Sunday, December 2, 2007

Chapter Eleven

Improbable At Best

Do you remember a while ago when I started a chapter with "this chapter is impossible to write?" No? Well, I did when I was leaving for a month's reprieve. Even though I wanted to continue after that respite, I also wanted to offer a miniature summation, some thought provoking prose to echo throughout my temporary absence and encourage readers to return once I began posting again. Yet, I ran into a brick wall, a previously unfelt inabilty to cope with the scope of some of my thoughts. And so, you were left with a last minute cop out - that weasel of a sentence. All too often someone will put out a thought or an opinion for public inspection, failing to give it the clarity it deserves. The feeling and conviction behind that thought is then lost on the readers, and misinterpretation follows. We see it on television, on the internet, and here on these forums all day, every day.

Anyway, all of this does and does not have to do with the reality of this post. This journey started with an idea I still consider a radically noble one; to make my way through EVE without the burden of ISK on my back. As I progressed through the next several months of wandering and speculating, my journey mutated. At the time I was fine with this evolution, as they appeared to be relatively minor. Now, looking back, I do not fully recognize what my journey has now become; furthermore, I feel as though I have moved on without paying the infinite toll of thought due to my original question - can I survive without ISK?

Now, I have spent what ISK I started with, but after whittling down my wallet to nothing it remains somewhere between five and ten million ISK, eternally boosted by the odd donation here or there - perfectly timed by some magic. Fresh Stabbers are ready for me whenever I lose the previous one, prepared by one generous party or another. Despite the vast degree to which I have scaled down my participation in EVE's economy, I am still irrevocably a participant no matter how I skew it. If I were a pilot of unmatched evasive skill, if I never lost a ship, or if I were willing to traverse the galaxy in a pod, perhaps then I could better avoid the shadow that ISK casts over me. Even then, I feel as though it would be an exercise in futility - the market is EVE, to a large extent. It is inescapable.

My growing discontent with this reality was exacerbated by the truth behind the suspicion that my wandering were really just a background; in the end, they have no real character - they are nothing more than a backdrop, a diversion, while I while away my fortunes. And always, I had a comfort zone; my self regulation to the ISK in my wallet did not take into account the significant assets I had in various pockets of the galaxy. While I never dipped into such reserves during my journey, they were still there - an undeniable cushion of ISK.

After I accomplished the first superficiality of my wanderings - reaching the four cardinal points of the galaxy - I reached a point I had not planned for; the end. At this point I could have halted, attempted a conclusion as to how I had fared in the role of a space gypsy, and wrapped it up - but I felt as though I must carry on. Thus, a new purpose was fabricated for the sole purpose of occupying my time - a case study of the denizens of low security. While this produced - in my opinion - some interesting insights and a truckload of social confusion-commentary, it was still just a diversion. It was at this point that I feel I lost track of the original point of the whole thing - now I'm just a wanderer-journalist with an eccentric taste in ships, which is fine in some ways and not in others.

I suppose I recognized the whole low security question as unanswerable almost immediately, but coupled it with the 140 jump trip in a sickening display of time wasting potential - all to occupy myself while I tried to unearth a style and mission captivating enough to preserve itself without constant maitenance and reformation at my hand.

Nebulous bull**** wording aside, I was - to be honest - looking for something I thought people would want to keep reading, because despite everything a writer or an artist's mind may say, an artist is not an artist unless others recognize him or her as an artist, and I feel this is especially true for writers - even more so for burgeoning ones. I do not feel as though I have found that captivating story to be written, nor do I believe it is buried here.

In essence, I like to write about EVE. I hope to continue, be that at some point in the near future or further on - but not here, not this. So, for those tenacious few who have read through all the entries, and now through this final morass to come to these last lines, I commend and thank you. I know I couldn't stand to read through my own writing.

Now, it would be fitting to finally put to rest the question I positited some months ago:

To successfully live without ISK is improbable at best.

Chapter Ten Epsilon


ISK Balance: 5,446,895.93

A few days ago, I got an EVEmail from one Rudy Metallo - one of those pirates who truly values his -10.0 security status as one might covet a valuable gem - signifying his availability for an interview if I were so inclined. Of course, given the chance to base an entire entry off of a conversation while I was nestled deep inside a station, I jumped at the chance. I'm not sure whether that sentiment is rooted in lethargy, a desire to prolong my journey, or another facet of the metagame. It's hard to write about Rudy - after all, I'm figuring he's going to see this.

In any case, I contacted Rudy from my temporary firebase in a Berta station. After a bit of lollygagging over this story and his introduction to and general repertoire of experiences in EVE, we started talking about pirating.

I was pleased to find from the onset - beginning with his description of the first Tristan he took into the pirate-infested treacheries of low security - an impression of pirating in general that was glorifying and near-romantic, tinged with pragmatism and awareness of the unique pirate condition. In some ways, I'm tempted to call it the ideal pirate outlook; both in terms of EVE and the real world's pirates of old - both are driven to piracy in a large part because of the romantic notions behind it.

Rudy's aforementioned pragmatism was best illustrated in his staunch stance that "lowsec is where only the strong survive." However, I began to get the sense his full fledged pirate self was, in some way, a "I do what I do" attitude; especially from his slight digression into the certainty that if he was able to effectively manipulate markets for profit, he certainly would - but because he was a pirate, he would continue to be a pirate. Despite the fun of pulling off that difficult ransom, the badge of that -10.0 standing and the harrowing grind to repair it, maybe the conviction of "because I am" is the only greater reason people remain pirates.

Rudy's two most interesting views were those on antipirates and pirate gatecamps.

He seemed to harbor a resentment towards antipirates that he tended only to touch on. But more interesting than anything, he viewed them as the victims of a stance that perpetuated the general EVE community's fear of pirates; something that seemed to manifest itself in two ways - in those that cowered in high security stations, and antipirates. I'd assume the vast majority of pirates enjoy the fear and hatred directed towards them, or at least accept it, but Rudy seemed displeased with the result - "for the most part...smacktards with no personal pvp skill at all." He didn't hesitate to suggest they were an entirely expected reactionary development to the existence of pirates, but "people associate 'griefer' with 'pirate'...much to us true pirates' dismay," and he implied this unjustified assumption was the root of his misgivings about antipirates.

When I asked him about the risk versus the rewards of low security, he told me that gatecamps were the "ONLY way a pirate can earn money in most situations." I immediately thought back to Ral Khek's suggestion that with enough work, the rewards of low security could surpass the risks - it didn't seem to be this way with pirates. Pirates, as it was becoming evident, relied on other players more than any other category of player in EVE.

Despite all of this, my favorite thing Rudy said the entirety of the conversation was "for people like me it [requires a certain degree of irrationality]. We can't explain our love. We're at home in the in between ground, on the fringes of society and the beginning of wilderness. You love the *** rats, the crap targets, the smacking antipies. We love it all, and couldn't imagine living any other way."

So is piracy in EVE more about taking unbridled, glorified joy in the impossiblity of living in such an inhospitible, neglected strip of EVE than the simple pleasure taken from another's reactor core breach? For so long I had thought about pirates as the iconoclastic small-scale players that didn't care for the greater pictures being painted in high and no security - when in reality they may be the most capable of objective introspection and a truer perspective than all of us.

This is just one pirate, though. On this note, Rudy pointed me specifically in the direction of Veto. I'll see what they have to say...just as soon as I manage to undock in Berta.

Also: I've really got to stop doing these early morning updates.