Saturday, November 06, 2004

Nothing to ‘MOO' about

Q: What the hell is MUDs & MOOs?

For a quick introduction to MUDs & MOOs, read pavel Curtis' article ‘ the incredible tale of lamdaMOO ' that was featured on tech TV.

For those who know what MUDs & MOOs are, I think it's worthy to mention that a stable MUD occurs when the four principle player types balance each other out (bartle, 1996). It is interesting to note that balance is not achieved in terms of equal number of each player type, but in understanding the relationships that exist between the four categories. The social dynamics that exist between them is reason enough to read the Bartle's article .

When is it not considered a MUD?

  • Players: When all sense of elsewhere-presence is lost, you no longer have a MUD

  • World: If there is no-one to tell, you don't have a MUD

  • Interacting: If players can't play, its not a MUD

  • Acting: Without depth, you have no MUD

Xin had one of the better summaries explaining the features of MUDs & MOOs. I like her take on how, ‘ the ability to create artifacts make the way people communicate with each other more living, interactive and interesting. The artifacts (rooms, trails, buildings, furniture, etc.) play an important role in mediating the interactions'.

I agree with Caixia who describes MOO as a ‘simple, text-based virtual reality where you can communicate with other friends, create something you like, and interaction with the virtual world' . She also feels that MOO emphasizes the interaction between players, while zork focuses on the interaction between player and the virtual reality.

Q: How do they differ from other social software such as blogs, newsgroup, USENET, fan fic, etc?

Caixia sees that Moo differs in 3 fundamental ways. namely: (1) creates both a “space” and a “place” for players, and (2) provides them with more affective clues and (3) synchronous interactions. Read her blog post for more details.

Personally I see Bloggers (and myself) falling under the category of ‘socialisers'. This is a group that is proud of their friendships, their contacts, and their influence (bartle, 1996).

What my other classmates had to MOO about:

John Delin did us a favor summarizing the 3 key articles this week. I agree with John that MOOs as a method to get people excited about programming is quite a stretch. I want to learn programming. Does MOO spark the flame within me? No friggin' way!

I liked Marion 's quote ‘Online there is nothing but words. No tonal variance, no comforting squeeze of the hand, and on the positive side, no slap on the face when offence is taken. There is nothing but words.' He added how in an online environment, non-verbal communication such as emoticons and abbreviations have made their way into our daily online communication. Moving onto a MOO environment, people can not only display their emotions with words, e.g. ‘I hate you', but also throw a chair at the person. They now have as Marion said, ‘objects and an environment with which to interact'.

Like Kami , I was glued to Bartle's article that described the synergetic relationship that exists between players who fall under 4 major categories. I never thought of social dynamics that existed in players who took to the different role.

Personally, I can't put myself specifically to any one particular group. In Diablo I was a player killer once, in Counter Strike & Star craft I was an achiever, in Ultima I was an explorer (had no drive to complete the game objectives, just wanted to explore), in Age of methodology, I was a socialiser & explorer (I spent more time reading on the different cultures and ‘talking' to people than actual fighting). These games are not pure MOOs but the article got me thinking how depending on the game, I switch between roles.

Q: What has this got to do with instructional design at all?

Mark 's post is post of the week. If you have no time for others' blogs catch this one for this week's topic. I liked his comparison of MUDs to board games, and especially liked his bit on ‘MUD Learning Theory and Its Application in a Classroom Environment'. In it he raised the question of ‘ What happens in a classroom when the ratio of achievers, socializers, explorers, and imposers is out of balance? And added ‘how do instructional designers first measure, and second meet the needs of different kinds of learners?'

His question got me thinking the following scenario:

Imagining that one day course management systems like blackboard and WebCT somehow incorporates the additive nature of MUDS & MOOs into their system, and also imaging that if we someday figure out a manner in which we can categorize learners (Maggie Martinez's learning orientation research is a start) & customize instructions as envisioned by mark above, have we truly reached a utopian learning environment?

Ah! What will happen to the social dynamics within an online class if you manage to suit the instructions to all your individual students' needs? Will it cause imbalance like Bartle described in his article? I wonder…

Stop & think

Check out Tappedin ( site. What do you think?




Cherny, L. (1995). THE MODAL COMPLEXITY OF SPEECH EVENTS IN A SOCIAL MUD. Retrieved on November 4th, 2004 from source:

Bartle, R. (1996). HEARTS, CLUBS, DIAMONDS, SPADES: PLAYERS WHO SUIT MUDS. Retrieved on November 4 th , 2004 from source:


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