Online gaming has become a popular form of entertainment over the past few decades. One game that has stood out as a leader in the industry is EVE Online. This massively multiplayer online game (MMO) has been around since 2003 and has built a dedicated following of players who have formed their own unique online communities within the game.
I recently read the book “Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online” (by Andrew Groen), which is a book that delves into the complex political landscape of EVE Online, highlighting the various alliances and coalitions that have shaped the game’s history. For those unfamiliar with the game, at times, 50-60k players would battle each other in one massive fight, coordinating tens of thousands of people simultaneously.
In case you’re not familiar with the game, watch this short clip:
Lessons for running large online communities
While the book is primarily focused on the game’s wars and conflicts, it also provides valuable insights into how to build and maintain effective online communities. I was impressed with the coordination, teamwork, huge effort and leadership displayed by different alliances. Some of the efforts involved spies, lots of disinformation and psych warfare tactics on message boards and heists. Not kidding. More on this below…
But, as mentioned above, to me one of the key takeaways from the book is the importance of strong leadership in online communities. The successful alliances in EVE Online were able to thrive because they had strong, dedicated leaders who were able to coordinate and motivate their members. These leaders were able to create a sense of unity and purpose within their alliances, which helped them to achieve their goals and weather difficult times. A lot of alliances broke down because players felt it became a lost cause. The successful ones did not.
One such example is “The Mittani” , one of the most well-known players in EVE Online. He is the founder and CEO of Goonswarm Federation, one of the most successful alliances in the game’s history. In-game, The Mittani is known for his cunning and strategic prowess, as well as his ability to rally his troops to victory. He is also known for his charisma and ability to engage with his fellow players.
Another key factor in successful alliances was a unique culture that players identified with inside the game and on message boards, with some even meeting in private. Communication also played a vital role in effective alliances, as the most successful ones were able to keep their members informed about important events and decisions, creating a sense of transparency and trust within the alliance.
The book also highlights the importance of having a clear mission and vision for an online community. The successful alliances in EVE Online were able to achieve their goals because they communicated a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish to their members. This helped to create a sense of direction within the alliance, which helped to motivate members to work towards their goals. Think OKRs. Not all alliances’ purpose was to wage war or attack, lots of them had more industrial/commercial objectives.
What can go wrong?
The book also shows many examples of what not to do. Conflict can both bring a community together and tear it apart. And because players took this game very seriously, some of the negative sentiment that started inside the game had real-world consequences. This might be one of the most important lessons here: as we spend more time inside online communities, we bring with us our ego and sensitivities. These can easily transfer back to the real world. In Eve Online’s case, there were even death threats that occurred.
Another example of antisocial behaviour on Eve Online has been impersonation and theft. Recently, a sophisticated heist resulted in the theft of 2.2 trillion ISK—or $22,300 in real money. It’s not the first time theft occurred on the platform, and serves as a reminder that with all the safeguards in place it’s still challenging to catch cheating, impersonation and social-engineering on these platforms.
Ultimately, EVE Online provides valuable insights into what it takes to build and maintain effective online communities:
- The importance of strong leadership
- Building a unique culture
- Maintaining clear communication
- A clear mission
These lessons are applicable not just to online gaming communities, but to any online community that wants to be successful and thrive.