Archive for April, 2010

Disciplinary duty

Posted in C'est la vie! with tags on April 23, 2010 by shava

Mon Cher Frere Fransoir,

Oh, I would be beside myself if I were not so bored!  I can not write Maman or Marsel, because they would wag fingers at me, but I can tell you, and you will just laugh.

So, I am in the pleasure hub, off duty, in this station in the Caldari border zone.  A girl must eat!  And they say, “Oh, there is this wonderful place, you will find it, all the pilots go there — the vegetables are flown up fresh!”  So I think, “This is where I must eat.”  And you know, it is by the port, and there is everyone doing everything there, but the food is good, hien?

So this big hulk, a Caldari pilot, comes up to me and he is drunk I think, or on some odd gas cloud concoction heavens only know, and he is saying, “Look, we have a new Gallente whore.  Kinky, she’s in uniform!”  So what am I meant to do in this case?

Well, first, I size him up, and I am rubbing the back of my neck, you know, so he notices I am a capsuleer, and need fear nothing (or, so most people think!).  And his friends see this, and start muttering, like he’s gotten himself in trouble, and I think “Ah, now he will back down, and it’s nothing.”  But no luck!  He gets his back up, he is really mad now, and he doesn’t want to look bad in front of his friends.

And I say, “Mon vieux, there is no need for us to fight.  Everyone knows Caldari pilots can’t see well enough to shoot — that’s why you use missles so much.  It is no harm you can’t tell me from your half-sister.”

Maybe this was not the best thing to say to make peace.

Well, so it is a fight, nothing for it.  And I did well, but after this young Caldari was doing badly, his friends took pity, and there were five to my one then.  I fight strong and fast and dirty, but they are five military men with some training, and as strong and fast and dirty as I fight I know better than to fight with weapons here with Concord nearby (so where are they when I need them?).

So later, one of the girls is cleaning me up, and I got a plate of fresh pommes frites (tell that to Marcel but nothing else!).  And so that is all fine, I was not hurt so badly, but I am bruised on my face, and there’s no hiding that when I go home.

So, the CO, he is not so pleased with my small skirmish (even less when he asked me who came out on top!) and he says I obviously need to cool down a little, so he’s sending me on a week’s vacation in Halle.  I’m thinking, “Vacation?  I lose a fight and break discipline and he’s sending me to vacation?”

So, he takes me to a terminal and says, “First we are going to get you a few things to pack for your trip.  You like the Caldari ships, probably better than you like their pilots, so I have just the thing.”  And he is spending my money, and buying me all these things in Dodixie, and a shuttle here, and sends me off to pick up a Badger (oh, it is such a big slow slug of a ship!) and a Navitas (which, you know, is just a small mining shuttle) and sends me off to “mine and meditate” for a week!

Oh, and it is so long to mine with a little laser, and I am in these fields with real miners with monstrous huge barges, eating the rocks from around me.  And every so often, I scoop rocks from my hold into the can, and every so often, I run to the station and fetch my fat ugly Badger and haul the rocks back.  And I am no good at that, and the CO sets me goals for my minerals, and I am no refining technician, so I must work harder.

So it is my third day.  I am just about halfway through my vacation.  And for several days, I would not tell anyone, but today I was listening to that music compilation you sent last, and thought of you, and how you would laugh at me.  And first, I was angry that you’d laugh, and now, I think I am laughing to.

It was good to write it down.  I feel so much better — I am sure already that the last half of the week will be faster than the first half!  And I can feel your laugh in the music you sent me — send me more!  You are close to me when I listen to it.

But do not tell Marsel and Maman, or I will skin you alive when I am home next!

Your loving sister,


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Jean, mon cher,…

Posted in C'est la vie! on April 23, 2010 by shava

Jean, mon cher,

It was pleasant in a way to see you while I was back visiting the Academy.  I truly wish you well, I do!

But I think it is time for us to acknowledge what is already true, yes?  I come to see you, and you are in pain.  I am une capsuliere, and you did not make the cut, and you can not live with the differences, and you can not live with me being gone.

I am truly sorry.  But it would be best for you to find a woman with two feet on the ground, and a few less stars in her eyes.  Yes, I have access to wonders, and I also pay for it on a regular basis.  It is a lonely life in many ways, one I can not really describe.  Even as we used to complain that the pilots would not share their experiences with us, I find I now can not really describe what I experience daily to you.

I can tell you it is not all good:  that having a shell of tritanium steel blown from around me and fleeing in my pod is terrifying in the moment (not yet have I been required to rely on my clone, but I shudder!).  It is not that I am not brave, but even with all the chemical soup and implants and training, so long as we are not totally machines, the terror of that moment will always grab the entrails and twist.

And, I can tell you there are things that I wish I could share.  I can not express how the feeling of extending myself into all the systems of my frigate is like growing a new amazing body, that the math is like hot sex playing in my brain as I fight, and my senses are heightened and made strange.  It is a miracle to me every day, regardless of the cost.

But in all, it makes us different, it drives us apart, and you, mon cher, are not only hurt to be parted from me, but frantic with jealousy of my ship, my life, and the stars.

Please, I wish you all happiness.  Find another sleek and fierce girl — they are out there.  And not all will become capsulieres and fly away.



Blog Banter #17 – Women in Eve

Posted in OOC on April 20, 2010 by shava

Breaking character, Shava steps from behind the terminal.  She’s a short, thickset, matronly woman of 50 with intense honey-brown eyes and a sly grin.  She is NOTHING like la capsuliere (intelligence training aside).

Shava has left Eve Online and come back.  Three different times.  So is it a coincidence that this post took 3rd place in the blog banter? *heh*

CK kind of inadvertently hit part of his own nail on the head, when he asked his Blog Banter question:

What could CCP Games do to attract and maintain a higher percentage of women to the game. Will Incarna do the trick? Can anything else be done in the mean time? Can we the players do our part to share the game we love with our counterparts, with our sisters or daughters, with the Ladies in our lives? What could be added to the game to make it more attractive to them? Should anything be changed? Is the game at fault, or its player base to blame?

My emphasis added.  CK, you are not speaking to me when you say we.  You are speaking to me when you say them.  You are speaking to me when you call me a Lady with a capital L.  It’s hard to pilot a ship from outside the porthole, stuck on this pedestal.  And you are just a sweet guy.  And you want to fix the problem.  But it’s got you in its jaws.

I don’t claim to speak for all the female pilots in Eve, but I can speak from my own experience.  Eve Online is a military/economic simulation.  It started almost entirely male.

There are a couple of comparisons that spring immediately to mind — both from my own experience in real life.

When I was a teenager, I had the pleasure of knowing Senator George Aiken, then recently retired senior senator and ex-governor from my home state of Vermont.  Aiken was an amazing man, a statesman, and he met me because someone forwarded my ASVAB (Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery) test scores to him.  I had come out at 99%+ in every category but one (don’t remember which, sorry).  Aiken told me he had heard good things about me and was ready to write me a recommendation if I wanted to go to any of the military academies.  He mentioned Annapolis.

The year before, in 1985, Congress first authorized the military academies to take women candidates.  The first women attended the year he asked me this question — the year I turned seventeen.

My father believed in strict nonviolence in his social organizing (he was a Unitarian Universalist minister, and before that a high school science/math teacher, and before that a union organizer during WWII).  But one thing he’d emphasized to me was that to foster peace you needed to understand the causes, needs, and means of war.  Because of this, as a little hippie teenager in 70’s Vermont, I had read Clauswitz, Suntzu, and a great deal of history including military history.  I was encouraged to reflect how the Gita integrated the hard decisions of war (“how to kill your relatives without accruing terribly bad karma”) with spirituality.

But I was not prepared to enter the lion’s den.  Lion’s den?  The military?  Well, yes, I did have a lack of the suffering fools gladly gene and a healthy mistrust of authority that would have made military life difficult.  But I wasn’t actually primarily worried about that.

I was already a girl-geek, in a small town.  I had a bare clue what would happen to the first girls at Annapolis.  My prediction was, they would be eaten alive.  At the very least, their lives would be made enough hell that they would be nearly set up to fail.

So I passed on the officer’s life.

Instead, I became a software engineer, back when that was quite the boy’s club.  And I spent nearly every weekend of the late 70’s and early 80’s at the MIT Strategic Games Society, where Betsy H. and I were the only two women.  It made us very popular in that circle.  Outside of MITSGS, we were observed with curiosity and sometimes a little horror.

Women aren’t supposed to be interested in killing things, or war, or — yes — blowing sh*t up.

Now, Betsy and I were gamers.  We were gamer grrls before D&D took over MITSGS, and brought in a few more persons of the female persuasion.  I got commissioned to paint whole armies of lead miniatures, laboriously ordered by air mail on paper forms from Europe.  We did scale naval miniatures on a huge hex-paved courtyard at MIT, one nautical mile per hex, from dusk to dawn once a year.  We went en masse — the two of us and a hoard of young and not-so-young men — to movies like Alien and Das Boot, and really just about any war or science fiction or fantasy or special effects movie that came out.  We were geeks before being geeks was cool, and girl geeks before such a thing was anything but an anamoly.

At work, I affected a sort of baby dyke look.  Being a young looking early-20-something and pretty, the men I worked with (and I worked with almost all men) would either dismiss me as brainless, want to bed me, or get so flummoxed just having to interact, period.

By 1982, I was chief software engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation, working on the first commercial multimedia system in the world, matrix managing forty people to create prototype applications (and break the authoring system — or at least strain it to its limits).  That was also the year I got on the Internet, and discovered the USENET group net.women — about 50 women all over the US working for government contractors, the military, or engineering schools — most of us engineers and scientists.  We all had the same issues with the guys around us.  Being dismissed, having to work twice as hard to get an even break regarding respect or recognition, glass ceilings, what would now be called harassment (but then we just took for granted, mostly).

Men around us would test us with coarse language and coarser stories to see if we were ok with being “one of the guys.”  They would treat us differently in a thousand different ways, some meant as gentlemanly, but most meant to push our boundaries (sometimes in the name of bonding, often not).

Now, you can see from these issues (passing on military academy, dealing with being “the woman engineer”), that in the greater world, mostly things have changed.  Young women today in at least the coastal parts of the US generally are raised to think they can do whatever they want with their careers.  Annapolis is over 20% female (in comparison, 30 years ago, MIT was hitting about that same milestone).

Heck, the president of MIT is a woman now.  Geeks are cool.  More and more women are playing online games that involve strategy, tactics, military/economic simulations, and blowing sh*t up.  More and more women are playing really much more bloody and violent console games that really are far more squicky than Eve.

But, Eve is 5% female.  It’s not because the girl gamers are saying “Math is hard!  Let’s go shopping!” It’s not because Eve isn’t elegant and beautiful, because it is.  It isn’t because Eve is one of those limited games that can’t employ women’s oft-vaunted talents in diplomacy and politics, but only involve finite strategy/tactics.  Eve already has a distinct human dimension, as anyone would know who’d gotten to corporate leadership and/or null-space.

My thought is that there are two really major problems.

The first problem is CCP’s.  CCP markets Eve as a PVP space game.  Famously, mining in Eve is boring.  Famously, Eve is a spreadsheet game.  Famously, for the first while in PVP in Eve, the sh*t being blown up is probably you.  Repeatedly.

CCP does a lousy job of marketing Eve’s deep lore, rich player-driven story and politics.  They never really mention Eve’s complex cooperative play, involving holding together alliances of sometimes thousands of individuals to realize amazingly intricate military and political goals that must be shored up by a strong and willing industrial foundation, and executed with truly epic military engagements.  These are aspects of Eve that should attract women, who look for the social aspects of a game — that doesn’t necessarily involve feeding chickens on a Facebook page.

The bigger problem is that Eve’s internal culture, for the most part, is somewhere between 1976’s military academies and 1982’s software engineering.  At 5%, Eve is a boy’s club, de facto.  Women are, at best, encouraged to swear and spit with the best of them.  At worst, they are treated…differently.  They are treated with a sort of gentlemanly courtesy that cuts off comradery.  They are meant to grin and bear the incessant peurile humor at women’s expense.  If I never saw another ASCII space boobie again, I could just about stand it.  When someone calls you a dick, it can have some begrudging respect or affection in it.  But trust me, when someone calls you a pussy in Eve, they are not being polite.   I went through this in the early 80’s, and I am willing to deal with it.

Most women under 45 aren’t.

And to you, my brothers and friends in Eve, I speculate that you are just not going to change your behavior overnight.

So, what do we need to do to attract more women to play with us, in this amazing world we and CCP have built?

First, CCP needs to market to women.  They don’t.  I’m not sure they know how.  (Hej, CCP, I’m a marketing consultant in part of my real life, and I’m available for some hours on the side!)

Second, corporations need to decide if they want to be female-friendly, or not.  And it’s FINE if you decide you want to be hairy beer-swilling rude trogs in your own corp — but if you want to be friendly and really welcoming to women in Eve, look at how engineering schools and the military have progressively created guidelines to help their own hairy beer-swilling rude trogs to create an environment where women (and men) can thrive.  Hell, look at how *real* corporations do it (or fail to). And then sincerely ask the women in.

And remember most of us gamer grrls can still swear and spit with the best of them.


More blog banters on attracting the fairer sex to play Eve Online:

Bonjours, maman!

Posted in C'est la vie! on April 15, 2010 by shava

Allo, maman!  Please send my love to all the family, and to the dogs and all the creatures of our house.  I can see you frowning, yes, because I am still and will always be off here in these big night skies, but perhaps it will comfort you a little bit, how I am missing the green land and the growing things back home.

Still, you know, this is our family contribution to the cause of freedom.  The heavens know my brothers are not suited.  Marsel with his big ham hands, he is always going to be happier digging dirt than anything.  And Fransoir is too much a scholar, and a poet.  How you hatched such a girl I do not know, but you bore a warrior maiden, and I am happy here, even if I do miss home, and even you, with your sour looks!

Since graduation I have been so far and so fast!  I am here in Gallente space, and yesterday in Caldari space, and tomorrow perhaps in Amarr space.  There is nothing beyond my reach.  And, yes, I am having those too great adventures you worry about, but I promise not to try to die too often — I would not wish to worry my maman.

There is nothing special to report.  I am spending much time with the Sisters of Eve, and I think you would find them very respectable people.  They think very little of capsuleers either.  But for me, as do you, they make an exception.

So, I must go, but I have been so far and away from Gallente space, I thought I would write you just a quick note to say I still remember you all, and I hope perhaps sometime to come see you as duty permits.  I will write ahead as soon as I know.

Your wayward daughter,