So what is to be made of the Massively Multiplayer, then? In terms of the growth of the video gaming industry, the transition seems perfectly natural and perhaps inevitable – the convergence of our single-player Role-Playing Games, our MUD's and MOO's, and our internet chat rooms. Through games such as Asheron's Call's focus on the cultural and even literary progression of a world, however, the features that emerge seem to greatly surpass the original vision. By limiting almost nothing about the players' physical capacities to roam and explore, or their conversational abilities to speak as in- or out-of-character as they please, complex social systems, economies, and even cultures take shape from the otherwise void of expectations. In a sense, the sheer multicursality of the Massively Multiplayer seems to have incorporated into video gaming the same manner of open-ended possibilities that the internet itself has introduced into modern culture. Whereas the player of a Choose Your Own Adventure is confined to this or that pre-existing set of story branches, and to the solitary experience of the story, the Massively Multiplayer wisely takes its cues from its predecessors, the MUD's and MOO's, adding in the last absent factor of the visual element to complete the total illusion of the virtual world. The result is a world that compels its playerbase, perhaps even unwittingly, to take an active role in the unfolding of their world's history, to act or not act as they see appropriate, or to merely go their entirely own road, explore what they might, and write a few stories along the way, for the reading pleasure of all the would-be quest-leading warriors to enjoy in their off hours. In a world that animatedly reacts to the actions of its players, and responds to the criticisms of its subscribers, the Massively Multiplayer genre seems to be a very worthwhile study as perhaps the first real attempt at a world-level simulacrum from the artists and designers of our internet culture.
(of futher interest, relevant or not:)
Photos related to the paper: photos
An example of fan lore: a bit of our guild's fiction
More cultural transmission in the MMO: the musical tradition of Asheron's Call 2
Textual materiality of AC's digital "paper": text puzzle
Web chronicles of AC's in-game texts: Warcry | Jackcat
Derethian history (more texts / links to monthly events): Warcry | Jackcat