Eve Online's Nerd Monument Vandalized Over In-Game Rivalry

A video game gets a monument, and the monument gets gamed
Photograph by Jói Kjartans for Bloomberg Businessweek

You can take the MMORPG* out of the Internet, but you can’t take the Internet out of the MMORPG. Or, if you prefer that in English: In Reykjavik, Iceland, a video game company paid tribute to the immense popularity of its virtual space colonies with a physical monument—which was promptly vandalized, in a real-world echo of the taunts and pranks often found on its servers.

CCP Games, the developer behind Eve Online, unveiled the 17-feet-tall, granite-and-aluminum structure near its headquarters on April 30. Its plinth is inscribed with the screen names of nearly 600,000 Eve devotees worldwide. (They generate $74 million in annual revenue, making CCP a darling of Iceland’s struggling economy.) Within four days, “Xenuria”—the handle of a player notorious for misbehavior in the star system of New Eden—had been scratched out.

They informed the police, but Paul Elsy, the game’s community manager, and other CCP employees immediately began their own investigation, reviewing security camera footage and and asking the staff of the nearby maritime museum what they’d seen. “The biggest lead we had was a member of our community came to us and said he’d seen people bragging about it,” Elsy says. “That’s kind of where the breadcrumb trail started.”

Soon, they believed they had the perps in their sights—four men in their early to mid-20s—and asked those responsible to come forward. Two did. The meeting took place at CCP’s offices in Reykjavik. “After they sat down and we spoke to them, they were kind of—they’d come to their senses, like, ‘Jesus Christ, this was a really stupid thing for us to have done,’” Elsy says. “They openly apologized.” CCP banned three players and suspended a fourth from the Eve universe; one of them agreed to pay for the damages.

CCP notes that another act of vandalism widely reported on gaming sites—a sticker of a cigar-smoking bumblebee that represents a player alliance known as Goonswarm—wasn’t vandalism at all. “We peeled it off, and there was absolutely no damage at all,” Elsy says. “That was something we didn’t have an issue with—we had a good laugh about it.”

The monument hasn’t been defiled since the Xenuria incident. “We gave the community the benefit of the doubt that this kind of thing wouldn’t occur, that people would respect the boundaries between the game and the real world,” Elsy says. “But unfortunately there’s always one person that tests the boundaries.”

*Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game

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