In the comments of our Daily Grind on voting for MMO player councils earlier this week, Wilhelm of The Ancient Gaming Noob pointed me to a recent video from EVE Online YouTuber Jin’taan that struck me so much that I wanted to amplify it here.
Jin’taan, a former member of EVE Online’s player-elected Council of Stellar Management, starts by examining the idea that a lot of elected reps to the CSM actually quit the whole game after their year-long term is over. After determining that it’s a real effect (“CSM-itis”) and a sizable number (about 40% of those he served with over his three years in office) and then dismissing the idea that people run for the CSM as part of a winding-down of their in-game careers, he uses his own experiences with the council to offer multiple converging explanations for why the CSM appears to burn out some of the most dedicated EVE Online players.
First, Jin’taan argues that CSM members suffer a prolonged feeling of helplessness, specifically because they know their feedback and contributions affect so many people and the future of the game, and yet they often can’t do much and feel as if they’re not listened to – or even that some CCP devs don’t quite know as much about the game as they do, to the degree that councilors suspect something truly game-killing could “slip through the cracks.” It translates to a “lack of faith” in CCP: “I think that second-guessing CCP like that is something that is going to inevitably make you kind of bitter.”
Second, he echoes something that so many MMO players who’ve lived through sunset after sunset come to realize: All online games die. “Being a member of the CSM forces you to come to grips with the mortality of EVE Online,” he posits. Councilors in particular become weighed down by this confrontation of existential dread – why donate so much work and time, hundreds of hours and weeks of unpaid labor, to the game if it’s all going to end eventually?
It’s heavy stuff – and worth consideration for anybody thinking about turning a hobby into a job, even if it is just volunteering for a for-profit company’s marketing or R&D arm.