Welcome to EVE Online: The Spaceship Game Where Airmen Live Out Their Imperial Fantasies | Games


AAs the roar of revelers echo around rowdy Reykjavik, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was an average Friday night. Yet among the bearded Icelanders quietly sipping their Einstök, there’s another kind of drinker: the intergalactic elite of the multiplayer spaceship game EVE Online. Every year on a weekend in May, this island becomes the playground of the world’s most dedicated gaming community.

For those unfamiliar with their Minmatar from their Caldari, EVE Online is a massively complex player-driven video game, a virtual spaceship sandbox where, in the right hands, spreadsheets are as powerful as fleets. spatial. Its complex history was written by its players, with many fascinating tales of wars, betrayals and robberies. Because the game’s developers rarely interfere, EVE is an experience that often feels less like a video game and more like a libertarian social experience. As such, it attracts an intellectual – and hugely driven – player base.

EVE’s warring groups of players – or corporations – are usually confined to windows and Discord chats, but as 350 players from 40 countries invade this island in the Atlantic, the fictional universe of EVE becomes very real. In the crowd, drinks are spilled and jokes exchanged by flag-waving alliance members. As the last bar closes on Fanfest’s infamous Reykjavik pub crawl, some long-standing rivalries are settled, while whispers of interstellar betrayal emerge from dark corners.

For many of EVE Online’s 50 million players, this complex virtual world is just one more space to succeed. Real-world experience in stock trading, marketing and graphic design makes you a powerful asset to gamer-run corporations – and a large portion of the gamer base is hugely successful outside of the Game.

“I was at Disney a long time — 16 years,” says Dunk Dinkle, interim CEO of Brave Collective, a gaming group with more than 8,500 members. “Now I’m at NBC, where I oversee technology for their marketing group.” For Dinkle, EVE Online has slowly grown from a hobby to a second job, in which he presides over his ever-growing intergalactic fleet. “If you’re a leader, the game never stops,” he says. “You wake up and there’s a whole new list of problems. The Australians are angry with the Europeans, and we have to deal with it. It’s like work that way.

EVE Online’s most influential players often find that this intricate and enticing virtual space slowly begins to claim more of their real time. “It’s about this balance between relaxation and responsibility. In the morning, I spend 45 minutes to an hour checking my Slacks and EVE Discords to catch up,” says Dinkle. “I go to work, I come home and for two to three hours I log on. When it’s a big battle, we stay up all night.”

For Dunk, it seems the appeal of EVE is that it’s not just a brief distraction, a way to relax for a while, like video games are for the most players. Instead, it’s a place where his professional skills are handsomely rewarded.

“A lot of those skills of a business executive — going to events, managing conflict, allocating resources, spreadsheets — that you use in EVE,” he says. “In your professional life, it is difficult to feel these victories on a regular basis. If you’re a high performer, you want this reward system. On TV, it’s an endless treadmill. You still need another promo. In EVE, I built this gigantic thing that few people can do. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I have this feeling in my career, of course, but not once a week.

While EVE markets itself on jaw-dropping space battles, for the finance bros who flock to the game, it’s the sophisticated simulated economy that’s the real draw. EVE is often self-deprecatingly referred to as “spreadsheets in space”. During this year’s Fanfest, CCP announced an official partnership with Microsoft Excel, to enthusiastic applause.

“EVE is like trading,” says investment guru OZ_Eve, aka Jari Vilhjalmer. “I can mine the data, look for trends, build tools around it…I have a big Bloomberg terminal type tool that I look at in the morning to see where the market is at. There is no other game where you can do this.

Battle Force… Battleships EVE Online. Photography: CCP

With his background in finance, Vilhjalmer has become EVE’s most successful private investor, teaching other players how to bankroll through his popular Twitchstreams. “I was just playing the game to be the richest player – and I succeeded,” he says. “I can’t participate in space combat, but I can take everyone’s money.”

When it comes to exerting influence, we all know that the real power is in governance – and what would a virtual society be without its own politicians? “Before flying out to come here, I was trying to fight a proposal the Senate was passing. This is how I spend my days. Then I have fun at night playing EVE Online,” says Brisc Rubal, a Virginia Maritime Union lawyer and lobbyist who served in the Bush administration.

“I’ve been in Washington for about 25 years now,” Rubal says. “I ran for office in Virginia’s largest county for two years, and that was my thing when I first ran for EVE’s Player Council: I’m the real politician running for the political body of EVE.”

Rubal’s tenure on EVE’s in-game council has been controversial. EVE’s Chosen Players are aware of confidential changes to the game, which means council members know crucial details that can be exploited to influence the market and make money in the real world. It’s a gold mine for insider trading – a crime that Rubal has been charged with.

The scandal also tarnished his image in the real world. “My wife has lost clients at work, called Fox News, the Washington Post asked my office for comment. It was crazy. I had to explain to my 83-year-old boss why the press was calling me. “Well boss, I’m playing this video game and I’ve been accused of some things, but I’m getting away with it.”

Luckily for Rubal, he succeeded. After finding the evidence to clear his name, his player account was finally restored, and in 2020 he raced again – successfully.

EVE is not only home to businessmen and politicians, but also its own spiritual leaders. “I’ve married people, I’ve done funerals, I’ve blessed babies,” says Charles White, better known as Space Pope. At the Lessons Learned division of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, White’s daily job is to comb through fatal mistakes from previous space missions, releasing reports that could help save lives during the next lunar spacewalk. He also likes to dress in papal robes.

“It’s a lot of fun,” smiled White, with his silent, masked follower sitting next to him. Coming to EVE Online at the age of 54, he quickly found himself giving life advice to young players. Thanks to his perceived wisdom, devotion, and friendliness, one player made him a meme as the pope. White embraced it, rocking to his first Fanfest in full papal attire. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Because I have a very stressful job, I play a very stressful game,” says White. “It’s not that giant leap between the two. If I’m wrong in EVE, it’s stressful. There’s the same adrenaline that keeps me going, but without the devastating consequences. I can lose an entire Keepstar [citadel] and laugh about it, and that’s what draws me to EVE.

It’s EVE’s unique brand of space stress that brings in fellow real-life rocket scientist Scott, better known as Ithica Hawk. Although he’s reluctant to reveal too many details about his role for fear of “getting doxed”, he works with some pretty big satellites. While tinkering with essential tech on a daily basis, in EVE he is a tournament-winning space pilot and a popular face in the community. Having held several events at EVE Fanfest, Scott says the game gave him a confidence he didn’t know he had.

The EVE Online Mining Fleet
Space Industry… The EVE Online Mining Fleet. Photography: CCP

“When I was younger I was quite shy, and now I’m on stage in front of hundreds of people and doing tournaments that are broadcast to thousands of people. I’ve found that I’m really good at it , and I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience this without EVE.

As someone who has run businesses, Scott sees the ability to motivate hundreds of people as one of EVE’s most important transferable skills: “That’s a huge amount of people management. It’s basically a medium-sized company, but people pay to be there. If you don’t deliver, everything will fall apart. EVE companies are probably harder to run than real businesses.

Much like the Space Pope uses EVE to take risks he would never dare at Nasa, another appeal of this sandbox for otherwise law-abiding people is the space it creates for virtual wickedness.

“Most people decide you can’t be the bad guy in real life, but in EVE, you box be the bad guy,” Rubal says. “Mittani is probably the most famous player of all time, and he’s a great guy. Alex “the Mittani” Gianturco, a Washington D.C. attorney, is EVE’s resident troublemaker, responsible for starting wars, orchestrating year-long spy missions, bribing the game’s developers, and lead EVE’s most fearsome alliance: Goonswarm.

“[Mittani] arrives at the roleplaying game as a big bad tyrant. Ever wanted to play Darth Vader in Star Wars? Well, here you have the opportunity to do so. I think that’s also what draws people to EVE: you can do whatever you want in a way you’d never get away with in real life.


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