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INTERVIEW: Charles White – The Man Behind the Space Pope

August 27, 2015

With all the fuss about Empress Jamyl being ‘dead’ dead and the Imperium invading Providence we thought we’d speak to Max Singularity (Charles White), the man behind the character known as the Space Pope. We talked about his work at NASA, his relationship with The Mittani and fancy dress competitions – as well as his holy war.

So, for those newer players, can tell us briefly who Max Singularity is and what he’s about?

My real name, as you know, is Charles White – I always bring that up in interviews and conversations because I like to separate the real person from the character.

Max Singularity, basically, became famous not because of what Max did but because of what all the players did to him.  I practice radical inclusion and radical self expression and participation; these are three Burning Man ethos.

So, when the players gave me these titles – I ran with it. So I never made up any of my own titles and that really took hold with the players, because they started to say “Wow, dude,” in their words “this guys cool.” I created myself an Amarrian admiral’s jacket and I started doing a Sunday service on Youtube. The people were like ‘Well he’s not just an admiral – he’s the Pope of New Eden.’ That started a whole thing, and then I was like, ‘Literally you shouldn’t have done that,’ because I went out and created a Pope’s costume that I kept in secret and I brought that to Iceland fanfest and I ended up winning the whole thing.

Everyone realised that, of course, you need an Amarrian Pope.

So the titles came before the costume and you were given those titles by the players?

Correct, yes. I made the costume based on the title because, again, that’s how I honoured participation and inclusion. Now, a couple of people have given me some bad titles, but I haven’t taken those.

Why did they first give you those Pope related titles?

Well, I’m an older player – 55 years old and on the Facebook group  I would kind of intermix real life wisdom with in game knowledge. If there was people having a hard time, people semi-suicidal or whatever I would kinda talk them down and try to help them. People splitting up with their girlfriend or their cat died or whatever, I would just be the old man, be the elder. It just won the respect of the people.

Because even my roleplay, even against my enemies, there’s two things I’m very strict about; one is I don’t attack anyone direct, I don’t call them idiots, I don’t assholes, I never name call even if they are assholes. The second thing I do is in roleplay I do not use God’s name in vain, or the Lord’s name in vain at all. So unlike CVA and a lot of the Amarr Jamylites, you know they’re like ‘We’re on a mission from God’, Max as the Pope is like ‘How dare you think God is so small he cares about your military campaign or your ships or your group of people?’

Thus, that’s where the title of Pope of New Eden not just Amarr came from, because there are Gallente following me, Caldari following me, there’s Minmatar following me – ‘cos everybody is seeing this universal truth. It’s funny, there are people who have said I have reclaimed more souls in six months than all of Amarr has in six years.

I see from your Facebook profile that you’re a Knowledge Specialist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That sounds cool. Can you tell us a little about that?

So I’m what’s called a Knowledge Management Specialist. I am in the office of the chief knowledge officer. Which, we do lessons learned investigations and we control how senior knowledge is communicated to the institution and how it’s put into our spacecraft rules and our design principles.

So, basically, we’re helping the institution retain its knowledge as an asset. It’s a new field, it’s only about twenty years old.  I could not be happier for my career.

As corny as it is, we are literally doing things that have never been done before. So if was working for Boeing and I needed to replace a jet engine I could go to Lockheed, or another aerospace engineering firm and hire a jet engine specialist, but how can you land a rover on Mars? We can’t go out and say ‘we need somebody with a PhD in landing a rover on Mars’ because we’ve never done that before. That’s knowledge we earned, that’s knowledge that we have to then train.

So there’s a lot of techniques we’ve been developing over the last twenty years to help make the institution smarter.

Another thing I do in real life is I’m a Burning Man artist (http://desertwizards.com/)

So the whole space thing – is that how you became interested in Eve?

Yeah, I’m definitely one of the rocketmen spirits. There’s people who come here and it’s their job five days a week and there’s a few of us who have that rocketman spirit. For the last 28 years, every time the I show my badge and the guard lets me in it’s a wow moment for me. Literally every day, like today I smiled at the guard and was like ‘Yes!’

How long have you been playing Eve?

I started in 2008, I started with a Caldari character but I kept looking at the Amarr ships and I wanted to be Amarr. I created Max as a true Amarr. I created a whole back story. Four a couple of years he was just the son of the lord of the house. There’s actually an eveopedia article.


What kept you playing?

It was from the back story and then people giving me all the titles and they were surprised I ran with it and they realised I was really active.

Aside from role playing the “Space Pope” what sort of things do you get up to in game?

I do a lot of wormholing – I have heard the spirit voice of Bob. Bob is not a God he is a spirit.

I’ve done quite a bit of nullsec, with Max. I was a newb in Cry Havoc. Cry Havoc 2008-2009 was an elite group like Rooks and Kings are today. I wanted to be a logi pilot, I was logi 4. I didn’t go out with them a lot as they were very strict on having logi 5. But as soon as I got logi 5, the very week, they announced they were disbanding.

So then I joined a couple of nullsec alliances, that were primarily fighting against the Goons – which is kind of funny.

I was a member of Providence for a long time. I was in Volition Cult and I got a good taste of how CVA works because there was a lot of times we were fighting the Goons and others and we put out the call for help and CVA literally did the ‘Help is not coming’. So now Providence is burning and guess what? Help is not coming.

Are you active in what’s going on in Providence at the moment?

Providence is burning. Of the 84 systems something like 78 systems have their timers set.

There is one system, the capital of CVA that through my mercy we have not attacked. But I can’t guarantee we won’t attack it because it is in a military operations area.

It’s my mercy, and the reason is roleplay.

Max was after Jamyl because he believes for her and the council to claim that it was God’s will that she came back from the dead was heresy. Max was livid about that. But Jamyl was too powerful to confront. Only later she became weaker and we started speaking up.

At fanfest Hilmar said ‘No more manifest destiny, the capsuleers will shape New Eden’. So with Jamyl being gone that’s an indication he’s true to his word.

It’s fair to say you’re into role playing – do you have any RP experience outside of Eve?

Before most of the people who play Eve were born! In the mid 70s I played Dungeons and Dragons and Traveller – Traveller was a space D&D.

In the 80s here at JPL there were a few people who played D&D.

It’s a different environment playing it online with forty thousand people. than it is with four people over a table top!

But so far it scales. We did run into an incident where a player tried to troll, a roleplay violation occurred – but my enemies in game rose to Max’s protection. It was sportsmanship, the role players adhered by the rules.

When I was in nullsec I always heard people dissing on role players. I was like ‘You’re an idiot, you’re playing a role in Eve Online.’ All Eve players are role playing, they just don’t often know at what level.

Also, I don’t know if you agree with this, but I get the sense that this sort of hostility toward role players is changing and I don’t know if it’s due to you getting into what was once a very linear storyline which has now become far more interactive…

I get a lot of people crediting me for that. I get a lot of letters, even the enemies of Max. I’ve had people re-subscribe. I’ve have had people get their parents involved because I’m old.

At what stage did The Mittani get involved?

Actually a couple of months before fanfest. I was in game and some asked if I’d watched the metashow, because on the meta show The Mittani just said Max Singularity is the Pope of New Eden.

So when I was at fanfest a senior diplo of Goonswarm saw me at the charity dinner and brought The Mittani to me. He kissed my ring and people took the photograph. People said it was the most shocking photo from fanfest – The Mittani bending his knee for anyone in game.

During that night we sat down and he told me all his plans for Providence and how it would be. We set up four corps and created our alliance – we really aren’t puppets. People say I’m playing as puppets of the Imperium and of Mittani, but it’s actually quite the opposite.

So how involved have you been in the rebranding of the Goons into the Imperium?

The renaming was inspired but not caused by me. The first act in their announcement was to declare never ending loyalty to Max. So it wasn’t anything I said or did, but they looked at themselves as the CFC and they were no longer the same organisation. Because they have actually become better citizens. This I have done.

Cardinal Hilmar – I call him Cardinal – has made his declaration [no more manifest destiny] and the CFC have changed their ethos – I have called it the Age of Redemption and I have given The Mittani the title The Sword of Redemption.

When he kissed my ring and he stood up I asked him if he wanted a title to go with that honour. You should have seen his face, he was like a seven year old. To see this hardcore troll, dick, all of a sudden say ‘I get a title?!’ Literally he was in his own world for about thirty seconds.

Soon after they renamed themselves to the Imperium and they said I am the true emperor and they do have the force project and they are a powerful entity in Eve. They are a force to be reckoned with.

Your character has been addressed directly by Empress Jamyl in CCP in-game events and given her recent death is opening up the possibilities for more player driven story content – how closely have you been in communication with CCP regarding the developing narrative and your place in it?

They watch everything I’m doing. They don’t tell me crap what their doing. They think out what we’re doing and they respond to it.  So they’re playing in a way. I don’t get no special intel.

Would you welcome any closer ties to CCP?

I would. I would like to craft a story with them.  It would be kind of a new level. They do have some players that are volunteers – ISDs. But I think from a commercial product it would be beneficial to have a close working relationship – like a CSM roleplaying board.

What would you like to see happen with The Amarr situation over the next few weeks and months? What would Max like to see happen?

Max was pursuing Jamyl as a criminal because he was not fooled by her second coming. Now that she’s dead dead then Max is seeking to strengthen the Empire and clean the Jamylite taint out – this is why we are persecuting Providence. They were hardcore Jamylites and we want to kill their commercial infrastructure – not kill them – we told them stay in your stations while we dismantle your profit because we don’t want them affecting the new heir. So this is the Pope cleansing the house.

To that end I have announced I am fighting for House Kador in the upcoming trials.

Fozziesov is the bone of contention currently – what’s your opinion the impact it’s had on the game?

I think it’s great. We’re gonna see how this patch works. The problem with the old sov system was there was a small community that like the status quo, they had their power base. But it was dying, it was become stale and too laborious. I saw Cry Havoc quit long ago, these guys had pretty much won Eve, they all had Titans. This was boring.

The company (CCP) thought long and hard about this, this was years in the making. There’s more coming. Max is the prophet of the storm, he keeps talking about how the storm is coming. As a knowledge manager I listen; there is four way war coming. They’re gonna open up stargates that we can explore.

CCP sees what others like Star Citizen and others are doing, and this Drifter AI is a test – we’re gonna see the space lanes full of battle as we’re flying through Highsec . You can opt in and fight. This is the beginning of the storm and Max is the prophet of the storm.

Let’s imagine you’re in charge of Eve at CCP, is there anything you’d change or introduce?

There are metrics that show carebears provide most of the income for Eve, and I would provide a few more tools for them to role play. Example: there slaves as in game item and free slaves as an in game item – how cool would it be to take slaves to a Minmatar station and make them free slaves? You have a mission – my job is to free the slaves. You could take tourists and make them slaves in Amarr.

It’s simple, how far a few small role player mechanics go to change the landscape of Eve.

Finally – what advice would you offer to all players, new and vets, to get the most out of Eve?

Lose ships. Learn to die. We’re immortal.