UPDATE 04/17/2019: CCP Games has released an interim statement, admitting that the investigation is still on-going and that in the interest of transparency, the company would release a full report next week. CCP Games also stated that the company would "issue a full and frank apology for any mistakes for which we are responsible, as well as provide appropriate reparations to those affected by any erroneous actions we've taken." The full statement is available here, but it certainly sounds as though the accusations may have been at least partially unfounded. Screen Rant will continue to report on the story as it updates.
UPDATE 04/25/2019: CCP Games has issued another statement and apology on the matter, stating "we have completed our review of the Brisc Rubal investigation and determined that our initial findings were incorrect."
Right now, we are in the process of restoring access to the EVE Online accounts of all three affected players, returning any confiscated assets and providing rectification as appropriate. We will work to set this right and will be making changes to our procedures and policies to ensure this kind of situation does not reoccur.
Original story follows below.
An EVE Online user named Brisc Rubal, better known as Brian Schoeneman in real life, has been accused of corruption in his political role within the game's complex infrastructure. The issue? Rubal is also an elected politician at his day job, which leads to troubling connotations should the accusation—which Schoeneman maintains is completely inaccurate—be proven to be true.
EVE Online has always been the site of digital politics spilling over into the real world. The game is famous for hosting the then-largest multiplayer battle ever recorded on an online server, and has been the subject of several documentary-style looks into the way its players navigate a world that is nearly limitless in its potential. One of the more memorable moments came when one EVE Online player spent literal years of their life infiltrating a rival organization in-game, finally gaining enough trust to get access to its funding and stealing it. EVE Online's currency carries real world value with it, too, so the heist was the modern day equivalent of an Ocean's 11-style theft.
Schoeneman isn't accused of theft outright, nor would that be illegal within the confines of the EVE Online game world. Instead, Schoeneman is being accused of corruption by developer CCP Games. CCP Games permanently banned Schoeneman because of allegations that he abused his position as one of EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management (CSM) members. The CSM is a body of elected players who work closely with CCP Games to provide feedback about the game and potential new features. CCP Games' statement on Schoeneman's ban essentially accuses him of the virtual equivalent of insider trading:
"Brisc Rubal has been found to be sharing confidential information with a member of his alliance that was later used by another alliance member to conduct illicit in-game transactions...to be fully transparent, this misconduct was brought to us by the CSM themselves as an immediate threat to the integrity of the CSM as an institution."
While it sounds like serious stuff, there's actually very little in the way of evidence available to corroborate CCP Games' story, and Schoeneman is adamantly fighting against the accusation. The EVE Online player took to the game's subreddit to post his own statement refuting the claims, stating:
"As an attorney and a public figure in the United States, my ethics and reputation are regulated by a code of professional responsibility and statutory law, unlike CCP's opaque community team...the claims that I would risk my reputation by providing proprietary or otherwise confidential information to members of my own alliance for personal gain are false.
I will fight these false allegations, restore my reputation and seek all avenues for recourse available to me for these reckless actions.
Thank you to all of those who have reach out to me, and to all of those players who put their faith in me."
As it stands right now, then, it's basically CCP's word against Schoeneman, although the latter's case is pretty compelling. As a real-life member of the legal trade, it would be bizarrely risky for Schoeneman to garner a position within the video game equivalent of a governing body and then to engage in corrupt actions. As important as EVE Online is to its players—and it really is—it seems unlikely that a lobbyist would be willing to gamble away both their virtual and professional reputation on something that could gain their alliance an edge.
Of course, EVE Online is an incredibly complex digital landscape. There's also the chance that, despite the real-life applications of the CSM, an enemy faction is attempting to set up Schoeneman to put someone with their interests at heart into the governing body. EVE Online has seen stranger things before, and as the game continues to evolve thanks to its dedicated playerbase, we're sure to see stranger still in the future. Until then, though, interested parties will have to eagerly await the resolution to one of the weirdest, most compelling bannings in recent gaming memory.