Aiden Mourn wrote up a post on his blog titled, "The Way You Are Playing Is a Reflection On How You Really Live Your Life." It's his experience with an angry carebear who got their ship blown up. There are plenty of carebear tears about how all people who shoot other people in Eve must be vile, wretched, no-good scoundrels in real life and how innocent miners and missioners who keep to their own business are automatically altruistic, wholesome people. Aiden's view on the subject is that what you do in Eve has absolutely no bearing on who you are outside the game.I agree and disagree with both at the same time.
I'll attempt to illustrate what I mean.
A friend is someone you can trust with your life.
A true friend is someone you can trust with $5.
What makes the difference? Any sane person has social inhibitions preventing them from attracting negative social attention by doing something grossly outrageous. Those are the "beat up an old lady, rob a bank, and lie on my taxes" sort of things. There are all sorts of psychological and neurological reasons for that. Someone else can tell you about them. But those same social inhibitions don't apply as strongly to smaller, socially unacceptable acts. Someone who wouldn't think twice about lying to call in sick to work when he is not would not put himself in a position to lie to his wife to cover up an affair.
But at the same time, the more we ignore those weaker inhibitions, the easier it becomes to ignore the stronger ones. This is manifest by such things as gateway drugs leading eventually to addiction and an overdose on harder drugs or by anger and a grudge festering long enough to eventually turn to violence and murder. By no means am I implying that by being angry at someone you're inevitably going to murder them. Most all of us have enough self control and stop before we get to that point. But at the same time, most all of us live constantly somewhere in that gray area.
That's where the concept of integrity comes into play. The word integral connotes 'whole' or 'complete'. An truly integrous person can not live two lives. They can not be one person and act one way before one group of people and circumstances and behave differently before another. Again, most all of us are duplicitous to some extent. We do or say things when at work or with friends that we would be ashamed to repeat in front of our families or vice versa. But that is purely determined by our choices. I truly admire those people I know well who have demonstrated true integrity.
Now how does this all apply to Eve? Going back to the analogy at the beginning, the impact of interactions in Eve are the $5, small and relatively insignificant. The impact of interactions outside the game are much more important and far reaching. On an external, societal level. Your neighbors, family, and coworkers aren't going to know, much less care, if you were the one behind Phaser Inc. and scammed over a trillion isk out of thousands of people. You're just changing magnetic bits on a hard drive platter in a server rack. It's just a game, after all.
But the one thing that many people seem to gloss over is the internal impact on your own personal character (not player character - you know what I mean). Whatever the interface, be it face to face, over the phone, in the context of a business deal, or driving on the road, a human interaction remains a human interaction. Although you may be protected by the anonymity of your vehicle, the anger felt and expressed as you release a few choice words toward someone who cuts you off is no less real than if it were to be expressed face to face to someone you know well. The interaction is just as real from behind your keyboard and a wall of text as it would be spoken from across the room. There is an often made false distinction between Eve and Real Life™. What you do in the game is a part of your Real Life™.
I won't take a holier than thou attitude and look down my nose at you and call you to repentance or condemn you to fire and brimstone. I do the same things sometimes. For example, last week I saw a drake pilot just off my corp's wormhole on the high-sec side. After he warped off, I started a convo with him, pretending to be completely inexperienced with wormholes to try to lure him in with me. As we chatted over the course of 10 minutes or so and got to know each other, he turned out to be a pretty cool guy. Realizing that I was building up trust that I was immediatly planning to break, I almost gave it up and told him what I was planning to do. But I followed through with my original plan. He fleeted me and jumped into the wormhole with me. I told him to warp to me at a sleeper site while in reality I was sitting outside our pos bubble with a scram fit. A few seconds later and our pos had its first kill. I did feel a twinge of regret at being so blatently deceitful and decided to explain myself and give him a bit of isk to compensate his loss. We parted on good terms with each other. It is a game, after all. I did, however, feel somewhat uncomfortable with the whole affair. I try to be honest in my dealings with others. And the time I spent purposefully deceiving him didn't sit well with me.
Suiciding a thrasher to kill a hulk in a .5 system, ganking an industrial in low-sec, and can flipping miners and missioners are all activities I have no qualm with. This is Eve. It's a game built on the fact that you can lose what you work to earn. It's dealing strictly with game mechanics. But when it comes to more personal human interactions such as corporate infiltration and theft or my instance with the drake pilot I mentioned above, I can't reconcile my efforts to be honest with others and treat them with respect outside the game with those type of actions in the game.
So is "the way you are playing a reflection of how you really live your life?" I believe the answer is both yes and no. It is quite possible to isolate how you act in game from how you act out of game. But by doing so, you create an alternate version of yourself. A lie, if you will. A distortion of who you really are. And the more fragments of yourself you create in that way and the more divergent they become, you will slowly lose track of which parts are real and which aren't. And in the end, whether meaning to or not, those fragments of you and your actions determine who you will become. This is how Real Life™ works, after all.