I think I can safely assume that the majority of my classmates’ blogs posts this week about LambdaMoo can be boiled down into “I just don’t get it.” It’s a totally alien experience for most of us, and I agree that it was a bit strange.
However, I think I do get it. I can definitely see the appeal of an interactive, text-based community in which your experiences can be as unique as you choose. That doesn’t mean I was any good at it though. It was frustrating at times because I wasn’t familiar with the language necessary to play. Although it only requires simple commands in English, there was still a significant communication barrier at times.
While I haven’t quite got the mechanics down yet, I did enjoy my time on LambdaMoo. The closest experience I can liken it to would be a digital choose-your-own adventure book that is ever expanding and ever customizable. In many ways it felt like I was just reading and exploring spaces I’d constructed in my own head. When you read, you take in physical descriptions and synthesize them into some sort of image in your mind. The LambdaMoo experience is just the same. So even though it is technically only interactive in a limited way (i.e. just text input) I think the environment you can imagine for yourself is infinitely personalizable in that you create your own visuals. Other video games may allow you to run and jump and shoot, and they may have awesomely detailed graphics, but the more information that is presented to you outright, the less you can ultimately input.
Douglas Rushkoff argues that “our digital experiences are out-of-body,” but, especially in regard to my LambdaMoo experience, I would disagree (2011, p. 85). This was an entirely “in-body” experience in that it was all me, all in my head. I was reading the text provided and creating my own little imagined world, bringing my personal thoughts and experiences into that space. All of the things I’ve ever seen, read, and thought about help to inform and populate my little world, and no one else online can experience the exact same thing.
I can’t really speak as to the community of LambdaMoo because I didn’t interact with anyone “real”, as far as I am aware. That was definitely one confusing aspect, determining what was an actual person and what was just part of the game landscape. Overall though I’d say it was a positive experience. I could see myself getting sucked into the rabbit hole and losing a few hours if I tried to play again, so I’ll approach with caution.
Rushkoff, D. (2011). Identity. In Program or be programmed: Ten commands for a digital age. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press.