EVE Online wars can go on for months or years, often requiring players to go above and beyond what would normally be expected of people playing a video game as a hobby. They might have to set their alarm clocks to wake up in the middle of the night for a battle, call in sick to work to make sure they are in the right place at the right time, or spend 10-plus hours in a brutal battle. This sort of thing can wear a person down over time, especially after a few demoralizing defeats.
To help keep other players energized and ready to fight, EVE’s most dedicated tacticians have a long-standing tradition of producing spectacular propaganda to help drive their in-game efforts. Just like in real-life conflicts, propaganda is , information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. Although it is mostly disseminated through out-of-game means, propaganda is often the fuel that drives the massive wars of EVE Online.
Propaganda in EVE comes in all shapes and sizes. Simplistic chat memes repeated ad nauseum, like the rallying cry of The Pandemic Horde Alliance that floods chat channels as their pilots arrive to fights:
୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨ SOUND THE HORDE HORN ୧༼ಠ益ಠ༽୨
The next level up are clever Photoshops, the EVE equivalent of classic propaganda posters. In this image from two years ago, TEST Alliance redditor /u/HoodooBrown shares his version of a classically styled poster with an EVE twist.
Propaganda could also be a carefully-crafted narrative passed down from alliance leaders to embolden their followers. The “State of the Goonion” addresses from The Imperium’s leader, The Mittani, are live speeches that charge his followers for war. Or a hype video that borders on professional level production value. No matter the form it takes, the goal of the majority of EVE propaganda is simple: Embolden one cause, idea, or group, while leaving the others jealous or demoralized.
Most of this propaganda is done by individuals who have an idea that they want to share, or a talent they want to make use of, to help their allies stay engaged in the game. But some of the most pervasive propaganda is directed, targeted, designed, and deployed by coordinated efforts inside the game’s larger player-owned alliances.
One such entity is the Imperium’s Orwellian-titled Ministry of Truth, or MiniTru for short. They are far from the only such organization in the game, but they are without a doubt the largest and most organized. MiniTru is comprised of a wide range of volunteers with a large spectrum of creative talent—songwriters, vocalists, and graphic artists, to name a few.
The current head of The Ministry of Truth is a player by the name of Paramemetic, who agreed to field a few questions over Discord to give Kotaku a bit more insight into his world. The Imperium is currently embroiled in a galaxy-wide war, which has already seen several battles nearly 10 hours in length, with pilots suffering massive losses to achieve victory. How does someone go about encouraging players to keep showing up for these sorts of things?
“Right now, we’re winning all our fights, the other guy is losing, [so] our propaganda is about having fun and keeping the line engaged,”he said. By “the line,” he means the rank-and file members of the Imperium, who are often expected to give up their entire nights to EVE with sometimes very little notice.
“When the shoe is on the other foot, propaganda serves to soften the impact being felt from losses,” Paramemetic said. It’s not just about ‘spin,’ but more about framing and softening the losses so that they don’t impact that morale.”
This need to drive engagement outside of the game’s normal reward structure is something that is relatively unique to EVE. In a more traditional MMORPG, massive group content that lasts for hours at a time often comes with tangible rewards for the players participating in it. Players are rewarded with currency or with character progression in the form of loot or experience points. In contrast, massive battles in EVE Online are rarely profitable, and in fact often cost individual players a great deal, since when ships are destroyed, those assets are permanently lost.
“EVE asks the player to set aside their personal glory for a higher purpose or cause, and to make real sacrifices for that,” Paramemetic said. “My goal with MiniTru is to provide purpose to those sacrifices, and the feeling of being part of a community that’s worth sacrificing for.”
Kotaku asked Paramemetic to name some of the best pieces of propaganda he’s ever seen. “I’ve seen a lot of great stuff, but my knee-jerk reaction has got to be Every Ship Counts,” he said.. It’s an image that attempts to distill Goonswarm’s long standing belief that every pilot on the battlefield matters, that even a brand new player can change the course of EVE history.
“It’s not technically impressive. It’s not mindblowingly complex. It’s not really beautiful or like some kind of amazing work of art. It’s just straight up good signaling,” he said. “It’s a strong message delivered cleanly in a way that appeals to the line member. It resonated with people at the time, hell, I think it’s what got me to first play the game back in 2007.”
The next example Paramemetic gave was one that he’d overseen the creation of himself. “I’d say probably Our Imperial Legacy had the biggest impact,” he said. This was because, according to Paramemetic, there was a lot of internal conflict involved in a burgeoning alliance between the Legacy Coalition and The Imperium. In recent memory, Legacy had been nothing but a bitter enemy of The Imperium, one that some Imperium pilots would rather see destroyed than lend a hand.
“It was hokey and overly self-serious,” he said, “but at the time, with people from both the Imperium and Legacy kind of reluctant to trust one another, it did exactly what it needed to do and it was extremely well received.”
“One thing that really makes Our Imperial Legacy stick out for me though is that it was a true team effort,” he said. “That speech was edited by several people. Naz recorded it, Wulkans edited voice, footage came from estaban_dragonovic. We saw a need for a strong, bold message that removed any doubt about the whole Imperium and Legacy alliance.”
Paramemetic also likes “Little Bees,” a cover of The Beatles song “Let It Be” rewritten to reference Goonswarm’s affection and tolerance for new EVE players. It’s an anthem of instruction and cooperation aimed at players who are new to the alliance. The cover was written and recorded by Shutupandshave, more commonly called Suas. It’s not really propaganda, he says—more like “cultural glue.”
I disagree with Paramemetic on this point, as a player who flies with The Imperium. “Little Bees” was one of the first pieces of truly motivating player-produced media I discovered, and it made me fall in love with the idea of Goonswarm. Because of this video, I found myself looking for a way to join the group, so that I could ally myself with these people who believed in the message. Since then I’ve heard the song drunkenly sung over Mumble, drunkenly yelled above the roar of the Las Vegas strip, and sung in bars at the top of the world in Iceland. I believe it’s absolutely propaganda, and very effective propaganda at that.
Either way, it’s another powerful example of how the game’s players can rally others to the cause. “I talked to a guy a few months ago who isn’t even playing EVE these days and he almost broke down in tears over it,” he said.
The Imperium isn’t the only game in town. Almost every large group in the game has its own branding, mottos, and visuals that they rally behind. At real life meetups, it’s not uncommon to see players dressed in matching shirts, designed and printed by their group or waving flags bearing alliance insignia. These types of things are designed with the same thing in mind: keeping players engaged and unified when they’d otherwise rather stay in bed, or go to work, or (heaven forbid) play a different video game.
In other words: Keep calm and play EVE.