EVE Online has a reputation for malicious schemes, but one player has taken that to troubling new lows. In October 2016, the EVE community was rocked by news that a player had attempted to take her own life after being harassed by multiple players. EVE Online's reputation as a brutal sandbox MMO seemed to have bled into real life with tragic results. In response, donation drives were set up for her benefit and a campaign to raise awareness for mental illness took root in the community. But thanks to an investigation by Imperium News, an EVE news site, things took an even darker turn when it was discovered that the whole incident was an elaborate scam by one player.
Her name was Olivia, and she was a member of the Storm Tribe corporation in EVE. As the story goes, Olivia had been approached by members of a rival alliance known as 'Manifesto.' and harassed about recent posts made to EVE's Broadcast 4 Reps group. Broadcast 4 Reps (B4R) is player-driven support group in EVE with the purpose of helping those struggling with mental illnesses regardless of who they might be in-game.
A troubling tale
On October 4th, 2016, a Facebook user claiming to be a personal friend of Olivia's posted to an unofficial EVE Online Facebook page, detailing how the harassment Olivia suffered from reaching out on B4R drove her to attempt suicide. At the time of that post, she had been in the hospital for a number of days. "She needed fucking help," he wrote. "And the shittiest fuckers in EVE decided to give her the opposite." That story was later verified (opens in new tab) by another woman on Facebook claiming to be Olivia's sister.
As news of Olivia began to spread throughout the community, players were horrified.
"As someone who's lost friends both in EVE and in real life due to suicide fuck whoever would encourage someone to take their own life," wrote one player.
"I've never been more ashamed of calling myself an EVE player than I have this week," wrote another. "This is just... disgusting."
EVE Online has a reputation as a vicious virtual world where players are free to scam, cheat, and destroy one another without consequence. It's given rise to incredible stories, like a group of assassins hired to infiltrate a corporation and murder its CEO—a mission that took almost a year to complete. Despite all that skulduggery, even EVE's coldest killers believed Olivia's story and wanted to help.
, a prominent member of the EVE community, put it perfectly in his video responding to Olivia's story: "We will scam you, we will hunt you down, we will destroy you. We will do everything we can to make your in-game experience miserable. But we have a poker face … we will go out and have a drink with our enemies. We will laugh with all of our friends that are trying to kill each other in-game." In EVE, players will be merciless to one another, but that comes with the understanding that it's all in good fun. White wanted it clearly understood that, despite all the backstabbing in-game, players were respected in real life.
Disturbed by her story, the community banded together in support of Olivia. A movement called "Her Name is Olivia" grew out of a post by another popular EVE news website, The Neocom, and began spreading as players stood up against online harassment. Though a GoFundMe campaign was quickly shut down, I'm told players donated everything from in-game money to gift cards to Olivia. One of those drives accrued over 15 billion ISK, EVE's virtual currency, which was valued at around $300 in 2016. That's not to mention that plans were also being made to donate a Keepstar citadel—EVE Online's gargantuan space station—to Olivia, which alone would've amounted to a whopping 300 billion ISK.
Pulling the thread
During the weeks since Olivia's story went public, members of B4R, Manifesto., and Imperium News began investigating what happened to Olivia. Their goal wasn't to disprove Olivia's claims but to find those responsible and make sure that they were banned. EVE community manager Paul Elsy also confirmed that CCP Games was investigating the alleged abuse. "This is something we have zero tolerance for, and frankly this kind of behaviour disgusts me," he wrote in a Reddit thread.
During those investigations by the community, however, things took a troubling twist. Imperium News discovered that the pictures used in Olivia and her sister's Facebook profiles were stolen from different Twitter and Instagram accounts owned by people who had no connection to EVE Online. Upon reaching out to the alliance that Olivia's corporation belonged to, no one could confirm who her character was or if she even existed.
Those findings were substantiated by the leader of the alliance that Storm Tribe belongs to. to Facebook, Christopher Adams details his own investigation into the matter. Jackson Thrane, Storm Tribe's leader, supposedly had chatlogs between Olivia and her alleged harassers but refused to reveal them to anyone. After Adams spoke with the players Thrane accused of bullying her, both claimed they had never spoken with Olivia. What's more, chatlogs in EVE are automatically saved as text files to players' computers, but members of B4R weren't able to find evidence that anything had happened on their official channels.
The voices who had spoken on Olivia's behalf were fake too. Suspicions began falling on Jackson Thrane, the leader of Olivia's corporation. As mentioned in his Facebook post, Adams already suspected Thrane of creating fake personas, and there was suspicious evidence that he and Olivia were the same person. For example, a generous donation to Olivia was meant to help her purchase an expensive new ship she had been trying to save for. The money and then the ship somehow ended up in Thrane's pocket.
In EVE, players are free to create multiple accounts and there's no real way of discerning how many characters one might own. This tactic is famously used by spies, who implant alternate characters into rival alliances to gather intelligence or sow discord.
I spoke with the writer and editor of the Imperium News story, and both believe that the character of Jackson Thrane and the multiple fake Facebook profiles are used for 'catfishing'—the act of creating a false online identity in order to manipulate or mislead someone. After testimony from those accused of harassing her, the popular belief was that Thrane used his catfishing network to settle a personal vendetta against specific 'Manifesto.' members. Posts to Olivia's fake Facebook account also say she was looking to meet single people and was "taking applications" for a romantic partner, which many saw as evidence of ongoing catfishing.
Since Imperium News and other groups revealed their findings, Jackson Thrane quickly deleted his account and disbanded his corporation. While direct donations can't be recovered, the 15 billion ISK was returned by the non-affiliated player who had collected it and plans to build the Keepstar citadel were cancelled. I was also shown correspondence between a member of the Imperium and the owner of the profile picture used to create the fake Olivia persona. The real owner of the picture filed a report on Facebook which has led to the removal of the fake account. "Thank you for stopping this!" She wrote. "I don't understand how people can be so wrong and try to scam others. I appreciate you letting me know!"
As a longtime player of EVE Online, stories of deception aren't just common, they're part of what makes EVE such an exciting game to play—but only when they remain confined to the virtual universe of New Eden. This story has struck a nerve in a community that already struggles with issues of doxxing and what happens when the line between fiction and reality is blurred. While you have to give someone credit for daring to imagine such an elaborate hoax, it's also not hard to question what kind of person would sink low enough to cry wolf about a such a serious issue.
"If it was real, and she was harassed, or if it wasn't real, and someone made it all up, the question remains. What the fuck is wrong with some people?" Wrote one player in a Reddit thread.
Still, despite the despicable attempts to apparently exploit serious issues like suicide for personal gain, communities like B4R are refusing to let the Olivia scandal get in the way of its mission to provide support and help when someone might need it most. In a video responding to the exposed scam, White admitted he had, like many, been manipulated by Olivia's story, but urged the community not to let it color their response when dealing with those seeking help. "This Olivia might be fake, but there are other Olivias out there and Broadcast4Reps is always out there too," he says. "It is better to have a coast guard that answers false calls for help than [to have] someone lost at sea and there's no help coming."