Adversaries
Sunrise Aigele

The problem with rhetorical tactics like this is that any discussion is primarily concerned with asserting the givens of the discussion rather than the arguments. I wish that I could confirm his assertion that his style of argument forces the reader to think, I am instead left to dredge up years-old observations one more time, in the interest of broadening the discussion into something potentially interesting.

Do stories require explicit adversaries? No! That is a common enough structure, but tension and resolution are adequate. The best writers play freely with them. The tension need not be obvious; say, the tension is that a given character is alive. The resolution need not be tidy or satisfying, nor is there any requirement that it carry the baggage of any message or lesson: say, the resolution is the death of the character. Given this, his assertion that we can only have clearly defined goals in the presence of opposition is false. Goals are personal, even if they are also social. I set them for myself regularly. I meet, or fail to meet, them myself, I certainly understand that a dedicated PVP player would set goals according to player opposition, that being the point of the play style. We are not all of that mindset.

Let us say that there are adversaries. This is EVE, after all. The title of his blog entry is worth a look. Consider the word “villain.”

A villain is someone who lives in a ville (village or town). It is an accusation of common pedigree, and implicitly of the coarse materialism that the vulgar supposedly employ in attempting to rise above their station, which implies, and which only makes sense within, a rigid caste system. The villain is dressed in ways that suggest hiding from the law, which would of course never be written to be just toward him in a caste system. The hero is boldly colored and out in the open, as he is the banner and the standard-bearer for the full machinery of power behind him and his noble, gentlemanly, chivalrous caste. This is the history behind the heroes and villains being color-coded. Sunrise, the Ni-Kunni girl who clawed her way out of the ghetto by sheer will and into immortality and wealth far exceeding that of her once Holder, could be seen as a villain.

There is a word he does not use which is more interesting: monster. The word means “warning.” The mummy of old, Dr. Frankenstein’s parody of life, Gojira, the aliens in The Day The Earth Stood Still, and Syndrome in The Incredibles are obvious monsters. The specters of children left to die in the wilderness are monsters. But there is no need for a monster to be supernatural or evil. Any presence that reminds a character of a failing or an evil they are complicit in has a monstrous aspect, and so they naturally establish an opportunity for a character to acknowledge and confront their past failings, and either overcome them or succumb to them. As devices, they also establish a character’s flaws, humanizing them. When you apply to a corporation in EVE only to be AWOXed by a member whose previous corporation you stole from years ago, you have a monster of your own. The terror of the monster is rooted in the belief that goodness lies in attention to the individual and the particular, that every overlooked detail, every person or situation taken for granted, and every unintended consequence is an evil, and every evil births a monster.

What happens when we apply that definition of goodness to an adversarial situation? Once a conversation reduces to a conflict, and only two sides are allowed, and the adversaries are looking to win rather than to listen, then goodness only becomes possible in the margins, in the ordinary citizens helping each other to flee the destruction wrought by both The Avengers and Ultron. The outcome of binary conflict is evil, and thus, it births monsters. Every monster is a potential adversary, and the cycle repeats endlessly.

Within EVE, none of this is undesirable. Make-believe conflict and evil are safely directed into play, and play is useful and valuable and fun as long as the implicit rule against taking the conflict off the field is honored by all of the players. Many people clearly enjoy this kind of play, including senior CCP employees. I want to be absolutely clear that I am not saying that no-one should be evil in EVE! Nor am I looking down on players who enjoy working within either side of the hero/villain trope. My alliance’s name admits an awareness that I might be doing it wrong by some consensus judgment. My point is that the appeal of conflict is not universal, even within EVE. I am not a competitive person. I have played competitively. I can do it and I can enjoy it. Sometimes I even win! Yet I seek fulfillment elsewhere. Competition does not animate me, nor does it drive me to improve myself, nor do I seek out stories centered around it. It can be an entertaining diversion every so often and nothing more. Sometimes, less.. And yet I play EVE. It is a huge game, much larger than any ambition of mine, much larger than any play style of mine. For me, that is its (bad, wrong) fun.


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