Areas of Unrest
2 January 2000 - Time to Move On or My Fantasy Life
QOTD: "I'd worship the ground you walk on if you lived in a better neighborhood." - Ed Goldberg
Reading: Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World
Listening to: The Indispensable Django Reinhardt
My Ph.D. research required me to run what was, at the time (ca. 1984-5), a time-consuming simulation. Because I was essentially the only user of the computer it ran on, I typically set things running and sat around the lab reading. Then, I discovered that this was about the only computer around the department that did not have games disabled. I'd run my simulation in the background and explore the games directory in the foreground. And thus I discovered rogue, which I happily whiled away the hours at.
Some years later, I had moved on to the variants - larn, hack and, eventually, nethack. All of these used ASCII characters to represent you, the monsters you had to kill, and the objects you could use. I delighted in being the valiant Valkyrie hacking her way to the depths of the dungeon. The games were horribly addictive, but didn't require so much concentration that you couldn't, say, carry on a phone conversation at the same time.
What is significant is that those games were all single player games. They had a certain basis in D&D inspired fantasy, but everything that happened did so because it was preprogrammed, albeit with random number generators making it more interesting than the static and predictable world of the text adventures. I'd never played D&D because... well, really, I don't know why, other than that it seemed like the sort of geeky thing that my brother did. I stayed away from things like gaming clubs and s.f. conventions and, actually, had pretty much stopped reading much science fiction at all by then, though it had been my genre of choice for a while in high school and college.
And then the Internet started being the darling of the media. I'd hung around on USENET for ages, was fairly comfortable with the tools of the time like gopher, and saw an opportunity when books about the net started coming out. I approached a friend about collaborating on an Internet book geared towards women. We got together a couple of times and drafted an outline. In the course of our brainstorming (in person and via email), we realized that neither of us had any experience at all with one aspect of the net - MUDs. I'd heard about them from other friends and decided that research required me to explore. Gopher led me to mud lists and I picked ones to try almost randomly, more or less based on liking certain names. One that I looked at on that basis was Dragons, Legends and Lore (DLL) and it was friendly and fun and I got hooked.
I met some great people, learned a lot about the game, and eventually even was given an immortal (which means being able to help run the game). But there were nasty goings on, and the human interactions on the game had changed. A lot of us needed to learn that it was just a game (myself included) and that isn't always an easy lesson.
DLL is long gone, but many of us were involved in a successor called Times of Chaos. The initial stages were tremendous fun, as the team of immortals gathered nightly to talk about the cool things we would do. New skills and spells, plants that would randomly pop up and could be used to brew herbal teas, hidden ropes and ladders to climb in rooms, etc.. Why you could even ride a unicorn should you be lucky enough to capture one! We worked hard, developing areas, brainstorming on code ideas, trying to make something that would be as much fun for the players as for us.
And that was how it was for a while. And then we got busy and we were tired of disciplining people who repeatedly broke rules and we snapped at one another all the time and the two people who wrote code needed help and we got more people to help and they didn't all have the same vision. In the past several months things have deteriorated more. My immortal got deleted after I dared to suggest that it might be a reasonable idea to actually test some major changes before installing them on the game port (we've always had a test port, too) to make sure they didn't break something else. For various compulsive reasons, I kept one of my mortal characters around.
I suppose I just couldn't bear to let go of something that I'd cared about for all that time. Tonight I saw that once again, one of the coders has made a shortsighted change; shortsighted because he doesn't actually play as a mortal at all so didn't realize that he was wrong about how something worked. I wrote a note pointing out that one of his premises was demonstrably incorrect and then I realized something.
I don't care anymore.
I hate to give up something I worked hard on at one time, but it's not worth the aggravation. The time to have moved on was probably at least two years ago, but so be it. Most of my friends from there are long gone and the few who aren't are reachable by other means.
If I still feel the need to slay a dragon now and again, well, there's still nethack.
Copyright 2000 Miriam H. Nadel
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