I’ve never been one for virtual gaming, and I don’t think I ever will be.
LambdaMOO is a virtual world that is set in what seems at first to be a regular house, but once you delve into the game, you realize it’s no ordinary house. It is filled with many hidden secrets and occupied by many, many people/characters. LambdaMOO is like playing a computer game without the visuals, the visuals are written out in word form instead. While the game might be a precursor to the games we have today and might be deemed by some as “simpler”, I actually see it as more complex. Where today in games you can see everything and can just easily see and click where you want your character to go, here you actually have to think about your actions. There are things you must read and it forces you to be alert and interact with the game more.
When I first logged into LambdaMOO, it took me forever to even get out of the closet. I kept getting very frustrated throughout my experience with not being able to figure out the right commands to use. Sometimes I felt as if I got one more “I don’t understand that”, I was going to throw my computer out the window. I found it hard to navigate around and sometimes I would get so far into a room/situation I found it hard to get out. Or else I would have to backtrack through all the rooms I just came from to get back to a familiar place. Like in the sewer, for example. It took me a very long time to figure out the correct commands to even enter the sewer (which ew, why did I even want to go in the sewer?) and then once I was in there, I kept going deeper and deeper until I got to a sort of “dead end” and had to back track a lot to get out.
While sometimes it was frustrating, there were some things I liked. While some rooms were boring, some I found very interesting and I enjoyed the descriptions of them and were fun to explore, like the hot tub and the bar that you get to through a magical mirror. It was interesting to see just how detailed the game could get sometimes! You could even control the setting of the bubbles and light on the hot tub! In the bar, you could play with a dart board as well! (Unfortunately I could figure out how to get darts to throw though so I couldn’t play- ugh!)
Interacting with other users/characters was an interesting experience as well. You could “look” at other characters and get a short description of them. While some were described as replicating normal people, some characters were described as not really human (a reflection of being your real self vs. anonymous). Some descriptions even frightened me, such as the joker character I encountered in the tree house. He reminded me too much of Dr. Bungle In Dibbell’s article. Good thing he was asleep!
I explored many places: the bedroom, the pool, the back porch, the hot tub, the elevator and some different floors, the kitchen, the living room, the tree house (which ended up being a reference to Calvin & Hobbes treehouse- ha!), the front yard, the sewer. I even communicated with some other characters, but often they asked about me and who I was and that kind of creeped me out, I didn’t know what to say, it made me uncomfortable to tell them my real identity and I didn’t want to lie, so I often just left. I’m not very good at the whole anonymity online thing. I don’t feel comfortable being someone who I’m not communicating with other people online, and I guess that’s why online games have never really been my thing. It was interesting to explore and while I can see how others might get caught up in trying to explore every possible place (and even create their own spaces within the game), it is just not for me. I find it odd that some people get so immersed within a VR that they start to feel what they’re characters are feeling, as Dibbell describes. I often give up on games before I ever get close to that point. I would much rather spend my time interacting with people in RL, being myself. While it was an interesting experience, the world of LambdaMOO isn’t for me I found.
What do you feel more comfortable with identifying online, as yourself? Or as an anonymous character?