Meet Andrew Groen. He's a veteran freelance reporter who's written for the likes of Wired and Ars Technica, and now he has a fascinating new project: writing a book about the increasingly insane history of the multiplayer game Eve Online.
Eve, which has been around for 10 years now, is a persistent online world filled with history, politics, and gangs of spaceship pilots that regularly fight over virtual territory. Groen's book will chronicle the last ten years of life in that world, and he says it will include some juicy stories that haven't been told before.
Groen just launched a Kickstarter for the project. He wants $US12,500 to make it happen. "The full story of the untamed frontiers of Eve is one of the great mysteries in video game history," he writes, "and I'm committed to making it understandable and accessible to everyone whether you've never heard of Eve or if you're a hardcore player."
The whole thing sounds fascinating.
"I can't convince everybody to give the book a chance, but I can say with relative certainty that there's universal awe in the fact that there's essentially a virtual world that's undergoing wars and revolutions right under our nose," Groen told me on Gchat earlier this week. "When I talk to people about this there's a general sense of, 'wait, seriously?' when I talk to them about the fact that there are literally tens of thousands of people devoting huge portions of their lives to fight wars over virtual territory. It's cyberpunk at its finest."
Every once in a while we hear about Eve's giant space battles and digital warfare, but that's just the tip of the iceberg, Groen says. Some people treat the game like a full-time job, spending hours and hours engaged in virtual warfare and politicking. And Groen says he has a lot of great stories to share.
"My favourite little nugget of history concerns an alliance from way back in 2003-2005 called Stain Alliance," Groen told me. "They were sort of the pioneers of using psychological tactics in major wars. They didn't invent these ideas, but they were the first to implement them on a massive scale. And I was talking to Atli Mar Sveinsson aka CCP Praetorian who was one of the leaders of that alliance, and he told me that they literally stayed silent to the outside world for about a year.
"The idea behind the silence being that while their enemies would warp into a fight and would instantly start talking shit... Stain Alliance would be completely silent. Stoic. And they'd actually shoot down their own ships if they broke the silence. So you can imagine being an enemy soldier... it's kind of terrifying to fight an enemy that refuses to say even a word.
"But one day CCP Praetorian decided to break the long silence after winning a large battle, saying only, 'Collect your dead.' To which he says the reply came back, 'Are... are you real?'"
You can check out the full Kickstarter page here.