This is where most people would list their myriad reasons they are running for CSM. Maybe they would write out long platform statements with some overarching narrative. Their dreams of how to make EVE great again.
I am not going to do any of those things because I don’t need your votes you terrible pubbies.
-Aryth for CSM 12 campaign forum post
You weren’t going to vote for Aryth anyway, were you?
Here we are at the latest Blog Banter, number 80 in the series, and this time around the topic is the CSM. Specifically:
CCP Seagull ecourages you to get involved in CSM12 and put your name forward to be a Space-Politician. On his blog Neville Smit noted that CSM11 had done a good job with minimum of drama. However he said he’d not be covering CSM12 like he has in previous years as he sees no point. The power-blocs will vote on who they want and unless Steve Ronuken manages to get on CSM12 it is almost certainly going to have every seat taken by the big null-sec blocs.
Is Neville right? Is the CSM moving more and more into just a voice for 0.0? Is this a bad thing? Are the hi-sec, low-sec and WH players going to lose out badly or is it really not an issue as its the same game? Could a totally null-sec dominated CSM 12 give a balanced voice for everyone?
I get to quote Aryth, pick on Neville Smit, and complain about the CSM? Trifecta!
Anyway, in my usual style, I am going to spew forth a bunch of text and I hope, somewhere at the far side, to reach a conclusion. I think I know what it will be, but won’t be sure until I get there! The CSM 12 election is coming soon, so lets ramble.
I will start with the fact that I think electing what is essentially a focus group by having the player base vote is pretty silly. You want to select by competence and core knowledge, not popularity for this sort of position.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. If you go look at the CCP historical timeline (preserved here) you will see this tidbit for 2003.
Yes, players were chosen by CCP. That is the way things are generally done in the MMO domain when you want a focus group or player advisory board. (SOE, Blizz, and Turbine all did it that way.) But five years into the game and one T20 scandal later, CCP decided that elections would… I don’t know really. Transparency? Here is what they said:
During their six-month term, delegates to the council will deliberate on issues of importance to the EVE community and work with representatives of CCP on the future evolution of EVE Online.
Oh yeah, and the terms were for six months back then… more elections… and there were nine members of the council and five alternates.
Anyway, an election gets popular people and not necessarily competent people on the CSM.
That, of course, leads us to who is really popular in New Eden. There are a few people in the EVE Online population that have achieved space fame and who could thus get elected on their own. To get there you usually have to take things out of game by starting a blog, running a news site, being particularly notable on Reddit, or by creating some sort of additional functionality for the game. And that is no guarantee you will get the votes. Riverini took a couple of shots, but his EN24 fame wasn’t enough.
For the most part though elections go to large, organized groups, and there are no larger nor more organized groups than the null sec blocs. The nature of the game is that to survive and thrive and hold space in null sec you have to be organized.
I spent five years bopping around in high sec and was never in a corp that had more than a dozen people and probably didn’t know what an alliance really was. That didn’t harm my play style at all. In the back woods of Amarr space, far from Jita, life was peaceful. The one and only time I was suicide ganked involved traveling from Jita to our little pocket in Amarr space via Niarja, which is the gank pipe. I interacted with more EVE bloggers on their blogs out of game than I did with players in the game.
And then I moved to null sec and am currently in one of the small alliances in our coalition, having only ~1,600 members, while the senior partner is Goonswarm Federation with 24K members. Yes, the member count is probably between half and two-thirds alts, but every paying account gets a vote. So when an official ballot is put out for the coalition… which we mostly vote for, though Goon uniformity is largely a myth and candidates like Xenuria have been controversial on the official ballot… that provides a pretty strong base of votes. The question is never about whether somebody from the ballot will get on the CSM but rather how many on the list will make it.
So if you’re not in null sec, how do you break into what is now the top 10 of votes?
It isn’t easy. There have been various attempts to get a wider group or play style to back a candidate from, say, wormhole space or faction warfare. That has worked a few times, but often there isn’t a clear choice as multiple candidates vie for the same demographic.
And if identify with a nebulous group like high sec, and your space blog is only getting 30 page views a day on average, and you are in competition with a ludicrous number of opponents (64 total candidates this year) for those coveted ten seats, you don’t have many options.
You try to get on everybody’s review list or podcast and you promise to do things in the classic quid pro quo of politics. You promise to represent this community or that community or several communities or all communities. You promise to champion certain features or resist others. If you’re really crazy, you promise to get CCP to do something. You have to stand out, and just saying your knowledgeable isn’t enough.
I quoted Aryth at the top for a reason. He doesn’t have to promise anything. If you’re not in a null sec bloc, you’re running against somebody who doesn’t really need a campaign to win. And he’ll get on the next CSM because he’ll be the top slot on the Imperium ballot and there is nothing you can post on Reddit to stop that.
Unfortunately, promises are a show of weakness, a sign of desperation to stand out. When I first mentioned the elected CSM on this blog, back in April of 2008, I called it the Galactic Student Council. Just like the student council back in high school, candidates can promise all sorts of thing, but in the end the school administration controls the situation and can ignore or veto the student council at will. Likewise, the CSM serves at the pleasure of CCP and, as we have seen in the past, can be ignored with impunity.
To have any power on its own, the CSM has to bypass CCP and cause players to follow them rather than the company. That has happened exactly once, after the Incarna expansion, and was an extraordinary set of circumstances the root causes of which people disagree with to this day. (But it wasn’t about the price of monocles, I guarantee you that.)
Sion Kumitomo tried to do this again, tried to take his issues out of school, during CSM 10. However, he faced two problems. Well, three problems. The first was being in GSF, which sets some people against him automatically, but that was really the least of his problems and could have been overcome with the right issue.
The second problem was his communication style, which is long and ponderous, and I write this with a straight face as I pass the 1,200 word mark on this post without reaching my point. I am good at burying the lede, and often do it deliberately just to see who is paying attention. But when Sion writes, he doesn’t just bury the lede, he kills it, buries it in an unmarked grave deep in the forest, evades the detection of the authorities, and only gives up the location 40 years later on his death bed. But that really wasn’t his biggest problem either.
No, his biggest problem was that he was attempting champion an issue about which almost nobody gave a shit about, the CSM. The dirty not-really-a-secret of the CSM is that, judging by voter turn out, most people simply don’t know or don’t care about it. I mean, if go back and read my Galactic Student Council post from 2008, you can see that I had missed a lot of what was going on, and I cared enough to write a blog post about it.
And CCP can talk about the election all it wants, encourage people to get involved, put info up on the launcher, post on Twitter and Facebook, and it isn’t going to change much. Even the highest voted turnout ever for the CSM was still a depressingly small slice of the New Eden population. Part of that people will mind their own business because they just want to log in after work and manage their PI or run a mission or see what their corp mates are up to, while the CSM is this thing that we only hear about when things go wrong.
And even if they do decide to vote, they haven’t been listening to the podcasts or reading candidate summaries or review… the alleged “EVE Media” and those who pay attention are a tiny part of the game… you load up that voting screen and see that grid array of 64 candidates, none of whom you have likely heard of (unless you saw the Xenuria ad running in stations, then you might remember him… he does have a memorable avatar) and what do you do? How do you pick one candidate, much less ten, out of a list of random strangers whose avatars (aside from Xenuria’s) mostly blur together in a mass of plainness?
So barriers to an informed electorate are huge and the benefits are nebulous at best. And after the train wreck that was CSM 10, I was predicting that the institution of the elected CSM might become more of a liability than CCP was willing to put up with. The end seemed nigh.
And then CSM 11 happened. CCP Guard and CCP Logibro took over the CCP side of the relationship with the group and met with the mostly null sec members of the newly elected CSM and got to work. Everything was mostly quiet, there were no controversies, the meeting minutes seemed to indicate that people mostly got along and that it wasn’t a null sec plot to turn the whole game into their favored play style. As noted way up at the top, even Neville Smit, who was out agitating for the alleged 85% with his Occupy New Eden plan seemed pleased enough to simply vote for any CSM 11 incumbent that ran again.
So what happened?
I think CCP finally “got” what the CSM ought to be and how to handle it. They listened, they didn’t take every piece of advice offered, sometimes to their regret, but no members of CSM 11 are out there raging about how CCP dropped the ball by ignoring the CSM or how CCP claimed CSM approval around things that the CSM never really endorsed. CCP didn’t screw up.
Meanwhile, the null sec blocs seemed to have burned through most of their prima donna candidates who just wanted to be on the CSM for a forum badge, an ego boost, and a free trip to Iceland and elected a group that seems to care about the overall health of the game. Somebody like Aryth understands the essential symbiotic relationship that exists between null sec and high sec and knows he has to protect both for either to thrive. And somebody like Xenuria is there to get you new shoes. (He needs to work on hats though.)
So even the skeptic in me, who has long derided the CSM, has to admit that things are pretty good with the institution right now, in part because CCP decided that the relationship was important, and in part because CCP still goes outside the CSM to get opinions.
Of course, it could all go to hell with CSM 12, but we’ll see. Right now the CSM is about the best we can hope for given the various issues and limitations I have rambled about above, even if it clearly isn’t covering all voices. But you’ve seen that “things to do in New Eden” chart. How could you get all of that covered, even in broad strokes, on a panel with only 10 seats?
So I suppose we should enjoy this happy period while it lasts.
Anyway, there are others who have picked up the topic as well who probably have more cogent points to make. Find some of them here:
- Jack Jomar – Is CSM Worth it?
- I Care A Lot – A Voice for All Players?
- Neville Smit – A CSM for All?
- A Missioneer in EVE – Voices and wrappers
- Inner Sanctum of the Ninveah – Voices
- Sand, Cider, and Spaceships – Democracy In Action
- Jakob’s EVE Checklist – Is it feasible to have a FW representative on CSM 12?
- EVE Hermit – Who is Listening to Who?
- Yadot – Vote, what vote…
- Morphisat’s Blog – Only a pawn in their game