Logging into LambdaMoo made me feel like I was on a computer in an 80’s movie. As I watched the cursor blink, patiently awaiting my commands, I quickly realized that my “tech savvy” in the modern age did not translate here. I quickly reverted to the equivalent of my seven year old self when unsure how to win a video game: push buttons. Instead of buttons, I just kept typing directions until I found something interesting.
Ultimately it is a mindset like this that initially made me confused about LambdaMoo. I was thinking, “what are you going to do to entertain me?” when I really should have been pondering about how LambdaMoo could be used to as a conduit for entertainment.
That was LambdaMoo’s point. It isn’t like a video game today, where we are a player in action. Rather, players receive the sensory stimulation (elaborate descriptions of every new room, tunnel, building, etc.) but overall it is simply the background to their interaction. This is their community.
As a guest, I felt like that girl who didn’t know anyone at the party. Actually, I felt like someone who knew no one at the party, who was also blindfolded, put in a closet in some random corner of the house, and trying to find her way towards anything friendly.
My attempts at communicating with other players were laughable, I rarely got responses, except one from what I suppose was a bot since he kept repeating the same three phrases. I kept going south, south, south, figuring keeping to one direction would get me somewhere strange. I ended up in a long tunnel, going down, down, down, until I had reached a fiery pit with some mysterious things happening. I noticed that the description kept growing as a phoenix was described dancing around with another mythical creature.
It took me a while of reading to realize this wasn’t pre-set data about my setting, but rather two players communicating amongst each other. Battling out via language out of a story book. ( Astoundingly intricate compared to my “emote smile”). That that is what I believe Lynn Cherny tries to describe in her article about speech complexity in MUDs. What outside players view as complex and strange ways of communicating are as fluid as a phoenix dancing among embers to these players.
While I felt no emotional connection to my guest player, I can see how attachments can form. People have built this place. An obvious Jerry Garcia fan has made a whole memorial dedicated to the musician, which I got lost in. There is a birthday machine outside the linen closet that reminds other players of upcoming birthdays, something that smaller communities can revel in. Everyone knows names. Maybe not their real names, but names. I think Rushkoff might be a bit strict on anonymity in this sense.
I do believe we bring ourselves online, whether it be our love for Jerry Garcia or mythical creatures, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is necessary to tack our name to it. It was strange to think of MOOmembers with names like “Skully” and “the wizards” were real people, but they are. Maybe they’re just enjoying a different facet of their own realities.
So I was a guest, a mildly uncomfortable one at that. However, I don’t mind, like any trip it was an experience. Everyone deserves their own community and whether it is IRL or not isn’t really any of my business.