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Monday, November 01, 2004

MUDs ‘n’ MOOs

It’s amazing to me how much social interactive environments I’ve never even heard of. MUDs and MOOs, for example, I never knew existed. I do admit, however, to catching some co-workers of mine in years past typing away at Telnet-like interfaces. When I would ask what they were doing, they’d simply say something like, “Oh, just playing a game, an older one that just uses text; you probably wouldn’t be interested.” And that was it. I’d move on with my life. But now, I realize that the game was probably a MUD or a MOO of some kind. So, I related when the Cherny (1995, p. 2) article stated, “users are well-practiced at MUD conversation, spending several hours every day online, often while working. The community views the MUD as an extension of real life, rather than an escape from it.”

This medium is different than other social environments, like blogs, threaded discussions, and fanfictions. In my mind, the main difference is that people in the community can interact with each other through artifacts. In the previous environments, the members of the community interacted one with another directly, either synchronously or asynchronously. In MOOs, users can interact, create, and affect artifacts which can then be discovered later by a different user. That artifact can be changed or moved in such a way that it communicates a message to another user who encounters.

Unlike my co-workers, I do not view these environments as games. But, thanks to the Bartle (1996) article, I understand how I view them. I am more of an explorer/socializer, to use his terminology, instead of an achiever or killer. I tend to like just roaming about MUDs and MOOs sort of as a pastime or as passive entertainment. I do not really have a goal in mind (maybe, in part, due to my lack of experience in the environments), so it cannot really be considered a game for me, and I certainly do not view the experience as a sport, like hunting or fishing. Maybe there is a hierarchy of levels in a MUD or MOO: as a user gains more experience, they move from being a passive explorer to an aggressive killer. Just a thought.

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