The thing that struck me the most during my time at Eve Fanfest in Reykjavik, Iceland was the players. Eve Online fans, or Capsuleers, are some of the warmest, most welcoming people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and their dedication and passion for CCP Games’ MMO shine through at every given opportunity.
The people I discuss here will remain largely anonymous by request, but due to the close-knit nature of the community, there’s a chance you’ll recognize some of these Capsuleers and their stories if you’re an active Eve Online player or attended 2023’s Fanfest yourself.
During my first few steps into the Laugardalshöll Arena, I’m immediately taken aback by the level of effort that’s gone into making this experience one to remember for all who attend. Eve Fanfest banners and screens adorn most walls, custom Eve booze is enjoyed by many, and there’s even a make-up booth, bringing Capsuleers’ cosmetic ideas to life. The main arena in particular is stunning. Spotlights sweep the room as environments from Eve Online animatedly twinkle across three separate screens. There’s a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air from players and developers alike.
This might be my first Fanfest, but regulars tell me there’s a renewed energy and excitement among the ranks. Could it be due to the announcement of the new expansion, Eve Online Havoc? Perhaps. Is it down to the new FPS game CCP is working on, Eve Vanguard? Maybe so. But something tells me it’s more than just the game itself having such an effect.
The low murmur of chatter in the intervals between presentations is non-stop, and it’s here that I find myself greeted warmly by a fan who has traveled to Reykjavik from the US. “I’ve been playing Eve for 16 years,” he beams, “But this is the first time I’ve managed to make it to a Fanfest.” It turns out my new pal had followed Eve from its inception, all the way back in 2003, but knew instantly that it would be a time sink.
“I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to it, but then I had an accident,” he explains. “I fell a total of 34 feet down a cliff face while rock climbing and broke eight bones.” He laughs as he tells me this story, as though it’s comparable to slipping and twisting an ankle, but there’s anguish there, too. “I was a busy professional but I was out of work for twelve weeks, so I knew that was the time to finally get involved,” he explains. “I’ve never had a break from it since.”
He’s not alone in playing the game for a huge portion of his life before ever meeting his fellow players ‘IRL’ either. After heading out for the Eve Fanfest pub crawl, I also bumped into a veteran player of 11 years who met her now-husband in the game. “We were obsessed,” she laughs, “I don’t know if I played the game that much because of how fun it was to destroy stuff, or because of him!”
The newlyweds played alongside each other for over eight years before meeting in person and were then married within months. “We just felt like the game had allowed us to get to know each other’s souls before we ever even met,” she explains. “It’s unlike anything I could ever begin to explain to anyone, and a lot of our family didn’t understand either.”
As her husband joins in our conversation with a warm hug and the topic turns to a mammoth battle they’d taken part in just before heading over to Iceland from Tennessee, their passion both for the game and for one another radiates. It’s impossible to avoid grinning along with them, as though my experience in Eve Online didn’t begin mere weeks before heading to Fanfest.
The following day, as I walk the arena halls taking in the array of activities on offer, I get talking to a Capsuleer from Kansas City who is planning his next Eve-related trip to the UK. “I’ve played with these guys for almost ten years,” he says, “and obviously I want to take in the culture of the UK and see the sights, but I mainly want to meet my in-game friends for the first time.”
He’s not the first person this weekend to tell me a similar story. In fact, as shown on the main stage during one of the many talks, 78% of Eve Online players say they have made a true friend as a direct result of playing the game. When one player finds out my hours in the game are very limited so far, he offers to set me up with currency, materials, and show me how to get the most out of my time in Eve. It’s a hugely generous offer, and one I humbly accept.
These stories are abundant throughout every interaction I have over the weekend. The smiles on the faces of the attendees are boundless as they can finally discuss their favorite game with their fellow corporation members in person. The streets of Reykjavik are bustling with Fanfest attendees taking part in the pub crawl, and as a faux-battle takes place in the city’s main square, the whoops and cheers echo four streets in each direction.
Chatting over a beer at lunch with a group of friends who met in the game, they tell me that one of their corporation sadly recently passed away. Thinking of ways to honor his memory and celebrate his life, they banded together to fund a trip to Fanfest for his parents. The friends wanted to share the community, the city of Reykjavik, and the Eve Online monument that bears their departed friend’s Capsuleer name with his parents to give them insight into his passion. It’s a story that they tell emotionally, and I can’t help but get choked up too.
I think one of the main reasons everyone here is so forthcoming with their stories brings my tale full circle back to the devs at CCP Games. Every developer I met during my time in Iceland had stories about the community to regale me with over a beer, over lunch, sharing a taxi, or just while walking around the arena. “You’ll get so much from the community,” one dev explains. “There’s someone that works 400 hours a month just introducing new players to the fold, getting them set up with materials, giving them tutorials on how to do just about anything you’ll ever need to do within Eve.” To put that into perspective, if you work a full-time job you’ll do around 160 hours a month. What does he get out of it? “He just wants to make it a better place for everyone, I guess,” shrugs a Capsuleer on our table. The dev has some kind words for me too though: “the community seems to love you,” he grins. “That’s why they want to include you in their passion.”
Not only do they fondly recall community stories, their respect and love for one another transcends anything I’ve seen in a studio before. One dev tells me there’s someone in particular that he admires. “She’s just incredible,” he smiles. “She empowers the community, she makes sure everyone here is having a great time, she’s so powerful, and I aspire to be more like her.” He pauses before continuing, “I think it’s an incredible thing that a woman in the industry inspires that reaction in so many of the men here, we just want to make an impact in the way that she does.”
The women here do make an impact that ripples throughout the community – just take a look at the many comments on CCP K1P1’s debut on the stage at this year’s Fanfest. “She did a really great job,” says one Redditor. “So genuinely honored to work with such talented and inspirational colleagues,” says her colleague CCP Mirage on Twitter. In a world where the people working on the game show respect and love towards one another, it’s no wonder the players I’m meeting adopt this mentality too.
For a game I’ve heard so many stories about, yet never fully delved into before, I couldn’t have been welcomed more warmly at my first Fanfest. Maybe I’ll belong to my own corporation and have my own stories to tell by the time the next one rolls around.