If the word “elite” conjures up a visceral disgust in your stomach, or an image of a schoolyard bully shaking down a weaker child for his lunch money, you are not alone. Since the time of Band of Brothers, “elite” has been a dirty word in the everyday vernacular of some alliances. It’s become synonymous with “punching down” and preying on the weak.

Today, this charge is most often levelled at PanFam, and specifically at Pandemic Legion and Northern Coalition (dot), so I’m going to be addressing it in that context.

The schoolyard bully theory…

Oft-given are the examples of Pandemic Legion “farming content” against the likes of Brave Collective, and invading Providence in order to capture and collect the new faction citadels.

I would argue that punishing weaker entities is the modus operandi of every major coalition in the game. When Goonswarm Federation — an alliance which memes about being terrible at the game — moved to Delve in the aftermath of World War Bee, they kicked out a far smaller coalition, gating titans around the region to flex in front of players who had no hope of contesting them. Is this somehow different?

In fact, a brief reading of The Imperium’s history tells the tale: the Fountain War, in which Goonswarm invaded a far smaller Test Alliance; the Viceroy Programme, in which The Imperium attempted to extort impoverished lowsec groups; and even grouping together most of the major players of nullsec to defeat a vastly outnumbered Band of Brothers.

Likewise, Test Alliance declared their own crusade against PanFam earlier this year. Did they attack the battle-hardened forces of Northern Coalition and Pandemic Legion, bringing the fight to us awful “elite PvPers”? Of course not, they went after Pandemic Horde, an alliance with a large contingent of new players (affectionately known as newbeans), destroyed one of their main sources of income, and attempted to remove them from their space in Geminate.

Punching “up” (is that a term?) is the exception to the rule. The only recent example I can find of a coalition deliberately choosing to invade an enemy which was (at least on paper) stronger than itself is Skill Urself’s successful capture of the Drone Regions.

The preservation of power theory…

So, if it’s not a unique penchant for bullying the smaller groups in New Eden that separates “elite” alliances from the rest, what is it? Moomin Amatin, a Goonswarm-aligned writer over at INN, offers another suggestion in his ‘state of the coalition’ for PanFam:

Remember: this is only a game. Some faces will change, the venues may change, but so long as we stay true to our goal of making our leadership richer and killing off any new talent we will always be great.

Whilst the article is obviously satirical, the implication that elite alliances and coalitions exist to funnel vast wealth to their leadership and kill off new talent in order to preserve the status of their old guard at the top of the game is not a new one.

When pressed for concrete examples, the arguments usually presented break down to the following:

  1. “elite” alliances bully weaker alliances (covered above) and keep new talents out of nullsec; and
  2. “elite” alliances maintain vast rental empires, which exploit renters to benefit their leadership.

So, isn’t that just as bad?

We’ve already established the fact that all alliances, to some degree, are engaged in the process of destroying weaker groups — often upstarts and new entrants to nullsec; but proponents of groups like Goonswarm and Test Alliance would argue that their groups nurture new talents inside of their alliances.

I’m going to address this point specifically within the context of PanFam, because that’s the coalition I belong to and I wouldn’t want to make assumptions about how other coalitions operate, but I’m also going to draw parallels to Goonswarm Federation, an alliance I was a part of for over eighteen months and have a fair amount of experience with.

First of all, the reason I’ve been using “elite” in quotations up until this point is because I find the accusation that PanFam is inherently an “elite” coalition to be absurd. The vast majority of our coalition members belong to Pandemic Horde, whose recruitment process is the most open in New Eden, welcoming everyone from the greenest alpha clone to super and titan pilots.

“Renting” is also often treated as a dirty word, with renters portrayed as either supervillains running bot farms or the poor pitiful victims of their extortionate landlords; but the ability to rent space offers an opportunity for corporations to get into nullsec without being governed by the political concerns of a major coalition.

Other than a monthly payment which can easily be made in a few hours of ratting or mining, there is no obligation to fight others’ wars, defend their structures and sovereignty, or integrate into their narrative and culture.

Flying through Rate My Ticks space and speaking to the locals, I encounter all sorts of independent playstyles, from the conventional PvE-focused rental groups, to wormhole groups who want to get a foothold in k-space, to content-focused PvP groups who don’t want to get involved in alliance politics but still want an area they can rat and mine in to replace their losses.

To quickly address the accusation that renting is somehow channelling vast wealth to alliance leadership, people who aren’t renters are usually subject to Corporate taxation which can easily exceed the cost of rent. Where does tax income end up? With leadership.

Lastly, and closer to my heart, Sniggerdly operates a training corp called Total Mayhem. As a recent graduate of the corp, I’m coming from a position of bias, but I learned more about this game and its mechanics in my six months in Total Mayhem than I ever did as a Goon for thrice the time period.

It’s about competence

Total Mayhem is not aimed at new or casual Eve players (although one of my best recruits was a very new player who wanted something very different from what he had in Pandemic Horde), but rather at players who want to really learn Eve in depth and be the best they can be.

How does this work in practice? You re-deploy every two to three months, learn to step up and run fleets, learn to make content, learn to recruit for the corp, learn to theorycraft new doctrines, and then take over leadership of the corp and teach the next generation of TM; but you aren’t expected to be perfect — Total Mayhem is your opportunity to make mistakes and to learn from them to be a better player, and also a better leader.

At the end, when you’re considered a competent and dedicated player, you graduate to Sniggerdly and you’re presented with a whole new learning curve and set of opportunities. This is really the differentiating factor between “elite” groups and the rest of Eve: elite groups are selective about who they let in, and expect a base level of competence and dedication before extending an invite.

Goons actually have a similar attitude with some of their Special Interest Groups. You join Karmafleet or a similar ‘open’ corporation, then you have to earn your way into Space Violence, Reavers, Capswarm, FCs group, etc by proving competence and dedication (or a proxy like SP and/or time in alliance) if you want to play a more advanced game. Why is this not considered to be a dirty form of “elitism”?

Because competence — and knowing who is competent — isn’t a dirty concept; it’s what created every doctrine, led both sides in every major battle, masterminded every invasion, developed the techniques used for high-end PvE, colonized every wormhole, provided and protected every rental system, developed every newbie corporation, and spun the narrative that told you it’s a bad thing.

Competence being good doesn’t make casual play bad, and casual play being good doesn’t make competence bad. They’re different playstyles which appeal to different people, and both are required for a healthy game. PanFam recognises this, and provides for every playstyle — whether you’re an alpha clone, someone who wants to learn the game, an established player with supers and titans, or a CEO of a small corp which wants to establish itself independently in nullsec.

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