Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities

Pavel Curtis, Xerox PARC

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University January 8, 1992


A MUD (Multi-User Dungeon or, sometimes, Multi-User Dimension) is a network- accessible, multi-participant, user-extensible virtual reality whose user interface is entirely textual. Participants (usually called players) have the appearance of being situated in an artificially-constructed place that also contains those other players who are connected at the same time. Players can communicate easily with each other in real time. This virtual gathering place has many of the social attributes of other places, and many of the usual social mechanisms operate there. Certain attributes of this virtual place, however, tend to have significant effects on social phenomena, leading to new mechanisms and modes of behavior not usually seen `IRL' (in real life). In this talk, I'll relate my experiences and observations from having created and maintained a MUD for over a year.


Biographical Sketch: Pavel Curtis has been a member of the research community at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center since 1983, during which time he has worked on aspects of the Smalltalk-80, Interlisp-D/Xerox Lisp, and Cedar programming environments and on other projects mostly related to the design and implementation of programming languages. His current activities include the design, implementation, and maintenance of an extensible and programmable multi-participant text-based virtual reality called LambdaMOO and leadership of the SchemeXerox project, which aims to produce an advanced programming environment based around a new implementation of the Scheme programming language suitable for use in large-scale software systems.


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