Unlike a lot of current FW pilots, I have not been in FW my entire EVE career, nor have I always flown in Empire.
In fact, the first years of my career were mostly spent in null-sec. First, with a few 'pet' alliances over near the old TCF space, and then in EXE when they were big BOB allies, (I even witnessed a few of the old-time BOB titan congas during one of their 'campaigns') and fainlly Aggression. Alliance which ended up collapsing aftering being betrayed by their allies, Atlas.
Faction War was a last resort for me. A 'I'm going to try this one thing I haven't tried and if it isn't fun I'm going to quit the game.' I joined a small group named Locus Industries who were part of the Amarr Empire, and within an hour of my application being accepted, I was in a fleet killing things --having a ball. I stayed in Locus and the Amarr for over a year -- longer than I had ever been with any previous null-sec corporation I had been a part of. (Most of my corp hops are due to corporations disbanding officially or unofficially)
Old Habits Die Hard
I admit, I always occasionally thought that these Empire small-gangseters were a little naive. And, I still smirk a little when FW pilots accuse each other of 'blobbing' when there are less than 10 ships on the field--both forces combined.
I was greatly amused a year or so ago, when I was trying out a titan on the test server, (they accidentally seeded the ships in the stations, and it only took me an hour to learn the skill real quick) and my corpmates flocked around because none of them had ever seen one before. I had to self destruct it so they could see what the explosion looked like. (Typical boys)
Needless to say, it took a while to not only learn the mindset of small-gang pvp, but to understand these pvpers. I soon realized they were anything but naive, and that their inexperience in the game mechanics that I came from was no less then my own inexperience of their game style.
Small-Gangs, Large-Gangs, and Star Wars
If null-sec pvp is like fighting as a storm trooper, then small-gang pvp is like fighting like an Ewok.
When I was in null-sec, a lot of my fleet 'thought' was about conformity. Did I have the proper fit the FC needed at that time? (Along with the 200 pilots in the same ship?) Was I in the right place? Was I near enough to the titan so I could bridge at the appropriate time? Am I doing my best to switch targets when the FC calls it? (Oh how I remember the lag!)
There is great thrill in pvping with hundreds of other people. Of sharing a warp bubble with 50 other pilots--of piling on gates with hundreds of others--of arriving on fields to explosions on every side. There is great thrill in seeing target after target obliterated-- of noting the arrival of supers and titans (and back in the day anticipating getting doomsdayed.)
There is great pride seeing the name of your alliance or corporation in some EVE news article, or seeing battles you were a part of getting discussed and analysed. You feel decidedly...important.
In small gang, low-sec pvp, and Faction War, there is the complete opposite mentality to this group-think. You need...and are expected to have a keen sense of personal creativity. With this creativity comes a lot of freedom to just play.
With this freedom comes a lot of other things--including more responsibility to your fleet. You could make or break a fight--and the death of your friends could be your fault--not the fault of some poor strategy implemented by your superiors.
You are expected to be unpredictable. To be nonconforming. To act alone and together. To be a one man army within your group. You are expected to know what to do in situations without being told.
There is great thrill in pvping with a small gang that has flown together so frequently they can practically read each others minds. No FC, no white storm trooper suites. Just a bunch of raw creativity working together to have fun.
There is great pride on looking over the wrecks on a won battle and thinking, "we held this field." It might not get talked about, or discussed. Some great manuever or strategy that was used at the last minute may never go into the record books. But we all have that secret, private delight, and that growing feeling that the ignorant are missing out on our private party.
Until recently, I never really considered myself as a Faction War pilot. It may come as a shock to some people, but there was always this uncrossable barrier. I always felt very much a part of my corp--very much a small-gang pvper--or very much a pirate. But the 'true' Faction War pilots were always 'them' and not 'us.' I always cringed when people referred to my blog as a Minmatar Faction War blog. Faction war was just something I did...in the same way I do piracy. It was not something I was.
Even as recent as a week ago I wrote a post about how Faction War should have null-sec like sov mechanics introduced. That it should be big and roleplaying and that people like me--low-sec pirates--were stealing away the game mechanic because we didn't have working mechanics of our own.
Whether it was CCP's intent to have null-sec mechanics for low-sec when they created FW, whether it used to be 'bigger' in the past, I don't know. But, for the first time I started paying attention. Reading and listening. Actually going to the forums to see what other Faction War pilots were saying--what they were wanting. And I have to admit I was shocked by what I found.
I did not find a role playing community wishing for glorious blobfest battles in the name of their 'empire.' I suddenly noticed that beneeth the suggestions for 'taking space' in Faction War, and 'having something to fight for'--things I myself mistook for the desire for applied nullsec mechanics--was actually a desperate need for more tools for their creativity.
Faction War, low-sec, and pirates are like artists who have only been given one paintbrush and a few primary colors to work with. They don't want someone elses painting--they want more tools so they can make new ones of their own.
They're outgrowing the canvass that CCP is currently providing to them.
It was an interesting revelation for me. And as the days went by and I dug a little deeper into some of the issues--some of the ideas presented and the passionate arguments, I found myself slowly referring to Faction War pilots as 'us' instead of 'them.' Instead of mentally going over what Faction Pilots need...what 'they' need...I was silenty cheering, "Yes, that is what I want. That is what we want."
I may not role play. I may troll my own militia members (and alliance members) even. I may be an evil pirate. I may even be a griefer at times. A ganker, a small-gang pvper, a solo pvper, a spying metagamer, a ship spinner, or a washed up null-sec pilot.
But I'm also a Faction Warfare pilot, and proud of it.