The Largest Space Battle Ever Just Took Place on the Internet:
Why You Care

July 29, 2013 | Marina Galperina

“FUCKING INTERNET SPACESHIPS ARE ON BBC NEWS,” I was urgently alerted earlier today by several people on the internet.

Why did something that happened in a multi-player space simulation game make the news? Because at one point, 4,070 human pilots were engaged in an epic battle between two of Eve Online‘s biggest alliances, clashing over solar systems and resources, taking commands, moving in in fleets, destroying each others’ ships. You don’t have to be a gamer or a war strategist to realize how vast and complicated of an undertaking this was.

Real time was slowed down to 10% so the servers can figure out who was shooting at whom. After it was over, millions were “dead” and thousands of dollars (translated into internet currency, used for constructing now destroyed ships) were actually lost. How did this happen? Let’s ask.

“Because of Russians + Something Awful v. Reddit, sending LoTR quotes to each other as motivation,” ANIMAL friend Peter Yeh, bringer of the news tells us. There’s a world beyond yours and I’m not 100% sure how it works but all I know is that it’s political and Plato would have flipped his shit. “I ended up somewhere twitch.tv listening to a time-delayed broadcast of some of the chatter between higher-ups. It was very business-like, appropriate for a battle, a fun smattering of accents as well.” Dispatches like these:

The foe is doing morale pings with LOTR quotes. We’re not going to bother with a morale ping because we’re in the system first, we have seven Baltecfleets, One AHAC fleet, Two Bomber wings, One FuckYouFleet, and yeah. GSOL are heroes: after the work of our capfleet in destroying every single hostile tower in 6VDT, GSOL threw up 26 towers in 6VDT last night , blocking every single moon. The enemy has no safe towers: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and must bridge into our force.

Ba-blah-blah-ba-blah. Perhaps watching standard Eve Online gameplay isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but the implications are conceptually painful. There are just so many fucking people cooperating at the same time. Is he NSA looking into this yet?

I suppose the real money on the table is why this gets any attention from non-gaming press, but it goes deeper, as Peter attempts to explain: “Internet funbux translate into real money and internet spaceships. They’re worth more than bitcoin and are apparently used by some of the Russians to launder money.”

Again with the Russians. Why? “They’re a large gaming community and they’re terrifying. They do ‘alarm clock raids.’ They find a time when the enemy is weakest — like, if they’re mainly in EU, they’ll choose a timezone in the middle of the pacific — then set an alarm clock, so all their pilots wake up at 3am local time for the enemy and they launch an assault.” There are also lawless null-sec parts of Eve Online space, “where the player-run corporations really live. The main dynamic is actually space communism. And Goonswarm is run like an authoritarian communist regime. There’re a few higher-ups, but if you’re new you’ll get instructions, free ships, free money and someone will try and help you learn, and then you’ll be shoved into the fight. Or if you want to, you can be shoved into mining or economics or spying. There are entire spy corps that sit on enemy channels relaying intelligence and prepping the way for ambushes…”

I get lost after that. War, whatever. Having worked at several sizable companies and even a giant of a corporation that one time, I’m particularly interested in the human resources aspect of this game and its implications when there are more than four thousand people involved. Here’s a vet gamer’s reflection, someone who ran the aforementioned space communist Goonswarm Federation for three years and outlined some “soul-scorching” realizations about politics, leadership and management:

I’ve said in the past that EVE makes you bitter; as you get more involved in the game, it either strips you of your illusions about human nature and politics, or it destroys you – yet another confused victim who may realize that they have lost, but doesn’t know why… I was browsing Linkedin the other day and came to the alarming realization that most alliance leaders are managing more human beings in their alliances and coalitions than the CEOs of real-world companies.

It’s complicated, bro. There’s a world you don’t know about or have time for, but imagine a structure like this vast and multi-functional is allocate and applied to something other than entertainment, as spiritual and tactically educational and gratifying as it may be.

Imagine they’re all… hackers.