Pavel Curtis, while a computer scientist at Xerox
PARC, created one of the first popular on-line role-playing
[requires Telnet], in 1991. Known as a MUD (Multi-User Dungeons),
LambdaMOO is a text-only fantasy realm that is descended
from sword and sorcery games from the 1970s such as "Dungeons
and Dragons." While not the first of its kind, LambdaMOO
is perhaps the most famous text-based virtual environment, dissected
and analyzed by media theorists, sociologists and psychologists
who see it as fertile breeding ground for a new hybrid form
of literature, live performance, cinema, and interactive storymaking.
Through the freewheeling dynamics of improvised
dialogue and unrehearsed interactivity, participants lose themselves
in their roles and collaborate in a form of collective authorship.
Shielded (and even liberated) by the anonymity of their characters,
players improvise their own conversations, story lines, props,
and settings; they pursue their own adventures, and experiment
with a myriad of alternate identities; sometimes they even switch
gender and, occasionally, species. MUDs are characterized by
a tightly knit though globally dispersed community
of characters engaged in an ongoing dialogue that combines the
aimlessness of nomadic wandering with the focused creativity
of world building.