Is MUSHing Dead?

May 18, 2011 at 3:38 am (Admin Posts) (, )

Lots of people believe that MUSHing is a dying art form.  They believe we’ve been driven out by MMORPGs.  I don’t really believe it though.  New MUDs and MUSHes are still cropping up.  There are still plenty of people who will pour hours into this hobby, who want an in-depth RP experience that can’t be duplicated by a bunch of people who can’t spell or stay in character very well.  However, something did happen in the MUSH community.

We all got older.

We started careers.  Had kids.  Got a lot more tired.  We lost a lot of our energy.  We can’t stay up from 6 pm till 4 am anymore, RPing scenes.  And the kids who can still do that are all starting MU*s in themes we maybe can’t really get behind, because they appeal to younger audiences.

Yet many MUSH conventions and Ways of Doing Things still run on the assumption that we are all still 18 years old, living at university or with our parents, and in possession of biological clocks that allow us to be around pretty much…well.  Always.  For example, take our perception of “an active MUSH player.”  People on MU*s get status if they are “really active.”  If they attend all the events.  Are always out and about RPing.  We give less weight to people who RP one or two scenes a week.  They are not active.  They aren’t in step, in the loop, being movers and shakers…and they feel that.

What if we valued those people more?  What if, in fact, we slowed the pace of our MU*s a bit so that those sorts of people could have fun too?

Take scheduling plot scenes.  We have gotten into a habit of wanting or needing specific people for our plot scenes.  Sometimes that’s not really avoidable.  Sometimes, though, it might be better if we just did impromptu shout outs.  Let whomever just show up.  And to design plots that makes that possible.

Take our plots.  Plots that take a week are sometimes more feasible for the older crowd than long, drawn out, involved tiny plots with lots and lots and LOTS of details.

Take consent.  The old way was to try to extrapolate ICC from one scene out to its bitter end when negotiating events.  Maybe we just need to say that consent lasts for a single scene, as the Road to Amber MUSH did.  If you want to do more to the character you have to negotiate a new scene.  That way, you can just come online and relax instead of worrying and waiting and fretting about whether your character is going to be playable.  After all, you’re running on a limited amount of time and energy.  The old way was ICC=ICA because there were a lot of idiots running around.  We idiots have grown up.  The new way should maybe be: you know what, we both have 4 hours tonight. How can we make 4 hours really fun?

I think a lot of the time players come onto the game with specific fantasies about how they’d like to interact with that world, and if they can’t get those fantasies met they tend to drift on until they find a place that clicks better for them.  Or, if they feel hostility from the staff and players because they can’t be around more than two or three times a week–they move on.   Maybe we can find better ways to help players sketch out the scenes they saw in their head when they said, “Let’s try playing here.”  Maybe we can find ways to be more tolerant of people’s schedules and lives.  Maybe we can rethink what the MUSH hobby means.

I’m not saying my solutions are the best ones, necessarily.  Anyone who starts tilting their game towards that older demographic is actually breaking new ground.  MUSHing won’t die if we let it evolve with us.  It will die, however, if that new ground does not get broken.

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