Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ganking is Bullying (v1.42)

(Updated 13 September 2016. The most recent additions and changes are marked in dark red.)

1. Ganking is bullying?


2. Really? Aren't you just being a whiner, a moaner, a carebear, a crybaby, a sissy, a pansy, a bellyacher, a sissypants, a wuss, a milksop, a namby-pamby, and/or just plain butthurt?

It wouldn't matter if I was. Facts are facts, whatever the mental state of the person pointing them out.

3. Okay, let's talk facts. What is bullying?

While there are a number of common definitions of bullying, most agree that it is a behaviour characterized by:
  1. Repeated aggressive activity by one person or group of people against another specific person or group or class of people over a period of time, 
  2. With the intention of causing them physical, mental, and/or emotional harm, and
  3. Involving a real or perceived imbalance of power between aggressor and aggressed, in favor of the former.

4. What, in the context of Eve Online, is ganking?

While again there are a number of acceptable definitions, most agree that it is characterized by:
  1. Repeated aggressive activity by one person or group of people (e.g. gankers) against a specific person or group or class of people (e.g. miners) over a period of time, 
  2. With the intention of causing harm (e.g. loss of in-game assets), and
  3. Involving a real or perceived imbalance of power between aggressor and aggressed, in favor of the former.

5. That's all a bit much. What's the tl;dr?

Ganking is bullying.

6. That can't be right. I'm a ganker, and I'm not a bully.

When you're ganking, you are.

7. But I'm a nice guy/gal. I'm kind to my family and friends, loyal to my corp, and even have a carebear alt or two. How can I be a bully?

A: It's not uncommon for otherwise decent people to engage in bullying behavior. Often, perhaps most of the time, they're not aware that they're doing it. 

8. You do realize that Eve is just a game, right?

Bullying can and does take place in the context of a game. 

9. How can ganking be bullying when the only thing being lost is some internet spaceships?

Bullying does not require that the aggression be directed against a person or property in the physical, rather than digital, realm.

10. But it's still just internet spaceships. Where's the harm?

In-game assets represent a substantial investment in time and/or real-world money; they can be as valued as any physical asset.

11. Doesn't CCP technically own all the in-game assets?

Bullying does not require that the victim actually own -- rather than merely have permission to carry and use -- a targeted asset.

12. Ganking is just PvP, isn't it?

Ganking is PvP in the sense that all active spaceships are valid hostile targets to each other, but it is not PvP in the sense of consensual combat between two willing players. It is the latter sense that is morally relevant to the concept of bullying.

13. What do you mean, it's not consensual?

I mean, obviously, that ganking victims do not consent to being ganked.

14. Look: the entire Eve universe is PvP enabled. Anyone who undocks is at risk of being fired upon, aren't they?


15. And players can be reasonably expected to know this, can't they?


16. In fact, hasn't CCP made this expressly clear?


17. So by playing Eve and undocking, don't players thereby consent to being ganked?

No. By way of analogy, passengers who board an airplane do so knowing that a plane crash is a possibility, but they do not thereby consent to the pilot flying their plane into the ground.

18. But plane crashes are a malfunction of the air travel process, while blowing up the other guy's spaceship is the whole point of Eve Online!

Eve is a sandbox; the point of it is whatever a given player decides it is. Blowing up spaceships is one possible aim; another is building spaceships; another is buying and selling goods; another is mining planets for resources; another is roleplaying; the list goes on. All of these aims are permitted by CCP and by the game mechanics. Some of them constitute bullying.

19. You're saying that someone can knowingly and willingly expose himself to an environment where he knows he has a high risk of being bullied, and it still counts as bullying?

A: Yes, in the same way that a person can knowingly and willingly walk down a dark alley after midnight, and can still be mugged or raped.

20. But if someone is stupid enough to walk down a dark alley after midnight, don't they deserve to be mugged or raped?

Of course not.

21. But can't miners learn skills to defend themselves?

Sure they can. And bullied children and victimized women can take karate lessons. But if they are unable to do so, or simply choose not to, this does not give moral license to bully, mug, or rape.

22. Let me ask you this: is it bullying when _______ happens?

If it fits the definition of bullying, it's bullying. If not, not.

23. Aren't you trivializing what "real" victims of "real" bullying, rape, et cetera, go through in the "real" world?

Bad things happening to X don't cease to be "real," or bad, just because worse things are happening to Y. (Having said that, I certainly don't mean to trivialize any horrible experience that anyone has gone through.)

24. If someone in the "real world" is bullied, mugged or raped, he or she has recourse to parents, teachers, law enforcement, etc. Do gank victims have similar recourse in the game?

Not unless the ganker is violating the EULA, which he usually isn't. But bear in mind that we are discussing bullying as a moral, not a legal, concept. An activity can be legal in a given jurisdiction, and still be immoral.

25. Doesn't CCP allow, and to some extent encourage as "emergent gameplay," ganking?

Again, we are talking about the morality, not the legality, of bullying. Bullying does not require that the behavior take place in an environment that is legally neutral or hostile to bullying.

26. Isn't ganking just a tool, a means to an end? Like a hammer?

Ganking is not a tool, but an activity, like building a house. A hammer is to house building as a Catalyst is to ganking.

27. Tool, activity, whatever -- the point is that it's what you do with it that counts, not the thing itself. Isn't that right?

Right for tools, but wrong for activities. Catalysts are amoral in and of themselves, but using them for ganking is not.

28. What about hauler gankers? These guys don't do it for the tears; they do it for the money. You can make a killing by ganking freighters and salvaging the wreck. That can't be bullying, can it?

Hauler ganking targets a specific class of player, the hauler (true that most capsuleers do some hauling at some point, but they nonetheless belong to that group while so engaged). There is a definite power imbalance involved. And while causing harm to the hauler might not be the pirate's prime motivation for ganking him, he nonetheless does knowingly and intentionally cause harm. So yes, hauler ganking is bullying, even if it's not quite as despicable a form of bullying as ganking with the motivation of causing tears (although it may be more immoral than the latter for other, non-bullying reasons).

29. Why is bullying a bad thing?

Are you serious?

30. Yes.

First, then, stay the hell away from my children -- and your own, if you have any. Second, most moral systems concede that bullying is a bad thing. The nature and foundation of such moral systems is an age-old philosophical issue, the resolution of which is well beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that, if you do not believe that bullying is immoral, then we do not have enough common ground for a meaningful discussion.

31. Doesn't being bullied instill positive character traits? Teach victims how to "be a man," how to fight back, et cetera?

Yes, this sometimes happens. But the instillation of these traits, or the potential for it, certainly does not morally justify the actions of the bully. 

32. By your logic, wouldn't shooting someone in Call of Duty be considered bullying?

No; the destructible assets in Call of Duty and similar games are so ephemeral that no reasonable person could think that harm was being done to the person, and there is no meaningful imbalance of power. 

33. Who are you, anyway?

It doesn't matter.

34. What is your motivation for doing this?

It doesn't matter.

35. Are you sure you're not just butthurt?

Again, it wouldn't matter if I was.

36. All right, so ganking is bullying. What do you expect CCP to do about it?

Actually, I don't think CCP is necessarily responsible to do anything. They have provided a tool that has a great amount of flexibility and a wide variety of uses. Like almost any tool, it can be used for immoral purposes, but we should not require the supplier of that tool to act as the morality police. Barring cases of psychopathy, the ultimate responsibility to stop bullying lies with the bully, and with him alone.

That being said, there are some steps which CCP might take that would be considered praiseworthy. A few suggestions:
  • Decrease the delay time before CONCORD responds to a ganking, all the way down to instant response in 1.0 systems.
  • Place sentry guns in asteroid belts, at least in 0.7+ systems.
  • Institute harsher security status penalties for gankers.
  • Since a wardec basically amounts to CONCORD taking a bribe to look the other way, make it behave rationally by accepting bribes from both parties; allow wardecced corps to pay the same amount as the original fee in order to cancel the wardec and prevent a new one for two weeks.
  • Support efforts to create an anti-bullying educational campaign among the Eve community.
Again, I would consider these actions praiseworthy, but not obligatory.

37. You're proposing to change things? Wouldn't such changes spell the end of Eve Online as a game, nay, the extinction of the human race!?

Of course not. Every change CCP has made to the game has resulted in cancelled subscriptions, new subscriptions, and renewed subscriptions all. Many changes have been instituted that, if they had been proposed back in 2004, would have had the doomsayers screaming murder. I suggest, frankly, that there is a huge, untapped market in carebears looking for a great science fiction game.

38. So what can I, personally, do about bullying in the game?

Only you can answer that. The situation is analogous to being in a sort of hyper-libertarian community whose law enforcement is either nonexistent or easily exploitable; you look outside your front window, and see a bunch of bullies on the street. What do you do?