I had so much fun thinking about this. I wrote for PC Gamer for 4 years, wrote hundreds of articles, but never stopped to think about which one was my favorite before now.
The people I worked with were so fun, and the trips and events I got to be a part of were borderline bonkers. But in the end, how could I choose anything other than that wild week in Iceland?
A little backstory: EVE Online’s developers, CCP, are legitimately crazy. They take wild risks, they pioneer new genres, they do whatever they heck they want without any regard for what conventional wisdom says they should do. Oh, and they love alcohol. The player convention that they host once a year in their hometome of Reykjavik, Iceland is basically a wild frat party, complete with a pub crawl and hangover recovery in the natural hot springs nearby.
Through their wildness, the devs made an incredible game that consistently creates the most interesting stories and social machinations in the entire industry.
One of my favorite things that they do is let players elect representatives to The Council of Stellar Management (CSM), who get to fly out to CCP’s HQ to air their greivances and work with the developers to create a list of action items (new features, bugfixes, balance changes, etc.) that the team has to respond to and prioritize. AKA every Kickstarter backer’s wet dream. Players campaign for months before the election, with advertisements, radio interviews, slogans, posters, campaign promises — everything you expect from political campaigns!
I was invited to come as press to observe and write about the entire CSM week at Iceland of February 10, 2010. I pitched the idea to Logan (my Editor-in-Chief), and he was immediately supportive. So I flew out to Iceland in the middle of Winter with the closest thing to cold-weather clothes that a 20-something Southern California kid has.
Like everything else CCP does, they cranked their handling of the CSM up to 11. They hired a European Union moderator to help mediate conflicts between the developers and players, they had presentations and slideshows with complex graphs and charts, players arrived with lists of demands from their constituents. I’m quit confident that it’s the only room in the history of mankind where pictures of cats dressed as Hitler were passed around while people discussed political philosophy and spaceships.
It was incredible getting to see this early form of gamer democracy take place (this was around the time that Kickstarter officially launched and no one knew how big it would be yet). I watched these hyper-passionate players debate the detailed inner-workings of EVE Online with the developers that created it. And I got to see developers ask questions about how the players ran their in-game corporations and alliances, and what they’d think of specific changes. At times they fought, at times they laughed, at times they just helped each other understand their different perspectives — and after all that, they drank each other under the table.
On a personal level, I had tremendous fun on that trip. Iceland is beautiful and the people were incredibly friendly. I got to meet so many incredibly interesting and friendly people from all over the world, I learned so much about EVE Online, I got to witness some really ground-breaking interactions between developers and player — and it’s still probably the most I’ve ever drank in a single week. Like I wrote in the article, “If Reykjavik was a college party town, CCP would be the biggest frat on campus.”
But, more relevant to the question, this article was also the first major feature that I wrote for PC Gamer. It wasn’t the cover story (it’s tough to top the StarCraft II launch), but it was the massive 8-page feature right behind it and I got to write every last bit of it. It was also the first (and one of the only) events where I felt like I was doing something close to real journalism. I was just a bystander, observing a very interesting and fairly important (for gamers) event and I was sharing it with the world, and helping them understand what happened there.
The Feature was title “War and Peace” and was in the June 2010 issue of PC Gamer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an online version of it (PCG didn’t have a website until December of that year — which is also crazy), so I scanned my copy of it. Hopefully PCG won’t mind, since there’s no way for you all to go out and buy it anymore.
Click here to download a PDF of the article, or just check out the scans below. I hope you enjoy reading it!