EVE Fanfest is a gathering of EVE Online players that takes place in Reykjavik every year. During this three day event, players lay down their arms and forget about the war across the different alliances to come together for a celebration of EVE which includes numerous game related presentations and a pub crawl. Hardcore Gamer attended the fifteenth annual Fanfest and had the opportunity to sit down with a player by the EVE handle of Max Singularity who is best known as The Space Pope. We weren’t exactly sure what we were walking into with this, but The Space Pope ended up being an incredibly interesting person who does a lot of good in the EVE community.
[Hardcore Gamer] So this is the Space Pope with his entourage. There has got to be an interesting story behind how you came up with this character.
[The Space Pope] I didn’t, that’s the interesting part actually. The players did this to me but then I screwed up, I dressed up. In 2015 I was helping a lot of players on the telephone that were having a hard time with depression and stuff and I was role playing an admiral at the time, an Amarrian which was a religious admiral on coms and a lot of players said he’s not an admiral, he’s the pope of Amarr. He’s the pope of New Eden, the pope of EVE Online and they were doing it in a way to kind of troll me but then CCP decided to have a costume contest that had like two thousand in prizes so I thought “oh, I’m putting together a pope outfit” but it was all in secret. So when I showed up to Fanfest in the pope outfit everyone lost their mind. They were like “oh my god he is the pope of New Eden” and now I can’t undo it or go back.
You were getting trolled so you trolled back and now you’re running with it.
I am but it changed me a lot. At first it was real silly where people would say give me a blessing for my baby and I was like yeah yeah okay and I was gaming at first. But it changed me because I realized these people were like sincerely asking me to bless their baby or father that died and all that and I had to start thinking of philosophy and we all have the power to bless. A blessing is whatever energy we have to give something and it made me think about that so I started to take it more seriously and I started to bless families and babies and now people are asking me to marry them and I’ve done funerals and memorial services. That’s how that kind of started, it did change me and make me a reverend and I’m an atheist so that’s kind of weird.
That’s funny because I’m also not even a little religious, yet I’m an ordained minister that’s performed weddings.
You’re part of the Sixth Empire, you’re one of us. We have this whole Sixth Empire thing where it’s all about rescue and inclusion. That’s what’s funny about it, Andrew Groen is writing these EVE History books and we’re carrying around these Max Amarria books because CCP decided to troll me too. They made an in-game item where you can buy this item in the game and because it’s a collector’s item the price keeps going up (turns to a member of his entourage). What’s the last price you paid for one of these? (Four mil) Four million, you can buy a starship for less like for three hundred thousand and this has no purpose in the game whatsoever but people put them in the cargo holds because if they die it shows that it was in their cargo hold. So we started creating these books for cosplay and there’s like ten different versions of this book in cosplay and someone just saw on Twitch we need a Kickstarter for the real Max Amarria (a member of his entourage asks if he wants to tell me about “the truth.” They go back and forth to confirm that they did in fact bring the truth. They pull back the cover of the Max Amarria book to reveal a large flask). It’s liquid truth.
That is something I can believe in.
[Female Nun In Space Pope’s Entourage] Would you like to speak the truth.
[FNISPE] You may but after you drink from the truth you must say Max Amarria, frack the game, it’s always 42.
Hitchhiker’s guide reference. Seems appropriate. Now, since this is not a video interview, it is around eleven in the morning and I am about to take a swig from the flask of the Space Pope (takes a healthy gulp of truth). Max Amarria, frack the game, it’s always 42. That’s some good truth.
It’s kind of funny because people want to be, or they try to equate me to like a Catholic pope or the Spanish pope and I’m like no, we measure our wealth in exotic dancers.
(laughter from all) That’s a quote that’s gotta go in there. The whole Sixth Empire is kind of funny. The Mittani called me Max Singularity the Sixth, First of His Name which blew a lot of people’s minds because I thought no, he’d be the sixth of his name so I had to learn about the whole numersion system of the papal. A pope can pick his own name and his own number. One of the first popes was named after a Roman god and he was like oh that’s not appropriate so he chose a more Christian name and picked a number and he was the second since he couldn’t be the first but he was the first of his name so Max Singularity the Sixth and then I started thinking there are five races in EVE but as capsuleers we are really the sixth race so we created the Sixth Empire to stand alone. Part of the role play is he is the Amarrian pope, I am Amarrian and born on Amarr but I am also a heretic because I believe all races should be as one and we should fight and die together. We’ve had a lot of fun. The fame of the pope wasn’t an instant fame either, it started small and gradually went up in increments as things happened. It’s more like a tectonic shift where the whole continent keeps inching along after historic events.
And now you’re an EVE Online celebrity.
I can’t go thirty feet without a selfie or someone taking a photo. Or like today in the keynote, he’s talking about fifteen years of EVE Online and they’re showing combat and pictures of some of the players and up on the slide is the Space Pope with my monks and nuns so I’m like I made it.
Not long after I landed in Iceland one of the first things I heard was the Space Pope is officiating a wedding here.
(laughter from everyone) Right? How can you take this seriously?
And this is as good a segue as any, how did that wedding come about?
There are two German players who are very outstanding members of the EVE community and actually run an event in Germany and they roleplay Amarrians too and are always coming Fanfest dressed up in very ornate monk robes and they have been dating for a long time and they’ve always recognized the Space Pope. Last year they came up to me and said “hey we’re thinking of getting married at Fanfest, would you do it?” And I’m like yeah I’d be honored. So they’re doing it, we’re all getting dressed up. I probably won’t have a voice left after all my press interviews.
Usually halfway through any of these events my vocal cords are shot.
I woke up this morning like (makes a sound not unlike a dying moose)
[FNISPE] But you’re so cute when you sound like that.
Between the interviews, lack of sleep and truth seeking…
No truer words have been spoken.
You mentioned helping people with depression in the EVE community. Do you have a background with any sort of counseling or was that a role you just kind of fell into?
I have a degree in human behavior sciences but I don’t have any training to help anyone with suicide outside of my own personal experiences. In 2014 I lost five friends and 2015 I lost two, so within two years I lost seven friends and that pissed me off, it made me made mad, it made me sad, I went through all the emotions you can possibly go through. I went through a lot of research on it and then another effort was started by another and when I saw it in Vegas I was literally crying. I said you have my sword because I am joining this army. I’m helping with the outreach. When I heard about this program and I decided we are going to get involved and it’s been a learning experience. During the research we learned that a lot of people that attempted suicide refused to call the suicide hotline. The reasons are many but mostly because it’s too formal, too cold, they don’t know anybody and think nobody would care anyway. So in the gaming community we created the Sixth Empire and Broadcast 4 Reps. It’s an intermediate step, we will tell you to go to the suicide hotline but this intermediate step has them talking to us. If they were to commit suicide and not call the hotline, there is a gap, a cliff they could fall off but we fill that gap. So we’re there just to talk, and just this morning I got a text in the code of “I need to talk” I’ve been watching the stream of everybody having fun at Fanfest and everyone is having a good time and I’ve never felt more alone and I feel really bad. I got on the channel was like dude, this is the Pope writing you directly from Iceland. You’re not alone, you’re just disconnected right now and you’re connected to us and he’s like holy crap, thanks. And it’s just little things like that can make a world of difference.
That seems like such a small gesture but it can make a world of difference to someone that needs it.
We don’t measure metrics but it literally has been dozens of people who have said we’ve saved their lives and this is where I get all teary because I lost those seven friends.
I know, I lost two friends to suicide last year.
It hurts like (expletive deleted).
With either one of them I can think of over a dozen people that would have dropped what they were doing in a heartbeat to help them.
Exactly. And that’s one of the problems, people think they are so alone and so we created this in game group so they wouldn’t be alone. And they don’t have to stay with us. If they feel better and want to go that’s fine but we are the coast guard of New Eden. We’ve created this persona. Do you know the story of the semicolon?
Super abridged version, it’s where you can end the sentence or continue the story.
(One of the Space Pope’s nuns shows off her semicolon tattoo, explaining that she chose that arm because of her scar. Conversation breaks into brief sharing of scars and stories of “being there”)
But they’re still with me, they’re fighting the dragon. They are hardcore. Some people just look and go oh Space Pope, he’s self proclaimed, he’s just playing an Amarrian. To me it’s like looking out at the ocean. You can see the surface but have no idea how deep it goes.
Right, and your role is entirely different with every player you interact with in the EVE universe. Most players probably just see you as an interesting character but a few others might have a deeper view.
That’s why I say this changed me. I was just this internet gamer out killing pixels and all of the sudden I had to develop a philosophy, I had to develop an ethos. I had to do all these things because this was granted to me by the players it could be taken away by the players in a heartbeat so I also live in fear that I can do one thing or say one thing and I’ll fly off that cliff. So far I haven’t done that which is kind of a juxtaposition because EVE Online is I’ll kill you ten times and steal your stuff, steal your citadel, blow up your ship, infiltrate your corporation and turn them against you but when you’re here I’ll offer you a drink and we can “speak the truth” and hang out and laugh like crazy.
That’s the coolest thing about EVE Online, there is not a bigger group people who are assholes to each other in the world than EVE players in game (everyone laughs) but at Fanfest everyone is just so cool to each other and we all hang out and have a great time. I met so many great people last year during the pub crawl and party at the top of the world.
The other gamers don’t get that. EVE Online has this poker face that when we’re in game (pew pew pew) you’re dead, but when we’re together it’s like Dude! Remember when I killed you?
You destroyed my four million ISK ship that took forever for me to get. Let’s do shots!
Nothing says I love you like killing you, but killing is just a means of communication in EVE. And sometimes when you’re back in game and remember the thing at Fanfest you’re like alright, here’s your battleship. You reimburse the guy for killing him or something. Or sometimes what happens, you know the Mittani, he’s one of the most powerful players in the game. The Mittani and I schemed an invasion of an entire region under role play auspices so we sat in the background for a half hour and ended up launching 2000 ships in my name to Providence to kill a bunch of people. Backroom deals and diplomacy, and there’s also some mercenary coalitions in game. A mercenary coalition donated a keep star to our little alliance. The Sixth Empire is the most famous small alliance but there’s no way we could afford to build or purchase a keep star, those are like $9000 in US currency and they just donated one to us on reputation alone because they said we needed a vatican, so we named it Vatican for the pope and we made this keep star a safe harbor. These keep stars are fortified citadels where the big titan ships can dock and it was kind of unheard of to have this open citadel where everyone can dock. We’re the coast guard so we have this safe harbor so not only has the Space Pope changed me it’s also changed how the game is played. When this all started in 2015 I decided to take on an NPC and no one can kill an NPC so CCP decided to play with the Pope and undocked a titan and the Empress actually engaged me so I became the first person in EVE Online history to be targeted by a titan by the Empress and I was bringing her to trial so she was going to be impeached as the Empress and it started gaining so much popularity the company decided to kill her so I kind of get credited for killing the Empress. One of the best comments I ever got on the forums was wait, Max Singularity is a real person? I thought he was an NPC. So there’s a lot of people I have to tell I am not cosplaying an NPC, I am Max Singularity.
(laughs) You might have to. There’s a lot of people that read all the lore and think I’m an NPC. There’s a book where they put my character in and it’s part of canon so my character is now a part of EVE Online. So that part is hard to take seriously. This has been such a ride, it’s been a lot of fun and it’s infectious and everyone gets in on it too, as you see we all have monk outfits and nun habits and it’s a bunch of fun. We’re all in this together.
(FNISPE) It’s a bad habit. (groans from everyone)
I’m not used to doing group interviews so when they brought me to you and your monks and nuns I thought am I about to get indoctrinated into a cult?
(laughs) Apparently. One of us! One of us!
Well I did “speak the truth” earlier…
And you’ve seen the vision.
Truth tastes kind of like Jagermeister but not quite.
(FNISPE) It’s Brennivin, Jagermeister’s older, more abusive uncle.
Makes sense, never a huge fan of Jager but I liked the truth. So getting back on track, I saw in your press bio you also worked for NASA.
I have a press bio? Wow. So I used to try to keep an air gap between the two since I would fly spacecraft in real life and and then fly spacecraft at home. I just can’t get enough spacecraft apparently.
Kind of like a musician playing Guitar Hero at home.
Exactly. When the players found out I also work for NASA that was another one of the steps to my celebrity since people were very interested in that. When I wanted to write a book I had to get a license from NASA to say I could write a science fiction book. People can’t get the impression I’m speaking for NASA when I talk about Space Pope stuff. I can’t associate it, I can’t have anything come off like NASA says we just invaded Amarr, I’d lose my retirement and my job and all that so I used to keep an air gap between the two. But what happened is the players wanted to know about spacecraft so I started giving a couple of talks about that so I started doing some EVE/NASA talks. I did a series of these and that increased my fame because I did some talks where one of the most popular one was things they didn’t teach you in school and it was about our solar system and it was illuminating for a lot of people and other people are like I’m not just in a basement, I’m playing a game a NASA guy plays and so it’s been kind of vindicating for a lot of players. I’ve had stories written to me, which is where the humility part comes in, of sons have written me and said thank you, my dad is now playing EVE because he saw you, an older guy, playing EVE so it’s not just for kids and now my dad is playing. I’ve had other mothers and fathers write me to say thank you because their child who plays EVE is now wanting to go to college to pursue a science degree because of your talk. I actually got to meet Carl Sagan, I got to spend ninety minutes with Carl Sagan talking to him and he inspired me to work for NASA and someone once told me I’m a lot of people’s Carl Sagan and I couldn’t believe it that I’m inspiring people to pursue science. Since you’re one of us now you get one of these (hands me a Sixth Empire pendant). There’s only seventy of those.
You’re not alone. Reach out where ever you are for help, Broadcast 4 Reps, talk to your friends. Don’t be alone, you’re not alone. It’s an illusion. It’s a dragon that’s trying to kill you, ignore it. There’s no judgment, you have more friends that love you than you think. Oh, we have the perfect quote for this. Stay alive, so we can kill you again.