muds and moos

I’m not much of a gamer. In fact, game talk is equivalent to a foreign language for me, so when I was informed I would be playing an online game for homework, I wasn’t too happy. When I found out it was a virtual reality program in which multiple players were connected at the same time, I was kind of worried for the safety of my virtual character.

While exploring the LambdaMOO community I felt like I was constantly in some sort of maze, searching for my way out, almost like a bad dream. I kept trying to see how far I could go and hoped I would make it to Paris (since I heard someone say that’s where they were in class). After 45 minutes I found myself in a Chinese-like area trapped in a cave (needless to say, I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower).

I didn’t like the lack of actual visuals, I felt limited in movement, and I wish I didn’t have to read directions in order to get anywhere. I especially didn’t like that I did not feel a part of the community; I felt like an outsider who was a complete stranger to this multi-dimensional world. I even felt as though they made it purposefully difficult to navigate within the dimensional world alone, forcing interaction among community members.

The house seemed to be the main area of social interaction but since results from Diane Schiano’s article, Lessons from LambdaMOO: A Social, Text-based Virtual Environment, detailed that MOOers spent most of their time within the home, I wanted to make sure I got out of there as soon as I made a friend (results from Schiano’s article also showed that most social groups consisted of two characters).

After a dip in the pool, I soaked up the house, moving my character into every direction of the mansion. I hoped to be social with MOOers within the living room but was immediately grossed out when one of the living room MOOers informed everyone he/she was masturbating. I quickly made my way out the door, friendless.

During my time within the rest of the community I tried to keep my sense of identity by following directions I would be comfortable making in real life but I freaked out each time I found myself somewhere creepy, like a graveyard and a barn with doll heads. Honestly, once I made it to the graveyard I wished I was back within the swimming pool being social, instead of out in the world on my own. I especially wished I wasn’t on my own when I was trapped in the cave, because I have a feeling having a friend would have helped prolong my online life past the cave.

I explored LambdaMOO before I read Julian Dibbell’s, A Rape in Cyberspace, because I was worried it would deter me from interacting with others (I didn’t want anything bad to happen to me). After reading the article I was glad I waited to read it but I also felt as though I’d be perfectly okay with never exploring LambdaMOO ever again.

It might have to do with my lack of interest in the world of game, but my feelings toward the identity aspect of virtual reality are now mostly negative, while my feelings toward the social aspect of virtual reality are somewhat positive. The ability to create a life within a virtual realm is possible, I’ve heard of SIMS, and to do it all text-based seems impressive, but to cause havoc and violate MOOers against their will is sick and scary.

It’s weird to think how people create new identities for social MUDs and do things they normally wouldn’t. It completely goes against the need to be ourselves, as Douglas Rushkoff points out in his chapter on identity. Being in a virtual world is the same as being on a social media site, both forms of digital fall under the umbrella of life with technology. There seems to be a life of anonymity within LambdaMOO that MOOers enjoy taking advantage of. It’s as if users want to live another life within the MUD, pushing the limits of the virtual world that they normally wouldn’t push in the real world.

read about MOOers having relationships on LambdaMOO and even some getting married

Although there is a lack of authenticity within LambdaMOO, when it comes to the social aspect, I will admit I did like the lack of advertisement. I’m used to social media sites throwing consumer ads my way, so it was refreshing to go about something online without an ad being forced upon me. The program allowed for social contact to take place without outside interruption, which Rushkoff points out in his chapter on social, to be the main purpose of a social network.

What were your feelings toward LambdaMOO?

How does Rushkoff’s chapter on identity relate to your experience exploring LambdaMOO? How does his chapter on social relate to your experience exploring LambdaMOO?

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