As any gamer knows, discussing our passion around people who have no idea of the themes or games we play, can be a funny or potentially offending experience. For me, at work, it can often be rather hilarious. I work in the US Federal Government circles, where it’s easy to assume a lack of odd. In actuality, things like the following happen.
I’ve been roleplaying a MUSH that is of the Amber genre, with its multi-worlds concept. It is mainly, in Amber, a medieval theme with some constraints on the laws of physics and magic. My character is in the midst of plotting the assassination of another character who is mystical and potentially dangerous. I’d just had another character pretty much tip off my plans in a public in-character setting, and was in a bit of a bind about how to proceed with the killing.
Naturally, I turned to my usual lunchtime work crowd. Names have been changed to protect the strange.
My friend, Julia, is into World of Warcraft, and is no stranger to the games I play. She is rather avid in hearing about how I manage to even survive in-character, so I began running the problem past her at lunch. Joe, who works in counter-narcotics, Freida, another computer support person, and Adella, an FBI agent, all began listening in in wonder as I described possibly needing to “use the troops I have to take out their Embassy.”
I know, right?
Some people need a lot of explaining to put such comments and enthusiastic planning to kill someone in the proper perspective. Gamers, I think, tend to talk to other gamers in the same language, assuming the other has the proper basis of knowledge and they just run with it. Mundanes listening in have no context. I run into the same problem with the IT world; two techs talking about computers sound about as comprehensible to non-computer people as dolphins clicking away nearby. It also isn’t as if gamers add qualifiers a lot as we talk. We don’t say “so on the game I…”, we roll on with “So I drew my sword and sliced his head off.” When one comments to a guild mate in the crowded elevator “thanks for helping me gack that demon last night”, it should not draw undue staring. Surely it’s obvious we don’t mean really real. Right?
Surprisingly, the onlookers copped onto what was going on and got pretty enthusiastic, once I’d outlined the problem to them. They’re a very sharp group, with a lot of experience and interests to draw from, just the sort of people you’d feel safe steering your country’s foreign policy.
Joe: Can’t you just catapult a cow into their well?
Me: I don’t have time to start a plague.
Joe: How about rats?
Freida: On fire. Wait, how was the plague started?
Adella and Joe: Fleas on rats.
Joe: Napalm rats, on fire. Very classy and effective.
Freida: Can’t you send in a woman and lure him out of the castle and then kill him?
Me: He knows I’m coming, so I don’t know that he’d trot out after a chick, knowing I’m out there to cut his head off.
Freida: Maybe if she had really big boobies?
Joe: I think we’re definitely onto something with the rats.
A Marine who sits down about then: What are you people talking about?
Joe: Ann needs to kill a magic guy in a hurry.
Adella: It’s for a game.
Marine: This is out of my depth.
The rats solution was popular, even if it wouldn’t work on the game. Eventually, it was agreed that if rats, on fire, were going to be flung through the air, then the soundtrack should definitely be Wagner. I did actually get a decent plan to proceed with the plot from the discussion, but mostly from Julia, the other gamer.
I really do think the mundanes exceeded the weirdness of anything I could have done just talking about gaming in front of them. The whole discussion makes me wonder about running a game with them. Anyone else ever sprung gaming on the unsuspecting, especially at work?
Some of the first MMORPGs were the ASCII games, and there were many variations catering to combat achievement, social kicking back, various roleplay settings based on popular books or movies, and the like. There was even a game that rewarded simply doing nothing with style called LambdaMOO. These MU*’s (either MUD, MOO, MUSH, MUX, etc) were low bandwidth, light on hardware, and unlimited on imagination, as long as you were a decent typist.
Fast forward twenty years, and the PC gaming industry literally drives hardware advancements. We’ve all drooled over a brand new game and found it needed an upgrade of some computer component to play well or at all. The shiny gameplay demanded another kind of shiny; cash.
Most gamers who only started gaming on the internet in the past five or ten years may not have ever even stepped foot on a MU*. Who wanted to play something that was all typing, no graphics at all, even if it was free?
I started playing them in 1992 and have been playing and programming on them since. I’ve also gone into WoW, Second Life, and other networked graphical games online. I still, oddly, prefer the old text games hands down, and it isn’t because of the costs. I’ll focus on the MUSH variant, because that’s what I’ve played the most.
When you compile the MUSH server on an internet-connected machine and first login, you’re a room called Limbo and your character name, #1, is often “God”. There are some basic commands common to all games running that flavor of server, but no other rooms, no RPG system, no helpful files. Nothing. There’s an underlying programming language that can make all things possible (except graphics) if you know how to use it, but no books teaching it, just some arcanely written help files. There is nothing in Limbo but potential.
It’s a unique environment in today’s massive gaming world, where we pay for downloadable content and the ability to connect to someone else’s server to play in a world they create and control. While anyone who has played a MU* knows that players have limited choice in the world once it’s built by the staff, the real beauty is that just about anyone with a world-scale idea and the energy can create their own game, run the way they want, and have people connect to it and have fun. There is no server farm, team of game developers, financial costs, nothing. Just the right machine with a permanent connection and a free download of the MUSH server code. It’s like Open Source MMORPG.
I’ve seen quite a few of these player-created games. There’s games based on books and movies, games using commercial RPG rules and concepts, and some that are entirely original. A lot of them use existing theme but try to spin it a little with an original RPG system. The result is undeniably run by the love of fans and makers. It’s no small effort to do this either; most games are hundreds of hours of unpaid work. However, the result is something that the creators can watch work in front of them, and enjoy and improve themselves without working for Blizzard Inc.
If you’ve played a MU* or he graphic MMORPGs and have some thoughts on why both are still being played in this day and age, please share in the comments!
Yes, it’s another introduction of the visible members of the Femme Gamer Legion. Instead of letting it fill you with fear, consider us a fine variety mix.
My name’s Ann and I’ve been gaming, mostly online sorts, for about twenty years now. I tend toward the roleplay crowd, though like the non-MMORPGs just as well. I remember my first foray into Internet gaming. I’d been dragged to a MUD by a friend on IRC, and was told to grind sheep kills for XP. That sheep killed me, or, in the words of the game, “tickled me into the stomach.” Everyone has to start somewhere.
These days, I’m firmly established in the massive multi-player graphical IRC experience called Second Life, where one may find me as Pym Sartre. I still do the text-based MUSHes and have taken out my revenge on any number of sheep by now. I pound around WoW as a Tauren Shammie, and am eyeing several games for the new machine. I fiddle with mechanics of RPGs a bit, though my life situation doesn’t seem to allow much tabletop. That may… change, as I try to convert co-workers.
I’m also an IT professional and fiddle a lot with hardware and networks and security at home. My gaming machine is a monster that glows red from the fires of hell that energize it, but I’m in the process of building a new gaming monster with a unique open case design. There may be more on that later.
It’s exciting to be a part of Femme Gamer,and I look forward to seeing what worlds the Legion conquers. And if it happens to be yours… we’ll be nice. Promise.