I haven’t always been a gamer, though I’ve always been an extremely active person. From childhood I wasn’t someone to sit still for very long, playing various sports and hiking for miles virtually daily. I grew up in a time where it wasn’t unusual — and dare I say, was actually expected — for children to be outside and playing with friends all day. And when I wasn’t playing something non-competitive I was usually playing some sport. I excelled in the competition of sports, and looking back at it now, I can understand why that extends into other avenues of my life. Gaming, not excluded.
But my mother made sure I didn’t entirely focus on physical activity. I remember one miserable summer when I was 6 or 7 where I was kept inside and was forced to spend a few hours in the living room daily reading aloud with her. She made me sound out words I didn’t know how to pronounce and mercilessly ignored my poutiness. I hated every single minute of it, but of course I understood later in life what she was doing and why. Quite honestly I grew to be forever grateful she cared enough to endure that summer along with me.
One can’t be physically active all day, every day, all year long. So I filled the voids in physical activity most especially in my teenage years and early adulthood with reading. It became an important part of my life, and I’d disappear into the worlds amongst the pages of whatever I was reading. But I didn’t discover the the worlds that would impact me the most for a few more years. It was in 7th grade when I discovered Tolkien’s works. First the Hobbit, then his Magnum Opus, Lord of the Rings. And lastly the Silmarillion, which for me was the cherry on top of it all. These works, and those of Frank Herbert, which I first read many years after are without a doubt the books that had the most profound impact on my life. Though Tolkien and Herbert were certainly not alone as authors to impact me in some way. Asimov, Piers Anthony, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, and so many others molded me into the person I am today.
I’ve become more sedentary as I’ve grown older, but my mind’s need for activity hasn’t decreased in the least. I’m no where near the voracious reader I was in my earlier years but this is where gaming comes in. I grew to love reading because I was imaginative and could visualize what I was reading. I could immerse myself. Gaming is a step up from that, as there’s no need to visualize something you can actually see and experience. You’re not living vicariously, but are experiencing it “personally”. Gaming was a higher, high so to speak. One that I simply can’t get enough of. My dream is still to experience a real, full, virtual reality setting so if you all could make that happen for me, it would be greatly appreciated.
So now that I’ve laid the canvas for you, you can understand some of the context when I say the best “drug” out there for gamers like me are sandboxes. The type of gaming environment where the sky is almost the limit; where the excitement, impact, and player agency attain its highest level. Unfortunately so few sandbox games are truly any good. Despite many issues I would love to discuss with regard to EVE Online, I have to give the game its due. Its the single greatest endorphin pumping experience I’ve ever played. A developer can never come close to producing the kind of content that thousands of players are capable of producing themselves. And if CCP has done anything with EVE, its created an atmosphere and systems that excel at letting players exercise the mini-Sun Tzu, or mini-Machiavelli they all seemingly want to be. The meta-game is as important as the spaceships, lasers, machine guns, and missiles. And in some respects, it’s even more important, as the engine that drives virtually everything else within the walls of the sandbox.
The latest example of this is what has just befallen an Alliance called Hard Knocks, in a wormhole no one from outside of EVE would ever know anything about. Over the last couple of weeks a massively entertaining battle in Wormhole J115405 (AKA “RAGE”) has been underway between the Imperium (a massive alliance of corporations) and Hard Knocks (a much smaller alliance, though a titan amongst wormholers). If the rumors are true, the Imperium had been planning the engagement for a very long time, and had started pre-positioning equipment a year ago. When the fight erupted it involved more than 1000 players, but many who don’t play EVE won’t understand the logistical nightmare that must have been. Suffice it to say, if preparations for this invasion began a year ago, then it took a year to pull all the right strings for this to happen. Imagine that, playing World of Warcraft? In as much as managing a 20 man Mythic raid team takes skill and endurance, imagine what it must take to manage a 500-700 person attack force, through a multi-layer wormhole system which mechanics are adverse to the movement of large numbers of personnel, or size of ships. And which required a year to plan and pull off.
I salute the Imperium for what they accomplished. Which is to say, they defeated Hard Knocks and cracked open Fort Knocks. There’s still some mop up going on, but the war is all but over by this point. Whether you think this is just more of the blob or strategic and tactical genius, you can’t deny rolling that kind of gear up into a major wormhole system is extremely hard.
You don’t see this kind of action, on this scale, anywhere else but EVE. And I eat it up like honey. Its the reason why I keep coming back to EVE. Of all the games I’ve ever played in the MMO space, only the World of Warcraft and EVE Online have held my attention and have kept me playing or coming back. All the other MMO’s I’ve ever played, I either played and abandoned within a couple weeks or have bounced back a couple times over the years but have completely or virtually abandoned since.
If I love EVE so much, why have I repeatedly stopped playing over the years? My problem with EVE is that its me, not EVE. I’m not the most social person. Never have been and my proclivity to solitude has only increased with age. I’m not anti-social per se, I just like to be social when I like to be social and the rest of the time not. But Sandboxes rely on social activity and I’ve had real issues finding the right place for me in EVE in the past. EVE also has a high learning curve, made all the higher when you keep leaving like I have and come back to find many things in the game completely different from what I remember. I’ve played on and off for 10 years but still feel like a “new bro” in many respects.
Back in 2010 when I was last playing heavily, I thought I found a good corporation, and since it was in Nullsec it seemingly offered everything I wanted. But my corporation didn’t stay very active for long after I joined and our Alliance wasn’t doing so good either. I eventually dropped out and headed back to Hisec without a corporation, leading to just one of the several times I stopped playing. Finding an active corporation, or group — the right corporation, or group — is so important in EVE. A lot of time you find great people in a small corporation that isn’t very active, and you find yourself without the support you need. Or maybe the corporation isn’t as active as you’d like, leaving you playing solo a good part of the time. Solo play in EVE can be fun, but EVE isn’t the sort of game where you do that for long. You need support, and since I crave the war (and glory) our in Nullsec anyway, that’s where I’m going to try heading back to in the coming weeks.
Like I said in my last post, I’m officially back to playing EVE. But it won’t be the only thing I do. One of the issues I also had in previous stints was that I only played EVE. This time around I’m not. I’m going to split time with WoW, so I expect to remain pretty busy regardless of which game I happen to be playing at the specific moment. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Alliance and my Night Elf Druid. But if you want something a little deeper than the Battle for Azeroth, you should take a loot at EVE Online. You never know if you’ll like it, unless you try it.