VISUAL CUES

Many channels of communication available in face-to-face encounters are missing in MUDs -- primarily visual information such as, facial expression, eye contact, and body movement (Hiltz, 89). To make up for these missing signals, MUDers use the visual field of the computer screen (taking advantage of the WRITTEN OBJECT) to produce new kinds of cues. "What may seem an inadequate set of cues in computerized conferencing for novice users may later be overcome by participants learning how to substitute for missing kinds of cues" (Hiltz, 89).

If players want to show their character is thinking something, they represent their words symbolically, using a set of bubbles similar to those seen in comic strips.:

. o O ( MMm. Guest sex/ )

. o O ( yes )

If players want their characters to emphasize a point, or create an [@item] that carries a message about themselves, they might produce a symbolic 'cardboard sign':

Jorry holds up a sign that says ______

| ahhh |

-----------

Or if players want to give a small picture of what their area looks like, they can arrange standard text characters in the physical space of the screen so that they resemble the object itself:

+--------------------( Cymoryl's Carousel )-----------------+

| @___

|

| |__<

|

| @___ |

@___ | | |__< _.-^-._

|__< |

| |__________...---~~~ ~~~---..._____| |

| [________~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~______] |

| |~|~~~|~~~~~|~~~~~~~~~|~~~~~|~~~|~| |

| | | | | [ENTER] | |

| | |

| | | | | .-~~~-. |

| | | |

| | | | | | | |

| | | |

| | | | | | | |

| | | |

| |_|___|____|_|_____|_|____|____| | |

| [_[___[____[___\-----/_]____ ___]___]_] |

+------------------------------------------------------------------+

These visual cues increase the reader's engagement in the fictional world, by taking advantage of the physical arrangement of text. Words become mixed with glyphic symbols adding a level of richness to the interaction that aural speech cannot attain.