Feb GMT admin Magazine Article on

Found at: 0x1bi.net:70/textfiles/file?internet/mud-arti

From: mauldin@lonestar.utsa.edu (Alex L. Mauldin)
Date: 12 Feb 93 22:14:59 GMT
Newsgroups: rec.games.mud.admin
Subject: Magazine Article on MUDS
    Here's an article which appeared in the November 18th, 1992 issue
    of the _Chronicle_of_Higher_Education_.  It's the first article I've
    seen in a major publication talking specifically about Muds.  If
    anyone else has seen similar articles, then I'd appreciate some
    references for them.
    Anyway, for those interested, here it is:
                           by  David L. Wilson
      A MUD, generally defined as a Multi-User Dungeon, is a kind of
  computer game that is increasingly popular on campuses around the world.
      Linked via the Internet and other computer networks, participants
  enter an artificial world where they can pretend to be aboard a space
  ship, play a character in a medieval village, or wander around a party
  conversing with people, aliens, and even household appliances.
       Almost all are text-based
      Very few of the hundreds of games use graphic images.  Almost all
  MUDS are text-based, meaning that users must rely on a description of the
  settings and characters rather than on pictures.
      For instance, a person logging on to a game called "LambdaMoo" is
  greeted with the following message:
                        The Coat Closet
  The closet is a dark, cramped space.  It apprears to be very crowed in
  here; you keep bumping into what feels like coats, boots, and other people
  (apparently sleeping).  One useful thing that you've discovered in your
  bumbling about is a metal doorknob set at waist level into what might be
  a door.  There's a new edition of the newspaper.  Type 'news' to see it.
      The bewildered can ask the computer for help with commands that will
  let participants move about.  By typing the word "out," the user can
  leave the closet and enter "The Living Room," where other people logged on
  to the system can be "seen."
      Users can design their own characters, which can represent anything,
  from themselves to a vase of flowers.  In the latter case, when the user
  left the closet, the other individuals in the living room would have read
  the words: "A vase of flowers enters," on their computer screens.
      Once in the living room, users can communicate with others in the
  room by typing words, which appear on the computers of every other
  person using the game at that moment.  Users can move from room to room,
  "examine" objects, such as a "dog" that will rush up and wag its tail
  when anyone enters the room.
       2 Important Elements
      Amy S. Bruckman, a research assistant at the Massachusetts Insti-
  tute of Technology's Media Laboratory, has been studying MUDS and the
  people who use them.
      She says the two most important things about MUDS are that parti-
  cipants can design their own environment, and that much of what happens
  within a MUD involves interaction between people.
      "That's the difference between a MUD and basic information exchange,"
  she says.  "You've got this virtual world and you take on a virtual
  identity.  Some people play themselves, and some people play fanciful
  characters which have nothing to do with themselves."
      For instance, she says, people in a MUD frequently masquerade as a
  person of the opposite sex in their interactions with others on the MUD.
  These and similar interactions give users new insights into themselves
  and others.
      But users can still make an educated guess about who's on the other
  end of the character, she says.  "Chances are three to one that they're
  19 and male and a computer-science student at a state university.  That
  sums it all up."
       Are They Addictive?
      Some are concerned about the games.  "There seems to be something
  addictive about MUDS," says Claude W. Anderson, associate professor of
  computer science at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.  "I've seen
  students' grades plummet because they were spending too much time on these
  things.  We have a saying at Rose-Hulman:  'Friends don't let friends play
      Ms. Bruckman says her research has found that some do become obsessed
  with the medium.  "One person talked about _cutting_down_ to 12 hours a
  day," she says.
      Ms. Bruckman rejects the word "addict" to describe those who, by
  their own admission, spend too much time on a MUD.  "If someone takes
  heroin, you take a certain amount of it and you're addicted, and that's
  a property of the substance.  For people who become obsessed with comm-
  unications media, it's more a function of them rather than the medium," she
      Most people who spend too much time in a MUD have other problems that
  they are working out, she says, and anonymous socialization may be helpful
  for them.
      But, she says, few users actually lose themselves in a MUD.  "Most
  people are perfectly normal, with fine social skills, who use this a lot
  less than the average American uses television," she says.
        Anyone have any comments about this article?  I thought it
        was pretty interesting, even though the person writing it prolly
        didn't have a clue about MUDS before he started writing this
        article.  I did think it was funny that LambdaMoo got a plug
        in here.  Why couldn't he have used a MUD I play?
            - alex -
          *    I have been one acquainted with the night.
          *    I have walked out in the rain -- and back in rain.
          *    I have outwalked the furthest city light.
                                             - Robert Frost