Curiosity, like money, can make people do interesting things. It usually manifests as a question along these lines: Just how far can I take this? Around 20 years ago, I was rock-climbing three days a week out West and thoughts like that eventually found me alone and 80 feet up the side of a cliff. With no rope. On purpose. Soloing, it’s called, and I had finally done one. I had to prove something to myself, and despite appearances to the non-initiated, it was not madness, but very, very calculated.
Time passes and things change. Mainly, I have a family. What can I say?
Since I’ve justifiably mellowed on real-life risks these days, perhaps a virtual one would be a working substitute. Thinking about NullSec again, I felt anxious in the same way I was before that first solo. How long could I stay alive this time? How far could I go in there by myself?
The warnings in the forums, both explicit and implicit, varied in the direness, but it was clear: moving into NullSec was not to be taken lightly. As pointed confirmation of said warnings, I had been blown to smithereens on the first visit, which didn’t last 30 seconds. Was it time to try it again?
Am I kidding?
This time, though, I was not only going to set up for running. I was going to run. No floating around slack-jawed thinking I might get rich quick. Nope. I was going, going, gone, non-stop. NullSec express sightseeing, you might say. I’d see what it was like motoring around in space while paranoid.
By this time, choosing and setting up a frigate was no problem financially. One called a Slasher was cheap and fast. I picked one up, put an afterburner and some guns on it and got out the map. Where to go?
Did it really matter? On a trip like this, the point isn’t really to get anywhere. It’s to just get moving.
Now in EVE Online, there are more than 5,000 solar systems. A nice feature of the map is you can display star maps colored by security status. Safe “1.0” systems are a light blue. “0.0” NullSec systems are red. Of course you have green, yellow and orange in between, and at just the right zoom setting, they look like a kid with ice cream turned over the jar of sprinkles. Most colors on my map were clustered in the middle, but there was an awful lot of red around the outside.
There’s where I was headed. I picked a system with a base in what seemed a likely direction and set my destination. It would be a 23-jump trip, with most of the jumps being through NullSec space.
I cleared the clutter off my overview window so all that would show was ships and stargates, then undocked the Slasher and, being mindful not to linger anywhere, 25 minutes later found myself deep into NullSec.
It was all rather uneventful. Nobody was around as far as I could see, although they could have been cloaked. I tooled around through an asteroid belt or two, encountered some rats that were way too much for me, and warped out safely with no problem.
I docked at a privately owned base that charged a small fee and looked through the local market. My, the prices were high this far out! I checked the markup on a few items that I often needed, and it looked like a possible money-making opportunity.
After spending the night there, I took one last look around at the market and headed to a base half a dozen jumps toward home, but still deep in NullSec. Similar prices. The thought hit me again: Maybe there was an opportunity here.
I headed back home, relaxed while jumping through gate after gate, very satisfied with the trip. NullSec was partially demystified. I had been deep into it, looked around a while, and gotten back safe and sound. And I even had an idea about how to bring NullSec into my regular routine.
A small success was still a success.
It turned out that going into NullSec was much like soloing a climb: if I didn’t think I had any business being there, then I didn’t. If I thought I did, I had to be crystal clear on my capabilities and act accordingly. In NullSec and on the rock, that meant being aware and staying in motion. I often repeated that solo in the years that followed, and it became relaxing and meditative, just like the journey home from NullSec. In both endeavors, nervous anticipation was eventually replaced by quiet satisfaction brought on by a very simple and well-defined success: Going and coming back in one piece.
And so, the similarities of the experience of successfully negotiating a risky activity in both the real and virtual worlds brought out this underlying and interesting truth: Rewards are really just in my head.
— Will Collum
Read Previous EVE Online Diaries:
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8