The Mittani, a legendary and polarizing figure in the sprawling sci-fi MMO EVE Online, is reportedly stepping down from his positions as CEO of the GoonWaffe corporation and executor of the Goonswarm Federation, in-game organisations (although in EVE, the line between the game and real life is blurred) that control a significant portion of in-game space. The resignation comes amidst allegations that the Mittani failed to adequately address persistent sexual harassment and misconduct in the organization.
“My people, I’m afraid that the sheer amount of smears being flung my way across the galaxy are simply too much to handle at a personal level,” The Mittani said in a Goonfleet forum post (via Imperium News). “The fact that my divorce, the loss of my dog, and a terrible number other of outright lies and falsehoods have been heaped on top of each other has resulted in me becoming simply too radioactive to continue leading Goonswarm without my presence being a net negative for the wider tribe.
“The accusations that I am aware of are unsubstantiated falsehoods, and I did not sign up to be the scapegoat for the entire galaxy. You deserve better in leadership than having to continually be confronted with MITTANI MAN BAD day in, day out; I, and my partner, deserve better than to wake each day to find some new horrific slander being levelled against me. The only honorable thing to do is exit in an orderly fashion. I have transferred shares to Xttz and will be making TheAdj Interim CEO of Goonwaffe.”
The allegations against The Mittani are numerous and complex, but largely come down to a confrontational and dismissive management style, including allegations that he insulted and banned one high-profile member who came forward with complaints of abuse, and endorsed the ongoing membership of a Goonswarm officer despite the fact that person had been banned from the Something Awful forums, where Goonswarm originated, a decade earlier for reportedly being involved with child pornography.
But his resignation could also be a sign of a deeper schism within Goonswarm between old-guard Goons, as Something Awful members call themselves, and newcomers who aren’t necessarily inclined to embrace SA’s version of internet culture. Something Awful was founded in 1999 as a personal website for Richard “Lowtax” Kyanka, but its forum community quickly grew and took on a life of its own. As a sort of precursor to 4chan and Reddit, SA became a foundational part of online culture. Gizmodo ranked it among the 100 websites that shaped the internet as we know it, while noting that it could actually be awful: At times funny, stupid, intriguing, shockingly toxic, and utterly unwilling to change.
But that intransigence may be coming to an end, at least in the context of EVE Online. One member of Goonswarm said in a forum post that the “legacy, rules, and policies” of “true goons”—players who came to EVE Online from the Something Awful forums, rather than joining Goonswarm directly—have failed the organization and its wider membership. Because of that, they have no interest in being a part of that faction: “It feels good to be on the other side,” they wrote.
This isn’t the Mittani’s first brush with controversy: In 2011 he was banned from EVE Online for 30 days, and removed from his position on the Council of Interstellar Management, for urging players at Fanfest (EVE’s annual community convention held in Iceland) to dogpile another player and “make the guy kill himself.” But this seems like an even bigger deal: The Goonswarm Federation, and The Imperium coalition it leads, is one of the longest-lived and most powerful organizations in EVE history, and has dominated the game for years despite multiple concerted efforts to dislodge it from power. The resignation of its leader, and a possible split within its ranks, could have an impact on EVE Online equal to any of the biggest wars that preceded it.
The uproar in Goonswarm could also indicate that broader cultural currents are having an impact on EVE overall, which is somewhat rare to see: EVE Players, and particularly the Goon contingent, are a pretty insular group. EVE’s history of high-profile schemes and deceptions give the impression that it’s a game where player actions most would consider cruel are not only tolerated but celebrated, and I think it’s easy to see how that environment could attract abusive behavior.
Things have changed a lot since Something Awful was founded 22 years ago, though. EVE itself is only slightly younger. Its 20th anniversary is next year.