straight up
"The emergence of MUDs has created a new kind of social sphere, both like and radically unlike the environments that have existed before."
Pavel Curtis in his office at Xerox PARC

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Pavel Curtis | World Building <1991>

Pavel Curtis, while a computer scientist at Xerox PARC, created one of the first popular on-line role-playing environments, LambdaMOO [requires Telnet], in 1991. Known as a MUD (Multi-User Dungeons), LambdaMOO is a text-only fantasy realm that is descended from sword and sorcery games from the 1970s such as "Dungeons and Dragons." While not the first of its kind, LambdaMOO is perhaps the most famous text-based virtual environment, dissected and analyzed by media theorists, sociologists and psychologists who see it as fertile breeding ground for a new hybrid form of literature, live performance, cinema, and interactive storymaking.

Through the freewheeling dynamics of improvised dialogue and unrehearsed interactivity, participants lose themselves in their roles and collaborate in a form of collective authorship. Shielded (and even liberated) by the anonymity of their characters, players improvise their own conversations, story lines, props, and settings; they pursue their own adventures, and experiment with a myriad of alternate identities; sometimes they even switch gender and, occasionally, species. MUDs are characterized by a tightly knit – though globally dispersed – community of characters engaged in an ongoing dialogue that combines the aimlessness of nomadic wandering with the focused creativity of world building.