Communities
June 29, 2005

So, back in the day, I watched an awesome web show called Amanda Hades. It's this great little barely into the future piece about the mainstream media being so corporate run that no real news was getting to the people anymore. Rogue video reporters would hack into the news feeds and broadcast the real news. Kind of like Eyes Only from Dark Angel, but with a little less of the vigilante aspect to it. The website around it, the forums and communities that sprung up around the whole world-building effort was one of the reasons that I love the internets.

Anyhow, the guys at 3rd Floor Productions are offering the Amanda Hades stuff on DVD and they're coming out with a feature length mockumentary. Please check them out!

All of this has me thinking about how some people "get" the communities of people who spring up on the web - and some people not only don't get it but are terribly appalled by it. I've been bopping around online since '93 or '94 and my first exposure to the potential of 'net communites was a little MUD out of Florida called MUDdog. It absolutely rawked. Being the D&D geek that I was, I found the MUD to be an absolute joy. For once I could role-play without having to track down a group of people that I could play with. This wasn't an anti-social thing for me - it was about finding some folks with social skills who wanted to play the game, not live it. I had belonged to a local D&D group in Arlington for a while (Anyone remember Craft King?) and was really tired of little boys who thought the game was only about hack, slash, rape and pillage. The game had SO much more potential than that kind of idiocy. There was a chance to work logic puzzles, to wrestle with social issues and so much more. Playing with the right people made this game exciting instead of juvenile.

Anyhow, MUDdog had hundreds (if not thousands) of users from across the U.S., and I believe, a few folks across the world as well. I thought I would simply play the game by myself, trying to work out the puzzles and scenarios. I thought I would ignore the social aspect of the game, having been burned by far too many Comic Book Guy type role-playing geeks. With that many people playing the game, though, it wasn't long before I found other like-minded people and began joining the community at MUDdog. And the game became even more fun. My character got "MUD-married" to another character (I think it was the first gay wedding on the MUD - I was playing a gay male character just because it sounded like fun). I joined a guild. I spent some time playing the game, some time talking to friends I'd made online, some time having my character talk to the character's friends, and some time off fighting the bad guys.

When the man who had developed MUDdog graduated, the server space for the game was lost and while there was a good effort made to find it a new home, I think the game just faded away. I stayed in contact with a few people for a while, but since I didn't have email addresses for most of the people I knew there, I lost that community. I guess you could say that Sunnydale collapsed in a big hole and we all moved away. (I finished watching season 7 of Buffy over the weekend.)

Since then I've been part of email list communities, a couple of chat room communities, bulletin boards and the like. And somehow, we always feel a part of each others' lives. I have email friends that I've had for ten years even though we've never met face to face. I have email friends that we have made an extra effort to meet face to face.

These communities are every bit as real to me and to the others who enjoy them. But there's always a question from non-computer people: how can you be friends with someone you've never met? You've only seen what these people wanted you to see through the words on the screen. How can you say you "know" these people? How can you call this "being social"? Isn't it the height of the computer geek's lack of social skills - to only interact through the computer???

I suppose we place a lot of faith in those words on the screen and our abilities to decipher nuance from the vapor of truth (to badly paraphrase Neal Stephenson). But the truth for me has always been the more of myself I put out there in words, the more others put out there as well. When you have a true exchange of words, feelings and lives going back and forth, it's difficult to completely forge that. When I started playing on MUDdog, I refused to do anything that was out of character for the player that I'd created. As soon as I started truly interacting with others, that rigid control slipped and I began dividing my time between the character and socializing as me. And I watched other people do the same thing.

I don't think this explains it to any of those folks who don't "get" computer interactions. I have the feeling that this goes back to the theory of multiple intelligences and the ways in which think and learn. I don't always need the body language to know what someone means or how they feel. But I'm a word person, so that's not too surprising to me. Other people need those visual cues and they're never going to get this type of interaction. That's okay. The world's a big place and we don't all have to react or learn or interact in the same ways.

But now I have to get ready for work and socialize with other web/computer/SciFi/comic book geeks like myself!

Posted by Red Monkey at June 29, 2005 4:01 AM | Blog | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

longshot said:

ah, the good ol' days.
maybe we'll bring 'dog back one day.

January 18, 2006 9:17 PM

 

sum1els said:

Have you come in contact with any of the old MUDdog gods? I have been looking for the code for that MUD for a long time. If anyone happens to have a copy lying around somewhere, please let me know.

April 10, 2007 3:19 PM
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