Time to Pull the Plug on the CSM

It seems this topic has been around for as long as the CSM itself has – what exactly is the CSM supposed to be and should we even have one? Of course, the latter half of that question is a relatively new addition, but for years CCP, the CSM of the moment, and the Eve community at large have often wondered about this weird little institution. Years ago now, I wrote about both the case for and against the CSM and, strangely enough, most of my arguments still bear relevance on the current discussion.

Recently, CCP Leeloo updated the CSM whitepaper in a pretty unsatisfying way – tweaking a few things, adding a few bits (one in particular which is actually going to be pretty entertaining, actually), but by and large avoiding any substantive discussion about what the CSM is now, what it should be going forward, etc. Now, I’ve long been involved with the CSM, at least on a conceptual level. I took part in Mynxee’s Lowsec Focus Group she created while serving as chair of CSM5; I was right there in the thick of things with CSM6; I began a run for CSM8 (which I had to pull the plug on when I found out my wife was pregnant with our second child); and last year I was happy to help out the fine folks at Cap Stable with their CSM candidate analysis shows. This year, I find myself herding the cats, er, candidate interviews for that effort. In short, for as long as I’ve cared about the Eve on a high level, I’ve cared about the CSM.

And I think it should go away.

The last two years in particular have demonstrated to me that there just shouldn’t be a CSM, at least not in anything resembling its current format. The whole concept is confused and confusing to anyone looking in on it. We hear constantly that the CSM aren’t junior game devs, but that they should also take a proactive stance in the development of the game, or that they aren’t a mere focus group, but that’s the only thing they’ve really done effectively as a group.

The fact of the matter is that, from a game development perspective, there is great value in having the most engaged of your audience aware and engaged with upcoming changes to the game. But they shouldn’t dictate those changes. Provide feedback? Sure! Spot loopholes and exploits? Absolutely! Gain exclusive access to upcoming changes and let all their friends know about it ahead of time so that they can lay the groundwork for great success from unfair advantages? No.

Of course, the CSM is technically bound by NDA upon entering office, but if you think that has stopped stuff from leaking – even aside the public acknowledgments of leaks – you’re out of your mind.

The CSM doesn’t represent the whole of any particular body and never has. The 14 members of the council, by virtue of the game itself, cannot hold all the knowledge needed to provide useful feedback. Not to mention at least half of the body every year is composed of do-nothings, egotists, or children in all but age. The metagame between alliances is played even harder on the CSM than it is anywhere else, and if you think for a moment that the game designers want to put up with petty rivalries while trying to do their actual, paying, full-time jobs – well, again, probably a little out of your mind.

The Council is a great social experiment, created by CCP Xhagen, that has long outlived its usefulness. Get rid of the mockery of elections and bring on carefully selected focus groups, surveys, and/or greater interaction with the community as a whole when design decisions have been made but implementation methods remain up in the air. These things work and it saves you the inevitable black eyes that a highly politicized body of elected non-officials inevitably brings.

End the CSM.