EVE Online is truly the Star Wars prequels of video games, in that it's a magical world of space quests that can't stop obsessing over trade agreements. But that's exactly what the spacefaring gamers of the MMORPG like, having done their best to fill their galaxy far, far away with fun real-world issues like corporate espionage, currency tampering, and Ponzi schemes. So they must be wetting their spacesuits with excitement knowing that the game now has a bona fide political scandal.
This week, EVE developers announced they would perma-ban veteran player Brisc Rubal for abusing his power. Rubal had been one of an elite group of players elected to serve as one-year representatives on the Council of Stellar Management, the highest political office in the game / a position with less real power than a middle school hall monitor. It does, however, bring those representatives in direct contact with the developers and their upcoming plans, which is why each member has to sign a non-disclosure agreement not to leak those secrets. But an investigation instigated by his fellow council members claims that Rubal violated his NDA by provided classified information for the illegal enrichment of two other high-ranking players. Say what you will about Sonic The Hedgehog 3, but at least it never incited insider trading.
Now, players get banned from games for being cheating a-holes more often then they've had flaming hot Doritos, but the reason Rubal's ban is such a scandal is that, aside from being a disgraced space pilot and galactic CEO, he's also a real-life U.S. politician. Rubal is the gamer handle of Brian Schoeneman, a longtime union lobbyist who's also run for office before. And while people typically play video games to escape from their shitty jobs, Schoeneman not only ran for pretendsies office in his spare time, but did so using his real-life political clout and savvy. He created an election website and a campaign ad, and even pulled out slogans like "I Will Fix It!" and "Let's Make New Eden Fun Again."
Of course, nobody's accusing Schoeneman of blurring the lines between space opera and American politics, but if you can't even keep your hand out of the space till, how can anyone trust you in your real job, where crooked politics can get you much more than in-game credits? And that's the depressing part of the story, as Schoeneman's quick dismissal makes EVE Online, a game about space bureaucracy, a better and cleaner democracy than most real countries. Brisc's colleagues saw abuse of power, reported it, an investigation was launched, and the corrupt politician was permanently banned from space politics in the time it takes a real world government to lightly consider anti-corruption legislation.
Schoeneman is contesting the ban, as it's not fair that fictional politicians are held to higher standard than real ones, but his chances aren't great. At least he can go back to doing what every disgraced politician does after being kicked out of office: a lucrative career in lobbying.
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