I logged on as Silver_Guest
"You see a tall shimmering God hovering over you. Or Goddess. You can't really tell because it looks like a penguin from where you are standing"
So on my Journeys to LambdaMOO, I ran across a fellow traveller, Ecru_Guest (it appears to be moving toward you rapidly, but your eyes can't seem to focus on it. You must decide quickly whether to try to communicate with... or to flee), who stated was a TA for a class (info 2450). We goofed off and after some silly emoting where my unborn penguin children were made into a delicious omlette, we both explored together and ended up talking about media and such in the Yard, where things just started running like a poor session of AIM. I found out s/he is a PhD student at Cornell, read the Dibbell article also, and was there for similar reasons I was: academic interest.
I ended up having a really involved chat session with this stranger, and what I ended up thinking about is about communal spaces where people are able to open up to each other; similar places where I've been able to talk to strangers about my interests and sort of instantly connect have been the Comic Book Store, the Magic The Gathering tournements, hobbyshops... basically bastions of hobby nerdiness. Again there's something about a MOO or MUD that has a level of connotative myth of "tech-wizardry" or "living in your parents basement on the computer all the time" where everyone sharing in the same societal sin of nerdiness come together, knowing that on at least they all share the same world together.
Speaking of nerdiness, I felt that the experience of being in MOO was firstly a lot like the old text based adventures (Zork), but even more so like a session of Tabletop RPG. In both cases there is a divide of imagined action, space, movement, and character which exists in a symbolic world: for MOO it's in text, and for something like Dungeons and Dragons its in spoken language. My personal interest is in tabletop RPG games like Risus where there are dice and maybe a few base rules, but for the most part it operates on an even more freeform level (and interesting play with language) where a persons allowable actions are based on the "cliche" they define themselves as. The language in a sense sets up the rules, or precludes it, in the way the person defines their character. Also, in any tabletop there's a strange collapse between oneself and one's character. I wish we read the Mary Flanagan, because just as she talks about players responding to Lara Croft as "her" one moment and "me" the next, the tabletop has a constantly shifting identity between "my character" and "me", and just as much one man can control their tabletop character, that character is ultimately at the whims of a Game Master (or Dungeon Master if you're focusing on D&D).
I ended up with the person's email (I dont know if the person on the other end was a man or woman) and an interesting conversation. I'll probably keep in touch and hopefully make a new friend. But, my experience in MOO is kind of weird, and I want to ask y'all: what do you make of it?