I honestly don’t know quite what to say about today’s news from EVE Online. During a drunken presentation at the EVE Fanfest, Alexander “The Mittani” Gianturco gave out in-game contact details for a player he knew to be depressed, and encouraged the EVE playerbase to harass him into suicide.
No, I’m not exaggerating. Massively has the full details, including Gianturco’s subsequent apology.
We’ve talked about harassment in MMOs before, but this is by far the most egregious example I’ve ever heard of – not least because Gianturco is one of the most powerful, respected and listened-to players in EVE.
Reactions from the blogosphere so far:
- EctMMO talks about this incident in the context of a wider issue – that even if you’re playing a persona, your actions still have consequences – “As the years go by, I see more and more of this type of behavior and it just seems so mainstream. Oh they didn’t mean it, they’re really a nice person in real life. How about taking responsibility and having some decency about yourself and others in the community that you play in, no matter what game it is?”
- Multiplaying.net defends EVE Online and its players, and hopes that Gianturco will not be forced out of his position of power for his actions – ” People didn’t vote for The Mittani because he is an evil space emperor (well okay maybe some did). They voted for him because he legitimately wants to see EVE improve and become a better game. “
- Muckbeast finds the entire community ethos of EVE Online fostered by CCP to be sickening – “I’m consistently impressed by their open world, single server, high skill cap design, but depressed by their encouragement of a community based on harassment, abuse, and betrayal.”
- Proving that the internet is home to a startling plurality of opinions, Syncaine would appear to support The Mitanni in his original actions (although he may be trolling) – “Killing off the weak is not always a bad thing. And in the right context, can be highly entertaining.”
- Tobold discusses the situation as an example of the extent to which actions in virtual worlds cannot be consequence-free – “There are jurisdictions in which cyber-bullying is a crime. If The Mittani succeeds in driving that player into suicide, with video proof of inciting that cyber-bullying available on the internet, he could well end up in jail.”
- Out Of Beta writes a really excellent, lengthy and detailed analysis of the scandal – “The Mittani made a mistake, unfortunate The Mittani also happens to be Mittens, and just because he had a different hat on, doesn’t mean he can get a pass. Doing so would set a dangerous precedent of people adopting “identities” with which to execute unwanted behavior with the expectation that they can avoid punishment for their primary identity.”
It must be said, this situation puts CCP in a very difficult situation. If they don’t censure Gianturco, they’re sending a very strong message about what is acceptable in EVE, and it’s not a good message to send. This incident could taint every game they produce for years to come.
On the other hand, if they do remove him from the EVE player council, he has enough influence to badly damage CCP’s business if he wants to. He may or may not – his apology sounds genuinely contrite, although it’s worth bearing in mind his position as a politician.
They’re in a catch-22 situation.
And all of this is further complicated by the fact that unless they’re completely asleep at the wheel (which is a possibility), I’d expect to see the usual anti-video-game suspects picking up on this news story within a few days. Apology or no, Gianturco has handed anyone who wants to beat on video gamers a truly massive stick, if they’re clued-in enough to realise.
What do you think?