My experience signing on to LambdaMOO marks one of the most frustrating experiences ever. Getting into the mindset of the game was not difficult. I took it forgranted that people actually live in the MOO. Before we all jumped in, I was already concerned what the regular players were going to think about fifty strangers showing up on their front porch. While my experiences gaming may have prepared me for the alternate reality of the MOO, I was completely thrown for a loop when it came to the control system. The instinctual systems that I am used to had done little to prepare me to interact with a program like LambdaMOO. In fact, my experience in the MOO reminded me more of programming than of gaming, this is likely due to the fact that on my PC the MOO was a white on black universe.
When I logged in later, I found, as expected, users were a bit friendlier, answering my cries for help. Although it was more difficult with MOO than in the other games I play, I found myself imagining the other characters in my mind’s eye. As the characters gradually because more realistic and their personalities fleshed out, I found myself smiling in real life along with my avatar in the MOO. In retrospect, I really was myself in the MOO and I can understand how people can be more connected to their online friends than with their friends in real life, because as Rushkoff says, “we bring our humanity with us into the digital realm.” In a place like the MOO users can feel free to express themselves completely without fear of sharing unpopular ideas or truly being themselves. That’s why a rape in cyberspace is so emotionally disturbing. Common excuses like her skirt was short, she was asking for it, don’t really apply in the MOO and so when someone is raped it’s not their body but their soul that is violated. Before having played the game, I didn’t really understand how attached one could get to a character/avatar that we couldn’t see. Now I understand that the fact we use our imagination to partially understand the characters makes it all the more intimate.
Did you find yourself imagining the setting and people in the game?
Based on your experiences in the MOO, do you think that it is possible to create “real” friendships online?