The Mittani, Eve Online's most famous and infamous player, has learned the hard way that the internet is serious business after all. The controversy arose at last week's Eve Fanfest, where in a public talk he first mocked and then urged others to hound a player who was apparently suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. "Incidentally, if you want to make the guy kill himself, his [in-game] name is [REDACTED]", Mittani declared. Unsurprisingly, this quickly spread beyond the Fanfest.
After initially appearing to shrug off complaints as he had been drunk at the time (which he acknowledges was entirely his own fault) and didn't have total recall of what he'd done, Mittani offered a lengthy public apology a few days later, and promised his resignation as Eve Online Council chairman. Since then, Eve devs CCP have decided his actions were a breach of the EULA and are enforcing a harsher penalty.
Mittani is to receive a 30-day ban from Eve - which is, I suspect, quite a handicap for a player as powerful as he - and removed from both the current and next Council of Interstellar Management. "As per our policies, this candidate may be eligible to run at a later date subject to candidacy review," however.
'The Mittani' has always been roleplayed as a baddie, which is not the as being the bad guy in real life, as he explained: "It's one thing to play a villain in an online roleplaying game - when I post on these forums or on twitter, I usually do so as 'The Mittani', and do my level best to convince everyone that I'm an unrepentant space villain, as that kind of facade provides an in-game advantage to me and my alliance. But I am not that character in real life, as anyone who has met me can attest. I went way, way, /way/ past the line on Thursday night by mocking the Mackinaw miner at a real-life event. I am not actually a sociopath or a sadist, and I certainly don't want people to kill themselves in real life over an internet spaceship game, no matter what I may say or do within the game itself."
[Edit - image I mistakenly attributed to the Mittani has now been removed, as it was in fact created by another player who's not part of the GoonSwarm. Apologies for any confusion or offence caused.]
The Mittani has been an Eve character with uncommon clout - indeed, few MMOs have individual players with quite that degree of authority or renown. He was also at the forefront of last year's player rebellion against Eve's move towards microtransactions, but CCP have been quick to observe that there are no old axes being ground over this latest controversy:
"The Council of Stellar Management is a democratically elected council that represents the players of EVE Online. Although council members may represent the players in any manner they choose, being a council member does not permit actions or playstyles that violate our policies."
CCP also intend to clamp down on behaviour in fanfest panels, admitting in a long devblog that they're increasingly mindful of how they and their game might be perceived by the wider world. "Time for us to grow up a bit. “Internet spaceships” are often called “serious business”, but increasingly they actually are serious business. It is moments like this that remind us that there are people beyond the characters we encounter and everyone in the EVE universe should always treat other players with a base human level of respect and decency—whether enemies or not. We would be remiss not to use this as a chance to revise our event and communication strategies."
As for the player at which The Mittani's ill-judged outburst was directed, apparently he's fine, still mining away, and has had a personal apology from Gianturco as well as all this public hoo-hah.
Update: The Mittani records a message for the GoonSwarm, admitting that he did something "really, really dumb" but claiming that while "CCP has thrown me under a bus" it shouldn't really affect things for the notorious alliance. He is, though, "pissed off" about being "nailed to a cross", which he feels is unfair because he "owned my mistake." He has a theory that other factors (i.e. rival Alliances or fears of CCP coming off badly while trying to promote DUST 514) influenced CCP's decision to punish him, and is planning a huge 'free Mittani' invasion and destruction of the Jita trade hub on his unbanning day, CCP's response to which will apparently prove whether they're "the old CCP" or in the thrall of other interests. It's all entirely appropriate, really - drama and intrigue have always been Eve's bread and butter after all.