In the universe of EVE Online (see prior blogposts for a general overview), well over 5000 solar systems are charted, each with its own set of bases, hubs, ports, and planets. Of the nearly 300,000 subscribers to EVE, around 40,000 of which are online in the galaxy at any given time, once solar system, Jita, consistently plays host to over 1000 of said users. Holding around 3-6% of the total online population in .002% of the space is an astronomical figure (pun intended), one that has had serious effects on the game, both in the virtual environment and the physical world. In the virtual galaxy of New Eden, the rise to prominancy of the Jita system was something of an unintended consqeunce of new player start zones, trans-system transport routes, player market stops, and numerous other factors, and while nobody can quite decide on how Jita became such a hub, nobody is denying the massive population that cycles through it every minute. In the physical world, this has caused the developers a few headaches: everything from removing one of the primary jumpgate into Jita to cut traffic to removing all asteriod belts, mining oppurtunities, and NPC missions in the system to discourage lingering presence; ultimately, their solution was to put the entire system of Jita on its own blade server set, one of less than a handful of systems to get its own server.
The interesting geographical implications of Jita come from the fact that the system is wholly uninteresting: it’s location is ‘sorta kinda’ close to some vast swaths of player controlled territory; it’s not too far from a few of the Caldari empire’s starting zones; its more or less on a direct route from Caldari to Gallente space. But fundamentally, it’s not a central system; its not in the middle of everything, it’s just became the middle of everything: socially, despite not being so geometrically. Any EVE player knows of Jita if they’ve been around for more than a week ingame; of the thousands and thousands of systems, everyone knows of Jita. In a social sense, Jita is the center of EVE; it’s the common reference point which all players can identify and relate to.
Harvey’s views of socially constructed geography line up perfectly with the astounding growth and prominence of the Jita system in EVE Online. When EVE first began in May of 2003, the small player population and relative homogeneous mix of solar systems gave little reason to place importance on Jita; however, over the nearly seven years of existence, successive generations of traders, marketers, researchers, miners, profiteers, pirates, and noobs have flooded the system with value. Anything you could possibly want to buy, borrow, research, or outright steal can be found in Jita. Think of it like the Supercenter Wal-Mart of EVE: yeah, sure, its overly crowded, not that efficiently run, parking is impossible, and it takes forever to get in and out, but at the end of the day, you got whatever odd item it was you wanted. When its all said and done, plenty of other systems could have developed into the powerhouse/blackhole of an economic hub that is Jita, but they didn’t. And that fact is the beauty of socially constructed geography: while the reasons why society chose to make such a location the prominent destination that it is may be lost to the sands of history, its current importance and power are undeniable and will persist indefinitely… or until the society of EVE decides to relocate all their economic assets to a different if equally originally insignificant system.
For further reading, check out EVE-Wiki and Jita Blogpost.