by Wes Platt
Here's a rookie mistake for a would-be Internet storyteller:
Start a roleplaying, story-oriented mud, but make it all
about you. Only tell the stories you want to tell, the way
you want to tell them, and, no matter what, don't let your
participants share in the effort of fleshing out the world
You are all individuals!
The critical difference between normal storytelling and
Internet storytelling like we do at OtherSpace is one that
should be shared by every story-focused mud: Interactivity.
It is often a fatal flaw when the chief storyteller embarks
on a project with tunnel vision, determined to make people
fit cleanly into the framework he or she has created, with
no intention of allowing his or her participants to help
shape the world or alter the course of events.
But, the fact, is - you're asking them to share the work of
bringing the universe to life. Let them share the fun of
fleshing out the universe. This does two things quite
effectively: First, it takes some of the workload off of you
and your staff, and second, it puts the participants'
fingerprints on the universe and gives them a sense of
ownership and impact.
Most participants in story-focused mud environments are
creative individuals, and often they are enthusiastic about
the themes they inhabit. Particularly in original-theme
environments, it is vital that you tap into their creative
energy and get their help making your world more detailed
Now, I can be a control freak. I had my moments early on
with OtherSpace where I resisted letting anyone besides me
shape the universe. After all, this was MY baby, right?
Well, what I came to realize was: The answer is both yes and
Yes, the overall theme and concepts and worlds are mine. The
big picture story outline - that's mine too.
But I only have so many hours in a day, and so many hands,
and so many synapses firing in my brain. Meanwhile, there
are all these wonderful, enthusiastic participants sharing
in the creative experience, immersed in their characters,
always thinking about what their cultures must be like, what
strange life forms might be found on their worlds, notable
holidays, famous geological features - the sorts of details
that add real depth to a fictional culture.
So, why not let the people who spend their days as a Timonae
or Ungstiri come up with ideas for their worlds? Let them
pitch the ideas, and incorporate the ones you like. We've
actually begun a very active project at OtherSpace of
letting players propose ideas as in-kind contributions to
the MUSH. In our discussion forums, players post concepts
for flora, fauna, and cultural data to enrich the worlds
they call home. It's a wonderful give and take process. Not
every idea is accepted, but many are. And, as one world
develops, players on other worlds take note and come up with
ideas for *their* culture. It spreads like wildfire.
This is probably one of the best ways for an original-theme
environment to overcome the obstacle of not having
voluminous amounts of canonical background in the form of TV
shows, movies or books. But it requires an investment of
trust by the chief storyteller in the people that have been
invited to share the experience.
Whether you have an original or established theme, you
must find a way to let your participants put their
fingerprints all over the world you've provided for them. It
is part and parcel of what you can offer in a text-based
environment that they aren't likely to get in a 3D hack and
slash dungeon like Everquest any time soon.
Let them make news. When they do something, good or bad, if
it happens in a public area or involves public figures, put
stories in an online newspaper.
Put their names in print on your website.
Publish logs featuring their characters.
One of the most important lessons for an Internet
storyteller to learn is that this isn't all just about you
and the world you've created. It's about the people who
bring it to life.
Let them shine.
May 2001 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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