Monday, July 18, 2022

The Mittani Steps Down

Folks in the chat have been attacking us saying we are both apologists. No, we’re not apologists, we are apologizing. There is a difference. We’re not trying to hand wave away what happened. Everybody involved in this process understands completely what happened wasn’t okay and it needs to be fixed, period. Things like this can’t happen again.

- Brisc Rubal, The Meta Show, 15 July 2022

I have said for years now that if the Goons were defeated in EVE Online, the causes for the defeat would come from within. The Imperium's last major defeat in The Casino War occurred due to infighting within Imperium member SpaceMonkeys Alliance. The conflict between the owner of IWANTISK and his alliance leadership eventually led to Eeep financing a war against his coalition. The result was the collapse of several Imperium alliances and the removal of The Imperium from the galactic north in 2016.

The latest political shockwave to damage The Imperium also came from within. The Mittani has resigned his positions as head of Goonwaffe and as head of The Imperium. The event was announced in an alliance ping and a post on the Goonsfleet forums.

My people, I’m afraid that the sheer amount of smears being flung my way across the galaxy are simply too much to handle at a personal level. The fact that my divorce, the loss of my dog, and a terrible number other of outright lies and falsehoods have been heaped on top of each other has resulted in me becoming simply too radioactive to continue leading Goonswarm without my presence being a net negative for the wider tribe.

The accusations that I am aware of are unsubstantiated falsehoods, and I did not sign up to be the scapegoat for the entire galaxy. You deserve better in leadership than having to continually be confronted with MITTANI MAN BAD day in, day out; I, and my partner, deserve better than to wake each day to find some new horrific slander being levelled against me. The only honorable thing to do is exit in an orderly fashion. I have transferred shares to Xttz and will be making TheAdj Interim CEO of Goonwaffe.

A challenge of this position – sitting in the Big Chair – is that the entire rest of Eve Online feels that they can, without boundaries, restraint, or evidence, fling all kinds of shit at the leader of GSF. I do not envy my successor, but hope that my exit will clear the way towards a better future.

It has been a tremendous honor to serve you these past 12 years as CEO. We have, together, built the greatest and most interesting space empire in the history of the internet, and then we have beaten the entirety of the rest of the game with it in the greatest war in the history of the internet. Your successes, your friendships, your community, and the bonds we have formed with one another through all of the madness that is Eve Online will be memories I will keep forever.

As I transfer roles and hand assets over, the current team will continue stabilizing the organization. They have been hard at work and information and announcements will be coming. Please bear with them as they have been trying to both build new systems and improve processes, while managing a very challenging and complex situation. Please be gentle with them.

As for me, I am going to touch some grass and smoke some weed. It’s been an honor and a privilege~

The story of the fall of The Mittani is too big not to give some time to cover. My problem is what can I use as a source of information? The EVE sub-Reddit is out as a source. Yes, a lot of the stories swirling around were on r/eve. The problem is, the EVE sub-Reddit is full of misinformation in the best of times. And that is what I say when I feel charitable.

As I've said for years, r/eve can suck the desire to play EVE out of a player faster than an officer-fit Bhaalgorn can drain the capacitor from an Atron. I don't say that just due to the negativity found on the sub-Reddit. I also believe r/eve is a huge anchor on CCP and EVE Online's popularity due to the types of posting I see. Will people post lies on Reddit to improve their position in the game? Yes. Will people post lies on the sub-Reddit accusing people of horrendous crimes in order to gain revenge for in-game activities? Also yes. EVE is a game where players go way over the line in the types of behavior decent people should engage in. The EVE sub-Reddit is a distilled form of that toxic behavior, made worse by the amount of players who no longer play the game hanging out on the site. In short, friends don't let friends visit r/eve.

So where to turn to? Would you believe The Meta Show? Yes, the Twitch stream often acts like a branch of The Imperium's Ministry of Truth. But even with The Mittani acting at his worst, the show is a lot less toxic than r/eve. (Admittedly, being less toxic than r/eve is a very low bar to clear). With the former space emperor no longer on the show, what would a Goon-friendly source say about the recent events? On Saturday, the show resumed, hosted by long-time host Brisc Rubal and Karmafleet CEO Merkelchen. I'll quote extensively from Saturday's show because the most sugar-coated story should come from that source.

I'll start with Brisc's opening.

Today, July 16th, 2022, the news of the day. Probably the biggest news we’ve had in EVE Online in quite a long time. The Mittani, one of the most well-known players in the history of EVE Online, has resigned as alliance leader of Goonswarm Federation and coalition leader of The Imperium. This follows a week or more of some of the toughest times I think we have seen in this game in quite a long time. Allegations of sexual harrassment, allegations of the mishandling of complaints, allegations of all kinds of things in the community, real life and in the game. 

Many of you didn’t think we were going to do the show today. Many of you didn’t think I was going to show my face or that I would come on here and defend The Mittani. Many of you thought we were going to just sweep this under the rug and that nothing would change and nothing would happen. But I think it is obvious based on what has happened in this community over the last week that this is absolutely something that we need to talk about and it is absolutely something we need to make sure never happens again.

I probably need to point out that some subjects are taboo to discuss on Twitch and YouTube. Things like pedophilia. Given some of the chatter on the Internet, "allegations of all kinds of things" is probably as close as we can expect a streamer not sure of the limits to go in describing the situation.

Next comes Brisc's soapbox segment. I'm not going to post the entire thing, but most of it will get the message across.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the last week we have seen what I think many players in our community would consider some of the most toxic behavior they have ever seen – in game, out of game – and it has come from players that you all know, players that we have all played with, people we have known in real-life and friends. This community has done what I have thought was not possible and has almost torn itself to pieces. And it is happening at a time in EVE Online when the game is in as rough a shape as it has been in the last 20 years. 

Every night on Rampage Inc, Merk and I take a look at the number of people playing and it is in the 13 thousands and the 14 thousands where just a year ago it was in the 30s. This community needs some work, folks. Let’s be honest. 

Now, what have we seen over the last week? We have seen accusations. We have seen call-out threads. Reddit has turned into – everyday something else breaks to the point where people are very concerned - that they don’t even want to look at it. They want to walk away from the game. This community is too toxic. It is the worst community they have ever seen. No wonder no one wants to play this game because look at how we treat each other. In real life and on the forums and on Reddit and elsewhere. 

We’ve seen threats of physical violence. We’ve seen, “Don’t come to an EVE meet because I’ve got a lot of fists ready for ya.” Yesterday, as you all may have known, someone emailed my work, letting them know, “Are you aware that Brian Schoeneman, the political and legislative director for this union, is on a talk show with a person who’s been accused of sexual mismanagement?”

I’m used to this. It is not the first time it has happened to me. Many, many famous EVE players have had things happen similar to me. In my time I’ve had death threats. I’ve had people mail things to my house. Someone mailed a pair of ping-pong balls to my house because apparently I needed to get a pair. And on more than one occasion people have called my office. They’ve called my wife’s office. Someone called my wife’s office and let the receptionist know how much of a piece of shit I was. This community oftentimes shows the worst of what we can see on the Internet. 

Now, that being said, I want to talk about some other things I’ve seen from this community. On Rampage Inc this community has raised more than $10,000 for charity. I have seen through the PLEX for Good campaigns, this community has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to benefit refugees from the war in Ukraine, to benefit folks displaced by the wildfires in Australia, folks who were impacted by tsunamis in Indonesia, natural disasters around the world. I have seen the best of this community. I have seen people fighting COVID by playing this videogame. I have seen people reach out to one another in times of trial and trouble and tribulation. I have seen the good that the Broadcast4Reps group has done. I have seen people rush to the aid of a player in Vegas who fell, not because he was drunk, but because he had a health issue. And I’ve seen at EVE meets from Fanfest to Vegas to elsewhere friends helping friends get around when they’ve had a little too much, making sure they get home safe. I have seen this community come out when players have passed away. I’ve seen us run GoFundMe’s for funerals and to help the families of those we’ve lost. 

Many people would say after this week that this community is in very rough shape and it needs a lot of work. And what I would say to them is a paraphrase of one of the best statements I have ever heard from an American president. There is nothing so wrong with the EVE community that it cannot be fixed by what’s best of the EVE community. 

All of us own each other just the basic ordinary human dignity of being kind. Treat others as you want to be treated. If someone in your fleet is being racist, mysogynist, sexually harassing others, stand up to them. Tell them that behavior is not okay. There is no place in this game for racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, any of those types of behaviors. No one should be felt to be ashamed because of their sexual orientation. No one should be made ashamed because of where they’re from or what they look like. 

We have to be better as people, and it starts – not with CCP, not with alliance leaders – it starts with each and every one of us deciding that we are going to be better people…
I'm sure some would like to see all people in Imperium leadership kicked immediately from the game, ensuring The Imperium's collapse. Putting on my cynic's hat, I don't think CCP will commit economic suicide in that way, even assuming a mass punishment is warranted. 

I understand why some people watched The Meta Show and felt a lot of deflection occurred. A lot did. But I believe a lot more contrition occurred than the critics give credit for. And since the apologies give some sort of scope to the issues, I'll post some more.

This segment came from Brisc about some of the past content of The Meta Show.

I see people in the chat saying, “How can you say something like this when this show when this show has been purveying hate for blah, blah blah, blah blah.” And you have Olmeca on Twitter saying “these guys are all attacking everything.” 

I have tried on this show to keep it in the game. I know that this show has failed many times to keep it in the game. And that Mittani and myself and others have crossed lines that many of you have thought were too far. And for that I want to apologize. If you thought what we were saying was too much, was too hard, it was too far across the line. That it was impacting someone in real life you have my absolute sincere apology. That was never our intention. 

Our job on this show, our goal on this show is to be entertaining and to talk about things that are happening on EVE Online, and because so many of us play this game so much that it becomes a second job or a hobby or part of our lives. For many of us we’ve been playing this game for 16 years or more – 20 years. Not having EVE Online in our life is not something we ever want to contemplate. And I know that means it is very easy to get very too attached. It is easy to get very angry and very frustrated – or very whatever you want to say – and go off and say things and do things you otherwise wouldn’t do. 

If we have offended someone – and I know we’ve offended Vily, I know we’ve offended Gobbins, I know we’ve offended many people we’ve talked about over many years on this show – and they all have my apologies. And I think as part of everything we are doing we have to do a better job. And we’re going to keep it in the game and when we talk about stuff on the show, yeah we’re going to have fun, we’re going to tease people. We’ll talk a little trash. But it’s not personal. It’s part of the game. And I hope that folks will understand that. And I hope we can keep the rest of the stuff in the game as well. 

But the reality is the last week or so has been pretty bad. And I don’t think anyone wants the game to fail. I don’t think everyone wants everybody to walk away from it. But we are in danger of that happening if we can't clean up our own messes. 

I mentioned Merkelchen was on the show but haven't quoted him yet. When asked about what leadership was doing to clean up the mess and prevent another situation like the current fuck-up, he replied:
A lot of things are happening obviously, right? You kind of touched on it. Some of the messaging is, in retrospect, incredibly embarrassing and humiliating and I can’t believe we ran with some of this shit as long as we did. We’re trimming those hedges outright because it is easy, it’s quick. We are making sure that people understand what things are okay and what things are going to be not okay. 

Little more detailed and obviously significantly more complicated is when you’ve got as many people as some of these groups do, it’s not like your old WoW raiding guild where it’s 20 people, you all know each other intimately well. It’s easy to say, “Hey, we’re going to agree to do this one thing and do it. When you’ve got thousands, tens of thousands of people getting mashed together and interacting in hundreds of different places whether they’re private channels, squad and SIG channels, a Discord over here, a Discord over there, whatever, it starts to get really really complicated. 

We spent a few days sort of circling the wagons and trying to figure out, okay what’s objective #1? A safe and inclusive community. We want to have that. We desire to have that. I think a lot of us – I’m one of these dipshits and I’ll eat that – thought we had one. Only to realize as these conversations have gone on this week that we were coming up very short on that front. 

All hope is not lost though. Just because we failed at something doesn’t mean we have to keep failing at something. We’re going to get this one right. I guarantee it. Nobody scales up shit like we do. It’s our specialty. We will bring forth a system that can handle this and can make everyone feel comfortable with where they are. So that stuff has been going on in the background... 
I know a lot of people don't want to hear what Goons intend to do to fix the situation but more about what happened. Sorry, but I figure I need to put some of what is proposed, if only to look back and judge how Goonswarm and The Imperium responded. Merkelchen added more details to the Goonswarm response:
Ideally what we want the end goal is an independent organization outside of the leadership structure that exists already. Our leadership structure is great at winning wars, at keeping jump bridges fueled, at making sure your athanor’s moon drill is where it needs to be, etc. It’s not a human resources department. It’s not a conflict resolution department. These are not people who have training or skills in interpersonal relationships or interactions, etc, etc… 

This group will work external to the organization itself. It will be staffed by people who are not in the leadership of the organization. A human resource department typically works in the interests of the company, not to go all Fortune 500 on you, but if you are talking to your human resources department rep the odds are they are circling the wagons around you basically. They work for the company and they want to keep the company out of legal trouble. 

That is not the goal in this situation whatsoever. The goal in this situation is resolve conflict, maintain the dignity of the membership, and make sure people have a place they know they can go to anonymously report problems in the organization. 

There’s a couple people in leadership who are sort of going to be adjunctsent [sic] to this group, because they have to be. On the developmental side people who can press the buttons, people who can pull into the database, people who can moderate the forums. You have to have a couple of folks like that available to this group such that they can execute their work. But I can tell you the plan is nobody’s above the law, anybody can be reported, and we’re going to just see how it goes. It’s not going to be perfect when it launches. We’re going to look to the first group of people. We’ve tried to really pull in a diverse group of people to staff this thing out of the gates. And just kind of let them come back and say, “We need X, we need Y, we need Z”, stuff like that. So they can work their way through these conflicts and ideally they will handle these things from beginning to end…
I'm not sure if I will continue tracking the story of what exactly happened. The aftermath? I can't help but do that. But for now, I'll leave this post to mark one of the major events in the history of EVE Online.

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