Making Science Fiction Real: Neoliberalism, Real-Life and Esports in Eve Online

Mark Richard Johnson, Robert Mejia


In this paper, we argue that EVE Online is a fruitful site for exploring how the representational and political-economic elements of science fiction intersect to exert a sociocultural and political-economic force on the shape and nature of the future-present. EVE has been oft heralded for its economic and sociocultural complexity, and for employing a free market ethos and ethics in its game world. However, we by contrast seek not to consider how EVE reflects our contemporary world, but rather how our contemporary neoliberal milieu reflects EVE. We explore how EVE works to make its world of neoliberal markets and borderline anarcho-capitalism manifest through the political economic and sociocultural assemblages mobilized beyond the game. We explore the deep intertwining of  behaviors of players both within and outside of the game, demonstrating that EVE promotes neoliberal  activity in its players, encourages these behaviors outside the game, and that players who have found success in the real world of neoliberal capitalism are those best-positioned for success in the time-demanding and resource-demanding world of EVE. This thereby sets up a reciprocal ideological determination between the real and virtual worlds of EVE players, whereby each reinforces the other. We lastly consider the “Alliance Tournament” event, which romanticizes conflict and competition, and argue that it serves as a crucial site for deploying a further set of similar rhetorical resources. The paper therefore offers an understanding of the sociocultural and political-economic pressure exerted on the “physical” world by the intersection of EVE’s representational and material elements, and what these show us about the real-world ideological power of science fictional worlds.


EVE Online; esports; metagaming; neoliberalism; competition; science fiction; imaginaries; teleology; Walter Benjmain; capitalism, streaming; science fiction; magic circle

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