and Virtues. Many (most?) people suss out their ideologies by plumbing the depth of their feelings. If something really, really matters to someone, that’s evidence it’s a Core Principle, a Governing Tenet, a Virtue it would be Sinful to turn away from. Many (most?) people don’t bother to ask themselves if depth of feeling is genuine evidence of how things ought to be. Many (most?) people just stop at “I believe because it feels right.”

I appreciate the appeal of “I believe because it feels right.” It’s comforting. At the same time, if you live long enough, “I believe because it feels right” will bump up against real world complexity. Maybe you’re an Evangelical Christian discovering your beloved first born son is gay and now you’re going to have to navigate your love for your son and your love for your God. Maybe you’re a guns rights enthusiast whose niece got her jaw blown off in a pistol accident and now, every time you see your niece’s mangled face, your expansive guns rights beliefs descend on you problematically. Maybe you’re really really lucky and unsettling cognitive dissonance only turns up when you play EVE and CCP begins fiddling with your thought experiment derived Core EVE Mechanic.

Living ideologically can be difficult thing. Living ideologically might mean brutally casting out your first born son. Living ideologically might mean cowardly avoiding your mangled face niece.

Playing EVE ideologically can be difficult too because, if you play this game long enough, CCP will get around to iterating on your favored ‘core mechanic’ and when they do you’ll be faced with stark choice: adapt or quit. Sadly, ideology doesn’t create much space for adaptation. Many (most?) Ideological EVE players eventually quit. Often noisily. We call them Bittervets.

what do we love when we love?

Can you love EVE but hate CCP? Many players claim they do but what exactly is being loved when making such proclamation? As best I can tell, to love EVE but hate CCP is to love a concept but none of that concept’s instantiations. This strikes me a little cracked. It’s like claiming to love family but disdaining every member of your specific family or claiming to love marriage but despising every spouse you’ve had or (to make things really concrete) claiming to love donuts but finding every donut you’ve ever tasted unpleasant. If it’s cracked to ‘love’ donuts but dislike every donut you’ve actually eaten it’s equally cracked to ‘love’ EVE but find the only game in the world going by that name, CCP’s EVE Online, unrelentingly disappointing.

Listen Bittervets, “Love” is a wonderful word, please stop torturing it so.

my little place in great big eve

And what of you DireNecessity? With name like that you’ve surely conducted your own thought experiment and winnowed down to your Core EVE Mechanic. Indeed I have, but like so much in life, things get complicated. Let’s get started shall we.

Consider Western Religion:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. From the dust of the ground God created Adam, the first man, and from Adam’s rib God created Eve, the first woman, and all lived joyously in the Garden of Eden until Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil whereupon God banished them from the garden – “Cast out of Eden” our 1st iteration.

And so the world continued until the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and this grieved him to his heart so he instructed Noah and family to build a great ark, then he drown everybody else – “The Great Flood” our 2nd iteration.

And so the world continued until God, who so loved that world, allowed (procured?) the crucifixion of his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life – “Jesus the Christ” our 3rd iteration.

And so the world continued until the Prophet Mohammed (if you’re Muslim) or the Prophet Joseph Smith (if you’re Mormon) arrived to once again right the ship – “Prophets among Us” our 4th iteration.

Look kids, it doesn’t get more ideological than Western Religion and if Western Religion’s Lord God can’t get it right after four iterations (4!), ideology is being oversold. If you ask me, ideology is mostly Sacred Cows and Bugbears: tools deployed to shut down rational thought and we’ve seen where that leads – the McMartin Preschool. So I’m not a rigid ideological EVE player because I’m not a rigid ideological person. If the Lord God can’t get it right the first time out of the chute, CCP’s gonna get a lot of slack from me.

So yes there are EVE mechanics dear to my heart. One of them is Permanent Loss. I’m also a big fan of our Player Driven Economy and EVE’s Single Shard/Single History really turns my button. While we’re at it, CCP’s mostly hands off approach to ‘griefing’ tickles my heart while EVE’s ‘steep learning curve’ tickles my brain. I could go on and on but, importantly, none of these mechanics are sacrosanct. CCP could alter any one of them, possibly greatly, and I wouldn’t necessarily quit in a huff. Instead I’d wait, let things settle, and then see how it feels.

Evolution has no crossed lines. Instead you see only long lineage of little iterations making it impossible to point precisely at where and when a massive change occurred. If there’s an opposite of ideology, it’s evolution.

blue whales

I’m fond of Blue Whales. There the largest creatures ever to roam our planet – bigger than the dinosaurs. How they got there is amazing story. Imagine if Blue Whales early progenitors drew a line at the beach declaring, “We’re not iterating into land mammals. We’re creatures of the sea. This is sacrosanct.” Imagine if millennia later those now land mammals drew another line in the sand declaring, “No, we’re not iterating back to the sea. We’ve already made this decision. This is sacrosanct.” Imagine an ideologically pure world without Blue Whales. I don’t prefer such a place. It diminishes us. Convoluted histories make wonderful reads.

The only difference between ‘boiling the frog’ and evolution is rigid ideology. Blue Whales are majestic beasts exactly as they are. So is EVE.