Who Builds this Stuff?

Lambdamoo was my first experience with a browser-based, text-oriented game. The experience was actually incredibly infuriating-figuring out what words to use to make your character do a rudimentary task took a bit of intuition, and more often than not, simply typing a bunch of words.

In doing some research about the game, or online community, I was surprised to see that the description, and overview of the world was simpler than I had encountered. In my thirty minutes of exploring the world, I wandered around the house, found a ledger with names dating back to 1993 of people that had jumped off the cliff (which, according to Wikipedia, disables your access for three months), somehow found a set of armor that transported me to a different world, and found some alien metals and a castle, beautifully rendered in keyboard symbols.

For a community that was based on a world based on a house in California, this was surprisingly complex, rich, and explorable. Wandering around this space that someone had taken the time to create was an odd, and surprisingly intimate experience.

Knowing that someone had built the world I inhabited, and then put their creation onto a small community full of people who were engaged in Lambdamoo (there are an estimated 2,900 general active accounts at this point), led me to wonder at my own digital literacy. I don’t know how to build a space in an area like Lambdamoo, and I doubt I’ll ever truly invest the time and energy to learn.

This also made me wonder about the ways video games and virtual games have evolved. Lambdamoo relies quite a bit on the player’s imagination. Each person probably has a different idea of what the castle, or house even looks like. Today, games such as Destiny or Halo are rendered in such exquisite and hi-def detail that there is no place for the imagination. You simply look, and don’t populate the world using your imagination. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different way to play.

I’m not sure if I’ll return to the world of Lambdamoo, but I feel like I have a better handle on what the games and architecture of the early Internet look like for having explored a fraction of its world.



One comment

  1. That’s really fascinating that throwing yourself off the cliff has consequences, somewhat real life consequences. I’m sure plenty of people would suffer if their access was cut off for several months. It brings to mind what Facebook is doing now to people that change their names. I have a friend who jokingly changed his Facebook name to Groceries DVD and now has to live with it for the next couple months until he’s allowed to change it back.

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