SELF AS OBJECT: THE DECENTERING GRAMMAR OF MUDS

In a MUD, users create a virtual self, or character, to act for them in the MUD world. The self, like everything else in MUD's OOP environment, becomes an object, one completely at the user's control. As in a novel, the MUDer looks into a narrative world from the outside. Unlike a novel, however, players are like Olympian gods, moving their character pieces as detached observers, while at the same time keeping an emotional connection to their self- fashioned mortals.

Because players invent a characterization of self and role- play in cyberspace, they gain a physical and emotional detachment. Instead of feeling along in the MUDworld, players think how their character would react to situations. One FurryMUCK character showed her dual loyalty when this author's MUD character, Marshdarter, asked for some help with the commands.

Leticia whispers, "ah.. In Character, Leticia is NOT a nice person.. my Player (the person sitting at the computer) IS a nice person, and will help you, as long as you whisper.." to you.

Marshdarter looked at Leticia, curious to see who this "NOT nice person" was:

Mistress Leticia is black, a deep, shiny black all over her skin. Her eyes are black, TOTALLY black, no whites or irises showing at all, her teeth and tongue startling flashes of color when she opens her mouth or smiles. She looks human, except for her eyes, her color, and her long, thin fingers (and are there more than 5 fingers there? - it's hard to tell, but you think so.) Her hair is snowy white and silken-soft, hanging to her shoulders and blown by any tiny breeze at all. She wears a long gown of deepest black silk, deeply 'vd between her breasts, with a white silken netting (or webbing?) keeping her decent. the gown rests on her shoulders by thin straps, and gathered at her waist is a belt of scarlet silk, showing off her generous curves. Around her neck is a white silk choker. The choker has a black, hourglass-shaped stone set in the front, (Or IS it black? colors seem to swirl deep within the stone, drawing your eyes, tempting you to `gaze' into it's depths..

Carrying:

clrtemp

"I am mysself, in character ," she typed, "- Leticia, an anthropomorphic black widow sspider.." (FurryMUCK). Of course, how close the character is to a player's 'true self' of themselves is up to them. MUD is an ideal place to explore facets of personality or explore otherness. Some characters have one personality trait that they emphasize in all their interactions. This male author found that more players answered his questions when he described himself as a curious female than as a curious male.

Even the grammar required for expression in MUD is distancing. Since the [pose:] command simply lets others know your character is posing a certain way, pose texts need to be written in third person. This author learned this by trial and error:

pose: spin around three times and raise arms to the furry sky

Marshdarter spin around three times and raise arms to the furry sky

S'A'Alis yips, "Ta da!"

pose: exudes thanks from every follicle

Marshdarter exudes thanks from every follicle

(FurryMUCK).

No action can be properly expressed without this linguistic reminder that not the player, but the character -- the altered or displaced self -- is acting in the cyberspace.