To Win at Life: Tradition and Chinese Modernities in EVE Online

Richard Page


EVE Online is well-knowns for allowing bad behavior like scamming, stealing and betraying, and previous research has explored how that behavior is enabled and governed by the affordances of the game. Comparatively little attention has been paid to the “community norms” that are often contrasted with the developer’s management. Here, I consider the influence of culture in China on the play of EVE. Where the narrative of globalization suggests that the world is becoming more homogenous, anthropologists look at the micro-level to see how new forms of modernity are created. EVE’s (intended) single-server design, liberal economy, and radical freedom are particularly characteristic of an assemblage of global flows, and the game’s neoliberal fantasy is transformed in play.

In EVE, tradition is used by Chinese people to make sense of their modern situation, explaining to themselves why Chinese players play more conservatively than others. Without suggesting that Chinese players are universally or essentially different from players in the rest of the world, these differences can be at least partly attributed to the culture of modern China. I consider the lifeworld of a typical EVE player in China, who are over 95% young men, focused on the need to save money and provide for their family, both their parents and their potential children. Players frequently compared the conservative attitude toward money in the actual world with their own conservative play of EVE, or their perceived conservative play of other players.


China; modernity; EVE Online

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