I lost myself in the virtual world of LambdaMOO for a solid forty minutes. LambdaMOO is an online community created in 1990 that allows players to explore and communicate in and around the virtual Lambda House. LambdaMOO only uses text descriptions for the players to understand what it going on. Meaning, there are no pictures or videos of the Lambda House and its surroundings. Players must use their imaginations to immerse themselves in the online community.
On my first attempt at LambdaMOO, I was very overwhelmed by the descriptions of my virtual surroundings and the other players that were online at the same time. I felt as though the descriptive text was too long and made it difficult for me to remember where in the Lambda House I was. Since I was playing with everyone in my classroom, I also felt rushed to read everything that was happening with my twenty-five classmates. After about fifteen minutes of confusing and anxiousness, I gave up on LambdaMOO for the day. I had never experienced a game that involved so much reading and memory.
My second visit to the Lambda House was much more successful. A few days later, I logged back in as a LambdaMOO guest and knew what to expect. Using my imagination, I pictured the Lambda House’s rooms and even made my way all the way out to the grocery store down the street. It certainly helped that I was familiar with the system and there wasn’t as many people online at this time.
Although LambdaMOO is an online community, it is difficult to get a grasp on what exactly is happening in the community if there are too many people there. Newer online communities are much easier to comprehend because they use images, videos, and organize players’ actions in a simpler way. With less text and the new organization and media used in new online communities, players can easily understand what is happening in their digital world.
I thought that one of the reasons I initially struggled with LambdaMOO was because there was so much reading to do. It reminded me of how Carr describes the way we read now. He says that we usually skim what we read and we don’t really think deeply about the information. My habit of skimming over texts was probably the reason that made LambdaMOO difficult for me.
Another reason that made LambdaMOO challenging for me was the feeling of disconnect between myself and the other online players. Although I knew that the other people were real people somewhere in the world, I couldn’t help but feel like I was interacting with robots. This sense of disconnect most likely has to do with anonymity that is given to LambdaMoo users. The feeling of disconnection happens because “the virtual environment of the MOO dramatically illustrates the separation of the intellectual self (mind) from the physical world (body).”
While many players enjoy this feature, anonymity is what gives some players too much power and can lead to cyber bullying or cyber rape.
Do you think anonymity is more of a positive or negative feature of the game experience? What did you find the most challenging about this older online community?
By Sarah Erickson