Tao of the Hunt
Letters to the editor
- A Shriner
Player Killers Exposed
- Lexley Vaughan
Ethics and Virtual Reality
- Chuck Haeberle
It's Only A Game
You Were Different When You Were A Player!
- Selina Kelley
Role-Play vs. Multi-play
- Brad Smith
Art of Language Independence
- Ben Greer
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It's Only A Game
As an administrator of a mud, one of my biggest pet peeves is the "lighten
up, it is only a game" line which is often thrown at mud administrators for
daring to enforce the rules they have established on their mud. Generally
someone gets caught at something that is a no-no, gets mad because they
were actually expected to follow the rules, and in their anger they
scream and yell about how the administration has forgotten that mudding is
supposed to be fun, after all it is only a game. There are other scenarios
that warrant this little phrase, like when someone is slinging insults on a
public channel and someone gets hurt (some people find it hard to believe
there are real live human beings behind those screens and they just might
have feelings). For some reason the people hurling insults always justify
themselves by saying, "…gosh, it was just a joke, you take things so
seriously, it is only a game!"
Contemplating the future.
Yes, mudding is a game; I'd be lying to say otherwise. It has all the
qualifications of a really great game with many challenges and goals.
However, it is very unlike the typical games of our childhood. It is not
like Monopoly or Sorry, and even with the new graphics Playstation and
Nintendo just do not compare. With those games (or platforms for games) you
are provided with a defined role. I'll use PlayStation games as an
example. In those games you are provided a character(s) and set on your
way. Once you begin, you have a defined role, you must perform tasks A and
B to get to goal C. There may be little side journeys on the way to C, but
they have no direct impact. There is no room for growth and there is no
room to make the character your own.
In a mud environment, while there is a set of defined parameters, how one
moves about in those parameters is choice. The player dictates how their
character grows. While the world is defined by specific areas for the
players to play in, in the same way there are specific areas in an RPG for
PlayStation, the area changes. There is no one true way to move through
the realm, and the defined world is (in a good mud anyway) constantly
changing and growing. Still, it is just a game right?
Wrong. In creating characters who have definition, who have choices,
mudding becomes more than just a game. The number of hours most mudders
spend developing and creating their characters is staggering (don't think
about it, trust me, you are better off not knowing). It would be virtually
impossible to not form an attachment to the character one plays. Players
spend their time gaining experience, getting equipment that fits just so,
often times (if the mud environment allows for it) changing the name of
pieces of equipment so that the equipment fits their characters'
personality. I recall many many moons ago when I played on my first mud
with my first character, I spent days working for gold so I could buy a
wolf for a pet because my character would always travel with a wolfpack.
That was the story I developed for her and I wanted so much to "be" that
character, to make it as real as possible. Players of today's muds do the
same; they work on building that "perfect" character they have created in
Also, muds are very much a social environment. People form friendships that
extend beyond just being online. Some people have even gone so far as to
find their significant others while adventuring the realms of a mud. To say
that it is just a "game" is to mock those relationships and any that have
Even on the most stringent of Role-playing muds, there seems to be a large demand for
OOC (out of character) channels. People bring much of themselves into a
mud, not just in their character development, but to the realm they play in
as well. I think that the need for OOC channels shows that muds are not
just a place where you play a game, but a place where you not only develop
a character, you develop parts of yourself. It is difficult to put parts of
yourself in to a character and not take something back as well. That
people feel a need to express themselves on a strictly role-playing mud
shows that they do not think of it as "just a game". Also, for both
immortals and players, a mud is something that they have poured a lot of
their time, effort and energy into. As a player, one spends one's time
developing one's character traits, forming friendships, joining clans,
creating a social environment around themselves, and establishing
themselves within the realm. Immortals not only spend as much of their
time online as players do, but they also help shape and mold the mud
environment. Immortals take the ideas of players and immortals and breathe
life into them. They help make the mud come to life, giving both players
and immortals a place to develop their characters and play the "game".
Builders for the mud also have a personal investment in the game; they took
an idea, worked on it and made it come to life. It is hard for such an
investment of time to not become personal, to not become more than "just a
game". Another example can be found in the
"Gender Deception" article
written by Glen Boyer in the September issue of Imaginary Realities. His
article shows how easy it is to become emotionally involved and attached to
a character one spends time creating, making it more than just a game, but
making it a part of yourself.
What happens when people take the game too far? One of the ugliest
scenarios of someone screaming "it is just a game" is someone who does take
it too far. On our mud we choose not to allow multi-playing. After several
warnings (months worth) we finally said enough was enough and told the
player that if he could not follow the policies and rules established, he
was no longer welcome to play. The result? A string of profanity sailors
would blush at, followed by "no matter where you go, I'll find you and kill
you, you may forget, but I won't, and you'll be dead". It wasn't one of my
favorite moments. It was not the first death threat given by a player who
found that his or her inability to play well with others had made them
unwelcome in our world. But it illustrates a point. No one gets that angry
over "just a game". But the player's initial point was that it was "okay"
for them to cheat, why should it matter if it was "just a game". In the
end, the player's anger shows that mudding is more than "just a game" to
them, otherwise they would not have been so angry at losing the ability to
play. Granted, this is the extreme side of people taking things too far.
Usually it is not that drastic, but the fact that people get so angry, so
upset, is indicative that it is more than just a game.
Is mudding just a game? No, it is so much more than that. It is a socially
interactive environment where one can grow, help others grow, form
friendships and be a part of a community. To those who see it as just a
"game" I feel sorry for them, because they are missing out on so much of
what the mudding experience can be, not getting all from the experience
they could be, and that is such a loss.
October 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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