What Exactly is EVE Fanfest?

A little over a year ago I knew next to nothing about EVE Online. I first learned about its existence in a Doubleclicks song of all places which didn’t exactly encourage me to fire up the game on my PC, at least not without my fourteen day free trial. Now after attending Fanfest twice, talking to several developers, countless players and actually creating an EVE Online account and playing the game, I still feel like I know next to nothing about EVE. In spite of this, I do consider EVE Online to be one of the most fascinating games ever created and with one of the best fan communities around.

EVE Fanfest is smaller than most of the conventions I’ve attended but that doesn’t mean it fails to provide a comparable level of quality to the experience. Fanfest can be divided into two portions: the actual convention and the after hours events. The main event has a lot of presentations throughout the day that deal with EVE related topics, and after hours are a great excuse to socialize and meet people with the aid of that magical social lubricant known as alcohol. Both parts are great for different reasons and its the totality of all the Fanfest events that make it such a memorable experience.

Between interviewing various people involved with EVE Online and hanging out with the other salty journalists I was able to check out a few different activities. The first thing I attended was something called EVEProv, which was a professional Icelandic improv troupe who knew nothing about EVE attempting to reenact some of the events in its history with aid from the audience. As someone who never really got into improv or well versed in the fifteen year EVE history this was difficult to appreciate, but the crowd response seemed generally favorable, so the target audience was into it. Video has been included so anyone interested can form their own opinion.

Andrew Groen, author of Empires of EVE, gave a presentation on his second volume of EVE history whose Kickstarter was funded during his talk. Unlike some other popular MMOs, EVE Online is all on a single server so every action taken by a player can potentially effect everyone who plays EVE. This leads to some of those insanely large battles that generate some media attention and also allows for Groen’s book to have some actual relevance for EVE players. Empires of EVE chronicles the great wars in the history of EVE Online, which to anyone playing EVE Online during one of the great wars they may have played a part in it or at least remembered it happening and how the outcome shaped the game world. The fact that everyone playing can take part in shaping the history of EVE makes the existence of this book interesting and it’s little wonder that it was funded so quickly. The existence of a book chronicling the real history of virtual events is interesting in itself and the reaction of fans in the packed theater is testament to how real and meaningful the events of EVE are to players.

Most of what was going on in Harpa was typical of a convention. Presentation rooms were filled with various discussions on all things EVE and in the general area EVE players were hanging out, getting makeup done to match their EVE character or looking at the various EVE wares that were for sale. Something more atypical of these events was an EVE theme wedding officiated by none other than the Space Pope. I didn’t have front row seats to the wedding but it looked like the bride, groom and wedding party were all dressed in appropriate EVE attire while the Space Pope and his monks and nuns were all in costume. Some people may criticize this nontraditional ceremony, but I think it’s cool that they share a love for EVE where it serves as a connecting point between them and were willing to get married in a way that is unique to them. It’s rare to find someone who is as into your own unique interests as you, so I wish many years of happiness to the EVE newlyweds.

The days at Fanfest are filled with game related activities to occupy all EVE fans and extracurricular nighttime activities are basically an excuse to get drunk and socialize with EVE players, and thankfully there are no videos of these events floating around. The first night consists of a pub crawl, where all the EVE players descend onto the local watering holes of Reykjavik. This is a friendly gathering where people talk about things in game and out of game while drinking copious amounts of beer and brennivin. I ended up talking to a member of the Council of Stellar Management who explained some of how the political workings of EVE operate and what he actually does as a liaison between EVE players and CCP. Outside of the world of EVE I randomly found someone from the town where I grew up which was kind of strange for being in Iceland and a random fan of Myrkur which is always nice to meet. While loosely structured, this is a great venue to talk to EVE players and EVE Developers.

The last night at Fanfest has the party at the top of the world. Part of the convention center remains open so attendees can go to the bar and just hang out, chat or play Magic the Gathering if they brought their decks. Inside one of the auditoriums near the bar is where the real party happens. CCP’s in-house band Permaband performed, which is probably a safe bet they perform at just about every Fanfest. Permaband does a high energy rock concert that’s a mix of covers and originals and their frontman may even go crowd surfing in an inflatable raft. The headliner was EDM artist Basshunter, who I wasn’t familiar with, but he seemed to be well known by the locals. Either way, he kept the momentum of the party going which is all that really matters.

EVE Online is known for its drawn-out wars, epic battles and backroom deals of betrayal and destruction. Fanfest is basically the opposite of that. It’s a celebration of everything EVE means to its players and an opportunity for enemy alliances to take a break from killing each other to grab a couple pints. Whether bitter rivals in game or strangers on a pub crawl bus, everyone at Fanfest is part of the same thing which makes for an enjoyable few days. As the videos show this is not an event that takes itself that seriously, as the great wars and betrayals are reflected on with a sense of levity. And once Fanfest is over, it’s back to the killing and backstabbing everyone loves.