All files are for educational and/or historic purposes only. [back to library]



                     ELIZABETH REID

                    [email protected]
                    [email protected]

                   A thesis submitted
           in fulfillment of the requirements
            for the degree of Master of Arts

                Cultural Studies Program
                 Department of English
                University of Melbourne
                      January 1994

Copyright (C) 1994 by Elizabeth Reid, all rights reserved.  This text
may be freely redistributed among individuals in any medium so long as
it remains unedited and appears with this notice.  Any commercial use
or republication requires the written permission of the author.

Beginning with an understanding of virtual reality as an imaginative
experience and thus a cultural construct rather than a technical
construction, this thesis discusses cultural and social issues raised
by interaction on 'MUDs', which are text-based virtual reality
systems run on the international computer network known as the
Internet.  MUD usage forces users to deconstruct many of the cultural
tools and understandings that form the basis of more conventional
systems of interaction.  Unable to rely on physical cues as a channel
of meaning, users of MUDs have developed ways of substituting for or
by-passing them, resulting in novel methods of textualising the non-
verbal.  The nature of the body and sexuality are problematised in
these virtual environments, since the physical is never fixed and
gender is a self-selected attribute.  In coming to terms with these
aspects of virtual interaction, new systems of significance have been
developed by users, along with methods of enforcing that cultural
hegemony through power structures dependant upon manipulation of the
virtual environment.  These new systems of meaning and social control
define those who use MUDs as constituting a distinct cultural group.

First and foremost, my thanks go to Chris Healy, my supervisor, for
his support, encouragement and advice, all of which have been
invaluable.  Secondly, I would like to thank the English Department
for sponsoring my use of the University of Melbourne's computing and
network facilities, which enabled me to undertake this research.  I
would also like to thank Richard Oxbrow of the Department of
Electrical and Electronic Engineering for allowing me to use the
computing facilities of that department, and Lochard Environment
Systems Pty. Ltd. for providing the printer used to produce the final
version of this thesis.  To Pavel Curtis and Kerstin Carosone go my
thanks for help with proof-reading and 'beta-testing', and to Daniel
Carosone goes my especial thanks for emotional, technical and culinary
support.  Lastly, I should like thank all the people who have made
this thesis possible by allowing me to join them in their virtual play
and especially for allowing me to quote from examples of this play and
from their reflections upon it.

Parts of this thesis have been published in "Electronic Chat:
Communication and Community on Internet Relay Chat" in _Media_
_Information_Australia_ No. 67 (February 1993) 61-70.  The previously
published excerpts are spread throughout this thesis, and amount in
total to approximately 2000 words.

Introduction: Virtual Reality--Imagined Space
Background: A History of Interactive and Networked Computing and the
Evolution of MUDs
     Interactive Computing
     Networked Computing
     Interactive Networking
     MUDs: Networked, Interactive Virtual Realities
Chapter One: Communication and Cultural Context
     Making Sense of the World
     Making Sense of Each Other
     Disinhibition and Social Experience
Chapter Two: Power, Social Structure and Social Cohesion
     Hierarchies of Power on MUDs
     Adventure MUDs: Survival of the Fittest
     Social MUDs: Cooperative Appreciation
     Social Cohesion on MUDs
Chapter Three: Identity and the Cyborg Body
     Self-Made People
     Ungrounding Gender
     Cyborg Sexuality
     The Cyborg Self
Conclusion: Cultural Formations in Text-Based Virtual Realities
     Appendix One: The Vanishing Room
     Appendix Two: The Double Bluff
     Appendix Three: The First Case of Cross-Gendered MUD Playing
     Appendix Four: The Evolution of Communication
     ... Amongst Players
     ... and Wizards
     Appendix Five: The Expression of Feelings on 'Nemesis'
     Appendix Six: The LambdaMOO Player Survey
     Appendix Seven: Character Generation...
     ...Or Simple

     Cyberspace.... A graphic representation of data
     abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human
     system.  Unthinkable complexity.  Lines of light ranged
     in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations
     of data.  Like city lights, receding...[1]

     Virtual Reality, or "cyberspace"... takes alternate
     reality a step further [beyond books and movies] by
     introducing a computer as mediator, or imagination

     Cyberspace: A new universe, a parallel universe created
     and sustained by the world's computers and communication
     lines... a new stage, a new and irresistible development
     in the elaboration of human culture and business under
     the sign of technology.[3]

Since William Gibson coined the term in his best-selling novel
Neuromancer, cyberspace' and virtual reality have been part of late
twentieth century culture, and have been infused with a variety of
cultural and emotional meanings.  Gibson himself envisaged a direct
neural connection between humans and computers against a background of
urban decay and personal alienation.  The film The Lawnmower Man
depicted a meld of mind-altering drugs and computer-controlled sensory
stimulation which offered a new stage for the evolution of mankind,
either toward godlike wisdom or satanic evil.  The popular media have
posed cyberspace as the new frontier and the new promise of the
twentieth century.  Gibson's 'console cowboys'--virtuoso cyberspace
users hacking at the edges of the law--have been incarnated in media
coverage of groups such as the infamous 'Legion of Doom'.  Arcade
games incorporating datagloves and headsets have become the latest fad
in entertainment.  Business Week filled its October 5 '92 issue with
special features introducing virtual reality technologies and
applications to its readers.  Clifford Stoll's best-seller
_The_Cuckoo's_Egg_ promoted cyberspace as the site of new levels of
international espionage, betrayal and tyranny, inhabited by glamorous
foreign spies and dedicated heroes.

Technically speaking, the term 'virtual reality' is most commonly
used to refer to systems that offer users visual, auditory and tactile
information about an environment which exists as data in a computer
system rather than as physical objects and locations.  This is the
virtual reality depicted in "The Lawnmower Man" and approximated
by the 'Virtuality' arcade games marketed by Horizon Entertainment.
This thesis is not about these kinds of virtual reality.  I do not
wish to talk about cyberspace or virtual reality as technological
constructions but as cultural constructs.  In common with Howard
Rheingold I do not see virtual reality as a set of technologies, but
as an experience.[4]  More than that, I believe that it is primarily
an imaginative rather than a sensory experience.  I wish to shift the
focus of attention away from the gadgets used to represent a virtual
world, and concentrate on the nature of the user's experience of such
worlds.  I contend that technical definitions of VR beg the question
of what it is about such systems that sustains the illusion of reality
in the mind of the user.  A list of technical components does not
explain why it is that users are prepared to accept a simulated world
as a valid site for emotional and social response.

The systems that I will describe in examining virtual reality as a
cultural environment are technically simple.  I have chosen to refer
to a family of computer programs known as MUDs.  MUDs are networked,
multi-participant, user-extensible systems which are most commonly
found on the Internet, the international network that connects many
thousands of educational, research and commercial institutions.  Using
a MUD does not require any of the paraphernalia commonly associated
with virtual reality.  There is no special hardware to sense the
position and orientation of the user's real-world body, and no
special clothes allowing users to see the virtual world through
goggles and touch it through 'datagloves'.  The MUD interface is
entirely textual; all commands are typed in by the user and all
feedback is displayed as text on a monitor.  A simple PC can act as a
gateway into this kind of virtual world.

Instead of using sophisticated tools to see, touch and hear the
virtual environment, users of MUD systems are presented with textual
descriptions of virtual locations.  Technically, a MUD software
program consists of a database of  'rooms', 'exits', and other
objects.  The program accepts connections from users on a computer
network, and provides each user with access to that database.  As
Pavel Curtis describes, users are presented with textual information
describing them as being situated in an artificially constructed place
which also contains those other participants who are connected to the
MUD program.[5]  There are many hundreds of MUD programs running on
the Internet, each with its own unique database of descriptions of
localities and objects.  Within each of these systems users can
interact with each other and with the virtual environment which the
MUD presents to them.

As Curtis has commented, the virtual worlds within MUD systems have
many of the social attributes of physical places, and many of the
usual social mechanisms apply.[6]  Users treat the worlds depicted by
MUD programs as if they were real.  However, it is not the
technological interface itself that sustains the willingness of users
to treat this simulated environment as if it were real.  Rather it is
the degree to which MUDs act not only as a tool for the expression of
each user's imagination, but mediate between the users' imagination
and their communication to others of what they have imagined.
Cyberspace--the realm of electronic impulses and high-speed data
highways where MUDs exist--may be a technological artefact, but
virtual reality is a construct within the mind of a human being.
Within this construct a  representation of a person can be manipulated
within a representation of a real or imagined environment, both of
which can be manifested through the use of various technologies,
including computers.  Virtual worlds exist not in the technology used
to represent them, nor purely in the mind of the user, but in the
relationship between internal mental constructs and technologically
generated representations of these constructs.  The illusion of
reality lies not in the machinery itself, but in the users'
willingness to treat the manifestation of their imaginings as if they
were real.

The technical attributes of these virtual places, comments Curtis,
have significant effects on social phenomena, leading to new modes of
interaction and new cultural formations.[7]  The lack of actual
physical presence, indeed the great physical distances between
individual participants, demands that a new set of behavioural codes
be invented if the participants in such systems are to make sense to
one another.  The problems posed by the lack of cultural cues which
physical presence carries influence behaviour in virtual environments.
The solutions to these problems which participants devise constitute
the culture of the virtual world in which they are played out.  It is
the tension between the manifestation of conventional social and
cultural patterns, the invention of new patterns, and the imaginative
experience of these phenomena as taking part in a virtual world that
is the subject of my thesis.

My primary sources in this work fall into three categories.  Firstly,
I will quote from logs taken of sessions on MUDs.  Secondly, I will
quote from electronic mail, or email, sent to me by MUD players in
which they discuss such usage.  Lastly, I will be using articles from
the USENET newsgroups devoted to discussion of MUD and MUD playing.
These groups include alt.mud,,,,,, and  I have been monitoring
these groups since December 1991, during which time these groups have
seen an average traffic of approximately fifty articles each day.  In
all quoted extracts the original (sometimes very original) grammar and
spelling have been preserved, and in all cases I have secured
permission to quote from the individuals concerned.  In some cases I
have been asked to withhold identifying information, and where this is
the case I have indicated in the footnotes that the item of mail or
the news article is from "anonymous".  However, in most cases the
names of players and characters as well as the names of the MUDs
themselves have been preserved.  The most important exception is the
case of 'JennyMUSH', which is an alias.  For reasons that will be
made clear in the body of this thesis, the unique nature of this
system and the experiences of its users have led to a great concern
with the issue of privacy.  The administrator of the MUD has asked me
not to reveal any information that might identify the location of the
system, and has suggested 'JennyMUSH' as a pseudonym which retains
the flavour of its actual name.

This thesis will be divided into three chapters, preceded by a section
detailing the historical background to and context of the evolution of
MUD systems.  The subject of the first and second chapters is the
nature of the social changes that these forms of virtual reality
engender.  I will examine the impact of MUDs on the practices of
interpersonal communication and interaction, and on community
formation and social cohesion.  The third chapter will describe how
the nature of human existence is altered by entrance or translation
into virtual reality.  In this last chapter I will explore the nature
of social identity, sexuality and the body in the virtual environment.

[1]  William Gibson, _Neuromancer_ (London: Grafton Books, 1989) 67.
[2]  Nicholas Lavroff, _Virtual_Reality_Playhouse_ (Corte Madera CA:
     Waite Group Press, 1992) 7.
[3]  Michael, Benedikt, _Cyberspace:_First_Steps_ Cambridge,
     Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1991) 1.
[4]  Howard Rheingold, _Virtual_Reality_, (London: Mandarin, 1992) 46.
[5]  Pavel Curtis, "Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual
     Realities,"  _Intertek_ Vol. 3.3 (Winter, 1992) 26.
[6]  Curtis, 26.
[7]  Curtis, 26.

Background: A History of Interactive and Networked Computing
and the Evolution of MUDs

Personal computers are a relatively recent phenomenon.  It is only
within the last ten to twenty years that such machines have become
common in the work place, let alone the home.  The pre-history of
computing was largely the domain of educational, governmental or
commercial organisations which owned large mainframe computer systems.
These huge old systems were jealousy protected; computer time was
heavily booked and access available only to the privileged few.  These
computers of the past generation would hardly be recognisable to the
present generation of Mac and PC users.  The old beasts of the '50s
and '60s took up literally rooms of space.  Their computing power was
measured not in millions of instructions per second--MIPS--but in
hundreds of instructions.  The multiple megabytes of random access
memory we now take for granted in even the most humble of desktop
systems were then only a fantastic dream.  The greatest and most
costly super-computers of the sixties counted their memory in
kilobytes, hard and floppy disks were yet to be invented, monitors and
keyboards were only in the experimental stages, and most computers
received instructions and gave back results on long spools of punched
paper tape.

Still, archaic as these clumping monsters now appear to be, they were
the gleaming prize of their age.  Mathematicians, statisticians,
physicists, military engineers and government agencies all fought for
the funding to acquire one of these miraculous new machines.  They
also attracted the interest of a new breed of young inquiring minds.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the few
educational institutions to invest large sums in the new computing
technology, the members of the Tech Model Railroad Club switched their
interest from the construction of intricate train tracks to the
manipulation of complex computer circuits.[2]  Of course these young
students, most of them undergraduates, were not able to get direct
access to the new machines.  Instead they took to hanging around the
computer rooms at midnight and the small hours of the mornings,
begging computer time from the nightwatchmen on the few occasions when
these least attractive hours had not been booked by others.

Most of the computers of the time relied on punched paper both to
receive instructions and to communicate results.  This forced computer
programmers and users to divide the giving and receiving of data into
discrete blocks.  Instructions would be transcribed into the punched
code useable by the computer, the instructions would be acted on by
the computer and the results of its computations spat back on punched
tape.  These results would then have to be decoded before any further
work could be done.  MIT's academics--physicists and statisticians
and mathematicians--relied on and accepted this paradigm of computer
use.  Not so the members of the Tech Model Railroad Club.  Their
interest quickly centred on an experimental computer which the Digital
Equipment Corporation had loaned to the Institute.  This computer was
much less powerful than its hulking IBM cousins, and so was virtually
ignored by the academics to whom it had been lent.  It was adopted by
the TMRC students because it offered a new paradigm of computing.
DEC's Programmed Data Processor was among the first to incorporate a
screen and a keyboard.

The TMRC members had no complex scientific problems to solve.  Instead
they spent their time simply exploring the capabilities of the PDP
machine.  They programmed to demonstrate their skill in understanding
how the machine 'thought'.  Staying up all night, and functioning,
so the story goes, on a diet of coke and burgers, these young
'hackers' set out to colonise the unexplored territory of the
computer.  One of their most famous endeavours was the invention of
the first computer game.  By modern standards it was uncomplicated.  A
simple figure of a spaceship appeared on the screen, to be shot down
by the player.  At the time, however, it was a marvellous feat of
computer graphics, a miracle of programming.  Copies of  'Spacewar',
in punched paper form, were passed around to computer enthusiasts at
other institutions, and began a small revolution in computer use.[3]

The game of Spacewar depended on human/computer interactivity.  It
relied on the human user being able to monitor the computer's actions
and modify and correct for them while the machine was actually
operating.  The concept of human/computer interaction did not begin
with this invention of the computer game, but the game made a small
instance of this interactivity available to a rapidly expanding number
of computer users and demonstrated that such concepts could be
realised in a simple and 'user-friendly' fashion.  It brought new
programming ideas--new algorithms--to the computing world.  It also
changed the way that the academy thought about computers.  The leap
between the idea of computers as awesome inhabitants of super-cooled
rooms, tended by white-coated engineers, to the idea of the computer
as toy and expressive tool, was made when that first spaceship was
shot down.  Spacewar made tangible the idea of the computer as a
medium for human expression.

The computing expertise of the TMRC members soon came to the attention
of MIT's authorities.  Wishing to harness this obvious talent, MIT
gave the students legitimate access to the computers, and legitimate
work to perform on them.  One of the first jobs they were assigned was
to solve the problem of the costs involved in buying enough computers
to cater for the increasing numbers of people who wished to use them.
MIT was considering investing in a new form of operating system, known
as the Compatible Time-Sharing System, which would allow more than one
person to use a computer at once.  Instead, in a cost-saving move,
they set the TMRC students to designing their own multi-user operating
system.  The multi-user computer system relied on a different hardware
to the single user system.  If more than one were to be accommodated,
there needed to be more than one set of input and output devices
connected to the computer.  From each of these multiple terminals,
different users could share the same computer resources.  The system
that they designed, and named the Incompatible Timesharing System, was
one of the first of this new breed of operating system.  ITS and other
systems like it quickly supplanted the old single-user systems.
Today, the most popular multi-user operating systems are part of the
UNIX family, descendants of a system which Bell Laboratories began to
develop in 1969.

The multi-user paradigm quickly became popular, as its cost-
effectiveness became apparent, and was followed by the idea of the
computer network.  Programmers in the United States Department of
Defence built the first network.  In 1969 the DoD began work on a
'long-haul' network of computers at dispersed sites.  This project
was funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, a research arm of
the DoD.  The original purpose of the ARPANET project was to design a
system for use by military control and intelligence.  The network was
designed to enable authorities to communicate and weapons to be
controlled remotely in the event of a nuclear war.  The problem with
which the engineers who designed the system were faced was that during
a war any central control point would most likely be the target of
enemy missiles.  The solution was a network structure that had no
central point and which was designed from the beginning to withstand
physical attack.  Each node of the network could operate as a central
point, and there would be no 'right' way for a message to be
directed from one node to another.  Messages could follow any route,
and should one node be taken out of operation, messages would simply
skirt around it.  This rather haphazard delivery system would be
extremely resilient--even with large portions of the network knocked
out, information could still be transmitted.[5]

In 1969 ARPA set about installing the first node of the network at the
Los Angeles campus of the University of California.  Shortly afterward
nodes were installed at the Santa Barbara campus of the same
university, at the University of Utah, and at the Stanford Research
Institute.  Once the system was up and running, these universities
were given leave to use it for research purposes.  They jumped to do
so, planning to exploit the network's ability to give users of the
computers at each of these sites access to the resources held by all
three.  At the same time, DARPA encouraged other institutions to set
up their own network nodes, each of which could be commandeered in
time of war.  By 1972 thirty-seven universities and government
research organisations were on ARPANET, and as the network grew these
institutions began to demand autonomy from the military.  In 1983
ARPANET was divided into two networks, known as ARPANET (for research
use) and MILNET (for military use).  The ARPANET arm continued to
expand, with local area networks at various government, educational
and commercial sites being added to the system.  Other nations also
adopted the technology, and with the advent of satellite
communications, it became possible for all these computer networks to
be linked together as one super network.  This new international
entity became known as the Internet.

In its original design, ARPANET was intended to facilitate the use of
remote computers, and the transfer of computer programs and data
between remote computers.  As something of an afterthought, a tool for
interpersonal communication was provided--electronic mail.  By the
second year of operation, it became clear to ARPANET's designers
that, despite their expectations, most of the network's users were
not using it to share facilities but to share information.  File
transfers took up a much greater portion of network traffic than did
remote computing, and although it accounted for only a small amount of
network traffic, writing and reading electronic mail took up most of
the time which users spent on the network.  People were using the
network to collaborate on projects, to trade notes, and just to chat
and keep in touch.  Less than a year after ARPANET became operational,
the mailing list was invented.  This allowed people to send messages
to a single site, where a program would then forward that message on
to every person on a list, so facilitating communication between a
large group of people.  One of the earliest and most popular mailing
lists was named SF-LOVERS, and was used by science-fiction fans.

Since then, many more communications facilities have become available
on the network which ARPANET became: the Internet.  The most popular
of these is USENET, which came into being in 1979, the invention of
three students at the University of North Carolina who wanted to
design a better system for disseminating information between multiple
people than email and mailing lists provided.  USENET software enabled
people to read messages stored in a network distributed database of
messages divided by subject, and to add their own articles to the
database.  In its original incarnation, the USENET software was
designed to handle a few articles per day from each of a handful of
subject divisions, or, as they came to be known, 'newsgroups'.  In
the last fourteen years, USENET has come to encompass over two
thousand newsgroups, with many of those groups seeing several hundreds
of articles each day.  Today's USENET software relies on a
hierarchical arrangement of newsgroups.  The 'top-level' hierarchies
have such names as 'comp', 'talk' and 'rec' (the latter being
for recreational topics).  Beneath these blanket divisions are such
groups as comp.os.msdos, comp.os.unix,, sci.anthropology,
sci.electronics, rec.juggling and  Almost every
site on the Internet allows its users to access USENET, and the
articles that each user posts are very quickly sent on to other sites.
Where once it might have taken days for messages to be propagated, it
now takes only minutes.

Despite this speed of transmission, electronic mail, mailing lists and
USENET are nevertheless asynchronous methods of communication.
Messages are read and responded to in discrete blocks, in a
communicative paradigm similar to that on which the earliest computers
were based.  Early on in the Internet's life, a simple synchronous
method of communication was developed.  Variously known as 'phone'
or 'talk', this facility allowed a user to 'call' another user.
If that user decided to accept the call, the two users could type
directly to each other's screens, allowing a far faster and more
interactive form of communication than that allowed by email or
newsgroups.  'Talk' programs suggested a new way of figuring
computer-mediated communication.  Where asynchronous methods of CMC
such as email or USENET tend to rely on the idea of a computer as a
tool, as a means for communication, synchronous methods rely on the
idea of the computer as providing a space for communication.  The talk
program took the ideas begun by Spacewar further.  Talk presented
computers, and computer networks, not only as a medium for activity,
but as the site of it.  Synchronous forms of CMC began to bring the
cyberspace of the Internet into the realms of virtual reality.
Nominally, all datapaths can be called cyberspaces.  Telephone lines,
hard disks, fibre optic cables and satellite links are all parts of
the global cyberspace that is the Internet.  Where that cyberspace
becomes most tangible to the user, and where it becomes a form of
virtual reality, is where the users of those networks can
imaginatively enter into them.  It was this imagined entrance into
virtual space that was to be developed in MUDs.

The computer aficionados at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence
Laboratory of the early 1970s were well known for being fantasy fans.
Rooms in the AI Lab were named after locations described in J.R.R.
Tolkien's _Lord_of_the_Rings_, and the printer in the lab was rigged
so that it could print in three different Elven fonts.  It was one of
these fantasy fans who wrote the first virtual reality computer game.
Donald Woods, a veteran of MIT's Spacewar, discovered a quite
different kind of game being run on a computer at the Xerox
corporation's Palo Alto Research Centre.  The program depicted an
explorer seeking treasure in a network of caverns.  It was an entirely
text-based game.  There were no spaceships to be shot, no graphics at
all, just descriptions of localities and prompts asking players where
they wished to go or what they wanted to do next.  Woods was entranced
by the game.  He contacted the programmer, Will Crowther, talked to
him about it, and decided to expand Crowther's program into a more
complex adventure game.  What he wrote was ADVENT, more commonly
referred to as Adventure, in which a player assumed the role of a
traveller in a Tolkienesque setting, fighting off enemies, overcoming
obstacles through clever tricks, and eventually discovering treasure.

Adventure players were presented with text describing scenes such as
the following:

     You are standing at the end of a road before a
     small building.  Around you is a forest.  A small
     stream flows out of the building and down a
     gully.  There is a sword beneath a tree next to
     the stream.[8]

Simple commands, such as 'get sword', 'look tree' and 'go
north', allowed the player to navigate and interact with the
Adventure universe, with each input item eliciting a new description
of the player's environment or of the results of his or her actions.
Crowther and Woods were the inventors of the very first computerised
virtual reality game.  Crowther's caves, and Woods' more complex
fantasy world, were figured by players as places which they could
enter through the computer.[9]

Simple though it may seem, Adventure quickly became extremely popular,
and a host of similar games began to appear.  Copies of these games
spread through the international tendrils of the Internet, where they
can be found today, played by countless numbers of computer users.
The charm of the game lay in the illusion it gave players of being
inside the game universe.  It engaged the imagination in a way that no
game had done before.  Unlike the commercial computer games which were
then starting to be written, the game had no definite aim.  Players
were not called upon to solve specific problems, or defeat specific
enemies.  There were no Pacmen or spaceships, no laser weapons or
gobbling globs.  Instead players were free simply to explore the game
universe.  They could do whatever they liked.  Users could in their
imagination enter into the game universe, and do in it exactly what
they would do were the virtual reality an actuality.  Adventure
offered a form of escapism that no computer game previously had by
allowing the user to enter the game universe and plot the form the
game would take.

Adventure and its cousins did not run on computer networks.  They were
single player games.  However, at the same time as they were being
written, most US universities were, as I have described, joining the
ARPANET.  By the late 1970s most research institutions in the United
States had joined the ARPANET.  In 1977 the interests of networking,
interactivity, and virtual reality games met to produce the first
networked, multi-user game.  Mazewar, written by Jim Guyton, involved
the extremely simple scenario of multiple participants wandering
around a maze, trying to shoot one another--a kind of multi-
participant Spacewar.  Mazewar was soon followed by a more complex
multi-user game which owed its setting to that depicted in Adventure.
WIZARD featured a dungeon, and puzzles and monsters.  Players roamed
the WIZARD universe killing dragons and collecting gold.  Moreover,
they could do it in teams.  WIZARD introduced the concept of player
interaction beyond the level of aggression.  Players of WIZARD could
communicate with one another, and could share information and objects
they had accumulated in their exploration of the dungeon.  Teams of
players could collaborate on adventures which were often lifted
wholesale from the pages of pulp fantasy novels, if not from

In 1979 Alan Klietz, inspired by Adventure and WIZARD, began writing
E*M*P*I*R*E, which later came to be known as Scepter.  Klietz was
associated with the Minnesota Educational Computer Consortium, a group
which from 1976 to 1983 made use the of the new multi-user 'time-
sharing' computer operating systems to provide computer access to
schoolchildren.  One of the most popular programs on the system was
Adventure, and Klietz wrote Scepter as a multi-user alternative to
Adventure.  Scepter allowed players, as WIZARD had, to communicate,
and it also adopted that feature of Mazewar that was to become one of
the major features of this genre of game.  Scepter allowed players to
play against each other as well as with each other.  Player to player
combat introduced a new level of complexity into the game, which
quickly became so popular that Klietz set about writing a commercial
version, known as Screenplay, under the ownership of his employers,
Gambit Incorporated.

Scepter was the first game to depart from the fantasy genre that had
dominated previous games.  Alan Klietz's game universe featured
various themes including areas emulating the wild west, and science
fiction and detective stories, as well as the more familiar
Tolkienesque areas.  The latter remained popular, and the science
fiction areas quickly collected an avid group of fans.  To this day
the fantasy and science fiction genres dominate these games, just as
in the forms of Spacewar and Adventure they had inspired their birth.
Unfortunately, Klietz was eventually forced to abandon his work.  The
company that originally owned the rights to Screenplay, Gambit, was
subsumed into a larger company, Interplay.  Interplay later filed for
bankruptcy and its owner was sent to jail on eighteen counts including
tax evasion and running a false church out of his home.[10]
Screenplay left the market under a cloud.

The name 'MUD' first appeared in 1978 when Roy Trubshaw, then a
student at the University of Essex, England, wrote what he called a
Multi-User Dungeon.  The name itself was a tribute to an earlier
single-user Adventure-style game named DUNGEN.[11]  In 1979, Richard
Bartle joined Trubshaw in working on MUD.  MUD contained many of the
features which others, such as Alan Klietz, had developed
independently.  It was a networked multi-user game which allowed users
to communicate with one another, to cooperate on adventures together,
or to fight against each other.  In an early version of the game,
players were also given the option of extending the game world by
creating new objects and places within it.  However, in the end, the
option of user-extensibility was taken out, partly as a result of the
lack of computing resources available to run the game, and partly
because Bartle felt that the hodge-podge of items created by players
detracted from rather than enhanced the game.

The first MUD universe was a fantasy-style one that encouraged players
to compete with each other for points.  Player went on quests to kill
monsters or find treasure.  Killing monsters--or other players--was a
source of points, but more were to be gained by finding treasure and
bringing it back to a swamp located at a shifting point in the game
universe.  On throwing treasure into the swamp, players would be
rewarded with points which, once they had collected enough, would
enable them to gain new and greater powers.  Although this original
MUD game did not ever gain a high level of popularity, it nevertheless
has had great influence on those who were to develop later games.  The
number of people who played Bartle and Trubshaw's MUD was small, but
many of them went on to design the systems that are popular today.
The original MUD game can still be played.  Richard Bartle was asked
to design a version for the CompuServe computer facility, and that
version is still in existence.  Called British Legends, players
compete to collect enough points, by solving puzzles, killing monsters
and finding treasure, to become a 'Wizard', a title recognising the
player's mastery over the British Legends universe, and giving him or
her special powers within that universe.

Alan Cox was one of those who spent a lot of time playing the original
MUD game, and in 1987 he decided to design his own.  AberMUD, named
for the town of Aberystwyth in which Cox lived, has evolved through
numerous versions and is still played today.  Jim Aspnes of Carnegie-
Mellon University was another fan of Bartle and Trubshaw's MUD.  In
1989 he began work on TinyMUD, which was to introduce a whole new
flavour of game to the genre.  TinyMUD was designed to run on
computers running the UNIX operating system, and the growing
popularity of UNIX made possible the popularity of Aspnes' creation.
TinyMUD was the first of what were to come to be called 'social'
MUDs.  Aspnes deliberately set out to get away from the notion that
these games had to be played with the idea of gaining points, or
killing things--let alone that players should be given the option of
killing each other.  Instead of being given access to commands such as
'kill', TinyMUD players were encouraged to centre their play around
communication and world creation.  Although none of the features of
TinyMUD were new to the growing MUD genre, it was the first system to
combine them in a fashion that stressed cooperation and interaction
rather than competition and mastery.

>From 1990 onward the number of MUD programs in circulation increased
rapidly.  There are, among others, COOLMUDs, ColdMUDs, DikuMUDs, DUMs,
LP-MUDs, MAGEs, MOOs, MUCKs, MUSEs, MUSHes, TeenyMUDs, TinyMUDs,
UberMUDs, UnterMUDs, UriMUDs and YAMUDs (the latter being an acronym
for 'yet another MUD').  Each program offers its own technical
advantages and disadvantages, such as the amount of computer hard disk
space or memory needed to run the program.  The environments portrayed
on MUDs have become far more varied.  The Tolkienesque fantasy worlds
are still the most common, closely followed by science fiction worlds,
but MUD environments based on actual or historical places--such as
Moscow, the ante-bellum South, the Wild West, the prehistoric era, or
a medieval village--have appeared.  The meaning of the term 'MUD'
has changed to reflect this.  The original acronym 'Multi-User
Dungeon' has been joined by 'Multi-User Dimension' and 'Multi-User
Domain', and the term has come to refer not to the original program
written by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw but to the entire program
genre.[12]  Many of today's MUD systems are not games, but are being
used for academic purposes.  The first of these academic systems was
MediaMOO, run by Amy Bruckman of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, which provides a virtual meeting place for students and
academics working in the area of media and communications.  Several
more such systems have followed in MediaMOO's steps, including
PMCMOO, which serves literary and cultural theorists, and BioMOO,
which serves biologists.[13]  These systems use the virtual
environments created by MUD programs to collapse the distances between
academics from around the world, and to provide materials such as
course outlines, papers and conference information in an easily
accessed form.

Nevertheless, the majority of MUD systems run on the Internet are
intended to be used for social or entertainment purposes, and it is
these systems with which I am concerned.  These MUDs tend to fall into
one of two categories, commonly referred to by MUD players as
'adventure' and 'social' MUDs.  The first category--the adventure-
style MUDs--refers to MUD programs that descended directly from Bartle
and Trubshaw's MUD; the second--the social MUDs--refers to systems
that were inspired by TinyMUD.  Whether a particular MUD program
belongs in either category is dependant not purely on any technical
considerations of its programming or implementation, but on the style
of play which it encourages.

On adventure-style MUDs, such as those based on the LPMUD and DikuMUD
programs, there exists a strict hierarchy of privileges.  The person
with the most control over the system is the one running the MUD
program.  He, or she, has access to every computer file in the
program, and can modify any of them.  This person is commonly known as
the God of the MUD, and he or she has complete control over the
elements of the virtual world.  Gods may create or destroy virtual
areas and objects, and destroy or protect players' characters.  The
players, on the other hand, have very little control over the system.
They cannot cannot build new objects or areas, and have no power over
those that already exist.  They can only interact with the MUD
environment.  They can kill monsters, collect treasure and solve
puzzles, and communicate with one another.  By doing these things
players on adventure MUDs gain points, and once a player has a certain
number of points they gain certain privileges.  Once a player has
collected enough points he or she may be elevated to the rank of
Wizard.[14]  Wizards do not have the complete degree of control which
is available to the God of the MUD.  They cannot alter the MUD
software itself, but they do have the ability to create and control
objects and places within the MUD universe.

Social MUDs, many of which are based on the MUSH or MUCK software, are
not so evidently hierarchical.  Early versions of Bartle and
Trubshaw's MUD allowed players to add items and rooms to the game
database, an idea that was incorporated into the TinyMUD program.
This feature is common to all social MUDs.  While social MUDs have
Gods as do adventure MUDs, who control the actual software, and
Wizards who have privileged powers, these powers in the game universe
are not unique in kind but only in degree.  Players do not have to
fight to gain points and levels before they can build simple objects
and create new areas of the game universe.  Novice players on a social
MUD are able to do these things.  They do not have access to the
actual computer files of the game program, but they have access to a
library of commands that allow them to create and describe objects and
areas, and make them behave in certain ways in response to input from
other players.  The rank of Wizard is not dependant upon gaining
points, and elevation to this rank is at the discretion of the Gods.
Players of these MUDs are, as were the original players of TinyMUD,
encouraged to interact with and extend the virtual environment rather
than compete within it.

In this thesis I have chosen to concentrate on four MUDs representing
four different environments and the two different styles of MUD,
although I shall refer briefly to other systems.  These four MUDs are
known as LambdaMOO, FurryMUCK, Revenge of the End of the Line and
JennyMUSH.[15]  The first is a social-style MUD, set in a rambling
mansion.  The second, also a social MUD, involves players in a world
in which each individual adopts the persona of an anthropomorphised
animal.  Revenge of the End of the Line (or EOTL as its players refer
to it) is an adventure-style MUD, and JennyMUSH is a social MUD used
as a virtual support centre by survivors of sexual assault.  I have
chosen to concentrate on these MUDs because each lends itself to a
discussion of virtual reality from a different perspective.
LambdaMOO, which of the three most nearly attempts to recreate reality
inside virtuality--the core of the LambdaMOO mansion is a virtual
recreation of the God's actual home--provides an insight into changed
communicative and cultural practices.  EOTL, with its competitive and
hierarchical structures, shows the evolution of power and social
control in cyberspatial environments, as does a painful episode on
JennyMUSH.  FurryMUCK, with its emphasis on anthropomorphic characters
lends itself to an exploration of the fate of the human body and human
identity inside virtual realities.

[1]  The story presented in this chapter is based, unless otherwise
     noted, on information contained in Tracey L. Laquey, _The_User's_
     _Directory_of_Computer_Networks_ (Massachusetts: Digital Press,
     1990), Steven Levy, _Hackers:_Heroes_of_the_Computer_Revolution_
     (New York: Dell, 1984), and Timothy Trainor and Diane Krasnewich,
     _Computers!_ (New York: Mitchell, 1989), as well as on anecdotes
     related to me by some of the 'hackers' in the Computer Science
     Department and Electrical Engineering Faculty at Melbourne
     University.  This history is by no means perfect--many of my
     sources, and the memories of the people who lived through these
     times, contradict each other.  In writing this section I have
     tried to reconcile these differences and produce a narrative that
     accounts as far as possible for the differences amongst my
[2]  The Tech Model Railroad Club featured heavily in Levy,
     particularly in Chapter One.
[3]  The invention of Spacewar is detailed in Chapter Three of Levy.
[4]  This history of computer networking and the Internet is based on:
     Philip Leverton and Ross Millward, _Technical_note_82:_Using_
     _the_UNIX_ _Mail_System_ (Melbourne: Melbourne University
     Computing Services, 1989); a USENET article on the history of
     UNIX written by Pierre Lewis (Newsgroup: comp.unix.questions,
     Subject: A very brief look at Unix history, From: "Pierre (P.)
     Lewis" <[email protected]> Date: Fri Jan  8 14:56:22 EST 1993); "The
     Strange History of the Internet," an article by Bruce Sterling
     published in the _!mindgun_ 'zine produced by the Society for
     Digital Redistribution (originally published in the February 1993
     issue of _The_Magazine_of_Fantasy_and_Science_Fiction_); and
     information in the works by Laquey and Levy detailed above.
[5]  This paragraph is based on information contained in Sterling.
[6]  Information on the early development of USENET has been taken
     from articles by Gene Spafford and Brian Reid which are regularly
     posted to the USENET group news.answers.
[7]  My sources for this history include first-hand accounts related
     to me in electronic mail by Richard Bartle, Alan Klietz, Alan
     Cox, Jim Aspnes and Jim Finnis, information included in Levy
     (especially Chapters Three and Seven), user documentation
     included with the AberMUD, TinyMUD and LPMUD programs, and
     postings made to the Usenet newsgroup in response
     to a query from Amy Bruckman.
[8]  Levy, 141.
[9]  See Levy, 138-144 for more details on the invention of Adventure.
[10] This anecdote has been taken from a USENET article with the
     following headers: From: [email protected]
     (Albatross); Newsgroups:; Subject: Re: history: VMS
     Monster, Sceptre of Goth; Date: 23 Mar 92 22:01:55 GMT.
[11] The operating system under which DUNGEN ran only allowed
     filenames to be a maximum of six letters long, thus the
     particular spelling of the name.
[12] Some would insist that MUD has come to stand for Multi
     Undergraduate Destroyer, in recognition of the number of students
     who may have failed their classes due to too much time spent
[13] PMCMOO is an off-shoot of the electronic journal _Postmodern_
[14] The titles given to those who run and administrate the MUD vary
     from system to system. Since they are by far the most commonly
     used of all titles, I have chosen to use the term 'God' to refer
     to the person running the MUD program, and 'Wizard' to refer to
     those players who have been given administrative powers by the
[15] These MUDs may be connected to from any computer on the Internet
     by using the 'telnet' command or program.  The Internet address
     for LambdaMOO is (or and the
     port number is 8888.  The address for FurryMUCK is
     (, port number 8888.  Revenge of the End of the Line
     can be found at (, port 2010.
     JennyMUSH's administrator has asked me to withhold information on
     how to connect to that MUD.

For words to have a shared meaning they must be given a context.
Stripped of the historical, environmental and social contexts in which
they have evolved and in which they are used, words have little
meaning.  It is context that creates meaning and allows us to act.
The information on which we decide which aspects of our systems of
social conduct are appropriate to our circumstances lie in cultural
contexts rather than in the shape and sound of words alone.  In
interacting with other people, we rely on non-verbal information to
delineate a context for our own contributions.  "Being cultured,"
says Greg Dening, "we are experts in our semiotics... we read sign
and symbol [and] codify a thousand words in a gesture".[1]  We do
not need to be told that we are at a wedding, and should be quiet
during the ceremony, in order to enact the code of etiquette that our
culture reserves for such an occasion.  Words alone do not express or
define the full extent of our cultural and interpersonal play.  The
greater part of our interaction is expressed through signs and
symbols--in tone and nuance, in styles of dress and handwriting, in
postures and facial expressions, in appeals to rules and traditions.
The words themselves tell only half the story--it is their
presentation that completes the picture.

Human communication is never merely a matter of words, much less so is
human culture.  This is something that we all take for granted--yet
the virtual environments that are the subject of this study are a
product of words, of pure text.  Because of this, these virtual places
subvert many of our assumptions about the practice of interactive
communication.  MUD players are unable to rely on conventions of
gesture and nuances of tone to make sense of one another.
Nevertheless, despite the absence of these familiar channels of
interpersonal meaning, players do not fail to make sense of each
other.  On the contrary, MUD environments are extremely culturally
rich, and communication between MUD players is often highly
emotionally charged.  Although they cannot see, hear or touch one
another, MUD players have developed ways to convey shades of
expression that would usually be transmitted through these senses.
Their means of expression are severely limited by the technology on
which MUDs are based, but instead of allowing that to restrict the
content of their communication they have devised methods of
incorporating socio-emotional context cues into pure text.  They use
text, seemingly such a restrictive medium, to make up for what they
lack in physical presence.  On MUDs, social presence is divorced from
physical presence, a phenomenon that refutes many of the assumptions
that have in the past been made about the ideal richness of face-to-
face interaction.  On MUDs, text replaces gesture, and even becomes
gestural itself.

MUDs show none of the four distinctive features Kiesler, Siegel and
McGuire have described computer-mediated communication as having: an
absence of regulating feedback, dramaturgical weakness, few social
status cues and social anonymity.[2]  Despite being textually based,
MUDs are sites for social interaction and cultural meaning.  The
virtual worlds created with MUD software are dramaturgically and
socially rich, and MUD players have been able to devise means of
communicating social context cues through the textual medium.  The
subject of this first chapter is the methods which MUD systems and MUD
players use to provide themselves with a social context and a social

Each MUD system begins as a blank space.  It is nothing more than a
set of commands and possibilities.  A MUD program is, in essence, a
set of tools that can be used to create a socio-cultural environment.
It is this that sets MUDs apart from other textually based computer-
mediated communication tools.  The latter merely provide an interface
that separates what one person types from that of another, and so
allows a form of written conversation.  MUDs, by contrast, allow the
depiction of a physical environment which can be laden with cultural
and communicative meaning.  They allow imagination and creativity to
furnish the void of cyberspace with socially significant indicators.
It is this that makes a MUD system a form of virtual reality.  The
first step in the use of a MUD program is the creation of a MUD world
and the peopling of it.  Those setting up the program must act as
their titles suggest, as Gods and Wizards.  They must create the
universe--they must, to invoke a MUD command, '@create light.'

The basic MUD program, whether MUSH or LPMUD or any other variety,
consists of a number of tools and commands to be used to create a
database of textually described 'objects', as they are called.  The
objects created are symbolically linked--in both the technical and the
cultural sense--to create the textual illusion of a world.  Database
entries representing spaces are linked together such that one can be
accessed from the other by using a command such as 'out' or
'north'.  Entries representing things such as chairs or swords or
spaceships are placed within these virtual spaces, and given
properties that allow them to be manipulated by players.  Lastly,
entries representing the players themselves are set free to roam and
interact with these spaces and things, and often to create more of

Together, these three types of objects--places, things and people--
make up the context that the MUD community operates within.  As
Kiesler, Siegel, and McGuire have suggested, the chief problem faced
by electronic interlocutors is the "dramaturgical weakness of
electronic media".[3]  To compensate for this lack in the medium,
players must become actors and must provide their own scenery.
Imagination must take the place of physical reality, and must be
manifested in forms accessible to players on the system.  Each object
in the MUD universe--each person, each place, each thing--can be given
a description by its creator.  This description can be as simple or as
complex as the creator wishes, and can be viewed by every other player
by use of the 'look' command.  When a player connects to a MUD
through the computer network, he or she is immediately provided with a
textual manifestation of the MUD's virtual environment.  On
LambdaMOO, the player will seem to enter the coat closet in the
sprawling house which is at the core of the LambdaMOO world:

     The Coat Closet
          The closet is a dark, cramped space.  It
     appears to be very crowded 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.
          Don't forget to take a look at the
     newspaper.  Type 'news' to see it.
          Type '@tutorial' for an introduction to
     basic MOOing.  Please read and  understand 'help
     manners' before leaving The Coat Closet.

This coat closet is a remarkable place.  It may be small and cramped,
but it provides an initial point of reference in the LambdaMOO world
and it furnishes the newcomer with a host of information about the
cultural nature of the world he or she has entered.  Most if not all
MUDs are provided with such an anteroom.  It is often a cramped, dark
place, and rarely an open space containing a great many objects to
distract or disorient the newcomer.  Closets, cracks under bandstands,
teleportation rooms and hotel hallways--to suggest just a few of the
anterooms on a few of the MUDs I have visited--might not seem
especially inviting places in the actual world, but on textually
represented virtual worlds they provide a space in which players may
become accustomed to the virtual environment.  These spaces are
sparsely furnished; they do not overload the newcomer with
information.  At the same time they provide the reassurance of
others' virtual presence, most often in the form of sleeping bodies,
and they allow the player to take a virtual breath before stepping out
into the main area of the virtual landscape.  Most importantly, many
MUD anterooms contain pointers to helpful information and rules.
LambdaMOO novices are directed to a newspaper, which will tell them
about recent events on the MUD, a tutorial, which will tell them how
to interact with the virtual universe on a technical level, and some
advice on etiquette, which will tell them how they should interact
socially on LambdaMOO.

Once ready, LambdaMOO newcomers may decide to open the closet door and
venture into the greater part of the virtual world.  They will then
find themselves in the living room:

     The Living Room
          It is very bright, open, and airy here, with
     large plate-glass windows looking southward over
     the pool to the gardens beyond.  On the north
     wall, there is a rough stonework fireplace.  The
     east and west walls are almost completely covered
     with large, well-stocked bookcases.  An exit in
     the northwest corner leads to the kitchen and, in
     a more northerly direction, to the entrance hall.
     The door into the coat closet is at the north end
     of the east wall, and at the south end is a
     sliding glass door leading out onto a wooden
     deck.  There are two sets of couches, one
     clustered around the fireplace and one with a
     view out the windows.
          You see Cockatoo, README for New MOOers, a
     fireplace, a newspaper, Welcome Poster, LambdaMOO
     Takes A New Direction, The Daily Whale, a map of
     LambdaHouse, The Carpet, The Birthday Machine,
     lag meter, and Helpful Person Finder here.
          Guinevere, jane, MadHatter, Fred, Obvious,
     Alex, jean-luc, tureshta, Bullet_the_Blue,
     Daneel, KingSolomon, lena, Laurel, petrify,
     Ginger, and Groo are here.[4]

The importance of anterooms on MUDs becomes clearer in the light of
the quantity of information which entrance into more dynamic areas
elicits.  The LambdaMOO living room is a social and virtually physical
nexus.  From this point players of the system may enter an ever
increasing number of virtual places.  The main body of the living
room's description details the places that can be visited from that
room.  Having come this far, most novice players are provided with a
strong sense of physical context, which provides a sense of the
conceptual limitations and possibilities of the virtual world.
Physical context is a dimension of social context; place and time are
as much loaded with cultural meaning as are dress and gesture.
LambdaMOO provides the place, and makes it non-threatening and
comfortable.  With fireplaces and couches, books, sunlight, fresh air
and pool-side views, the LambdaMOO house is definitely a desirable
residence.  It is a place to relax and chat, and that is exactly what
people do in it.

Along with virtually physical centrality, the living room provides
social centrality.  It is the main meeting place for LambdaMOO
inhabitants.  It is quite likely the first port of call for newcomers
seeking to find a social niche in the virtual setting.  From
LambdaMOO's beginning, the living room was presented in such a way as
to offer a sense of social orientation to newcomers.  Fixtures in the
room included a simple map of the main areas of the ever-growing
LambdaHouse, a welcome poster and a device enabling the newcomer to
get in touch with players designated as 'Helpful People' willing to
answer questions and provide aid to the confused.  As LambdaMOO has
evolved, its denizens have added to this list of fixtures.  The more
popular additions have included a device for registering one's
birthdate and finding out the birthdates of other players, as well as
the LambdaMOO newspapers, which are commonly filled with social notes,
gossip, announcements and opinions.  All of these objects, and the
functions they perform, create LambdaMOO as a space held together by
interpersonal sociality.  Birthdays are remembered and commemorated.
Help is easy to find, and clearly advertised.  All newcomers are
offered a welcome, and the day-to-day social lives of LambdaMOO
denizens are reported and commented upon.

I have been unable to find a MUD that does not provide the player with
both an anteroom and a central social nexus point, each room
containing information about the physical and social context of the
MUD.  The nature of that context differs widely between MUDs.  Some,
such as LambdaMOO, give an impression of warmth and friendliness.
Others might be competitive and dangerous, or might offer and
adventure and challenge.  The information transmitted differs, but not
the method of transmission.  MUDs create their own context out of
words.  The cues normally associated with sight and sound and touch
are provided through description.  The information with which
newcomers are met allows them imaginatively to place themselves within
the virtual world, and encourages them to treat these textual cues as
if they were real.  This information provides a common basis for
interaction between players.

The MUD system provides players with a stage, but it does not provide
them with a script.  Players choose their own actions within the
context created by the MUD universe.  They are not technically
dictated to by the MUD, but are instead given tools which enable them
to act and speak virtually.  Interaction on social-style MUDs such as
LambdaMOO is carried out through the use of five commands known as
'say', 'pose', 'whisper', 'page' and 'page-pose'.[5]  Each
of these commands allows communicative information to be channelled in
different ways.  The 'say', 'pose' and 'whisper' commands are
used between players in the same virtual space.  If a player in the
living room, who might be called Fred, types 'say Hi there!' then
all the players in the living room will see that:

     Fred says, "Hi there!"

If Fred then types, 'pose grins amiably' then all those in the room
will see:

     Fred grins amiably.

The pose command can also be used to mix actions and utterances
together.[6]  If Fred were to type, 'pose hugs Ginger warmly and
says, "It's great to see you again!" ' those in the living room,
including a character named Ginger, would see:

     Fred hugs Ginger warmly and says, "It's great to
     see you again!"

If, however, Fred wished to communicate only with Ginger, he might
choose to use the whisper command.  Typing 'whisper Hi there! to
Ginger' will cause Ginger, and only Ginger, to receive the following:

     Fred whispers, "Hi there!" to you.

Even if Ginger were not in the same virtual room as Fred, he could
still communicate with her.  The page and page-pose commands allow the
same function as do say and pose but allow messages or virtual actions
to be sent to players in other virtual rooms.  The results of these
commands appear this way:

     Fred pages, "Hi there!" to you.


     In a page-pose to you, Fred grins amiably.

Described baldly, this suite of commands seems simplistic.  They are,
however, the tools with which social presence is formed on MUDs and
through which social interaction is made possible.  They may be
simple, but they are immensely flexible.  Players can say, whisper or
page whatever they choose to, and may pose or page-pose any action
they wish to take.  There is no technical limit to what can be
expressed, although as I shall describe later, conventions have arisen
on MUDs which delimit the acceptability of various kinds and subjects
of communication.

By contrast, players of adventure style MUDs, while having access to
commands such as whisper and page, are able to emote only in tightly
controlled circumstances.  The actions taken by players on adventure
MUDs form part of a never-ending narrative, a story in which enemies
are killed, and treasure and power are won.  Actions are taken not
only within a social context but within the context of the MUD's
narrative.  To allow players to pose such lines as 'Ginger wields a
sword of Ultimate Destruction,' or, 'Fred gives you 1000 gold
coins,' would destroy the integrity of that narrative.  It is only in
special places in the MUD world, commonly known as 'emote rooms',
that players of adventure systems are able to use emote commands;
elsewhere they are given access to a suite of commands that enable
specific actions.  Thus, for instance, on Revenge of the End of the
Line, if Fred were to type 'french Ginger', Ginger would see:

     Fred gives you a deep and passionate kiss...
     It seems to take forever...

Adventure MUD systems commonly provide players with several hundreds
of these commands, typically divided into verb and adverb categories.
By combining words from each category players are able to express
actions and feelings, an exercise that demands skill and memory.
Though less versatile than the free poses allowed players of social
MUDs, verb and adverb commands are heavily used.  Thomas Gerstner, who
is associated with an adventure-style MUD named 'Nemesis', recently
circulated the results of a tally showing how many times each command
was used.  Over a period of 250 days, and with an average of twenty
players connected at all times, players on Nemesis invoked a
'feeling' command every thirty seconds.  The most popular commands

     smile   89089      bow    50138      shake  46312
     greet   46152      grin   46046      nod    42385
     laugh   34063      wave   30875      giggle 20145
     sigh    19222      hug    19220      wait   13550
     kiss    12212      shrug  10849      kick    9504
     poke     9307      chuckle 7401      french  6773

     happily      5057   demonically 3763   evilly   3662
     sadly        2027   smilingly   1864   deeply   1458
     passionately 1143   knowingly   1119   insanely 1096
     erotically    950   inanely      926   warmly    905
     loudly        891   friendly     834   lovingly  797[7]

As can be seen, the vast majority of the virtual actions taken are
those which might be expected to invoke and sustain social meaning
between players.  The average Nemesis player smiles at his or her
fellows eighteen times a day, and hugs them four times a day.  These
commands steer players toward the creation of social contexts and the
formation of social networks.  The actions which players may take, and
the emotions they may express, are delimited by the commands available
to them; yet at the same time these commands suggest to players the
emotional and social possibilities open to them.

It is tempting to draw parallels between MUDs and novels or plays.
The results of the pose, say and feeling commands cause interaction
between players to resemble these literary forms superficially, and
the social dimension of MUDs can be viewed as a multi-authored
interactive text.  However, despite this possibility, MUD sessions do
not truly resemble scripts or books.  The language is simply not the
same.  It is more dynamic and less carefully constructed.  Interaction
on a MUD is, after all, interactive, synchronous and ephemeral.
Although sessions may be recorded using computer programs designed for
the purpose, MUD interaction is not designed for an audience
uninvolved in it.  This interaction is not enacted to be read as an
artefact, but to be experienced subjectively.  It is not a text but a
context.  Virtual interaction loses emotional and social meaning when
transposed to a computer file and re-read.  The pauses, breaks,
disjunctions, speed and timing of virtual conversations are lost in
such transposition, and such factors are a crucial signifier of
meaning and context on MUDs.

Language on MUDs is not merely a hybrid between written and spoken
language, though it contains elements of both.  The language used by
MUD players contains of its own conventions and textual gestures.  It
rarely allows any tense but the present, with all actions and feelings
crammed into that one highly charged tense.  The present tense allows
presence and dynamism.  Each moment on a MUD is a matter of existent
experience, not recollection.  It is immediate, and in it have evolved
grammatical forms that stress this immediacy.  The most common of
these forms is known as 'verbverbing'.  This practice is widespread,
and is used on all MUDs in which it is possible to do so.[8]  It
simply involves the double repetition of actions:

     Fred hughugs Ginger.
     Ginger nodnods to Laurence.
     Laurence gringrins at Vivien.

In this instance, the linguistic practices found on MUD metaphorically
mimic social practices.  The tense repetitive action is analogous to
the twitching of muscle tissue.  In actuality, one does not merely
grin or hug or nod in one single fluid motion.  Each action is a
compound of many contractions and relaxations of muscles, and
movements of limbs.  'Nodnod' is a textual form that comes far
closer to the actual act of nodding than does the simple word 'nod'.
It is an immediate form of the participle 'nodding'.  It is a
continuing verb, a representation of an action which overlaps more
than one point in time.

MUD language does not employ the same degrees of respect for textual
conventions as do other forms of written language.  MUD players have
at their command a keyboard that allows them to employ a finite set of
characters--the alphabet, numbers, punctuation signs, and symbols such
as % and &.  Written language ascribes various rules to the use of
these characters, and assigns each character a certain place and
meaning.  Ampersands, percentage signs and exclamation marks all have
their assigned tasks in written texts.  Capitalised and lower case
letters are called into action in various well-known circumstances.
Few written texts break with these conventions.  Most writers begin
sentences with capital letters, end questions with question marks and
use percentage and hash signs only when referring to numbers.  MUD
players, in common with users of other computer-mediated communication
systems, do not hold with these conventions.  For them, the standard
symbols and signs available on a computer keyboard are tools to be
called into uses far removed from those known to traditional
grammarians.  Commonly known as 'smileys' or 'emoticons', MUD
players employ alphanumeric characters and punctuation symbols to
create strings of highly emotively charged keyboard art:[9]

     :-) or :)     a smiling face
     ;-) or ;)     a winking, smiling face
     :-( or :(     unhappy face, or 'unsmiley'
     :-(*)         someone about to throw up
     8-)           someone wearing glasses
     :-P           someone sticking out their tongue
     >:-O          someone screaming in fright, their
                   hair standing on end
     :-&           someone whose lips are sealed
     *!#*!^*&:-)   a schizophrenic!

'Smileys', or 'emoticons' are pictographs made up of keyboard
symbols.  They are at once extremely simple and highly complex.  They
provide a form of shorthand for the depiction of physical condition.
In a few keystrokes, MUD players can provide their fellows with a far
more graphic and dynamic--though perhaps not as finely shaded--
depiction of their feelings and actions than a textual description
could have furnished.  Emoticons are legion on MUDs.  Although the
most commonly used is the plain smiling face--used to denote pleasure
or amusement, or to soften a sarcastic comment--MUD players
continually develop their own emoticons, adapting the symbols
available on the standard keyboard to create minute and essentially
ephemeral pieces of textual art to represent their own virtual actions
and responses.  This method of presenting textual characters as
representations of physical action can be confusing to the
uninitiated.  Interpreting them demands not only familiarity but skill
and imagination.  Many emoticons are easy to interpret with a little
practice.  Others are more obscure, but at the same time all the more
evocative and affective once their obscurity has been explained.  The
'schizophrenic' smiley, while seeming a jumbled mess to the
uninitiated, offers both humour and meaning to those in the know.

On MUDs non-verbal cues are not apparent.  Words are all that are
available to players, and they must compress the richness of meaning
that we rely on to supplement and make a context for words into words
themselves.  Language on MUDs serves not only as a vehicle for
communication but as the context for that communication.  There are no
external referents in the game world--nothing to be seen or heard or
touched.  All there is are words, which serve both to define and
represent the simulated environment.  Language use on MUDs is used and
developed so that words can become their own referents and form their
own context without immediate external support.  MUD culture is one
which relies on the languages used by the wider community, but is not
restricted to those languages--players on MUD systems have developed
their own ways of using words to express what we normally do not
demand that language express.

"Culture," suggest Van Maanen and Barley, "can be understood as
a set of solutions devised by a group of people to meet specific
problems posed by situations they face in common."[10]  In this
sense culture consists of a set of behaviours and rules which give a
shared significance to common experiences and problems.  Players of
MUD systems are commonly faced by the problems inherent in the
medium's reduction to pure text, and its annihilation of conventional
models of social interaction based on physical proximity.  The
measures which players of MUD systems have devised to meet their
common problems are the markers of their common culture.  They have
devised systems of symbolism and textual significance which enable
them to achieve understanding despite the absence of conventional
social context cues.  With these tools MUD players are able to read
between the lines of text which make up their virtual world, a skill
that is all the more challenging and all the more crucial in such an
environment.  This shared ability allows me to think of the players of
a MUD as sharing a common culture, and this common culture allows MUD
players to engage in activities that serve to bind them together as a

Just as building and describing commands allow players to create a
physical context to act within, commands for communication allow
players to create a social context.  The pose and feeling commands in
particular offer players a medium through which to substitute for the
non-verbal cues that we take for granted in everyday life.  By using
them players may shrug, laugh, smile demonically, frown in anger, and
offer hugs and kisses.  By using each of these commands MUD players
are able to string a web of communication which ties each player to a
social and virtually physical context, a shared web of verbal and
textual significances that are substitutes for, and yet distinct from,
the shared networks of meaning of the wider community.  This unique
method of communicating is the set of solutions devised by MUD players
to meet the specific problems that they face, and which bind them into
a common culture.

If all computer-mediated communication systems can be said to have one
single unifying effect upon human behaviour it is that usage tends to
cause the user to become less inhibited.  Although they often disagree
on the effects of such lack of inhibition, researchers of human
behaviour on these systems have often noted that players tend to
behave more freely than they would in face-to-face encounters.
Sproull and Kiesler describe computer-mediated behaviour as
"relatively uninhibited and nonconforming."[11]  Kiesler, Siegel
and McGuire have observed that "people in computer-mediated groups
were more uninhibited than they were in face-to-face groups."[12]
The forms that this disinhibition takes differ from one researcher's
experience to that of the next.  Some have seen an increase in
examples of aggressive and disrespectful behaviour; others have noted
increases in friendliness and intimacy.  Behaviour on MUDs conforms to
these observations.  Players do seem to be less inhibited by
conventions seen in everyday life.  They can be seen to be both more
intimate and more hostile with each other than would be socially
acceptable in everyday life, particularly when considering that
hostility or intimacy may be shown among players who are strangers to
one another.

However, being disinhibited is not the same as being uninhibited.  MUD
players experience a lowering of social inhibitions; they do not
experience the annihilation of them.  The social environments found on
MUDs are not chaotic, or even anarchic.  There is indeed no moment on
a MUD in which players are not enmeshed within a web of social rules
and expectations.  Descriptions, communicative commands and
specialised language and textual forms enable the social
understandings which link people together and allow the evolution and
transmission of social norms.  Such norms have arisen on MUDs, and as
I will show in Chapter Two, so have social structures and methods of
social control.  However, these webs of meaning and control are not as
immediately apparent on MUDs as they might be in actual life.
Substitutes for the contexts and atmospheres that we rely on to
regulate and define our behaviour may have been developed on MUDs, but
it takes time for players to learn to recognise and to adopt these
substitutes.  Consequently, in the initial stages of play, the virtual
environment may seem to be a place where etiquette has been replaced
by chaos, and some players do seem to assume that within the confines
of the MUD anything goes.  This initial tendency toward uninhibited
behaviour has influenced the conventions that have developed on MUDs.
It has resulted in behaviours which although not chaotic, do differ
from the conventions we live with in actual life, and they may be
described as disinhibited.  Out of this have arisen a set of social
behaviours in which it may be acceptable to talk to strangers, but not
one in which the patterns of that talk are not subject to linguistic
and cultural influences.

The nature of the MUD program itself encourages disinhibition.  The
behavioural influence of the virtual environment is not simply
permissive; it encourages.  Crucial to the fostering of disinhibition
is the fact that MUD players are essentially anonymous.  They need not
be known to others by their real, legal names.  They may instead
choose to be known by any variety of name or nickname.  Many choose to
use conventional first names; many others adopt far more evocative and
inventive pseudonyms.  Let's return to the description of the
LambdaMOO living room which was quoted earlier.  At the end of the
description, a list of players situated in that room was given:

          Guinevere, jane, MadHatter, Fred, Obvious,
     Alex, jean-luc, tureshta, Bullet_the_Blue,
     Daneel, KingSolomon, lena, Laurel, petrify,
     Ginger, and Groo are here.

The information which one player can gain about others on a MUD
consists of the names by which they choose to be known and the ways in
which they choose to describe themselves.  All that can be known about
a player is what he or she chooses to disclose, and every item of
information is subject to change.[13]

The immediate effect of this pseudonymity is to provide players with a
feeling of safety.  Protected by computer terminals and separated by
distances of often thousands of kilometres, players are aware that the
likelihood of any of their fellows being able to affect their 'real
lives' is minimal.  There is little chance of a virtual action being
met with an actual response.  No one can be embarrassed or exposed or
laughed at or hurt in their day-to-day lives.  There are no sticks or
stones to contend with, and although words may hurt, players can
always resort to the off-switch on their computer.  This feeling of
safety holds true for players of many Internet services.  The mere
fact of distance offers protection; pseudonymity strengthens this to
make MUDs seem one of the safest possible social environments.  This
sense of safety enables MUD players to express greater intimacy toward
each other than might be acceptable in everyday life.

Curtis has described increased intimacy on MUDs as a variety of
'shipboard syndrome,' the result of apparent proximity and the
feeling that interlocutors may never meet in everyday life.[14]  Since
they have little opportunity to interfere with each other's everyday
lives the demands of social self-preservation need not inhibit them.
MUDs are a world unto themselves, and virtual ships that pass in the
virtual night feel little need to anchor themselves in emotional
responsibility--at least initially.  Moreover, the MUD community
depends on a richness of communication and the creation of social
context.  The system itself encourages MUD players to become intimate-
-or at least to play at intimacy.  MUD systems, like any other, abhor
a vacuum, and a vacuum on a MUD is seen in a lack of textual
exchanges.  The MUD universe functions only while players are willing
to elicit text from the program and from each other, and are willing
to volunteer their own contributions.  Communication is necessary to
the existence of the MUD and successful MUDs are likely to see a great
deal of communication between players, which can then form a basis for
familiarity and intimacy.  Players on MUDs are likely to be disposed
to feel that intimacy with fellow players is a harmless activity, and
so be willing to take advantage of those aspects of MUDs that
encourage intimacy.

The tendency toward increased intimacy which can be seen on MUDs
facilitates the formation of strong personal attachments.  Hiltz and
Turoff have noted that some participants in computer-mediated
communication systems "come to feel that their very best and closest
friends are members of their electronic group, whom they seldom or
never see."[15]  That this can become so depends on the degree to
which players are willing to suspend the usual rules of social self-
preservation, and open up to each other.  By assuming that the dangers
associated with intimacy--the possibility of hurt and embarrassment--
can be avoided on MUDs, players can allow themselves to become very
close to one another.  The safety of MUD friendships increases their
worth, and players can, ironically, become extremely dependant upon
such relationships.  The lack of factors inhibiting intimacy, and the
presence of factors encouraging it, can induce deep feelings of
attachment in players toward their virtual friends:

     I don't care how much people say they are, muds
     are not just games, they are *real*!!!
     My mud friends are my best friends, their the
     people who like me most in the entire world.
     Maybe the only people who do...
     They are my family, they are not just some dumb

Some of these virtual friendships go beyond the platonic.  MUD
romances are a well established institution, held together by a number
of tools and rituals.  MUD lovers use the commands with which the MUD
system provides them to transform the virtual stage into a set
designed to express and uphold their feelings for one another.  On
social MUDs, the most common action taken by such partners is to set
up virtual house together.  They quite literally create a home, using
the MUD program to arrange textual information in a way that simulates
a physical structure which they can then share and invite others to
share.  Tokens are often exchanged, virtual representations of flowers
and rings being attached to a player's virtual manifestation through
the manipulation of the textual description of the character.  More
technically gifted players may create objects, which other players can
interact with, that textually mimic the behaviour of pets and
children.  These relationships may even be virtually consummated
through 'tinysex', a form of co-written interactive erotica.[17]

Such relationships can be taken quite seriously by those who engage in
them.  The prevalence of the virtual wedding attests both to the
extent to which players attempt to recreate the trappings of actual
romances in their virtual interactions, and to the ways in which the
entire community of players on a MUD serve to act as witness for such
attachments.  MUD weddings are simple in conception.  The virtual
bride and groom are usually married by another player who virtually
reads, and actually types, the wedding ceremony.  Textual descriptions
of rings, or other tokens, are exchanged along with the vows.  The
wedding is usually attended by a number of fellow players, whose
participation in the event strengthens its imaginative reality in the
shared minds of the MUD community.  The forthcoming nuptials are often
publicised in the communications media, such as newspapers, which are
internal to the MUD.  Some MUD systems, such as the Revenge of the End
of the Line, have added technical support for their players'
emotional attachments:

     For those loving couples who wish to discover the
     joys of matrimony, the command to get married is
     "marry <person>".  BOTH parties must do the
     command.  We don't believe in shotgun weddings or
     polygamy here (tho same-gender marriages are fine
     with us).
     To get a list of all the lucky couples who got
     married on EotL, simply type "mlist"; or, if you
     prefer to view only a certain range within the
     list, type "mlist <number> <number>".
     If you wish to find out the marital status of a
     particular player, use "mquery <name>".
     For married persons who have lost their rings (in
     combat or any other way), they can get a new ring
     with the "replace" command.

These relationships should not be thought of as emotionally
impoverished.  It may be only virtual actions that are being played
out, but real emotions can be involved.  In some cases the MUD romance
may develop into a real life relationship, and actual marriages have
been formed out of those on MUDs:

     I met Mark, who I'm now married to, on a MUD.
     When I first met him I was living on the West
     coast [of the United States] and he was on the
     East Coast.  I was really new to MUDs, really
     clueless, and he gave me a lot of help.  He was
     teaching me how to build stuff, and he let me
     start building off of this castle he'd built. We
     spent a lot of time chatting and we got closer
     and closer.  It was really good--I could tell him
     anything and he was really supportive.  We ended
     up building this castle together and everyone on
     the MUD treated us like a couple.  I could tell
     that he was interested in me, and at first I was
     reluctant to get involved but he was so nice and
     he said that he really loved me and in the end we
     had this MUD marriage.  It was so beautiful--i ]
     burst into tears in real life half way through
     it! After a few months I had the chance to visit
     the East coast, and we met while I was there.  He
     was different from what I'd expected, mostly in
     the way he looked, but we really got along well,
     and I decided that I really did love him.  He
     ended up getting a transfer to near where I lived
     and we got married last year.[18]

Whether or not an individual romance is carried over into everyday
life, it is important to appreciate that many MUD lovers do not feel
that their relationships are shallow or inconsequential.  They can be
very important to those involved in them, and much effort can be
expended in creating an environment that reflects the feelings of the
players.  The castle built by the two players described above acted as
a virtually physical affirmation of their emotions.  Far from being
unsatisfactory for "'more interpersonally involving communication
tasks, such as getting to know someone", as Hiemstra describes some
researchers of computer-mediated communication as having characterised
the medium, MUD systems are the stage for strong emotional bonds, both
romantic and platonic.[19]

Romances and deep friendships display MUD relationships at their most
idyllic, but the lowering of inhibition seen on MUDs has another side.
The disinhibiting effects of relative anonymity and physical safety in
the virtual environment can encourage the enactment of aggressive and
abusive behaviours, and, as I will describe in the following chapter,
it is at this point that overt forms of social control which have
developed on MUDs come into play.  The seeming safety of MUDs can lead
some players to use them as a forum for the expression of hostility.
MUD systems can "reduce self-consciousness and promote intimacy"
but they can also lead players to feel free to express anger and
hatred.[20]  This can take the form of 'flaming', a phenomenon of
computer-mediated communication which has been characterised as the
gratuitous and uninhibited expression of "remarks containing
swearing, insults, name calling, and hostile comments."[21]  The
anonymity of the player behind the pseudonymous character makes the
possibility of everyday punishments appear to be limited.  The safety
of the medium causes the sanction of physical violence to appear
irrelevant to virtual actions, although, as I shall discuss further
on, social sanctions are present and often in a textual form that apes
physical violence.  Nevertheless, the safety of anonymous expression
of hostilities and obscenities that would otherwise incur social
sanctions encourages some people to use MUDs as a forum for airing
their resentment of individuals or groups in a blatantly uninhibited

In some cases harassment of individual players occurs.  A harassed
individual may face repeated messages from the harasser, and be the
object of derogatory descriptions written into objects created purely
for that purpose--the virtually physical context can be made to
reflect an individual's feelings of hostility as easily as those of
intimacy and affection.  These electronic monuments to hate can be as
upsetting and hurtful to players as the more positive relationships
can be sources of support and happiness.  Although insults relayed
over MUDs may be brushed off just as they may be in actual life, MUDs
also provide unique opportunities for personal attacks.

The most striking example of virtual violence that I have come across
took place on JennyMUSH.  JennyMUSH is a virtual help centre for
people who have experienced sexual assault or abuse.  Users of this
MUSH share a strong bond in their common trauma, and for many of them
the MUSH provides their only source of community support.  At its
happiest, JennyMUSH offers a tremendous example of how MUD programs
can be used as valuable social tools.  The system was designed with
this aim in mind.  The chief administrator, or God, of the MUSH is a
psychology student whose field of interest is the treatment of
survivors of assault and abuse, and the university that she attends
fully supports the JennyMUSH project.  This official support ensures
some degree of security for users of the system, who can be sure that
the MUSH will remain in stable existence.

Nevertheless, official support cannot ensure safety from the less
positive aspects of the virtual environment.  A single user of
JennyMUSH was able to subvert the delicate social balance of the
system by using both technical and social means to enact anonymously
what amounted to virtual rape.  Two weeks after being assigned a
character, a user of the system used the MUD's commands to transform
him or herself into a virtual manifestation of every other user's
fears.  This user changed 'her' initial virtual gender to male,
'his' virtual name to 'Daddy', and then used the special 'shout'
command to send messages to every other user connected to the MUD.[22]
He described virtual assaults in graphic and violent terms.  At the
time at which this began, none of the MUD's administrators, or
Wizards, were connected to the system, a fact that may well have been
taken into account by the user.  For almost half an hour, the user
continued to send obscene messages to others.  During that time, some
of his victims logged out of the system, taking the simplest course to
nullify the attack.  Those who remained transported their virtual
personas to the same locale as that of their attacker.  Many pleaded
with him to stop, many threatened him, but they were powerless to
prevent his attacks.

At the end of that half hour, one of the Wizards connected to the
system.  He found twelve users connected to the system, all
congregated in one place.  On transporting himself to that place, he
found eleven of those users being obscenely taunted by the twelfth.
Quickly realising what was going on, the Wizard took a kind of
vengeance upon the erring player that is only possible in virtual
reality.  He took control of the player's virtual manifestation, took
away from him the ability to communicate, changed his name to
'Vermin' and changed his description to the following:

     This is the lowest scum, the most pathetic dismal
     object which a human being can become.

What had preceded had been painful and ugly--what ensued has been
described to me as "virtual carnage".  The eleven users who had
been victimised by this now impotent one turned upon him and took
dreadful virtual revenge.  They described all the most violent
punishments they would like to enact on this and all other attackers,
emoting--in both senses of the word--all the hatred and rage which
JennyMUSH had been established to help people deal with.

Since this incident, if such a mild word can be used to describe it,
many things have changed on JennyMUSH.  The system has become far more
security conscious.  The 'shout' command, which enabled 'Daddy' to
send messages to all players connected to the system, is no longer
available to users.  The information displayed to all users on
connecting to the system now includes directions on how to avoid
unwanted messages by preventing the MUSH system from relaying messages
from a particular user, a facility known as 'gagging'.  New users
must now be vouched for by at least two established users before they
will be given a character, and all users must provide the
administrator of the MUSH with a valid electronic mail address as well
as their actual legal name.

What happened on JennyMUSH could happen on any MUD system, and
probably has happened on many.[23]  The particular purpose for which
JennyMUSH was constructed may have meant that the incident was all the
more traumatic for its users, but the same degree of hurt resulting
from virtual actions could be brought about on any system.
JennyMUSH's experience starkly demonstrates the degree to which users
can feel as though they are free to act on feelings and to act in ways
which mainstream society hopes to suppress.  The cruelty and
callousness shown by this abusive user were expressed in a unique form
in this virtual environment--he was able to project onto both the
virtual environment and the virtual manifestations of other players a
kind of violence that may have been all the more distressing for its
lack of physicality, and attendant impossibility of fighting back.  He
was able to shape reality into the forms he wished, and transform it
into a reflection of his own cruel intentions.[24]

The kinds of action taken by the other users, and by the Wizards and
God of JennyMUSH, use this same ability to reshape reality, this time
into forms that create and reinforce social rules and structures.  The
final lesson to be learnt from this episode, one which will be pursued
in the next chapter, was described by JennyMUSH's administrator as

     We spent so much time trying to make JennyMUSH a
     place where people could feel free to speak out--
     we provided anonymity and very few restrictions.
     Sadly, we didn't foresee the negative aspects
     such encouragement could have.  In the end we
     discovered that we could not base our little
     virtual society on "freedom to"--we had to balance
     it with "freedom from" and that meant the
     formation and enforcement of rules and a strict
     hierarchy of privileges.[25]

[1]  Greg Dening, _The_Bounty:_An_Ethnographic_History_ (Melbourne:
     Melbourne University Press, 1988) 102.
[2]  Sara Kiesler, Jane Siegel, and Timothy W. Mcguire, "Social
     psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication,"
     _American_ _Psychologist_ Vol. 39 No. 10 (October 1984): 1125.
[3]  Kiesler et al, 1125.
[4]  This list of player names was generated by asking a group of
     people who happened to be logged on to LambdaMOO on 5th November
     1993 to volunteer some names which they had used on a MUD.
[5]  Some systems offer further commands on top of those I have
     listed, and the results of those which I have described may
     differ from system to system.  I have chosen to describe the five
     most common commands in their most common formats.
[6]  The pose command, also known as the emote or act command, seem to
     have been invented independently by the players and developers of
     several different MUD programs. SHADE, an early variation on
     Bartle and Trubshaw's MUD, was probably the first game to
     this command. Jim Finnis wrote a pose command for AberMUD in
     1987, and Jim Aspnes implemented for TinyMUD a variety of pose
     that his players had thought up in 1989.  That several groups of
     MUD players and developers each invented a pose-style command
     says a great deal for the importance of such a means of
     expression in these virtual worlds.  More details can be found in
     Appendix 4.
[7]  From: [email protected]; Newsgroups:; Subject: Verbs and adverbs top list; Date:
     Sat, 6 Nov 1993 13:42:55 GMT. The full text of this article can
     be found in the Appendix 5.
[8]  That is, on social MUDs where the pose command is available, or
     in the 'emote rooms' on adventure MUDs.
[9]  If the pictures these emoticons make are not immediately
     apparent, try tilting your head to the left. In the case of the
     first smiley, the colon represents eyes, the dash a nose and the
     bracket a smiling mouth.  _Smileys_, compiled by David Sanderson
     (New York: O'Reilly and Associates, 1993) contains an extensive
     collection of emoticons.
[10] John Van Maanen, and Stephen Barley, "Cultural Organization:
     Fragments of a Theory."  _Organizational_Culture_.  Eds. P.J.
     Frost et. al.  (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1985) 33
[11] Sara Kiesler and Lee Sproull, "Reducing Social Context Cues:
     Electronic Mail in Organizational Communication."
     _Management_Science_ Vol.32 No.11 (November 1986): 1498.
[12] Kiesler et al, 1129.
[13] One of the most interesting facets of this is the impossibility
     of knowing another's true gender, and of a player being of a
     different gender to that of his or her character. This will be
     discussed in Chapter Three.
[14] Curtis, 29.
[15] Starr Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff, _The_Network_Nation:_
     _Human_Communication_via_Computer_ (Reading, Massachusetts:
     Addison-Wesley, 1978) 101.
[16] From: anonymous; To: [email protected]; Subject: MUDs are NOT just
     games!; Date: 12 Apr 1992 11:16:32 EST
[17] MUD players often refer to social phenomena on MUDs in the form
     'tiny(noun)'--examples include 'tinysex', 'tinywife' and
     'tinymarriage.' This stems from the name of the first social-
     style MUD, TinyMUD, written by Jim Aspnes.  This will be
     discussed further in Chapter Three.
[18] From: anonymous; To: [email protected]; Subject: MUD romances?;
     Date: Sun, 2 May 1993 22:02:04 GMT
[19] Glen Hiemstra, "Teleconferencing, Concern for Face, and
     Organizational Culture," _Communication_Yearbook_6_.  Ed. M.
     Burgoon.  (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1982) 880.
[20] Kiesler et al, 1127.
[21] Kiesler et al, 1129.
[22] The shout command, while not unique to JennyMUSH, is not
     available on all MUDs.  On those which do offer it, usage is
     often restricted to privileged users such as Wizards and Gods.
[23] An account of a similar episode on LambdaMOO can be found in a
     fascinating article by Julian Dibbell, published in the December
     21 1993 edition (Vol. 38 No. 51) of _Village_Voice_ and entitled
     "Rape in Cyberspace or How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster
     Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into
     a Society."
[24] Although I have referred to this player as 'he', that being the
     sex of the character 'Daddy', there is no technical reason why
     the person behind the character could not have been female.
[25] From: anonymous; To: [email protected]; Subject: The
     mudrape fiasco; Date: Wed, 9 Dec 92 10:45:23 EST.

The failure of the ideal of complete freedom in cyberspace was an
early phenomenon.  The CommuniTree computerised bulletin board of the
mid 1970s suffered just such a fate as JennyMUSH.[1]  Initially a
forum for intellectual and spiritual discussion amongst adults, in an
environment where privacy was guaranteed and censorship censured,
CommuniTree collapsed under the onslaught of messages, often obscene,
posted by the first generation of adolescent school children with
personal computers and modems.  In the wake of what one participant
called the "consequences of free expression" technical means were
introduced to enable the system's administrators to monitor users'
activities and censor 'inappropriate' messages.[2]  It was here, in
what had been a project as socially concerned and politically
idealistic as JennyMUSH, that, as Stone puts it, "the age of
surveillance and social control had arrived for the electronic virtual
community."[3]  In practice, as Stone further comments, such
controls have proved to be necessary adjuncts to maintaining order in
virtual communities.[4]

Players of MUD systems love and hate in their virtual environments as
strongly as anyone does in actual life, and the manifestation of such
emotions is made possible by tools that give virtual realism to the
imaginings of players.  The exercise of imagination is necessary for
the creation of a social context within which to act.  By utilising
the dramaturgical tools provided by MUD programs, players create the
basis for shared social understandings.  Out of such usage have come
linguistic forms which allow the expression of emotions and conditions
usually beyond the scope of pure language.  It is the actualisation of
imagined reality that makes this possible--nevertheless, it is clear
that players' imaginings cease to be acceptable when they threaten
the integrity of these shared understandings.  For imagination to be
permitted actualisation by other players, it must allow others to
maintain the integrity of their imaginings.  Violation of that
integrity is perhaps the greatest crime on a MUD.  What happened on
JennyMUSH offers a graphic example of how anonymity and disinhibition
may allow players to crush that sense of integrity, and how much anger
can be caused by such attempts.  The measures taken by the users,
Wizards and God of JennyMUSH, both immediately and in the long term,
show how order is maintained on MUDs through social and technical
conventions.  Surrounding these measures have arisen social structures
that rely both on such measures and on an encouragement of integrity
and verisimilitude in players and administrators' creativity.

The socio-emotional plots played out on MUDs are only ad-libbed in the
immediate instance.  Players may play their cultural game according to
personal whim, but they play it out on systems that are as subject to
the enactment of power and privilege as are systems in the 'real
world'.  The "theory of technological politics," says Langdon
Winner, "suggests that we pay attention to the characteristics of
technical objects and the meaning of those characteristics."[5]
MUDs may on the one hand be characterised by their encouragement of
disinhibition; on the other they are characterised by a facility for
allowing the creation and support of internal devices that uphold
social structure as well as social activity.  The technical nature of
MUDs can be used to create the basis for a hierarchy amongst those who
play them.  The methods used to create social and physical contexts on
MUD systems are also used to create political structures which form

Social structures on MUD systems rely on the control of players'
abilities to manipulate the elements of the virtual environment.  The
haves are those who can control the form of the virtual world depicted
by the system; the have-nots are those who can't.  Power on a MUD is
quite literally the power to change the world.  Although all players
on the MUDs I have examined have access to tools that allow them to
shape the MUD world to some extent, if only by the use of personal
descriptions and the taking of virtual actions, no system allows all
players access to all commands.  Player privileges vary between the
absolute and the minimal.  The persons running the actual MUD program,
commonly referred to as Gods, have total control.  They have direct
access to the computer files which comprise the system, enabling them
to modify the MUD database in any way they please.  They can design
any virtual setting into the system, and so create a MUD universe of
any flavour they wish.  Within the game world, they have access to a
range of commands which allow them to edit the world while interacting
with it.  They can edit and destroy any object on the MUD system--
including the objects that represent players' characters.

The average player does not have such powers.  On adventure-style MUDs
players may only alter the game universe by interacting with it.  Such
players have no direct control over the game elements, and may not
create new elements.  By contrast, players of social-style MUDs are
able to extend the virtual universe to some extent.  They have access
to a small library of commands that allow them to create and describe
objects and areas, and make them behave in certain ways in response to
input from other players.  They may only change or destroy objects
that they have created themselves, and are not able to tinker with
objects created by other players.  On some systems players may be
subject to a quota limiting the number of objects they may build.
Players on both social and adventure MUDs interact with the MUD
database purely through the virtual world itself, and are not able to
step outside that world and view and alter it in the form of raw data.
There are many good reasons for these limitations.  On a large
international computer network it would be a security risk to allow
any person access to the raw files stored on a computer.  A limited
amount of hard disk space may make it foolish to allow players to
enlarge the MUD database to an unlimited extent.  Pragmatic though
these reasons may be, they are the basis for a social hierarchy in
which greater status corresponds to greater control over the virtual
world of the MUD system and greater ability to enrich that system.

Most MUD systems offer, as JennyMUSH began to in the wake of the
'Daddy' incident, facilities that can be used to silence or banish
disruptive players.  Some of these facilities are available to all
players.  They have the option of ignoring, or 'gagging,' another
player.  Such a measure does not actually affect the offending player,
but prevents the offended one from receiving any messages from that
player.  By editing his or her personal virtual reality a MUD player
can attempt to prevent harassment by severing the links of
communication between him or herself and the harasser.  Such attempts
are not, however, always successful or satisfactory.  A determined
harasser, realising that a victim is employing these commands, may
simply resume harassment through a new MUD character.  Even when
nominally successful, these measures are not always felt to be
sufficient by victims of harassment.  After all, 'gagging' does not
prevent the harasser from speaking or being heard by others.  The
effects of this command are more akin to 'ear-plugging' and do not
negate the adverse social effects of another's hate-speech.
Moreover, as Dibbell comments, the "gag-and-get-over-it school of
virtual-rape counselling, with its fine line between empowering
victims and holding them responsible for their own suffering" does
not satisfy the needs of all who are advised to employ such

Such measures are, however, the least of those which can be employed
against an erring player.  Those who persist with unwelcome behaviour
may be dealt with by the God of the MUD, who has at his or her
disposal powers which act to exclude and shame their object.
Offenders may be safe from actual physical violence at the hands of
those they have victimised, but ostracism is common and social
admonition has taken the form of ridiculing and subverting the efforts
of disruptive players to actualise their imagined selves in the
virtual world.  Players who are a continual problem can be not only
ignored by their victims, but punished and even banished by the God of
the MUD.  If called upon to do so a God can call down virtual fire
from heaven--destroying the offending player's character, and
disallowing future connections from the particular computer that the
offender had been connecting from.

In most cases these technical measures are sufficient to discourage
offenders.  Those who persist in their disruptive behaviour, or who
counter it by other technical means, can be subjected to public
rituals intended to humiliate and punish them, often in the form of a
public shaming that utilises the God's special ability to redesign
any aspect of the virtual reality of the MUD.  An offending player can
be 'toaded', a practice that traditionally involves the MUD's Gods
or Wizards using their special powers to change the name and
description of the player to present an unpleasant appearance
(traditionally that of a warty toad) and moving the player to some
very public area of the MUD where other players can taunt and chastise
him or her.  JennyMUSH's treatment of 'Daddy' was a classic example
of this form of social punishment.  This public humiliation is usually
sufficient to discourage the player from visiting that particular MUD
world again, even if earlier attempts at ostracism had been
unsuccessful.  In these kinds of punishments, power is at its most
absolute.  Foucault has described an effective form of power as one
that enables the powerful to "gain access to the bodies of
individuals, to their acts, attitudes and modes of everyday
behaviour."[7]  On a MUD, where the physical body is not present,
but the virtual body is at the absolute mercy of the Gods, such power
exists quite literally.  The Gods of a MUD can manipulate a player's
virtual manifestation in any way they please.  They can reshape it,
remake it, remould it, destroy it.  From the perspective of the game
universe, such acts of power are absolute.

Punishment on MUDs shows a return to the medieval.  While penal
systems in the Western nations that form the backbone of the Internet-
-the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and Australia--have
ceased to concentrate upon the body of the condemned as the site for
punishment, and have instead turned to 'humane' incarceration and
social rehabilitation, the exercise of authority on MUDs has revived
the old practices of public shaming and torture.  The theatre of
authority in virtual reality is one which demands and facilitates a
strongly dramaturgical element.  All actions on MUDs must be overt,
every nuance of experience must be manifestly represented for it to
become part of the play, and so punishment must be flamboyant.  The
virtual world of a MUD exists in its dramatic strength only in the
minds of its players, but the play enacted in the virtual world
emulates the physical rather than the mental.  The public spectacle of
punishment, which Foucault describes as disappearing from the Western
political scene between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is
alive and well on MUDs.[8]

Because of their special powers and their special role within a MUD
community, Gods and Wizards are frequently the object of special
treatment.  Many players approach them with, as Curtis puts it,
"exaggerated deference and respect."[9]  An example of such
treatment was forwarded to me by a Wizard on FurryMUCK:

     Fred pages you with, "Excuse me sir, I hope I'm
     not bothering you, but could you possibly help
     me? I'm really new to MUDS, and I've got some
     pretty dumb questions.  If you haven't got time
     to answer them please don't worry about it, but
     if you do I would really appreciate it."

Many Wizards and Gods do not spend much time travelling through their
virtual domain.  Instead, they often retreat to the sanctity of one
virtual room.  It is to this space--this virtual throne room--that
mortal players are called when they wish to speak with the God or
Wizard.  The protocol for gaining admission to such rooms varies from
system to system, but is never non-existent.  Most of these rooms
cannot be entered without the permission of their owner; entry to some
requires the direct intervention of the deity to 'teleport' the
supplicant to the holy presence.  The sign on the door of a Wizard on
EOTL reads as follows:

          That door leads to Moe's Sanctum Sanctorum.
     If you knock on it, and he's around, he might
     invite you in or come talk to you.  Lately,
     though he's been pretty busy, so don't bug him
     unless you need something.  THINK VERY HARD
     BEFORE KNOCKING.  Moe has been known to turn
     people into barnyard animals if they pester him

In some cases the motivation for the creation of such social barriers
may simply be to screen out trivial requests from players.
Nevertheless, whatever the intention, the power to define what is
trivial and to impose punishment for transgressions of that definition
lie with the Wizards and Gods.  Many preserve a kind of magical or
divine distance between themselves and the mortal players of their
world.  Curtis may be bemused by the deference paid him as the God of
LambdaMOO, but such deference is paid and is motivated by the
technical and social symbols of power by which Gods and Wizards are
surrounded.  The basis of authority on MUDs is as medieval as its
theatre.  Hierarchies are maintained through careful attention to the
trappings of power, power which, as did medieval kingship, owes its
legitimacy to the favour of the Gods.  Distance between the rulers and
the ruled is carefully maintained.  Special spaces are created by
virtual rulers to cater for and augment the signs of their power.
Virtual analogues of sceptres and crowns abound--most Gods and Wizards
carry signs of their rank upon them.  Divine authority on MUDs is made
manifest in technical miracles and virtual symbols of power.

Nevertheless, such power does not always go unquestioned.  The
legitimacy of power and the enaction of it can be questioned by
players, especially when notions of favouritism are introduced.
Wizards are created by Gods, and in theory promotion to such a
privileged rank is linked to talent.  The more a player is able to
translate their imagination into the MUD database--the more ingenuity
they show in their manipulation of the MUD program--the more likely
they are to be promoted to the level of Wizard.  A talent for making
the MUD more virtually real should be rewarded by being granted
greater powers to do so.  In practice, however, this may not always be
the case.  Accusations of Godly and Wizardly prejudice and injustice
regularly surface on the USENET newsgroups devoted to the discussion
of MUD playing:

     This mud is TOTALLY LAME! One of the wizzes  can't
     program for shit and only got to wiz coz he rooms
     with the chief wiz, and another wiz just got the
     job by having tinysex with the chief wiz.  I
     spent DAYS building lots of really cool stuff,
     really cool descs and everything, and when I
     showed it to the cheif wiz and asked to get a
     higher quota he just said "I don't even know you"
     and refused!!! ARGH!! So I complained and told
     everbody on the mud what happened and he dests my
     character and deletes everything I built.  I am
     so sick of wizzes who expect you to brown-nose to
     get anything.[10]

Gods and Wizards may be the ultimate power within each MUD universe,
and may often be the subject of respect and even fawning as players
attempt to curry favour and gain privileges, but the atmosphere of
respect which often surrounds them can lead to the favouring of
players who are prepared to offer adulation, and passing over those
who are not.  The canny wielding of power often means that privileges
are bestowed upon those who will uphold the Gods' hegemony; the
clumsy handling of this process can threaten that hegemony.  The
potential for the abuse of power and for unfair treatment of players
can create resentment, particularly when there is a conflict between
individuals who feel that Gods and Wizards have a duty to behave
fairly and those who feel that the administrator of a MUD system has
the right to do with it as he or she likes.  The number of MUD systems
in existence to some extent mitigates the potential for problems,
since, as one player replied to the complainant above:

     Look, it's his MUD, he can do what he wants. But
     if you don't like the MUD, don't play it! If the
     wiz is an asshole...  no one will play and the
     MUD will close.  Simple! Sheesh...[11]

The common wisdom is that simple economics will make it unrewarding
for a Wizard or God to treat players badly, and so most successful
holders of those positions will by necessity treat their players
reasonably well.

Power on MUD systems depends on the individual's ability to
manipulate the components of the system; privileges consist of
increased access to such world-manipulating tools.  The degree to
which this power is successful is dependant upon players' belief in
the value of the MUD world, and the degree to which they have invested
meaning and emotion in the objects within it.  That the objects and
characters stored in the computer files are ascribed value leads to
the special treatment of those who can alter those files.  Gods' and
Wizards' powers depend upon their success in building a system which
players view as a virtual world, a system to be interacted with in
such a way as to invest emotion in the continued existence of the
world and its components.  Systems which are so viewed will be more
likely to attract players willing to apply their talents and invest
their effort in building new areas and objects.  The richness of each
virtual world leads to its being further enriched.

Players of adventure-style MUDs must contend with the internal reality
of the game world.  The characters played are subject to 'realistic'
forces.  On some systems, they grow hungry, thirsty and sleepy, and
must find safe places to sleep and rest.  They must protect themselves
from the ravages of an often hostile climate.  They must establish,
and often pay for, a safe place to continue their existence while
their controlling player is unable to attend to them.  Such MUD
players are driven by the 'biological' needs of their characters and
by the social and climatic circumstances of the game world.  On some
systems, players are often confronted with messages from the game
program, letting them know that 'they'--or rather, their characters-
-are hungry, thirsty or tired.  If players do not act quickly to
satisfy their characters' hunger or thirst, those characters will
die.  If players do not find a safe place for their characters to
sleep in, those characters will likely be murdered in their sleep by
the mythical monsters that commonly inhabit these MUD worlds--or by
another character, provided that the particular game world is one that
allows direct combat between players.  Before logging out of the game,
players must first rent their characters a room in one of the hotels
that form a central and basic part of the game world.  Renting a room
ensures that the character and his or her possessions are kept safe
until the player returns to the game.  A character left without a
rented room may forfeit his or her possessions to unnamed thieves
generated by the MUD program, and is vulnerable to the attacks of
monsters and other players.

As a consequence of all this, players spend a large amount of time
merely making sure that their characters survive.  They must
continually load themselves with supplies of food and drink before
venturing on quests.  They must make periodic trips back to the
central town of the MUD world to replenish these supplies.  They must
continually amass treasure--by killing monsters--with which to buy
supplies and pay the rent on hotel rooms.  It is impossible to play an
adventure-style MUD casually.  Players who log into the game once a
week, and play for only an hour or so at a time, will be continually
forced to restart the game.  They will never be able to find enough
treasure to enable them to pay for the safety of the belongings they
buy or win, and so will always lose them to the relentless economics
of the game.  The least devoted players must, therefore, play often
enough and for long enough to maintain their characters' existence.
They must, as Alice found in _Through_the_Looking_Glass_ keep running
just in order to remain in the same place.  Adventure-oriented MUDs,
such as LPMUDs and DikuMUDs, demand a basic level of dedication from
players.  Unlike social style MUDs, such as MUCKs and MOOs, the game
itself demands attention.  It seems to have a life of its own.  A MUCK
character remains in stasis when not being controlled by a player,
whereas a DikuMUD character can die of starvation, be the victim of
robbery or murder, or become part of a marauding Giant Bear's dinner,
should the player relax his or her vigilance or fail to log into the
game before the character's money, and therefore rented safety, runs

At the heart of all social structures amongst players of adventure
MUDs lies the hard fact that adventure MUD universes are dangerous.
Foucault has said that "the phenomenon of the social body is the
effect not of a consensus but of the materiality of power operating on
the very bodies of  individuals."[12]  Translated into the
particular terms of the imagined worlds of adventure-style MUDs this
insight has special meaning.  There, it is the virtuality of the power
of the virtual world operating upon the imagined bodies of individual
players that creates the social body of which they are a part.
Cooperation is an important element of survival on adventure MUDs.  In
many cases, players need each other to survive.  Particularly strong
monsters are more easily defeated by the concerted efforts of a group
of players than by one alone.  The necessity for cooperative effort
has been built into the fabric of the game on many systems.  Quests,
specific tasks formulated by the Gods and Wizards to test the strength
of their players, often demand the application of more skills than one
character can have, and so must be undertaken by a group.  The
economics of the game support group effort.  Special commands enable
players to form groups, make concerted attacks on monsters and share
the experience points gained in shared victories.  This technical
support and dramatic demand for cooperation between players translates
into a social system in which players are expected to aid each other.
Many players will guard the possessions which had belonged to a fallen
character, and will wait for them to return from the church to which
their spirit has gone to pray for reincarnation so that on return they
may regain their possessions.  This kind of honour system based on
favours and debts of gratitude can be especially kind to novice
players.  The help files on EOTL explicitly encourage players to help
the less experienced among them:

     When a newbie begs for some money or help, it is
     usually expected that you will give what you can.
     Everyone was a newbie once, and probably got
     their start through the generosity of other more
     established players.  The least you can do is
     show the same consideration to future newbies
     (known as the golden rule).  And above all,
     remember it's just a game...but with real people
     on the other end side...

Such cooperation is not, however, based purely on comradeship.  The
fact is that players can, if they so choose, cause each other
considerable hardship.  It is not altruism that causes players to aid
each other, but the idea of investing in other players' goodwill.  Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you--that is the rule that
prevents many players from taking advantage of the misfortunes of

Players are at their most vulnerable when in combat.  When fighting a
system generated opponent--a monster or 'mobile'--many players will
be forced to retreat and use healing potions and spells, or simply
rest, before being able to rejoin the fight and eventually kill the
monster.  It can take several bouts of fighting and healing before the
monster can be killed.  In the times when a player has retreated, it
is possible for another player to come along and kill the now weakened
monster while its original opponent is resting.  The information on
etiquette available on EOTL has this to say about the practice of

     Believe it or not, there are certain unspoken
     rules of behavior on MUDs.  [...] It's really bad
     form to steal someone else's kill.  Someone has
     been working on the Cosmicly Invulnerable Utterly
     Unstoppable Massively Powerful Space Demon for
     ages, leaves to get healed, and in the interim,
     some dweeb comes along and whacks the Demon and
     gets all it's stuff and tons of xps.  This really
     sucks as the other person has spent lots of time
     and money in expectations of the benefits from
     killing the monster.  The graceful thing to do is
     to give em all the stuff from the corpse and
     compensation for the money spent on healing.
     This is still a profit to you as you got all the
     xps and spent practically no time killing it.

Players who break this rule are not popular.  Some may be subject to
the kinds of punishment and displays of power that Gods and Wizards
may call up.  Others may be subject to the vengeful attacks of their
victims and fellow players.

On some adventure MUDs players' characters are able to kill one
another.  As far as a character is concerned, another character is as
easily a target of the 'kill' command as is an orc or dragon.  For
some players, the possibility of 'playerkilling' adds depth and
spice to the virtual world.  The addition of greater threat and
greater danger to the virtual universe enables players to identify
more strongly with their virtual persona.  The thrill which players
describe as a part of such battles, the sheer excitement of adding an
uncontrolled element to the game universe, makes that universe all the
more real.  Death and danger make the imagined life all the more worth
living, and lift the game beyond the confines of the predictable.  It
is the loss of control inherent in a game style that overtly relies on
a fight for greater control that adds meaning to the game.  Victory in
such battles is all the more sweet for the test of a player's skill
which it entails.

Nevertheless, not all players need to have the fruits of their
imagination challenged to feel that their animation is valid.  On the
contrary, the intrusion of others' conflicting versions of the world
can disturb the imaginative balance of the player.  Such conflicting
world views are the basis of many power struggles between players.
For some playerkilling destroys the mental illusion in which they wish
to immerse themselves by connecting to a MUD system.  The forceful
intrusion of another's imagined reality, an intrusion that can
shatter the carefully constructed projections of the victim, inspires
great resentment and anger.  The practice of playerkilling is looked
upon by some players with anger and contempt:

     Playerkilling is a pointless exercise allowed by
     some muds, whereby lab geeks with testosterone
     poisoning kill each other instead of mobs and
     pretend that they are better mudders as a result.
     This collective delusion makes pkers overbearing,
     obnoxious, and generally no fun at cocktail

In response to this article, another player replied that:

     Playerkilling is the ultimate chessmatch, where
     you are depending on your knowledge of your
     capabilities and your mud to match those others
     who might play.  While it is sometimes abused by
     losers who feel manly by killing newbies, it also
     seperates the real mudders from the yellow-
     striped regen waiters who would just as soon wait
     around to kill a monster that just stands there
     waiting to die.  PKers are neither overbearing
     nor obnoxious, but they are occasionally
     arrogant, but then again, being better players,
     they have a right to be.  They never attend
     cocktail parties because they think those little
     sandwiches are for wusses.[14]

Playerkilling, then, is an issue surrounded by controversy.  On many
MUDs, playerkilling is heavily controlled, either by technical or
social measures.  Some adventure style MUDs prevent player killing by
removing the possibility of it from the MUD computer program.  Others
simply regulate it.  There are two main ways of technically
controlling the circumstances under which players may attack each
other.  The first is to require that players set a 'player killer
flag' on their character.  Only those with such a flag set may be
attacked--the program will simply not allow a player to attack another
whose killer flag is unset.  The second measure is to allow players to
attack only those who are close to their own level of competence.  On
MUDs where a level system is in place, this is commonly implemented.
Players who have attained Level 5, for instance, may be able to attack
players on Levels 5 and above, but not those on lower levels.  At the
same time, they cannot be attacked by players on a higher level,
unless they initiate the combat--only characters at an equal or lower
level may choose to attack them.  This prevents victimisation, though
not foolhardiness.  Some systems, however, do not put any technical
controls on player killing.  The Revenge of the End of the Line is one
such system.  The help files on EOTL say, with regard to
playerkillers, that:

     This is a label given to those players who hunt
     down and kill other players.  These notorious
     psychopaths usually go on killing sprees, killing
     lots of players in a short amount of time.
     Player killers have no qualms and no remorse.
     EOTL's official policy toward player killing is
     one of tolerance.  Wizards can't help you if
     someone kills you.  The best thing to do is to
     form a lynch mob and massacre the killer to itty
     bitty bits....  Player killers usually know Muds
     like the back of their hands and are extremely

Despite this laissez-faire ruling on the part of the Wizards and Gods
of EOTL, playerkilling is remarkably rare, and the reasons for this
lie in the social structure developed amongst players.  Most EOTL
players live by an unstated agreement that they should live and let
live.  Most players are not 'psychopathic' playerkillers, and will
not initiate battles with those who are not known to enjoy this style
of play.  Those who do not choose to play this way, however, are often
hunted down by those who wish to preserve this unspoken rule.  The
ethics of this kind of justice are incorporated into the game
elements.  Wanted posters are common in the towns and cities which
form the core of EOTL:

           MoeTown's Most Wanted
           Neighborhood Watch Bulletin
     The following people are wanted for malicious
     mayhem.  To collect the reward on one of these
     people, simply blow a police whistle while in the
     room with the person.  If your call results in
     the death or capture of the criminal, a
     representative will pay you at the police
     station.  Police whistles may be bought for 10
     coins from the police chief:

     Perpetrator's name:           Current reward:
     1  : Voltron (player killer)    39850  coins
     2  : Assasin (player killer)    35870  coins
     3  : Shadowstrike               25730  coins
     4  : Hermes                     25090  coins
     5  : Shapeless (player killer)  24210  coins
     6  : Whittle (player killer)    18690  coins
     7  : Bowman (player killer)     14430  coins
     8  : Rizzen (player killer)     13420  coins
     9  : Time                       12640  coins
     10 : Bluey (player killer)       5820  coins

As this poster implies, technical measures have been introduced to
enable justice to be meted out to player killers.  Policemen's
whistles are an element of the game which has been hard-coded into its
fabric.  The social contract that encourages and allows the invention
and use of such whistles, is, however, not a technical measure.

Playerkillers are often summarily dealt with by their victims.
Adopting the techniques of the enemy's play, irate players can form
bands dedicated to hunting down and killing playerkillers.  Such a
solution seems to be satisfactory to all parties in such conflicts.
The appropriation of the playerkiller's style of play by his or her
opponents allows all concerned to feel their style of play validated.
Dedicated playerkillers do not appear to resent being the victim of
playerkilling--in two years of MUDding and monitoring the newsgroups, I have found only a few cases of a
playerkiller complaining of injustice at the hands of a virtual lynch-
mob, though I have found many instances of playerkillers describing
with zest the chase they led their pursuers and the enjoyment they
experienced in making their quest as difficult as possible.[15]  Some
have commented on the pleasure they feel at having caused the
opponents of playerkilling to join their ranks.  The playerkiller's
pursuers feel similarly fulfilled.  In their eyes, they have not
adopted playerkilling as a form of play, but have appropriated such
play to serve their own preferred style.  Such conflicts have a happy
ending--each party feeling their imagined virtual world validated by
the outcome.

Social cohesion on adventure MUDs is the result of the Darwinian rule
of the survival of the fittest.  On the most superficial level, only
the strongest and most talented players will survive and flourish on
adventure MUDs.  It takes time, effort and skill not only to become
powerful on such MUDs, but simply to survive on them.  At a deeper
level, however, it is the most socially fit--the most willing to
cooperate--who survive.  The social body formed on adventure MUDs is
the result of a common consensus to cooperate in fighting against the
(im)materiality of the power of the virtual universe operating on the
virtual bodies of each individual player.

On social MUDs, players are not faced with the threats that players of
adventure MUDs must contend with.  Characters on MUCKs and TinyMUDs
are never hungry or thirsty or tired.  Instead they provide a tireless
mechanism for the exercise of the players' creativity, and for
interaction between players.  It is this ease of use, rather than the
need to protect and maintain their characters, which is the basis of
social MUD players' cohesion.  On adventure MUDs, social interaction
often comes about through expediency, as when characters form gangs
the better to slaughter some hapless dragon or infamous playerkiller.
By contrast, social interaction on MUCKs and MUSHes is one of the
three activities central to the game.[16]  The others are creating, or
building, and exploring the creations of others.  These three
activities complement and reinforce each other.  Social interaction
serves to create a network of players who constitute an audience for
each other's creativity; acts of creation provide the stage for

In designing TinyMUD, the original social MUD, Jim Aspnes deliberately
sought to escape from the competitive confines of adventure-style
play.  He explains that:

     Most adventure-style games and earlier MUDs had some
     sort of scoring system which translated into rank and
     special privileges; I didn't want such a system not
     because of any strong egalitarian ideals...  but because
     I wanted the game to be open-ended, and any scoring
     system would have the problem that eventually each
     player would hit the maximum rank or level of
     advancement and have to either abandon the game as
     finished or come up with new reasons to play it.  This
     approach attracted people who liked everybody equal and
     drove away people who didn't like a game where you
     didn't score points and beat out other players.  I think
     that this effect created a kind of natural selection
     which eventually led to the current egalitarian

The 'egalitarianism' that Aspnes claims as the basic ideal of social
MUDs is often just that--an ideal.  In practice, most social MUDs have
a hierarchy of players as well developed as those seen on adventure
MUDs, complete with Gods, Wizards and variously privileged levels of
players.  However, these hierarchies are not based on competition and
strength, but on interaction and contribution.  Players do not rise to
greater degrees of privilege by killing monsters, amassing points and
gaining skills, but by inserting themselves into the social and
imaginative matrix and becoming indispensable.

If players of adventure MUDs must be in regular attendance on their
characters in order for those characters to survive and gain greater
powers, players of social MUDs are free to enjoy unlimited access to
their characters precisely because of those characters' independence
of their players.  Almost without exception, players of social MUDs
exercise their ability to create new aspects of the game world.  Each
MUD encourages players to create their own 'home', a small section
of the game universe with which the player's character is associated,
and which is the portion of the game world in which the character
appears to be when the player connects to the system.  Most players
make at least some token attempt to decorate their home with
descriptions and objects.  Many players extend their home beyond the
confines of one virtual building, and go on to create intricate mini-
worlds within the greater MUD world.  In consequence of this
encouragement to build, most social MUDs consist of a hodge-podge of
differing environments.  Some MUDs have come to insist upon adherence
to a particular theme as a prerequisite of a player's promotion to
one of the higher levels of game power.  Before being allowed to build
a greater number of objects, and before being given access to more
complex commands and tools with which to build, players must
demonstrate an ability to create environments that mesh with the
existing game universe.  In essence this system of meritocracy
involves the relinquishment of one sort of power--the power to do
whatever you like--in order to gain different and more extensive

Many MUDs allow a number of intermediate levels between player and
God.  The God is able, at his or her own discretion, to increase a
player's building quota, or even confer Wizard status upon a player.
Some systems allow different levels of building tools to be available
to different players, with more complex and powerful commands being
available to those the Gods choose to give them to.  That privileges
are bestowed by the Gods of the system is a vital part of the
hierarchy, and the means of its control.  Only those who are approved
of by the Gods and Wizards can gain greater power within the MUD
system--being out of favour means being out of power.  Most MUD
systems indicate that gaining privileges is a matter of proving that
you are worthy of them.  The rule on the MUD 'MicroMUSE', for
instance, is that:

     The quota system for keeping the database at a
     reasonable size is intended to promote
     constructive building and efficient use of
     available resources.  Builders engaging on large-
     scale projects should ask a [Wizard] to inspect
     their work-to-date,and can then ask for quota
     increases as needed.

A similar policy exists on LambdaMOO, where the 'Architecture Review
Board', an association of players originally appointed by the Wizards
and now elected by the LambdaMOO community, is empowered to decide
whom the Wizards shall bestow greater building privileges upon:

     To get a larger quota, you need to talk to some
     member of the Architecture Review Board.  They
     will take a look at what you've done with the
     objects you've built so far and decide whether or
     not they think it would be a net gain for the
     LambdaMOO community if you were to build some
     more things.

All players on social-style MUDs have a rudimentary ability to add
items to the game universe.  All players can create, though the
hierarchical system in force on some social MUDs might limit the
number of items that novice players can create.  But limited powers
are powers nonetheless, and this relative egalitarianism is the reason
which many players give for their preference for social MUDs.  This
attitude differs from that taken by many players of adventure MUDs,
for whom the elitism of the upper echelons is the source of the
desirability of entering those ranks.  Compare these two articles from
players of the two MUD genres:

     What I like about MUCKs is that I can just go off
     and build what I like.  I can exercise my
     imagination without sucking up to any Gods or
     bashing any orcs.  I can just do whatever I like
     straight away.[18]


     The whole point of LPMUds is that once you've
     made Wizard you know you've earned it.  Your
     privileges are earned, every bit of them.  Not
     like on tinymuds, where ever luser can build his
     little home and create his little toys.  When I
     meet someone who has made Wiz on an LP...  I
     *know* they've done something to earn it, and if
     I [make Wizard] other people *know* I've earned

In each case, it is access to and legitimacy of power that is the
concern of the player.  What differs is the perspective taken.  In the
one case it is the free availability of game powers, irrespective of
the player's social position or level of external influence, which is
attractive.  In the other case it is the difficultly of gaining power,
and the respect due to those who have persevered, which makes it so
desirable.  Each system serves to attract and form different types of
players, yet each system is based on the exploitation of a common wish
for power and influence.

However, many players on social MUDs do not make any attempt to win
higher building privileges for themselves.  On adventure MUDs, each
player is by definition part of a system in which their efforts are
geared toward the acquisition of greater wealth and power.  On social
MUDs the mechanics of the game do not demand that players spend time
chasing after material--or virtual--gains.  The pressure to be
upwardly mobile is far less intense on social MUDs, and so fewer
social than adventure MUD players make deliberate efforts of gain
entry to the privileged higher echelons.  Instead, players on social
MUDs tend to form alternate hierarchies, functionally independent of
the Wizards and Gods of the world.  These hierarchies are social
rather than economic in base--they depend on interaction rather than
on the scarcity of the power commodity.

These alternate hierarchies depend on an audience of appreciative and
creative fellow-players rather than on competition with other players.
Indeed the expressions 'fellow player' and 'other player' neatly
describe the difference between the player hierarchies most common on
the two genres of MUD.  Social MUD players often seem to see each
other as mirrors of themselves who will reflect the pride and
achievement felt by each player toward what he or she has created.
Adventure players seem more likely to view each other as inimical, as
having the potential to shatter that mirror.  Alliances between
adventurous players are carefully negotiated.  Allied players will
often devise methods of ensuring each other's loyalty by using spells
or holding hostage valued items of treasure or equipment.  Betrayal is
not unheard of.  A player's ally may turn on him or her after the
dragon has been killed, and may make off with the dragon's hoard
before the victim has time to react.  Adventure MUD players tend to
view each other with some suspicion.  Each player is that mythical
anthropological monster--the Other, who may expose and exploit the
player, and shatter that player's dreams of power and safety.

Social MUD players are not pressed into these oppositions.  They
cannot harm each other within the game world.  Ordinary personal
conflicts may of course arise--just as ordinary personal amity may
arise on adventure MUDs--but these conflicts are not made more likely
by the special properties of the virtual environment that the
individuals interact within.  Rather, players are encouraged by the
nature of social MUDs to interact positively with each other.
Hierarchies on social MUDs tend to be socially rather than technically
enforced.  Cooperation is inspired by a wish to extend the virtual
world, not by the necessities of survival in it.  Players become well-
known through socialising, and through displaying the fruits of their
imagination.  Well-known adventure MUD players become so by virtue of
attaining high levels of proficiency in the game universe.  Well-known
social MUD players become so by engaging in social activities on the
MUD.  Popular players commonly create interesting environments which
many players visit and recommend that others visit.  They spend a lot
of time chatting with others, and many offer advice and aid to new
players.  These people form the backbone of social MUDs, and may
indeed be better known to the majority of players than are the Wizards
and Gods who spend most of their time engaged in the more complex work
of administering the MUD program.

On some MUDs, this social hierarchy has been written into the game as
an alternative track toward officially recognised status.  On
FurryMUCK, as on LambdaMOO, highly socially involved players can be
rewarded with official recognition of their social importance.
Deserving FurryMUCK players may be given an 'Official Helper's
Badge', a simple MUD object that the character carries around and
which identifies him or her as someone to whom players can turn to for
help on everything from MUD etiquette to the complexities of building.
Special commands have been written into the FurryMUCK program that
allow players to view a list of all those who have won such a badge,
get information on their areas of expertise, check to see which
helpers are currently logged into the MUD, and leave messages for
them.  Every player who spends some few minutes reading part of the
extensive help files available on FurryMUCK will be likely to find
these commands and so become aware of who the Official Helpers are.
These people are known even by those who have never met them.  They
are also more likely to become personally well-known to a great number
of players as they are paged with questions and pleas for help--one
character, known as BoingDragon, has achieved almost legendary status
through her tireless efforts to help and advise novice players.

Players of social MUDs who enter into the social and creative acts of
the MUD will be likely to become popular and well-known on that MUD.
To achieve that status, considerable time must be invested in learning
how to use the particular MUD program on which the game universe is
based, and in getting to know fellow players.  Anyone who does so
invest their time will in consequence be likely to continue to become
more involved with MUD.  Admiration and respect are addictive.  The
power of popularity is as great as the power to manipulate worlds.
People who feel liked and valued in a particular environment will tend
to frequent that environment--that holds true as well for MUDs as for
any field of human activity.  Involvement leads to popularity, and
popularity leads to involvement--players who have established
themselves as clever builders and resourceful advisers will find that
the popularity they have gained in doing so will keep them coming back
to the MUD.

As Foucault says, "every point in the exercise of power is at the
same time a site where knowledge is formed.  And conversely every
established piece of knowledge permits and assures the exercise of
power.  Put otherwise, there is no opposition between what is done and
what is said."[20]  On MUDs, and especially social MUDs, where every
player can create new game elements, what is said and what is done are
one and the same thing.  Speaking and writing--transmitting knowledge-
-encompass all virtual actions.  In the beginning of all MUD systems
there is only the Word, and the progression of the system from its
initial existence as a computer program into a virtual environment
habituated by players is the progression of a series of linguistic
acts.  It is the production of knowledge about the virtual environment
which produces the environment itself.  This production of knowledge
and virtuality powers the socially cohesive body found on social MUDs.

At the heart of human activity in capitalist, industrialised culture,
lies the wish for influence and power.  Power can come in many forms,
and different forms are attractive to different people.  A desire for
sheer physical control can lead people into body building and military
coups.  A desire for respect and fame can inspire actors and
politicians.  The forms of power that can be exercised on MUDs vary on
each system, and most widely between the two genres of MUD.  This
differentiation is to some extent artificial, and based on averages
and general cases.  Some Wizards on social MUDs have become so through
a wish to have ultimate control over a universe of their own.  Some
players of adventure-style MUDs are well-known and liked for their
willingness to help novice players and to chat and listen to others.
But the terms 'social' and 'adventure' have come to be used
because there are, overall, two kinds of MUD.  One kind stresses
player advancement through the attainment of levels or skills through
interaction with the game elements and competition with other players.
The other stresses player interaction and creativity.  The former
lends itself to the expression of power through a character's
prowess, and the player's resultant powers to affect the game world.
Ultimately, players on adventure MUDs strive to help their character
achieve a high enough level of expertise to merit their promotion to a
position of power over the MUD world.  Social MUDs lend themselves
more easily to the expression of power through exhibitions of
creativity, charm, and knowledge.  Almost all social MUD characters
have the same powers over the game world--what differentiates them are
the ways in which players act through the character to transform the
world and to engage other players in supportive relationships.

Each of these different paths to power involve the player in the game.
Each takes an initial degree of dedication on which to form a basis
for status.  Adventure MUD players must play the game a minimum of
several hours each week just to stay in the game.  To advance within
the game the player must play more often than that, and to achieve
high levels of expertise he or she must play very often indeed.  Once
that level has been achieved the player must play often enough to
maintain that position, and if he or she aspires to Wizardship it is
necessary to demonstrate the skills and dedication for which that
promotion is deserved.  At each level of play on adventure MUDs, time
and involvement are demanded, with the level of demand increasing as
does the level of expertise.  The higher the level, the greater the
rewards.  As players advance they gain greater powers over the MUD
universe.  They become better able to complete dangerous quests within
the game world, and are eventually granted the power to manipulate the
world itself.  For players of social MUDs the rewards are less overtly
powerful, although they too can follow a track toward greater, and
eventually total, power to manipulate the virtual universe.  For most
players of social-style MUDs, however, power over the game universe is
not an end in itself.  That power is freely available, and provides
novice players with an immediate reward for playing the game, and so a
reason to continue playing.  This free expression of creativity
becomes the means to power through social influence.  Recognition and
popularity amongst the players of the MUD are won through the creation
of novel additions to the virtual world, and through friendly and
helpful interaction with other players.  Once gained, this renown
keeps a player involved.

On adventure MUDs, dedication to the game, and prolonged interaction
with the game universe, is rewarded by the power to become God over
that universe.  On social MUDs, the power to control the universe is
the tool through which to win influence--to create a world in which
the player is admired.  On social style MUDs cooperation is based on a
hierarchy of popularity; on adventure MUDs on a hierarchy of strength.
Each form of MUD attracts its own set of players, and evokes in those
players a willingness to dedicate themselves to the game.  While the
ultimate reward on all MUDs is the same, the paths taken to reach it
differ between the two main styles of MUD game, the social and the
adventurous.  Players of each of these two genres of game must contend
with widely different paths to deification.  Each path contains its
own cohesive elements which centre on control and the manipulation of
game elements.

[1]  See Allucquere Rosanne Stone, "Will the Real Body Please Stand
     Up?: Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures,"
     _Cyberspace:_First_ _Steps_.  Ed. Michael Benedikt. (Cambridge,
     Mass.: The MIT Press, 1991) 88-92 for a discussion of the
     CommuniTree project.
[2]  Stone, 91.
[3]  Stone, 91.
[4]  Stone, 91.
[5]  Langdon Winner,  "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" _The_Whale_and_
     _the_Reactor_, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986) 22.
[6]  Dibbell, electronic manuscript.
[7]  Michel Foucault, _Power/Knowledge:_Selected_Interviews_and_Other_
     _Writing_1972-1977_, Ed. Colin Gordon, Trans. Colin Gordon, Leo
     Marshall, John Mepham, Kate Soper, (Brighton, Sussex: Harvester,
     1980) 125.
[8]  Michel Foucault, _Discipline_and_Punish_:_The_Birth_of_the_
     _Prison_, Trans. Alan Sheridan, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex:
     Penguin, 1986) 8.
[9]  Curtis, 30.
[10] From: anonymous: Newsgroups:; Subject:
     Complaint about [name of MUD deleted]; Date: Date: Thu, 13 May
     1993 19:54:29 -0500
[11] From: [email protected]; Newsgroups:; Subject: Complaint about [name of MUD
     deleted]; Date: Date: Sun, 16 May 1993 21:03:42 GMT
[12] Foucault, _Power/Knowledge_, 55.
[13] From: [email protected] (Doc); Newsgroups:;
     Subject: Re: what is??; Date: 9 Dec 1993 18:03:33 GMT.  'Mobs' is
     a contraction of the term 'mobile monsters'.
[14] From: [email protected] (Fulk Nerra); Newsgroups:; Subject: Re: what is??; Date: 9 Dec 1993
     14:26:21 -0600.  The phrase 'regen waiters' refers to the time
     which many players must spend healing (regenerating) before
     heading back for another bout with a computer-generated monster.
[15] Most complaints from playerkillers concern accusations of unfair
     behaviour on the part of Gods or Wizards--that, for instance, they
     have been unjustly punished for breaking the rules relating to
[16] In a survey of 583 players on LambdaMOO, players were asked to
     nominate the activity that took up most of their time on the MUD.
     The results showed that socialising took up 57.26% of players'
     time, exploring took up 14.63%, building 14.14%, competitive
     gaming and puzzle solving 6.99%, and  other activities 6.98%.
     See Appendix 6 for some preliminary results from this survey.
[17] Quoted by Howard Rheingold in _The_Virtual_Community_:
     _Homesteading_on_the_Electronic_Frontier_, (Reading, Mass.:
     Addison-Wesley, 1993) 162-163.
[18] From: anonymous, Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1992 19:17:47 GMT, Newsgroups:, Subject: To build or not to build?
[19] From: anonymous, Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1992 08:16:06 GMT, Newsgroups:, Subject: To build or not to build?
[20] Michel Foucault,  _Power,_Truth,_Strategy_, Eds. Meaghan Morris
     and Paul Patton, (Sydney: Feral, 1979) 62.

MUD systems, with all the factors of anonymity, distance and
flexibility brought into play, allow people to say what they want.
That freedom is not always exercised to the approval of other players,
and social systems which maintain cohesion amongst members of a MUD
community have arisen.  But the nature of what people do on MUDs does
not provide a complete explanation of such systems--the nature of the
people is just as important.  A player of a MUD system is not a
transparent medium, providing nothing but a link between external and
internal cultural patterns, between actual and virtual realities.  The
player is the most problematic of all virtual entities, for his or her
virtual manifestation has no constant identity.  MUD characters need
not be of any fixed gender or appearance, but may evolve, mutate,
morph, over time and at the whim of their creator.  All of these
phenomena place gender, sexuality, identity and corporeality beyond
the plane of certainty.  They become not merely problematic but
unresolvable.  If anonymity on MUDs allows people to do and say
whatever they wish, it also allows them to be whatever they wish.  It
is not only the MUD environment that is a virtual variable--the
virtual manifestation of each player is similarly alterable, open to
change and re-interpretation.  The player does not constitute a fixed
reference point in the MUD universe.  Players do not enter into the
system and remain unchanged by it.  Players do not, in essence,
'enter' the virtual landscape--they are manifested within it by
their own imaginative effort.

In everyday life, our efforts at self-presentation usually assume that
we cannot change the basics of our appearance.  Physical
characteristics, although open to cosmetic or fashionable
manipulation, are basically unalterable.  What we look like, we have
to live with, and this fixity underpins our social institutions.
Social structures based on bias toward or prejudice against differing
portions of humanity depend on the ease with which we can assess each
other's bodies, and ascribe identities to physical form.  Male,
female, white, black, young, old, poor and affluent are all terms that
resonate through our culture, and each depends in part on the fixity
of physical form, and our ability to affix meaning to that form.
These kinds of assumptions go beyond the level of non-verbal
communication--they make up not the outward form of our culture but
the substructure of it.  Just as we notice--if such an almost
subconscious perception can be called 'noticing'--the gender of our
interlocutors before we notice their facial expressions, the symbolism
of the body underpins and shapes our culture.  On MUDs, however, the
body is not an immutable property.  How one MUD player 'looks' to
another player is entirely dependant upon information that they choose
to give.  The boundaries delineated by cultural constructions of the
body are both subverted and given free rein in virtual environments.
With the body freed from the physical, it completely enters the realm
of symbol.  It becomes an entity of pure meaning, but is
simultaneously meaningless, stripped of any fixed referent.

The MUD system does not dictate to players the form of their virtual
persona.  The process of character creation is at all times in the
hands, or imaginations, of the player, although different systems may
make the process less or more complex.[1]  Players may manifest
themselves in any way they please, unbounded by the physical measures
that limit our self-presentation in actual life.  MUD characters are
much more than a few bytes of computer data--they are cyborgs, a
manifestation of the self beyond the realms of the physical, existing
in a space where identity is self-defined rather than pre-ordained.
The consequences of this for the sub-cultures that form on MUDs are
enormous.  They begin with a challenge to the ties between body and
self, and lead to subversions of the categories of gender and
sexuality which are so dominant in the actual world.

MUD players create their own virtual personas, their own characters.
They create, initially, a name.  Their first contact with the MUD
program is to direct it to create a database entry which will serve as
their window into the virtual universe, the informational node to
which they will connect in order to experience the virtual reality
contained in a MUD system.  Players rarely choose to give their real
name to their virtual persona.  Most choose to manifest themselves
under a name that forms the central focus of what becomes a virtual
disguise.  These names can be almost anything that the player chooses
to make them.  They can be conventional names such as Chris, Jane or
Smith.  In many cases, the names have clearly been borrowed from
characters from books, films or television shows--Gandalf, AgentCooper
and PrincessLeia.  Other names, such as Love, funky, Moonlight and
blip, reflect ideas, symbols and emotions, while many more, such as
FurryMUCK's felinoid Veronicat and LambdaMOO's yudJ, involve plays
upon language and conventional naming systems.[2]  The name a player
chooses is the beginning point of his or her virtual self.  On top of
that name, the player builds a virtual body, endowing the new-born and
newly-christened database entry with characteristics that mimic
actuality.  Players attach textual descriptions to those entries,
clothing and defining the would-be physical form of their character,
giving them possessions, and attaching to them symbols of those
aspects of identity to which we give great importance in actual life--
characters are gendered, sexed, identified.

The subversion of the body begins in small ways on MUDs.  At the least
end of the virtual surgery that players may perform upon themselves
lies the cosmetic.  It is possible to by-pass the boundaries
delineated by cultural constructs of beauty, ugliness and fashion.
Players can appear to be as they would wish.  Such changes that a
player might make to his or her perceived identity can be small, a
matter of realising in others' minds a desire to be attractive,
impressive and popular:

          Lirra is a short young woman with long
     blonde hair, an impish grin and a curvaceous
     figure.  Her clear blue eyes sparkle as she looks
     back at you.  She is wearing a short red skirt, a
     white t-shirt, black fishnet stockings, and black
     leather boots and jacket.

           Lirra whispers, "my desc is pretty real,
     but I'm a bit plumper than that" to you.

           Lirra whispers, "and maybe i don't always
     wear such sexy clothes ;)" to you.[3]

Such manifestations remain within the realm of the bodily constructs
with which we are familiar in actual life.  They may enable the player
to side-step the normal requirements of entry into glamour, but they
do not subvert the concept.  Rather, such descriptions call upon our
pre-conceived notions about the human appearance to sustain their
power.  They do not free players from the shackles of the beauty myth,
but they allow them to redefine themselves in accordance with that

Beyond the bounds of beauty, other players shape their virtual selves
to emulate the signs of influence and affluence which we pay heed to
in our actual lives.  Such characters are usually beautiful, but their
beauty is at most a setting, the background for social status rather
than the reason for it:

          A lean Man standing a metre 73, weighing
     about 70 kilos.  His hair is golden brown with
     hints of red, the frame his angelic face.  Deep
     set are two emerald eyes that peer back at you.
     His vestiage is all in black with a cloak
     concealing him.  You see on his right hand an
     emerald colored ring of peculiar origin.  You
     realize that it is that of a Green Lantern.  You
     can tell he is the sort of man who can see the
     strings that bind the universe together and mend
     them when they break.[4]

At the core of such characters is their possession of influential and
even superhuman attributes.  Curtis describes this phenomenon in
player description as simply being a case of wish-fulfilment--"I
cannot count," he says, "the number of 'mysterious but
unmistakably powerful' figures I have seen wandering LambdaMOO."[5]
In many cases this may be true--certainly the majority of people in
everyday life are neither as extraordinary nor as powerful as many MUD
characters present themselves to be.  However, it must be remembered
that their personal description is the only method open to players to
substitute for what, in everyday life, would be a complex mixture of
non-verbal social context cues such as accent, dress and race.  If
many descriptions show exaggerated, even fantastical, attempts to
indicate social acceptability, it is at least in part a reflection of
the degree to which players feel it necessary to compensate for the
lack of non-textual communication channels.  Without reference to the
senses on which we normally rely to provide information, such socio-
emotional cues must be made explicit in textual descriptions.  The
social information usually spread out over several different sensual
channels is concentrated into one channel and therefore exaggerated.

Whatever the reasons for such cases of virtual cosmetic surgery, be
they dramaturgical or egoistical, their effect upon the MUD universe
is to free it from conventions of power that rely on physical
manifestation.  When everyone can be beautiful, there can be no
hierarchy of beauty.  This freedom, however, is not necessarily one
that undermines the power of such conventions.  Indeed, such freedom
to be beautiful tends to support these conventions by making beauty
not unimportant but a pre-requisite.  The convention becomes
conventional--MUD worlds are free from the stigma of ugliness not
because appearance ceases to matter but because no one need be seen to
be ugly.  The cosmetic nature of virtual worlds is, however, the least
of their ability to operate upon our physically-centred prejudices.
In the realms of gender and sexuality, MUD systems go beyond the
escapist and become creative.

Of the cultural factors that are most important in encounters in
Western society--typified by the big three of gender, race and class--
all may be 'hard-coded' into MUD programs.  Race and class are
generally the least problematised of these three, and their
representations offer a link between the cosmetic and the radical ends
of cultural surgery.  Race and class on MUDs are generally the concern
of systems that are adventure-oriented, and the choices available are
likely to be within the realms of fantasy.  Choices of race are more
likely to be between Dwarvish, Elvish and Klingon than between Asian,
Black and Caucasian; choices of class are more likely to be between
Warrior, Magician and Thief than between white or blue-collar.  This
essential racial and class blindness is very likely the effect of the
pre-selection criteria which the actual world places on those who
would have access to the Internet.  MUD players are necessarily people
who have access to the Internet computer network.  They are most
likely to live in the industrialised and largely English-speaking
countries that form the greater part of the Internet.  They are also
most likely to be either employed by an organisation with an interest
in computing, or be attending an educational institution.  People who
fit these requirements are overwhelmingly likely to be affluent and
white.[6]  Uniformity decreases visibility, and thus for a large
percentage of players, race and class are taken as a given and so seem
to be invisible.

Gender, however, is brought very much to the fore on MUDs.  All MUDs
allow--and some insist--that players set their 'gender flag', a
technical property of MUD characters that controls which set of
pronouns are used by the MUD program in referring to the character.
Most MUDs allow only three choices--male, female and neuter--which
decide between the families of pronouns containing him, her or it.  A
few MUDs demand that a player select either male or female as their
gender, and do not allow a player with an unset gender flag to enter
the MUD.  Other MUDs allow many genders--male, female, plural, neuter,
hermaphrodite, and several unearthly genders lifted from the pages of
science fiction novels.  It is obviously easy for players to choose to
play a character with a gender different from their own.  At least, it
is technically easy, but not necessarily socially easy since there is
a lively controversy surrounding the issue of cross-gendered playing.
The subject is one that regularly recurs on the Usenet newsgroups
relating to MUDs.  Indeed, the times when the topic is not being
debated are far outnumbered by the times when it is--it is a subject
that evokes strong feelings from a very large number of MUD players.

Almost without exception such debates begin with the instance, either
actual or hypothetical, of a male player controlling a female
character.  It is very rare for the reverse situation, that of a woman
playing a man, to be brought up, at least in the first instance.  This
one-sidedness runs in parallel to a common claim that male-to-female
cross-gendering is far more common than the reverse, a claim that
rests in part on the notion, common lore amongst MUD players, that
most of their number are in fact male.  This may well be so.  The
cultural pre-selection process which ensures that most MUD players are
white and affluent is also in operation in defining the sex of the
average player.  Although the gap is slowly closing, most people
employed as computer programmers and computer engineers are male, and
most of the students likely to have access to the Internet (those
studying Computer Science, or Software Engineering) are also male.  It
is therefore quite likely that the folklore on the subject is correct,
and that the majority of MUD players are male.[7]  Since female and
male presenting characters are about equally common, it follows that
some of those female characters are controlled by male players.

Whether or not most players are male, the one-sidedness in the cross-
gender debate is strongly related to players' perception of women as
being the minority of their number, and to notions of gender-specific
behaviour found in the external culture.  Female-presenting players
are treated very differently to male-presenting players.  They are
often subjected to virtual forms of those two hoary sides of a male-
dominated society--harassment and chivalry.  The latter can give
female characters an advantage in the game world.  Players newly
connecting to a MUD system will inevitably require help in navigating
the virtual terrain, and in learning the commands particular to that
system.  Players who present themselves as female are more likely than
their male counterparts to find help easily, or to be offered it
spontaneously.  On adventure-oriented systems, in which the goodwill
of other players can mean the life or death of a character, female-
presenting characters are likely to be offered help in the form of
money and other objects helpful for survival.  This special treatment
is not always, however, meted out in a spirit of pure altruism.
Players offering help, expensive swords and amulets of protection
generally want something in return.  At the least, they might expect
to be offered friendship; sometimes they may expect less platonic
favours to be showered upon them.

Sex is, of course, at the root of this special treatment.  As well as
being white and male, the average MUD player might be likely to be
young, since the Internet primarily serves educational institutions
and thus students who are generally in their late teens or early
twenties.[8]  Such young people might well be expected to engage in
romantic and sexual exploration, and the anonymous virtual environment
allows this kind of exploration a safety that could only make it all
the more attractive a site for it.  It is hardly unusual for young
people to utilise social situations to form relationships with members
of the appropriate sex; since MUD systems provide a social environment
it is not surprising that they are sometimes used in such ways, and
successful liaisons can be intensely felt and emotionally fulfilling.
Romantic attentions are not, however, always welcome or appropriate.
In cases where they are not, the attention paid to female-presenting
characters can fall into the realms of sexual harassment.  As I have
described, aggression can as easily be played out on MUDs as can
affection.  The sexual harassment of female characters is not
uncommon, and is often closely tied to what may begin as a chivalrous
offer of help, as this adventure MUD player describes:

     I played a couple of muds as a female, one making
     up to wizard level.  Other players start
     showering you with money to help you get started,
     and I had never once gotten a handout when
     playing a male player.  And then they feel they
     should be allowed to tag along forever, and feel
     hurt when you leave them to go off and explore by
     yourself.  Then when you give them the knee after
     they grope you, they wonder what your problem is,
     reciting that famous saying "What's your problem?
     It's only a game".[9]

For others the cry of "it's only a game" is itself justification
for permitting cross-gendered playing:

     I just paged through about 15 articles on this
     cross-gender topic.  GEEZ guys get a life.  Who
     cares if someone playes a female or male
     character and who cares what sex they are in real
     life!  This is a game, and if someone enjoys
     playing the opposite sex, so what.[10]

However, and despite claims such as this one, for most players gender
is of great moment, far more so than the imagined race or profession
of the player.  The simple fact is that no player presenting him or
herself as a Dwarvish warrior-mage is likely to be one in actual life,
but a female or male-presenting character could be controlled by a
player of that sex.  There is no cause for branding role-playing a
Dwarf as deception when a reasonable person could not truly be
deceived; it is only where virtual existence holds close parallels to
actual life that the possibility and accusations of deception enter
the equation.  The ethics of this kind of 'deception' are subject to
debate amongst MUD players.  Opinion is sharply divided.  Some players
feel that cross-gendering, particularly in the case of male players
controlling female characters, is a despicable and even perverted

     Well, I think it *is* sick for guys to play
     female characters.  Most only do it to fool some
     poor guy into thinking he's found the lady of his
     dreams, and then turn around and say "Ha! Ha! I'm
     really male!" Real mature.  I think if you get
     off on pretending to be female you should go and
     dress up and go to some club in San Fran where
     they like perverts--just don't go around deceiving
     people on muds.[11]

There are three issues which those who oppose cross-gendering are
concerned about.  Firstly, they feel that it is 'cheating' for a
male player to take advantage of the favouritism and chivalry that is
commonly showered upon female-presenting players in order to get
special privileges in the game.  Secondly, many feel that such
impersonations are, by virtue of being 'lies', unethical.  Lastly,
many players obviously feel very uncomfortable and at a disadvantage
in interacting with others whose gender is unclear, and feel even more
discomforted on discovering that they have been interacting under
false assumptions.

For some, this is where cyberspace ceases to be a comfortable place.
We are so used to being provided with information about each other's
sex that the lack of it can leave many players feeling set adrift.
Gender roles are so ingrained in our culture that for many people they
are a necessity, and acting without reference to them seems
impossible.  Many people are simply unable to negotiate social
encounters without needing to fix, at least in assumption, the genders
of their interlocutors.  It is indeed a truly disorienting experience
the first time one finds oneself being treated as a member of the
opposite sex.  My own forays into the realm of virtual masculinity
were at first frightening experiences.  Much as some of us may deplore
what we see as the negative sides of our culture's sexual politics,
we are brought up to align ourselves with gender-specific social
navigation mechanisms.  Once deprived of the social tools which I, as
female, was used to deploying and relying on, I felt rudderless,
unable to negotiate the most simple of social interactions.  I did not
know how to speak, whether to women or to 'other' men, and I was
thrown off balance by the ways in which other people spoke to me.  It
took much practice to learn to navigate these unfamiliar channels, an
experience that gave me a greater understanding of the mechanics of
sexual politics than any other I have ever had.

For some players it is precisely this chance to swim unfamiliar seas
that attracts them to cross-gendered playing.  If it had not been for
my intellectual interest I would probably not have persevered with my
attempts as male self-presentation since it was often stressful and
bewildering.  Others, perhaps more adventurous and less self-conscious
than I, claim this as the most rewarding aspect of virtual existence.
The chance to see how the other half lives is enjoyed by many as
liberating and enlightening, as is the opportunity to take a holiday
from the confines of one's actual gender.  The demands of
masculinity, or femininity, can be daunting to those not brought up to
them, and even those who are can appreciate the chance to side-step

     Melina says, "What I really liked about having a
     female character was that I didn't have to do all
     the masculine bullshit--all the penis-waving."
     Melina giggles.  "Penis-waving... I love that
     Melina says, "I could just chat with people! It
     was great! No having to compete, no *pressures*,
     no feeling like I'd be made fun of for talking
     about my feelings."[12]

The ability to adopt and adapt to the erosion of gender requires a
great deal of cultural and psychological flexibility.  At its best it
might help those who can play this game to understand the problems
experienced by actual members of the opposite sex.  Men who have
experienced first hand the kinds of sexual harassment that for women
has often been, as Gloria Steinem described it on a televised
interview, "just part of life", may be less likely to perpetuate
the social structures that enable such harassment.  At the same time,
such virtual fluidity acts to erode the places from which many of us
speak.  What, for instance, will it mean for feminist politics that in
cyberspace men can not only claim to speak for women, but can speak
_as_ women, with no one able to tell the difference? The subversion of
gender is not always a happy or enlightening experience.  The
problematising of identity, and of the speaking positions which are so
crucial to our politics aside, many cross-gendered players experience
the opposite of liberation--they are caught in a backlash against it:

     There are also those who think it is an
     abomination to be playing a character of a
     different gender...  and if it becomes known that
     a female character is actually being played by a
     guy, some of these guys will hunt down and kill
     the female character repeatedly for the "crime"
     of being a genderbender.[13]

The tools utilised by MUD players to enforce and maintain social
structures and social coherence can be used to support any number of
different ethical and moral systems.  If methods of enforcing such
systems can be called into effect in an effort to shore up the virtual
holes in players' perceptions of traditional gender roles, they can
also be used to enforce a different kind of 'political correctness':

     I am female.  I choose to play female chars on
     muds.  And people do harrass you.  Its not just
     casual convo or compliment.  I stopped playing
     muds where playerkilling is not legal.  People
     tend to value there characters.  If they really
     start harrassing you, you, or some other high
     level, killing them a few times tends to stop it
     short.  On the muds i play im happy to kill
     people for harrassement [...] But i went on a few
     no pk muds recently and it was costant
     harrassment.  I was getting tells like "How big
     are your tits" or "You want to mudfuck" which is
     reallly annoying.  So to the females who have
     problems, head to the player killing muds where
     you can avenge yourself...[14]

The structure of MUD programs destroys the usually all but
insurmountable confines of sex.  Gender is self-selected.  This
freedom opens up a wealth of possibilities, for gender is one of the
more 'sacred' institutions in our society, a quality whose fixity is
so assumed that enacted or surgical reassignment has and does involve
complex rituals, taboos, procedures and stigmas.  This fixity, and the
common equation of gender with sex, becomes problematic when gender
reassignment can be effected by a few touches at a keyboard.  MUDs
become the arena for experimentation with gender specific social
roles, and debate over the ethics of such experimentation.  The
flexibility of self-presentation provided by MUDs makes it possible
for players to experiment with aspects of behaviour and identity that
it would not normally be possible to play with.  Players are able to
create a virtual self outside the normally assumed boundaries of
gender, race, class and age.  The possibility of such experimentation
governs the expectations of all players of MUDs.  Some find the lack
of fixity intimidating; others show a willingness to accept this
phenomenon, and to join in the games that can be played within it.
Whether an individual player enjoys the situations that come of this
potential, or is resentful and wary of them, exploitation of it is an
accepted part of the MUD environment.  Most players seem to be aware,
and some have learnt through bitter experience, that not all
characters reflect the identity of the player.  MUDs challenge and
obscure the boundaries between some of our most deeply felt cultural
significances, and force the creation of new cultural expectations to
accommodate this.

MUDs both erode gender and bring it to the fore.  In the instant that
a player assigns a sex to his or her character, that split has been
recognised.  The need for conscious assignment makes gender
meaningless as a reference point in some claimed reality, but it also
marks it as a vital cultural referent.  On MUDs sex and gender are
subverted by the whims of imagination.  The attributes and social
options society allocates each gender offer both negative and positive
experiences.  The chance to experience life on the other side of what
is usually an all but insurmountable divide can make the MUD world
into a stage for inventive and subversive cultural games.  At their
most liberal, systems where this playful subversion is an accepted by-
product of virtual existence can be dynamic and challenging places.

Nevertheless, as Stone has also noted, the gender-specific roles that
our culture prescribes have not been changed by this virtual freedom
from the shackles of gender, but the rules delineating who may use
which social mode have been clouded.  The appropriation of the other
is an accepted, though not always liked, feature of the virtual
terrain.  The virtual colonisation of the body of the other in the
often culturally uncharted waters of the cyberspatial frontier, to
offer a mix of landscapes and similes only possible in virtual
reality, is commonplace.  Gender is divorced from the body, and given
a purely social significance.  The man who can behave as a woman, and
the woman who can behave as a man, are virtually accepted as
legitimately owning such presented identities.  The cyborg entity, to
paraphrase Sylvia Plath, walks wary though the virtual landscape,
sceptical of the 'real world' significance of what is culturally
signposted, yet politic, amenable to the games played within that
space.  The gendered subject is separated from the sexed body, if not
finally divorced from it.  MUDs do not grant a _decree_nisi_ to the
gender roles that permeate our social existence, but they do offer
equal opportunity casting.

Stone tells us that, in describing the act of computer-mediated
communication, people she had interviewed would "move their hands
expressively as though typing, emphasising the gestural quality and
essential tactility of the virtual mode."[15]  Communication through
the fingertips rather than through sound, a necessarily tactile
connection, a social touch, albeit one distanced by computer cable, is
the breed of sociality expressed on MUDs.  The pose command and the
feelings commands are the most richly used of all those communicative
tools available on MUD systems.  This obsession with the physical in a
non-physical environment is hardly contradictory--a consensual
hallucination is, after all, in part a sensual hallucination.
Spanning the senses as well as the imaginations of the participants,
MUDs are as grimily sensual as their name suggests, and can be a stage
for sexual expression.

FurryMUCK is one of the most popular social MUDs on the Internet, and
one that has a reputation for being rampant with sexual activity.  I
cannot say whether this is deserved or not--MUDsex seems to happen on
all systems, and it is impossible for me to say whether it is more or
less common on FurryMUCK.  However, questions of social and sexual
identity, and of the unfixed and unfixable nature of the cyborg body,
are prominent on FurryMUCK.  The very theme of the MUD draws these
questions to the fore, for every character on Furry is inhuman, and
most are anthropomorphised animals clad only in virtual fur.  Cats and
bears are legion, most of them sleek-furred and svelte or broad and
brawny.  The nature and culture of the body is the primary theme of
FurryMUCK, and the ideal is animalistic allure.  Sexuality is a vital
aspect of this kind of cyborg body, and most character descriptions
reflect this.  There are few 'mysterious but powerful' mage-warriors
on FurryMUCK, but many flashes of velvet-pelted thighs, glints of
slitted pupils and touches of sharp-taloned paws.

'Touches' is indeed the operative word.  FurryMUCK is by far the
most 'physical' of the MUDs I have encountered.  There is much back-
scratching, fur-patting, hugging and kissing between Furries, that
being the name by which they are both called and self-identified.
This virtual touching is rarely overtly sexual when performed in the
more public areas of the FurryMUCK world.  It is always affectionate,
and indeed FurryMUCK is one of the most friendly MUDs I have used.
Nevertheless, beneath the affectionate snugging and purring is a
strong undercurrent of revelry in the decidedly beautiful and sensual
nature of Furry bodies.  If one looks for them, areas where semi-
public sexual play is common are not hard to find.  The FurryMUCK hot-
tubs are both popular and well sign-posted with warnings about the
nature of the behaviour both allowed and to be expected inside them.
The Truth or Dare games played in their own specially designed and,
again, signposted, areas are a deliberate invitation for sexual
expression.  Just as the games of Truth or Dare played by actual
humans, as many adolescent memories will attest, nearly always concern
themselves with questions about desires and dares to act on them, so
do the games played by Furries.

The mechanics of sexual activity on MUDs are very simple.  It is a
form of co-authored interactive erotica.  The players involved in a
particular virtual sexual act type out their actions and utterances:

     Arista continues to nip little kisses back down
     your neck.
     Pete mmmms, his hands stroking a little at your
     Arista presses her body to yours, rubbing herself
     like a cat over you.
     Pete groans softly, laying back on the long seat,
     writhing softly under you.
     Arista moves her mouth down over your chest
     Arista plants open mouth kisses over your left
     nipple as she flicks her tongue over it gently.
     Pete's body arches up towards your mouth,

>From all accounts MUDsex can be a lot of fun for the participants, and
many a crude reference has been made in the MUD-related newsgroups as
to the manner in which it improves a player's ability to type one-
handed.  Beyond its mechanics MUDsex--or tinysex as it is often
called, in erroneous implication that most of it occurs on social-
style MUDs--is not at all simple.  MUDsex falls into a realm between
the actual and the virtual.  Players can become emotionally involved
in the virtual actions of their characters, and the line between
virtual actions and actual desires can become blurred.

Virtual sex is the least and the most expressive of virtual
interactions.  In its descriptions of purely would-be physical
interaction, it is the least overtly cultural of interactions.  It
draws most heavily on external cultural factors in its dramaturgical
nature, and it is without doubt among the most dramatically affective
of virtual happenings.  Real desire and arousal are evoked between
participants, a reaction hugely dependant upon each person's external
cultural experience.  As Stone describes the relationship between
phone sex workers and clients, the speaker--or typist--textually codes
for gesture, appearance, or proclivity, and expresses these as tokens,
sometimes in no more than a smiley, and the listener, or reader,
uncompresses the tokens and constructs a dense, complex interactive
image.[17]  In these interactions, Stone continues, "desire appears
as a product of the interaction between embodied reality and the
emptiness of the token."[18]  That emptiness is filled with the
cultural and personal expectations of the virtual lovers--good
cybersex consists of the empathetic understanding of and response to
the cultural symbols represented by a partner's symbolic tokens.
Such descriptors are loaded with assumptions and meanings; that they
can be transmitted along with the text is a tribute not only to the
linguistic skill of the interlocutors but to the facility of the
virtual medium for such dramatic and intimate play.  The human body is
represented through narrow bandwidth communication in all its
culturally laden fleshiness through the coding of cultural
expectations as linguistic tokens of meaning.  Desire is no longer
grounded in physicality in cyberspace, in triumphant confirmation of
the thesis that the most important human erogenous zone is the mind.
MUD sex may never replace actual sex, but it does provide some erotic
satisfaction to those who participate in it.

"Textuality as striptease" is no longer just a jibe directed by
the script writers of the BBC production "Small World" at a
particular breed of American postmodern cultural critics.[19]  The
textual nature of MUDs strips the confines of a particular body from
players, and allows them the freedom to play with, in and through any
body they desire.  Cyborg bodies are not, as Stone claims,
"preorgasmic".[20]  The "erotic ontology of cyberspace" lies
most clearly in its concentration of the erogenous into the
imaginative.[21]  Cyborg bodies are, in many ways, superior to their
actual counterparts.  They cannot tire, stumble, or subject their
inhabitants to any of the embarrassments or failures that flesh is
prone to.  Thus cyborg sex is a concentration of the erotic, a
purifying of prurient imagination, a romantic idealisation of sexual
encounters worthy of the most airbrushed Hollywood art.

Cyborgs are born out of virtual sex.  At the moment of virtual orgasm
the line between player and character is the most clouded and the most
transparent.  Who it is that is communicating becomes unclear, and
whether passion is being simulated on or transmitted through the MUD
becomes truly problematic.  Born from primeval MUD, these cyborgs
redefine gender, identity and the body.  In this part of cyberspace, a
place as far divorced from the natural world and the animal, as far
from the flesh as human inventiveness can get, the lines between the
animal and the conscious are erased.

FurryMUCK seems almost too good for cultural analysis to be true--an
imaginary world populated by conscious animals consciously
sensualised, all represented by pure linguistic symbolism and
represented within the confines of electricity, silicon and magnetism.
At the margins of physicality, these Furry cyborgs play with the
margins of sexuality.  They have none of the boundaries of the actual
to confine them.  They may take on any physiology that passion and
imagined convenience invites.  Any configuration of human and animal
components may be mixed to create as many sexual possibilities as can
be imagined.  Bisexual, multisexual, polysexual--they can be all, but
always consensual.  For the players there is always the off-button;
for the cyborg characters, implements of sensual overload are as
controlled or as uncontrolled, as gentle or as cruel, as the
simulation demands.  Perversion is as common on MUDs as in the 'real
world', but in cyberspace perversion can be perverted into any form.
In the dim recesses of Internet cyberspace, there are MUDs, known only
by word of mouth--or touch of keyboard--with themes as controversial
as that of any specialist brothel.  Kinks of any kind can be found if
looked for, all bent to the demands of the cyborg entities who portray
them for the amusement of the humans shadowed behind their
technologies.  FurryMUCK is the lightest side of this twisting of
cyborg gender and sex--the fluffiest and the snuggliest.  Darker
cyberspaces can be found, painted not in cartoon colours and textured
with fur, but depicted in the dark techno-organicism of H. R. Giger
and texted with all the danger and poetry of Pauline Reage.

The cyborgs on MUDs do not, as Donna Haraway suggests in her "Cyborg
Manifesto", have "no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal
symbiosis... or other seductions to organic wholeness".[22]
Although, in partial confirmation of Haraway's comments, they are
literally the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal
capitalism--of the US Department of Defence and the bastions of higher
education--MUD cyborgs do not reject the labels of the father culture.
There is no escape from labelling for these cyborgs--they are
constructed entirely from the most evident of labels.  Their
commitment to "particularity, irony, intimacy and perversity" is
expressed through the flaunting of cultural symbols and the literal
inscription upon their virtual bodies of the signs of who they want to
be.[23]  Transsexual, transvestite, bisexual, superhuman and
anthropomorphic--MUD bodies can embrace and be embraced by each of
these richly coded definitions.

At the heart of this play with identity is always the question of how
dichotomous cyborg and actual identities are.  Where are the lines
drawn between representation, simulation and actualisation?  How far
do genuine feelings draw virtual actions into the realm of the actual?
These are questions for the legislators and philosophers of our new
computerised world, and not questions that will be answered easily,
for the one constant of cyberspatial existence is that it is different
for everyone.  Current political and legal trends, with talk of
'hostile environments' and 'hate speech', may lead to the notion
that biotechnological politics move beyond the regulation of actions
upon the body and into actions upon the spirit.  The ultimate
reduction of the physical--the microelectronic--may become the realm
of the disembodied spirit.  If criminality, or even immorality, can be
discovered in cyberspace it will entail a greater recognition of
amorphic harm.  The most intimate of MUD interactions already involve
that recognition.  Negotiation, and behind-the-scenes direction,
almost always ride in tandem with expression.  In the mechanics of the
act, cyborg lovers whisper messages between their players, directing
what is acceptable and what is not, defining and creating the virtual
experience with determination and consent.  The most highly practised
inhabitants of MUD spaces make their intentions and desires clear.
Flirtation is more highly specified than it is in the pubs and parties
of the 'real world'.  Raised eyebrows and tilted cigarettes are
replaced by direct requests.  This is cyberspatial intimacy at its

These cyborgs do not exist in a "post-gender world."[24]  They are
only quasi-disembodied.  They do not attempt to posit their identities
as amorphous, but instead revel in the possibilities of body-hopping.
Play is not with escape from the claims of the flesh, but with the
cultural meanings attached to different bodies.  The adoption of
masculinity, femininity, androgyny, animality or the more fantastical
meanings attributed to fictional races or genders, is as easily
accomplished as might be the donning of a new set of clothes.  Thus
clothed in the borrowed trappings of other's cultural expectations
and imaginings, cyborg selves interact in fashions that are based both
on superficial appearances and on an acceptance of whatever the
individual wants to be.  They do not reject gender, or any other signs
of identity, but play a game with them, freeing symbols from their
organic referents and grafting the meanings of those symbols onto
their virtual descriptors.

[1]  See the Appendix 7 for examples of simple and complex character
     creation systems.
[2]  These names have been selected from the character lists of the
     four MUDs which I have concentrated on in this thesis.
[3]  From a log taken of a session on LambdaMOO on July 10th, 1992.
     The name of the player concerned has been changed at her request.
[4]  From a log taken of a session on LambdaMOO on January 17th, 1992.
[5]  Curtis, 29.
[6]  Many Asian countries (including Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, and
     Thailand) are represented on the Internet.  However the different
     computer platforms needed to transmit and receive Asian and Roman
     character sets often mean that users from Asian and Western
     countries are, unless they are able to arrange special access to
     the appropriate platforms, unlikely to meet on any common virtual
[7]  In the survey carried out on LambdaMOO, 76.6% of respondents
     claimed to be male in real life and 23.4% claimed to be female.
[8]  The results of the LambdaMOO survey indicated that the mean age
     of players was 23.6, the median age was 21, and the greatest
     number of players (90) claimed to be 19.  50% of players claimed
     to be aged between 19 and 23.  The youngest age given was 12 and
     the oldest 54.
[9]  From: [email protected] (Darin Johnson); Newsgroups:; Subject: Re: MUD practical jokes?; Date: 27 Jan 92
     20:27:50 GMT
[10] From: anonymous; Newsgroups:; Subject: Cross-gender
     thing!; Date: 4 Mar 92 00:16:30 GMT
[11] From: anonymous; Subject: Re: Gender Issues: "Real World"
     Warning; Newsgroups:; Date: 4 Jun 92 08:27:53 GMT
[12] From a log taken of a session on FurryMUCK on June 21st, 1993.
     The name of the player has been changed at 'her' request.
[13] From: [email protected] (Trif); Newsgroups:; Subject: Re: sex roles; Date: 21 Nov 1993
     22:59:27 GMT
[14] From: [email protected] (Kristen--Taylor); Newsgroups:; Subject: Re: Muding Girlfriends?; Date: Fri,
     10 Dec 1993 03:09:47 GMT
[15] Stone, 90.
[16] From: [email protected]; To: [email protected]; Subject: 141
     lines...pick a few; Date: Mon, 3 Jan 94 8:05:03 EST.
[17] Stone, 103.
[18] Stone, 103.
[19] For those who have not seen this hilarious series, it followed
     the adventures of a naive young Irish poet as he accompanied
     three seasoned academics on the literary conference circuit.
     These three academics each gave exactly the same paper at each
     conference: the American Postmodernist speaking on "Textuality as
     Striptease", the English Traditionalist speaking on "The Love of
     Books", and the European Marxist giving a "Criticisme of
[20] Stone, 104.
[21] This phrase has been taken from Michael Heim, "The Erotic
     Ontology of Cyberspace," _Cyberspace:_First_Steps,_ Ed. Michael
     Benedikt, (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1991).
[22] "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism
     in the Late Twentieth Century" is contained in Chapter Eight of
     Donna Haraway, _Simians,_Cyborgs,_and_Women:_The_Reinvention_of_
     _Nature_, (London: Free Association Books, 1991).  This quotation
     is taken from page 150.
[23] Haraway, 151.
[24] Haraway, 150.

Traditional forms of human interaction have their codes of etiquette.
We are all brought up to behave according to the demands of social
context.  We know, as if instinctively, when it is appropriate to
flirt, to be respectful, to be angry, or silent.  Words do not express
the full extent of our cultural and interpersonal play.  The greater
part of our interaction is expressed through signs and symbols--in
tone and nuance, in styles of dress, in postures and facial
expressions, in rules and traditions.  Smiles, frowns, tones of voice,
posture and dress--Geertz's "significant symbols"--tell us more
about the social contexts we are placed in than do the statements of
the people we socialise with.[1]  Physical context is a part of social
context--place and time are as much loaded with cultural meaning as
are dress and gesture.  Words, as we use them in everyday life, are
insufficient to create a context for our existence.  It is the
scenery, props and action that complete the social stage.  On MUD
systems, however, these structures for communication are dismantled.
The conventions that we are accustomed to rely on are not present in
these virtual realities.  The environmental cues that feed us our
cultural lines become ambivalent and problematic.  Communication and
cultural context must be expressed through new channels, and new
systems of meaning must be forged by virtual denizens who wish to make
sense of and to one another.

The medium itself blocks some of the social constraints that players
would, under other circumstances, be operating within.  Cultural
indicators--of social position, of age and authority, of personal
appearance--are relatively weak in a computer-mediated context.  They
might be inferred, but they are not evident.  MUD systems leave it
open to users to create virtual replacements for these social cues.
Interaction on MUDs involves the creation of replacements and
substitutes for physical cues, and the construction of social
hierarchies and signifiers of authority.  The results of this creation
are self-regulating communities that include systems of hierarchy and
power that allow for the punishment of disruptive members.  The
textual replacements for context cues utilised on MUDs are the tools
of interpretation that enable players both to overcome the cultural
problems created by their environment, and to create unique
environments that house their own specialised cultural understandings.
These tools, these symbols, constitute cultural knowledge.  It takes
specialised knowledge and dramatic skill to create a social presence
on a MUD.  With practice and with these skills MUD players form
communities which enable members to form close attachments, and to
regulate and punish disruptive members.  The objects in this virtual
environment serve as the stage on which these cultural plays are
enacted--houses and toads facilitate the marriages and public trials
which are the virtually physical manifestations of players' common
cultural understandings.  MUD systems contain communities that are
"created through symbolic strategies and collective beliefs."[2]

MUD players share not only a common virtual environment, but also a
common language and a common textuality.  Within the context of the
former, the latter two allow MUD players to make sense of one another
despite the limitations of the medium in which MUDs exist.  MUD
players share a stage, and share an understanding of the rules and
ways of breaking rules that allow them to speak meaningful lines.
They are able to read each other in far more than a textual fashion.
With inventiveness and lateral thinking has come a set of
understandings and symbols that allow MUDs to become a social
environment.  Within this environment, MUD players experience human
dramas as strongly as they might in actuality.

These communities are by no means idyllic.  Free expression may be
encouraged by the disinhibiting nature of the medium, at least in the
early stages of play, but that is not always as socially constructive
that many liberal ideologies would claim it to be.  Free expression
allows not only the voicing of views that might be 'politically
correct', but also of 'hate speech'.  All sides of any social or
political debate can find a voice on MUDs, and so the social
characteristics of MUD systems vary widely.  Some, like FurryMUCK,
provide an environment that some would call liberated and others
perverse.  Other systems provide environments that uphold that breed
of 'family values' generally promoted by the more conservative
elements of the political spectrum.  This diversity is the key to
characterising virtual environments.  In themselves, they are amoral--
virtual reality is a promiscuous tool, capable of reflecting any
environment imagined.  In compensation for the sometimes anti-social
effects of disinhibition there exist methods of preventing and
punishing behaviour which could pose a threat to the delicate balance
of understanding on which MUD communities exist.  Technical measures
have been built into the MUD program to deal with disruptive players,
and social conventions that act to exclude and punish have been
developed.  Both technical and social sanctions rely on a social
hierarchy that is based on relative degrees of control over the
virtual universe.

Within this ambivalent virtual space, notions of human identity and
existence are problematised.  MUD characters have no actuality, only
virtuality.  They are never immutable.  MUD characters are not fixed
and they are always in the process of redefinition.  They are cyborgs-
-entities made up of ones and zeroes and imagination, without bodies
and without physical restrictions in the virtuality they inhabit.
Erik Erikson writes that "the playing adult steps sideward into
another reality."[3]  On MUD systems the games that are played
involve not just a stepping into but the creation of another reality,
the creation of virtually physical contexts, and the emergence of new
forms of being.  The virtual environments designed on MUDs exist not
in the databases and computer networks that make up these systems, but
in the ways in which players can use those technologies to realise
what they have imagined, and to explore the results of other players'
imaginings.  The program mediates between the players' imaginings and
their realisation in a form that can be experienced by others.  MUDs
allow each player to design and interact with computer-generated
objects that are imbued with cultural meaning by the players who have
created them.  The objects in MUD universes are treated as if they had
the properties of the everyday counterparts.  Houses are lived in,
roses are smelt, food can be eaten and other players can be kissed.

MUD systems problematise the selfhood of their players.  In MUDs, the
player is in two places at once.  The body is on the actual world,
but, as Stone describes, the social delegate, the 'I' that belongs
to the body, is in an imagined social space enabled and constructed
with the assistance of the particular technology of the MUD
program.[4]  Such technology is a device which mediates between the
physical and the imagined.  It is an interface between the imagined
world and the world of the body.  In social terms, as Stone continues,
virtual reality is an interface that mediates between the human body
and an associated 'I'.[5]  It is in the spaces between the body and
the self that cyborgs exist.  Such entities are a simulation, an
approximation, of the physical, untrammelled by the confines of the
flesh.  In the virtual universe, biological sex is separated from
imagined gender and physical sex is separated from the erotic

The designers of an early military simulation system, SIMNET, a
product of the (now thought to be) low-tech early '80s, believed that
it was the technical simplicity of their creation that made it so
compulsively addictive to those military personnel who had the
opportunity to play wargames in its virtual spaces.  SIMNET's
designers believed that the low resolution of the graphical data that
made up the virtual manifestation made it all the more engaging, since
it required that "the participants actively engage their own
imaginations to fill in the holes of the illusion."[6]  This
'suspension of disbelief', this immersion of disbelief in the
imagined and imaginal, is what enables a MUD program to become a
social and cultural environment.  The MUD program allows what is
imagined by players to be controlled and channelled into meaningful
cues upon which other players can base their actions.  The imagination
of each player creates the context in which all other players can act.
The virtual scenery provides the dramaturgical cues which tell each
player what actions are possible within the MUD world.  The more
willing each player is to invest his or her imagination in creating
objects and descriptions, the richer and more successfully
dramaturgical the environment and the player's experience will be.
The MUD program serves to actualise what is imagined by one player in
ways that become 'real' to others.  The process through which
players take the MUD program is one of transforming the "thin
abstracted space of the machine into a culturally thick" and
emotionally concrete world.[7]

The virtual environments created on MUDs are both cultural products
and cultural entities.  The systems of meaning and context that are
created on MUDs are the result of a need amongst players for a set of
cultural understandings in which to define both themselves and their
actions.  Those meanings and contexts serve to create a cultural
system which substitutes for, and is distinct from, the shared
networks of meaning of the wider community.  These cultural systems
become the means to perpetuate and regulate the integrity of the MUD
environment.  The virtual nature of the MUD world lies in its
culturally symbolic identity; the unique cultural understandings found
on MUDs lie in the specialised meanings that allow the communication
of imagined realities.  Interaction and experience in this virtually
real corner of cyberspace produces a cultural space that is deeply
textured in its textuality and richly imagined in its manifestation.

[1]  Clifford Geertz, _The_Interpretation_of_Cultures:_Selected_
     _Essays_ (New York: Basic Books, 1973) 45.
[2]  Gordon Meyer and Jim Thomas, "The Baudy World of the Byte Bandit:
     A Postmodernist Interpretation of the Computer Underground,"
     electronic manuscript.  Originally published in F. Schmalleger
     ed., _Computers_in_Criminal_Justice_, (Bristol, Indiana: Wyndham
     Hall, 1990).
[3]  Erik Erikson, _Childhood_and_Society_.  New York: W. W. Norton &
     Company, 1985) 222.
[4]  Stone, 87.
[5]  Stone, 87.
[6]  Stone, 93.
[7]  Vivian Sobchack, _Screening_Space:_The_American_Science_Fiction_
     _Film_ (New York: Unger, 1987), quoted in Stone, 106.

Barlow, John Perry. "Being in Nothingness." Electronic manuscript.
Originally published in _Mondo_2000_ Summer, 1990.

Barlow, John Perry, "Crime and Puzzlement: Desperados of the
DataSphere." Electronic manuscript.  Originally published in _Whole_
_Earth_Review_ Fall 1990: 45-57.

Baron, N. S., "Computer mediated communication as a force in
language change."  _Visible_Language_ Volume 18, Number 2 (Spring
1984): 118-141.

Baudrillard, Jean.  _Simulations_.  New York: Semiotext(e),  1983.

Benedikt, Michael.  _Cyberspace:_First_Steps_.  Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1991.

Bruckman, Amy.  "Identity Workshop: Emergent Social and
Psychological Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Reality." Electronic
manuscript based on an unpublished paper written in partial completion
of a doctoral degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Media Lab).

Button, James.  "Around the World in Eighty Seconds."  _Time_
December 13, 1993: 52-59.

Curtis, Pavel.  "Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual
Realities."  _Intertek_ Vol. 3.3 (Winter 1992): 26-34.

Dening, Greg.  _The_Bounty:_An_Ethnographic_History_.  Melbourne:
Melbourne University Press, 1988.

Dibbell, Julian.  "Rape in Cyberspace or How an Evil Clown, a
Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a
Database Into a Society." Electronic manuscript.  Originally
published in _Village_Voice_ Vol. 38 No. 51 (December 21 1993).

Erikson, Erik H.  _Childhood_and_Society_.  New York: W. W. Norton &
Company, 1985.

Foucault, Michel.  _Discipline_and_Punish:_The_Birth_of_the_Prison_.
Trans. Alan Sheridan.  Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1986.

Foucault, Michel.  _Power/Knowledge:_Selected_Interviews_and_Other_
_Writings_ 1972-1977.  Ed. Colin Gordon.  Trans. Colin Gordon, Leo
Marshall, John Mepham, Kate Soper.  Brighton, Sussex: Harvester, 1980.

Foucault, Michel.  _Power,_Truth,_Strategy_.  Eds. Meaghan Morris and
Paul Patton.  Sydney: Feral, 1979.

Geertz, Clifford.  _The_Interpretation_of_Cultures:_Selected_Essays_.
New York: Basic Books, 1973.

Germain, Ellen.  "In the Jungle of MUD."  _Time_  September 13,
1993: 49.

Gibson, William.  _Neuromancer_.  London: Grafton Books, 1989.

Haraway, Donna J.  "The Actors are Cyborgs, Nature is Coyote, and
the Geography is Elsewhere: Postscript to 'Cyborgs at Large."'
_Technoculture_.  Eds.  Constance Penley and Andrew Ross.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.  21-26.

Haraway, Donna J.  _Simians,_Cyborgs,_and_Women:_The_Reinvention_of_
_Nature_.  London: Free Association Books, 1991.

Heim, Michael.  "The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace."
_Cyberspace:_First_Steps_.  Ed. Michael Benedikt.  Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1991.  59-80.

Hiemstra, Glen.  "Teleconferencing, Concern for Face, and
Organizational Culture." _Communication_Yearbook_6_.  Ed. M.
Burgoon.  Beverly Hills: Sage, 1982.  874-904.

Hiltz, S. R., and Turoff, M.  "The evolution of user behavior in a
computerized conference system."  _Communications_of_the_ACM_  No.
24 (1981): 739-751.

Hiltz, Starr Roxanne and Murray Turoff.  _The_Network_Nation:_Human_
_Communication_via_Computer_.  Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley,

Kiesler, Sara, Jane Siegel, and Timothy W. Mcguire, "Social
psychological aspects of computer-mediated communication."
_American_ _Psychologist_ Vol. 39 No. 10 (October 1984):  1123-1134.

Kiesler, Sara and Lee Sproull.  "Reducing Social Context Cues:
Electronic Mail in Organizational Communication."
_Management_Science_ Vol.32 No.11 (November 1986): 1492-1512.

Laquey, Tracey L.  _The_User's_Directory_of_Computer_Networks_.
Boston, Massachusetts: Digital Press, 1990.

Laurel, Brenda.  _Computers_as_Theatre_.  Menlo Park, CA: Addison-
Wesley, 1991.

Lavroff, Nicholas.  _Virtual_Reality_Playhouse_.  Corte Madera, CA:
Waite Group Press, 1992.

Leslie, Jacques.  "MUDroom."  _The_Atlantic_  September, 1993: 28-

Levy, Steven.  _Hackers:_Heroes_of_the_Computer_Revolution_.  New
York: Dell, 1984.

Meyer, Gordon and Jim Thomas, "The Baudy World of the Byte Bandit: A
Postmodernist Interpretation of the Computer Underground" electronic
manuscript.  Originally published in F. Schmalleger ed., _Computers_
_in_Criminal_Justice_.  Bristol, Indiana: Wyndham Hall, 1990.  31-67.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the American Society
of Criminology annual meetings, Reno November 9, 1989.

Millward, Ross and Philip Leverton.  _Technical_note_82:_Using_the_
_UNIX_Mail_System_.  Melbourne: University of Melbourne Computing
Services, 1989.

Penley, Constance and Andrew Ross, eds.  _Technoculture_.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Poster, Mark.  _The_Mode_of_Information_.  Cambridge, UK: Polity,

Quittner, Joshua.  " 'Virtual rape' ends up being a bungled
affair."  _The_Age_ Tuesday 23 November, 1993: 30.  Originally
published in the _LA_Times_.

Reid, Elizabeth.  "Electronic Chat: Social Issues on Internet Relay
Chat."  _Media_Information_Australia_ No. 67 (February 1993): 62-70.

Rheingold, Howard.  _The_Virtual_Community:_Homesteading_on_the_
_Electronic_Frontier_.  Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1993.

Rheingold, Howard.  _Virtual_Reality_.  1991.  London: Mandarin, 1992.

Rice, Ronald E. and Gail Love. "Electronic Emotion: Socioemotional
Content in a Computer-Mediated Communication Network."
_Communication_ _Research_ Vol.14 No.1 (February 1987): 85-108.

Ross, Andrew.  _Strange_Weather:_Culture,_Science_and_Technology_in_
_the_Age_of_Limits_.  New York: Verso, 1991.

Sanderson, David.  _Smileys_.  New York: O'Reilly and Associates,

Sproull, Lee and Sara Kiesler.  _Connections:_New_Ways_of_Working_in_
_the_Networked_Organization_.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT
Press, 1992.

Sterling, Bruce.  "The Strange History of the Internet."
_!mindgun_ (the pirate 'zine for the digitally hip produced by the
Society for Digital Redistribution): 5-8.  Originally published in
_The_Magazine_ _of_Fantasy_and_Science_Fiction_ February 1993.

Stoll, Clifford.  _The_Cuckoo's_Egg_.  London: Pan, 1991.

Stone, Allucquere Rosanne.  "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?:
Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures."
_Cyberspace:_First_Steps_.  Ed. Michael Benedikt.  Cambridge,
Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1991.  81-118.

Trainor, Timothy N. and Diane Krasnewich.  _Computers!_  New York:
Mitchell, 1989.

Van Maanen, John, and Stephen Barley.  "Cultural Organization:
Fragments of a Theory."  _Organizational_Culture_.  Eds. P.J. Frost
et. al.  Beverly Hills: Sage, 1985.  31-53.

Winner, Langdon.  "Do Artifacts Have Politics?"
_The_Whale_and_the_ _Reactor_.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press,

This section contains a number of Usenet articles, items of electronic
mail and extracts from MUD session log files which, while too long to
quote in the body of my thesis, offer valuable (and often amusing)
insight into MUDs.

>From Sun Jan 26 18:40:02 1992
From: [email protected] (Darin Johnson)
Subject: Re: MUD practical jokes?

> Has anyone ever pulled some neato practical jokes on Muds, whether
> it be tricking people into paging other people through spoofed
> pages, giving newbies fake rules on how to play, etc?

Well, I had a bit of an elaborate one a couple of us pulled on our
number one wiz Horvendile (I'm number two, so I can get away with it

Anyway, we were talking about putting a casino in somewhere, however,
I was not too fond of this idea right off, since every other mud has
some dorky place to gamble (esp lpmuds with a laissez faire
management).  So while brainstorming into ways to make this other than
the typical casino joint, we hit upon the a new twist, and made
Horvendile the victim

So we set up our casino which was hidden behind a secret door in a
fireplace.  The actual lpc files were carefully hidden away, giving
them innocuous names in other wizards directories.  These files would
then be copied somewhere else, the room loaded, and then the copies
deleted.  This way, source code couldn't be examined to find out what
was going on.  (I was planning on changing mudlib code so a dummy file
would show up if you listed the file, but decided against it)

So finally, things were finished, and we loaded it up.  I sat around
snooping Horvendile, relaying the events to the other cohorts.  Odd
sounds were heard behind the fireplace, and some players were going in
and out from there.  So Horvendile pokes around, finds the entrance
and goes in.  What he sees is the Ladies Auxiliary Bingo Game, with
numbers being called out at random.  He takes a peek at the file, and
discovers it isn't on the system.  Oh well, no biggie, just destruct
the room, probably Darin forgot to do this after a test.

Next day, he notices the silly bingo game is back.  And again no
source file.  He finds the invisible object near the fireplace that
causes all the noise, but its file doesn't seem to be around either.
And why have those two players been sticking around a bingo game for
the last 15 minutes?  Well, maybe things have changed, but no, after
popping in, it's the same old bingo game.  Well Horvendile is pretty
sure Darin has really flipped this time.  All this concern about
quality areas and keeping things in theme, and here he's working on a
bingo game!

So, anyway a few days later, he pops into my workroom laughing and
falling out of his chair (literally, he tells me).  Congratulations
all around, good job, keep up the good work, that sort of thing.
He's very glad to know that I wasn't really going loony after all.
Of course, he threatens, next time this happens I'm history...  So
what happened you ask?  What's the scoop?  Here's a short transcript
from a players point of view:

     [ at a side room of the pub ]
     > look at fireplace
     This is a large L-shaped stone fireplace with a
     fire blazing in it.  The hearth and the mantle
     look as if they have been recently cleaned.
     There is a couch here, a painting above the
     mantle, and a sign on the wall. You seem to catch
     sight of something behind the fire.

     > enter fireplace
     You slip though a secret passageway behind the
     fireplace and enter a hidden room...

     The cigar smoke fills the air in here, making it
     a bit hard to see very far, but you can tell
     there is a lot of activity going on.  The patrons
     here are sitting at tables scattered about,
     engaged in games of chance..., er skill.
     Prominently displayed upon the far wall is a
     large sign, and along the west wall are some odd
     looking machines.  A slightly out of tune piano
     is being played near the east wall.
        The only obvious exit is south.
     Harnlen, the host of this establishment.

     Musician sings: Help!  I need some wizard.
     Musician sings: Help!  Not just any wizard!
     Harnlen says: Anyone can win!  Why even Harry
     turned in a profit!

     > look at sign
     The sign proudly exclaims:
          The Back Room
          Welcome one and all.  If you're happy,
          we're happy.
          House rules:
          --No credit.
          --Take your empties with you.
          --Don't kill the hired help.
          --Don't tell Horvendile where we are.
          --Have fun.

     [ a bit later... ]

     Harnlen shouts: RAID!
     Instantly, the staff springs into action...
     The west wall rotates around quickly, hiding the
     slot machines and on the back side are some
     paintings of pretty flowers. Large fans descend
     from the ceiling, quickly blowing away all the
     cigar smoke in the air.  The staff remove their
     vests, turn them inside out, and put them back
     on.  All of the cards, dice, and bets on the
     table are scooped up and hidden away.

     Finally, a small group of old ladies emerge from
     a hidden door and take some seats (and just in

     Horvendile arrives.

     The room appears entirely different now, a
     complete change of scenery.  Someone next to you
     whispers "Shh, don't let on to Horvendile. He'd
     surely disapprove."

     > look
     This is the local chapter of the Ladies
     Auxiliary.  Right now they are holding their
     annual charity drive, and many of the more well-
     to-do are here in support.  This year there is a
     bingo game going, and although the ladies
     strongly disapprove of gambling (gasp) it is all
     for a good cause.
        The only obvious exit is south.
     Horvendile .
     An announcer.

     Announcer calls out: I-11
     Announcer calls out: B-9

     Horvendile says: This is silly.
     Horvendile leaves south.

     Harnlen says: *whew* That was close.  Now that
     the big H is gone, let's get back to some serious

     The west wall swings around, revealing some
     ancient slot machines, and the old ladies file
     out the back.  The dealers sit back down at their
     tables and they each light up a cigar, ready for
     the fun to start again.

     A patron sobs: Please, just a little more credit.
     I can win it back.

Of course, we kept things as they are, giving files a permanent
location.  When the mood strikes him, Horvendile pops in now and then
to suprise the unsuspecting patrons.

Darin Johnson
[email protected]
 --Luxury!  In MY day, we had to make do with 5 bytes of swap...

From: anonymous
Date: Fri, 06 Nov 92 11:32:16 GMT
To: [email protected]
Subject: MUD romances.

Hi... you asked for stories about romances on MUDs, well I've got a
terrific one!  I met my husband on a MUD, but when we met he first
became my girlfriend!

It started when I joined up on PernMUSH.  I thought it would be fun to
try playing a male character, just to see what would happen. In case
you're interested, which I guess you probably are, there were some
differences between being male and female on the MUSH. For one thing,
I got to be in on all these conversations about women... most of them
were just kind of, like, just guys talking about how they could get
dates and stuff, but sometimes it was pretty graphic, which I thought
was offensive sometimes.  But then again I guess I tell my best
girlfriend some pretty intimate details. I don't know, it just seemed
weird sometimes.  And of course no one tried to come onto me, which is
pretty common if you're a female on a mud!  Anyway, so I was playing
this male character, and one day I started talking to this female on
the mush.  We got along *really* well, *really* *really* well.  We
just had all these things in common, just dumb little things, favorite
foods and tv shows and music and stuff.  We started spending a lot of
time together on the mush, chatting and stuff. After a while our
characters kind of got involved. I should say that most of this was
role-playing, we didn't swap real names or anything--we did have a
few OOC conversations, but mostly we were getting along as our
characters. Anyway, (I don't know if you've read the Pern books by
Anne McCaffrey, but they are all about people having these telepathic
relationships with dragons) this woman was a green dragon rider, and I
was a brown rider, and one day her dragon flew to mate and my dragon
flew hers. After that our characters were weyrmates--a couple, if you
haven't read the Pern books. At first I was pretty happy with that.
It was really interesting, but as we got to know each other better,
and since our characters were a couple, and we did all the netsex
thing, I really began to feel strongly about the player.  I was pretty
confused by it all, cause I'd never been anything but straight, but I
eventually I decided I was going to tell my friend that I loved her IN

So I log into the mush, and I basically say to my weyrmate that I've
been thinking about her a lot RL and I'd really like it if we could
get to know each other RL more because I thought I was falling in love
with her. At this point, before I can go any further, AND BEFORE I CAN
BRING UP THE SUBJECT OF MY REAL GENDER, she logs out!  No warning, she
just disconnects.  Well, I was devestated.  At first I thought that
maybe it was just a technical problem, but she didn't log back on for
nearly a week (usually we'd log on together every day) and when she
finally did she almost totally ignored me. I kept on trying to talk to
her, and I was pretty distraught by this stage. Eventually, this would
be about two weeks after our conversation, she says that she needs to
tell me something. She just says that she's really sorry, she hadn't
imagined that things would end up this way, and she really did like me
as a friend, but that she was really a MALE in real life. Well!! I
just sat there stunned for a minute. Then I told her--HIM--that *I*
was really *female*.  At first he didn't believe me, but after a
while I convinced him to telephone me in real life, so I could prove
what I was saying. He did and we had this really weird, tense
conversation... I guess we were both pretty confused. It took us a
while to become friends again, but after a while we did. We both
started new characters on the MUSH, with the *right* gender this time,
and after a few weeks we were close again. Closer, in fact, because
there was now a real life element. We had a lot more phone calls, and
eventually we decided that we should meet... and it was a complete
success! We got along as well in real life as we had on the MUSH, and
we ended up going out together. Luckily we lived in neighbouring
states, so we were able to visit each other a lot, and in the end I
transfered to college in his town so we could be together.

This was about 18 months ago. We got married in May this year.

From: Richard Bartle <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: MUD romances?
To: [email protected]
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 93 19:48:42 GMT

     You wanted an anecdote...

     This story concerns two people, Mik and Sue [...]

     Mik was an archetypal hacker. He lived and breathed computers,
wrote a best-selling computer game when aged about 16, and eventually
set up his own computer company. He was also extremely competent at
MUD1, and eventually was promoted to the rank of arch-wiz. In MUD1
there were three levels of control: mortals; wizzes; arch-wizzes. We
had literally hundreds of mortals, dozens of wizzes, and a handful of
arch-wizzes (the rank was invitation only). These days, you'd maybe
call him a god, although in those days you wouldn't, especially as
his family was a very strict orthodox Jewish sect with rather set
ideas on words like "god"..!

     Sue was an archetypal MUD addict. Although the game was only
available between midnight and 6am, Sue would play the entire time,
every night. She had telephone bills of over a thousand pounds a
month, as she had to call long-distance to play. She was, however, a
dazzlingly brilliant player, and when she was eventually promoted to
arch-wiz she brought an atmosphere of respected authority to the rank
which was the defining example for generations of later arch-wizzes.
She wrote an article on MUD for "Personal Computer World", then
and now the premier UK computer magazine, and we had hundreds of
people write as a result; it was what really got the MUD1 ball

     In real life, though, Sue was painfully shy. Whenever we phoned
her, she was lost for words, she hated using the phone for
conversation, and would tell us she'd join us in MUD1. There, she was
freed from the shackles of her real life self, and could talk freely
and authoratively. MUD1 was great therapy!

     Being one of the few females in the game, one would have expected
her to get chatted up by every male around. This wasn't the case,
however. Firstly, as an arch-wiz, she had more status than most males.
She also knew more about MUD1 than anyone except perhaps me. Also,
most of the males around weren't the kind that chat people up anyway-
-in those days, only really dedicated computer enthusiasts had modems,
and that meant they were, in the main, what might be called
"computer nerds". Mik even looked the part--his enormous glasses
made his eyes seem the size of tennis balls, and his teenage
complexion was what you'd expect of someone who rarely saw daylight
and ate nothing but bars of chocolate.

     Sue WAS chatted up once, but it was but a female persona, Paula.
Sue was suitably horrified, and as a result Paula admitted that
actually she was actually run by a soon-to-be-married couple, and the
male half had been playing her that night.

     Sue's shyness was a problem. Whereas we'd all get together for
MUDmeets at the computer shows, Sue (although present at the show)
would never make herself known to us. She sent us photographs, but in
them her appearance varied dramatically--hair length and colour would
change, she'd wear different organisations of make-up, and so on.
Only in MUD1 did she feel confident in herself.

     Mik took to writing letters to her, as she didn't mind replying
by post. It turned out she had a pretty awful life story--parents
divorced when she was young, she'd had to live with her grandparents,
she'd attempted suicide a couple of times. She was sharing a flat
(er, that's an appartment to you) with a girl friend of hers, and was
having difficulties because her flatmate was a lesbian and Sue was
worried about her own sexuality. Oh, and she'd occasionally get very,
very drunk--heaven help you if you were on MUD when it happened!

     Sue's letters back to Mik got longer and longer--he showed me an
average one once that was 109 pages in length! All handwritten in this
really flowery handwriting. The most she ever wrote to me was 15
pages. It was clear that she was getting more and more fond of Mik. In
return, Mik was getting infatuated with her. He was around 17, and
because of his strict upbringing this was the first experience with a
woman he'd ever had.

     Well, things got more and more involved, and eventually Mik and
Sue announced that they were in love. Mik proposed marriage, despite
never having met Sue in the flesh. Sue said she'd have to think about
it, and arrange a meeting.

     Then, all of a sudden, Sue announced that she'd got a job as an
au paire in Norway and would be leaving immediately. That was it: she
disappeared from MUD and wasn't seen again.

     Mik was aghast at this, as we all were--everyone liked Sue, and
her disappearance seemed so uncharacteristic, it was like she must
have been in trouble. She hadn't even replied to Mik's offer of
marriage (or at least I think she hadn't--there was a rumour that
she'd turned him down but I can't verify that). After many agonised
phone calls to places she'd mentioned in her letters, none to any
avail, Mik decided he had to go to her house to find the answer. So he
and a whole bunch of fellow MUDders piled into a minibus and drove to
South Wales to Sue's house.

     They knocked at the door. A woman answered.
     "Sue?" It looked sort of like her.
     "I think you'd better come inside...".

     Sue was a man who had just been jailed for defrauding the
Department of Transport of 60,000 pounds. This was his wife. Over
there were his two small children.

     I need hardly say what a devastating affect this had on Mik. I
know I was shocked, because it had occurred to me several times that
Sue might have been male, but every "test" I set was passed with
flying colours. We'd even get little unsolicited details, like when
she didn't reply to a message immediately because she'd just snagged
a nail. I remember once I printed some MUD sweatshirts which had the
opening description printed on them, "You are standing on a narrow
road between the Land and whence you came. To the north and south are
the foothills of a pair of majestic mountains, ... "; Sue told me
she liked hers (size small), but people kept looking at her funny as
the words "pair of majestic mountains" were emblazoned right
across her, well, her majestic mountains! It was little details like
this which made her so convincing. When we found out she never
existed, and that everything had been a fraud from start to finish, it
was really awful.

     Mik recovered in time, and still runs his company to great
success. Sue (who was really Steve) was released from prison after a
while and actually phoned me as himself a couple of times, but
obviously couldn't ever set foot back in MUD again. He told me he
hadn't been deceitful deliberately, it's just that when the game
asked him what sex he wanted to be, he wondered what would happen if
he said he was female. It all just grew from there. I didn't ask him
how he felt about what he did to Mik, because he was clearly very
embarrassed about it all, as was I!

     The only thing I don't understand in all this is how his wife
could tolerate it all.

     Well, that's the story of the first MUD gender transfer debacle.
If you want to use it, I'd appreciate it if you didn't identify Mik
by his real or MUD name--I wouldn't want to cause him further agonies
by resurrecting the issue in public. As far as I'm concerned, whether
you mention Sue by name or not is up to you--I've no qualms about it!

     I hope this has been of help, anyway!


[NB: In accordance with Mr. Bartle's request I have changed the name
of the gentleman in this case to 'Mik'.  I have also deleted a
paragraph from this item of mail which contained identifying
information about 'Mik'.  Sue is, however, the name by which Mr.
Bartle referred to this character. Since 'her' name has been
mentioned in Rheingold 1993 (p. 164) I felt there would be little
point in giving her (yet another) pseudonym.]


     ---...AMONGST PLAYERS:---
To: Elizabeth Reid <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: A History of MUDs.
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 93 10:02:45 -0600
From: Jennifer Smith <[email protected]>

[Jim Aspnes didn't invent the pose command], but he did program it
(and I believe was the first one to do so--I'm pretty sure AberMUD
didn't have one at the time).  The invention of it took place roughly
like this:

On TinyMUD, there is a 'rob <player>' command, that allowed you to
attempt to steal 1 penny from said player.  However, said player could
prevent this by @locking themselves, and then they could set a @fail
and an @ofail message on themself. The @fail message is displayed to
the person doing the robbing, the @ofail is displayed to everyone else
in the room with the robber's name prefixed.

        @fail me=Moira slaps your hands.
        @ofail me=gets his hands slapped by Moira.

        Bozo types> rob moira
        Bozo sees> Moira slaps your hands.
        Everyone else sees> Bozo gets his hands slapped by Moira.

As it happens, if you're not @locked, the @success and @osuccess
messages get displayed in the same manner if you are robbed. In not a
whole lot of time at all, people started MANUALLY setting their
@osuccess to a 'posed' command and robbing themselves--they usually
were @locked to themselves, which is a TRUE lock, so only they could
set off that message.  Example:

     @osucc me=falls over laughing.
        rob me
        I see> Moira stole a penny from you!
               You stole a penny from Moira!
        Everyone sees> Moira falls over laughing.

Ta-da, a pose!

This is, as you can imagine, a horribly blunt way of doing poses, as
each time you have to reset your @osucc.  After about a week of this,
Wizard (Jim Aspnes) gave up and added the pose (aka ':') command.

I should point out that the 'rob' command (as well as the 'kill'
command) were never really used in a combat sense--they weren't THAT
useful.  'rob' died completely fairly soon, and 'kill' became a
sort of exclamation point to discussions.  Many Tiny* servers today
either don't have the 'kill' command at all or have ways to turn it
off completely.
'whisper' wasn't added until TinyHELL, the second TinyMUD server.
Even then it was added only after quite a bit of debate, and the first
version (for about three days) was 'noisy'--if you weren't the
person being whispered to, you saw 'Bozo whispers to Moira.'
messages all the time. You also forgot page--another oddly evolving
command. Originally if you did 'page Moira', you sent a message to
Moira of the form:

You sense that Moira is looking for you in Front Lawn.

Obviously, as the pose command became more popular, this command was
also mutated.  All you had to do was rename your room, and...

You sense that Moira is looking for you in Hi, How are you?

Someone realized that everyone was keeping small 'paging' rooms
squirreled away, and there was no point in trying to keep people from
having conversations when not in the same room, so the ability to add
a message to the page command was added. 'page user[=message]'.A bit
later, posing was added to both whispers and pages.
Jennifer Smith
[email protected]
On MUDs: Moira, Jasra, etc.                |It's the terror of
Here, have a clue. Take two, they're small.|What this world is about

     ---...AND WIZARDS:---
To: Elizabeth Reid <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: A History of MUDs.
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1993 10:40:53 +0000
From: Jim Finnis <[email protected]>

I'm glad to have my 15 minutes of fame at last! :-)
Right, the emote command.

First came the 'atmosphere' commands. Talking to people and shouting
at people and hitting people with pointy things was all very well, but
you couldn't interact in other ways; so we wrote commands like
"cry", "smile", "laugh" so users could express emotion.
They were pretty easy to write, literally an entry in the verb table
and one like of code, something like

        case CRY:               you("cry");break;

The "you" function (or whatever the hell it was really called) was
already there for doing stuff like

        you("opens the door");

which (if I were logged in under my customary handle) would print
"White opens the door".

A little later, the AberMUD 'pose' command got added, for Wizards
only. This would use a list of 7 or so emote strings stored in the
program, such as "White calls down a bolt of lightning from the
sky", and show a random one.  There was one 'booby-prize' in
there, something along the lines of "White turns casually into a
wombat before resuming normal form".  The point of this was, of
course, to impress mortals :-)

Because they were so easy to write, these atmosphere commands just
kept being added to the system until we had something like 30 of them.
I felt this was beginning to get out of hand--we needed something that
would allow us to express *any* emotion.  In addition, we Archwizards
always liked to be able to do things no-one else could, so an obvious
extension was to write a command like this:

        case EMOTE:     you(first_argument);break;

so the user could decide what he/she was emoting. It was an obvious
extension really, although I was absurdly proud of it at the time...

It was only after about 6 months that we let normal mortals use the
'emote' command. Before that, we needed to make sure that the users
couldn't send commands that looked like AberMUD system messages--e.g.
we had to change the message "quit" gave to everyone else in the

In the interest of oneupmanship, the Wizards then got a new command,
"raw", which behaved like "emote" but didn't prefix the
user's name to the output string.

That's all there is to it really--it was just obvious at the time,
from looking at the code. If the code hadn't been written like that,
I doubt I would have thought of it.

Hope this helps,

Jim Finnis,              | Unit 6A, Science Park, Aberystwyth, Dyfed
Clef Digital Systems     | SY23 3AH Wales.
[email protected]          | Tel.: 0970 626601  Overseas: +44 970 626601
                         | Fax.: 0970 626458            +44 970 626458
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..."

From: [email protected]
Subject: Verbs and adverbs top list
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1993 13:42:55 GMT

This is the result of a verb and adverb count in Nemesis LPMud. The
figures give the number of uses for each verb and adverb for the last
year. The exact meaning of all verbs (if not straightforward) can be
tested in Nemesis (address and number is prominent in every good

It is a bit difficult to find out about the exact time period for the
list, but 250 days with an average of 20 players should be a close
approximation,  which results in a feeling every 30 seconds, which
also sounds like a reason-able figure for me.

Players and wizards were not informed about this list, so it is
improbable that the figures have been cheated. The list was originally
made to throw out unused verbs and adverbs, but I was quite surprised
that only a few of them were almost never used.

Most verbs in Nemesis have no default adverb, so 'smile' will result
in '<name> smiles.' and 'smile happ' will result in '<name>
smiles happily.' Adverbs could be abbreviated to (at least 3) unique
characters and they were only counted if they were explicitly given.

There are four cathegories for verbs: without object (like bounce),
with another player as object (like kick) with special objects (like
poke) and with any object (like curse). Most verbs fall in more than
one of these cathegories.

We at Nemesis did some analysation already, but I think that it might
be more interesting for some (wannabe) sociologists and psychologists.

This list if free for distribution as long the name of the author is

smile  89089   bow     50138   shake  46312   greet  46152   grin    46046
nod    42385   laugh   34063   wave   30875   giggle 20145   sigh    19222
hug    19220   wait    13550   kiss   12212   shrug  10849   kick     9504
poke    9307   chuckle  7401   french  6773   smirk   5994   wonder   5701
dance   5625   bounce   5150   comfort 4916   pat     4356   cry      4244
fart    4158   blush    3981   cheer   3631   punch   3592   scream   3250
ponder  3193   lick     2964   puke    2915   thank   2914   think    2765
raise   2704   tickle   2662   curse   2590   cackle  2498   sniff    2476
knee    2474   slap     2412   gasp    2404   hold    2268   burp     2250
point   2220   view     2206   jump    2141   wink    2130   sing     2016
meow    2008   whistle  1852   rub     1817   twiddle 1803   agree    1766
love    1745   curtsey  1686   pout    1682   snicker 1634   frown    1612
stare   1579   cuddle   1566   growl   1480   fondle  1480   puzzle   1447
ruffle  1403   strangle 1363   flip    1343   bang    1341   yawn     1318
listen  1303   worship  1286   mosh    1286   spit    1232   scratch  1228
sob     1124   pose     1089   clap    1055   sulk    1045   pinch    1038
applaud 1032   bite      966   beg      841   stroke   826   five      804
tap      785   kneel     774   stomp    746   wiggle   716   roll      715
snuggle  712   snore     702   shriek   671   moonwalk 664   faint     649
groan    623   shiver    610   peer     609   moan     589   strut     587
nibble   555   grope     517   congrat  512   smack    479   grumble   470
snap     461   squeeze   438   wander   434   sneeze   421   hiccup    415
purr     404   cough     403   hum      378   mumble   373   lean      364
glare    356   meditate  354   wish     352   howl     349   apologize 318
twinkle  281   pant      254   breath   252   ovat     249   drool     235
stretch  229   swear     214   strike   208   caress   193   shame     186
daydream 169   dream     165   headbang 128   disagree 107   gape       93
sweat     91   fear       75   snarl     48   embrace   46   quiver     36
kisshand  35   mourn      27   excuse    16   count      9   despair     3

happily        5057 demonically     3763 evilly        3662 sadly         2027
smilingly      1864 deeply          1458 passionately  1143 knowingly     1119
insanely       1096 erotically       950 inanely        926 warmly         905
loudly          891 friendly         834 mischievously  827 lovingly       797
handsomely      778 understandingly  774 innocently     746 merrily        729
agreeingly      715 tightly          704 sexily         668 wildly         642
solemnly        593 hysterically     560 stupidly       552 satanically    542
impatiently     504 heartbrokenly    496 manfully       468 wholeheartedly 461
amusedly        449 madly            431 shyly          416 vigorously     401
sadistically    400 devilishly       400 viciously      374 deadly         369
melancholically 366 enthusiastically 361 confusedly     354 playfully      351
softly          343 proudly          321 sarcastically  310 theoretically  309
gently          303 tenderly         299 mysteriously   295 gracefully     294
patiently       286 fiendishly       286 painfully      285 slowly         279
boredly         257 professionally   253 fatherly       252 helplessly     251
maniacally      250 childishly       247 wisely         241 seductively    230
randomly        227 joyfully         226 triumphantly   223 tiredly        222
thankfully      220 politely         217 suggestively   215 aimlessly      207
questioningly   202 dirtily          199 absentmindedly 198 sweetly        195
funnily         189 heavily          188 curiously      187 thoughtfully   182
lustfully       176 confidently      173 hopefully      169 crazily        159
strangely       149 dreamily         149 carefully      146 angrily        139
charmingly      137 depressively     135 quickly        134 musically      131
helpfully       129 sheepishly       124 dangerously    124 disgustedly    122
ironically      113 silently         112 foolishly      111 humbly         110
bitterly        108 hungrily         106 contentedly    105 royally        104
unknowingly     103 desperately      102 sensually       92 nervously       91
interestedly     91 intently          91 rudely          89 anxiously       86
embarrassedly    85 wearily           82 slightly        82 harmonically    82
quizzically      81 goofily           81 noisily         80 egocentrically  80
cynically        80 perfectly         76 aggressively    72 jealously       71
seriously        69 hotly             68 emphatically    66 wistfully       65
tearfully        65 greedily          62 nastily         59 disappointedly  57
cutely           55 brightly          54 amazedly        49 briefly         48
quietly          47 physically        47 sniffingly      46 unbearably      44
cunningly        44 suddenly          43 sleepily        43 lazily          43
unhappily        42 bravely           41 sufferingly     39 terribly        38
shamelessly      38 profoundly        37 virtually       35 unexpectedly    34
fiercefully      34 doubtfully        29 badly           29 fanatically     26
endearingly      26 astonishedly      26 tragically      24 ignorantly      24
jokingly         23 personally        22 exhaustedly     22 spontaneously   21
trustfully       20 sickly            20 really          20 searchingly     19
honestly         19 patronizingly     18 surprisingly    15 courageously    12
busily           12 truly             11 instantly       11 philosophically  9
skilfully         8 definitely         8 rebelliously     7 scornfully       3
carelessly        3 sceptically        2 egoistically     1

|Thomas Gerstner [email protected] [email protected]|X|

From: Pavel Curtis <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Subject: Comments on Chapter Two
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 1993 16:26:26 PST

In a recent survey of 583 MOOers, we got the following estimates of
how much time they spend doing different things:
          social: 57.26%
          building: 14.14%
          gaming: 6.99%
          exploring: 14.63%
          other: 6.98%

From: Pavel Curtis <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Subject: Comments on Chapter Three
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1993 17:01:23 PST

Page 4:
Para 3: To inform the 'common lore' here, 76.6% of our LambdaMOO
survey respondents claimed to be male and 23.4% female, in real life.


Page 5:
Para 4: Here are the numbers from the RL age question on our survey:

          There were 581 answers to this question:

What is your "real life" age, in years?
       2  ( 0.3%):   1
       2  ( 0.3%):  12
       6  ( 1.0%):  13
      10  ( 1.7%):  14
       4  ( 0.7%):  15
       6  ( 1.0%):  16
      12  ( 2.1%):  17
      34  ( 5.9%):  18
      90  (15.5%):  19
      62  (10.7%):  20
      53  ( 9.1%):  21
      42  ( 7.2%):  22
      42  ( 7.2%):  23
      32  ( 5.5%):  24
      21  ( 3.6%):  25
      31  ( 5.3%):  26
      17  ( 2.9%):  27
      19  ( 3.3%):  28
      10  ( 1.7%):  29
       7  ( 1.2%):  30
       7  ( 1.2%):  31
      11  ( 1.9%):  32
      10  ( 1.7%):  33
       6  ( 1.0%):  34
       6  ( 1.0%):  35
       3  ( 0.5%):  36
       5  ( 0.9%):  37
       5  ( 0.9%):  38
       5  ( 0.9%):  39
       3  ( 0.5%):  40
       4  ( 0.7%):  41
       1  ( 0.2%):  42
       4  ( 0.7%):  43
       1  ( 0.2%):  44
       3  ( 0.5%):  45
       2  ( 0.3%):  49
       1  ( 0.2%):  51
       1  ( 0.2%):  54
       1  ( 0.2%): 120

           Average: 23.66

Clearly, the two answers of '1' and the one '120' answer are
bogus.  Throwing them out, the average is 23.58 years old.  Note that
every age from 12 through 54 is represented in the results.



      ____________    ____________    _____________    ___
     /  _________/\  /  ______   /\  /____   _____/\  /  /\
    /  /\________\/ /  /\____/  / /  \___/  /\____\/ /  / /
   /  /_/______    /  / /   /  / /      /  / /      /  / /
  /  _________/\  /  / /   /  / /      /  / /      /  / /
 /  /\________\/ /  / /   /  / /      /  / /      /  / /
/  /_/______    /  /_/___/  / /      /  / /      /  /_/_______
\___________\/  \___________\/       \__\/       \___________\/


Use 'Guest' to look around or if you are having problems
with your character.
***Players who don't login every 120 days will be purged.***

Enter your name: Ireshi
New character.
Choose a password:---****
Password (again):---****
Welcome To: Revenge of the End of the Line (LPmud)
You can remember nothing but an ageless eternity of waiting in
a warm confining darkness.  Now, you float before a mighty
mirror which but dimly glows, its light engulfed by the void
beyond.  A shapeless mist is all that is visible of yourself
in the mirrored surface.  The time has come to join the
A voice speaks from the darkness:
"You must choose the form that you shall inhabit for the
remainder of your days.  You may appear as one of many types
of mortal beings."
Centaur     Drow Elf    Dwarf       Elf        Gnome
Grey Elf    Half Elf    Halfling    High Elf   High Human
Human       Imp         Ka'nine     Kender     Klingon
Low Human   Orc         Parthan     Squid      Teddy Bear
Trenol      Troll       Wood Elf
Choose a race, get 'info <race>' on a race, or 'list'
Your Choice: info teddy bear
Teddy Bears are small, lovable creatures.  Their paws are too
clumsy to wield most weapons, and their awkward body shape
prohibits most armor from being worn, also.  They are,
however, small and agile, reasonably intelligent, and cute as
a race can be.
Choose a race, get 'info <race>' on a race, or 'list'
Your Choice: teddy bear
The voice speaks once again:
"Your form decided, you must now choose the characteristics
that will define your abilities.  Choose wisely, lest your
life be brief and unrewarding.  Your race begins with the
following characteristics.  You may add 5 points to
Enter the name of a stat to increase it by 1, or '<stat>
<v>' to raise a stat by v points.
Str: 5, Int: 11, Wil: 9, Con: 5, Dex: 15, Chr: 25, Free:5
Your Choice: int 4
Str: 5, Int: 15, Wil: 9, Con: 5, Dex: 15, Chr: 25, Free:4
Your Choice: dex
The voice speaks once again:
"Finally, you must choose the gender your body will conform
to in its mortal lifetime.  Confused souls may choose to be
passed on as sexless beings, although it is known that
androgynous individuals lead lonely lives."
Genders available: male, female, other, unknown.
Your Choice: female
The voice speaks a final time:
"You are ready to enter the world of the living.  Enter the
mirror if you are prepared or change into another form if you
are unsatisfied with your current one.  We will not meet
New Character Generation Chamber
   You stand before a mighty mirror whose dim glow is the sole
illumination in this chamber.  Runes engraved upon the surface
of the mirror instruct you to <change> to move your soul into
a new form or <enter> the mirror
to begin your days as a mortal.
---- Obvious exits are: enter, change.

     ---...OR SIMPLE:---
Welcome to AcmeMUSH!
Type connect <name> <password> to connect to an existing
Type create <name> <password> to get a new character
> create Ireshi---****
Welcome to AcmeMUSH, Ireshi! Before you venture on into the
world, you might like to set your gender (@set
me=male|female|neuter) and your description (@desc me=<text>).
Have fun!