Treacherous play in EVE Online
AffiliationComputing and Information Systems
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is currently not available from this repository
© 2015 Dr. Marcus Daniel Carter
EVE Online is a science-fiction themed massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) first released in 2003 by the Icelandic developer CCP Games. Distinguishing EVE from other games in the MMOG genre is the condoned and pervasive occurrence of treacherous play – play involving deception and betrayal for in-game advantage. No research has previously examined this type of play in a context where it is expected and within the rules of the game. The aim of this thesis is to explore the practices, experiences and impacts of treacherous play in EVE Online. In particular, this thesis seeks to understand the appeal of this unusual style of play in the context of its deviant reputation. I achieve this aim through a grounded theory methodology, collecting data with the use of semi-structured interviews, participant observation and paratext analysis. Through examining three different cases of treacherous play in EVE Online, I address a significant gap in our understanding of this phenomenon. Study 1 focuses on scamming – the use of deception and betrayal to obtain financial advantage. Contrary to its previous treatment in academic literature, in this study I found that scamming is a form of social competition, in which the appeal is congruent to any other form of player-versus-player combat. I argue that it is crucial for its practice and its appeal in EVE Online that it is within the formal and informal rules of the game. Study 2 focuses on treachery in EVE Online’s eSport; official, structured tournaments in which spying, bribery and match-fixing are commonplace. As with Study 1, I found that treacherous play in EVE’s eSport is a form of social competition which contributes to the sport’s appeal (for spectators and players) as an additional domain of competition. Because the informal rules around treacherous play in EVE’s eSport are not well established, this study also allowed me to develop theory to account for how informal rules are developed, disputed and maintained. Study 3 focuses on espionage – the use of spies in the warfare between EVE Online’s powerful player Alliances. This study evaluated the findings from Study 1 and 2 in a different context, allowing me to redraw generalizations about practices, experiences and impacts of treacherous play. Through each of these three studies, I highlight the ways in which EVE Online has become a treacherous game where deception and betrayal are widespread, and the ways that the presence of treachery increases the success of the game. Through interrogating the practice in three contexts, this thesis contributes a thorough account of the practice of treacherous play and contributes to the literature theories regarding its experience and impact.
KeywordsEVE Online, treacherous play, game studies
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