I don’t know anything about EVE Online. I hear things, now and again, though. Burn Jita is one of those things that I have heard about.
“Starting last Friday, it was on fire,” CCP software director Erlendur S. Þorsteinsson wrote on the Eve Online community site. “Actually, Jita itself wasn’t on fire, but thousands of players who normally find it a safe haven of trade and economic gameplay found their ships on fire – everything from a lonely hauler on up to the simply massive, highly-armoured freighters moving thousands of USD equivalents of ships and goods.” “It was a pretty big deal,” Þorsteinsson said. “And it all happened because a few players wanted to make it happen and then, after convincing thousands of others to join them from around the world, they made it happen.” According to data gathered by CCP Games, the total damage inflicted over the three day event was 45,117,952 hit points doled out in 249,021 hits. CCP Games was also delighted that EVE players took videos and screenshots of the event, and got online to either boast about it or complain about it. Basically anyone in the vicinity of the hub was a participant whether they wanted to be or not.
So Goonswarm, a group of people that are dear to my heart (of course I have stairs in my home), have decided to destroy the very heart of the economy in EVE.
The EVE community blog has a really great statistical and mechanical analysis of the event here, so check that out, too.
From these accounts, Burn Jita is a game event. It is something that some disruptive players have decided to do, and the developers have altered their game a little bit in order to allow the game event to occur. There was ample warning that it was coming, and on the Friday, Jita started burning. If we read the event from the clinical, removed perspective of Gamepolitics or the EVE blog, it seems that Burn Jita isn’t a big deal. It is just a game working the way it is intended, with a careful balance between the player base and the developers.
I am willing to take on the guise of an EVE player for a moment. If I were a player, I would be angered by what is going on around Jita. From the perspective of a player, it looks like straight-up terrorism. Goonswarm are willing to watch the world burn. Space citizens can either join in as accomplices or simply be burned with everything else.
Except it isn’t a clear-cut story. The Mittani, apparently an elite member of Goonswarm, writes about Burn Jita in his “Sins of a Solar Spymaster” column at Ten Ton Hammer.
Brilliantly, the post is entitled “The Extortion of Empire.” The official media messages that have sprung up around Burn Jita would have you believe that it is nothing more than Goonswarming being jerks and making everything fall apart. From the perspective of the EVE official channels, Goonswarm look like pranksters.
But reading The Mittani’s post should put some of that into perspective for you. It is an act of protest. Not any kind of protest, mind you; space libertarian protest. It is a response to the way that the official patches of the game have created certain market conditions. For Goonswarm, an enterprising and brilliant collective, it isn’t about burning everything to the ground for fun; it is about burning everything to the ground because the conditions of the game simulation make burning everything a smart financial decision.
Burn Jita is a fascinating example of how rules change behavior. I can’t imagine it was any different for the periodical global recessions that have occurred more and more recently over the past thirty years. The rules of the game, be they by the USFG, the Fed, or the IMF, encouraged trading of bad debt or speculation or entire economic production. The rules determine how investors played those games, with more and more disastrous results and recoveries.
Video games tell us a lot about the world.