Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I was a former MUD addict

Now, when I began writing this piece, I thought it was going to be something sort of light, but as I wrote it, well, the lighter side just sort of slipped away from me.

For those of you who don't know the term MUD means, it means Multi-User Dungeon, which was a text-based precursor to Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games, so I understand it when people tell me or blog about being addicted to World of Warcraft, Guild Wars or Everquest.

When I started university in the mid-to-late 1990's, there wasn't a lot of things to do online, so I dabbled in a few MUDs, but it just didn't take. I just didn't get a sense of community from them, and they were not really friendly to new players. In short, they weren't much fun.

And then I found the Discworld MUD. I had always been a fan of the books the MUD was based upon, and the game shared a lot of the character and sense of humor of the series, and had a really good social aspect to it as well, which made me want to stay around a bit longer. I was a veteran of telnet chatrooms, so socialization was an important part of my gaming experience at that time.

In Discworld, you gain experience just by being on the server, but of course, killing things, exploring and using the various commands that you have at your disposal(which are at times profession-specific) along with the quests of course(which are mostly puzzle-solving and not killing something specific). My first time around, I played the role of a wizard, and because this was the 1990's, I didn't have internet access anywhere but at school, so I spent hours playing the game, and sadly, I skipped some classes when I shouldn't have, and in retrospect, my stats playing the game was sort of scary. As it turned out that my final semester of school I had spent about 1 out of ever 4 hours of my life playing the game. Not waking hours, just hours in total. I admit that the figure is skewed because of that "breathing experience" so I would remain logged into my character while I did other schoolwork, but the idea that I spent so much time out of my then young life playing the game horrified me and when the summer came, I broke my addiction, though it was more because of a lack of net access rather than some conscious choice on my part.

But like most addictions, you do occasionally relapse, and I did just that in the spring and summer of 2003. Of course, my last tour through Discworld took me to the Thieves' Guild, which was more conducive to my mindset about cons and such, and having learned a few lessons from my previous bout of addiction. I took things a lot slower than I had before, and I was able to let things rest a bit, so I didn't go as crazy for it as I once did. But I still felt the pull, and as the months dragged on, I found myself becoming increasingly compelled to play. I was having those kinds of nights where mentally, I wanted to stop playing, but I couldn't bring myself to do it and I could see it was turning into a problem once more. I had to break clean before I got to a point where it would be too hard to quit. This decision came about around the time of the big Blackout of August 2003, so in a way, I was helped by circumstances. And in looking back, I can't see how it so entrapped me now.

Now I am not blaming the game, as the problem lies within my own psyche. I revelled in the escapism the game provided while using the social aspects as a crutch to avoid rejection in the outside world. But I know that because of some of the other things I've had unhealthy obsessions with in the past (like soaps when I was in high school for example), the MUD was just an easy fix at that time, and if I hadn't gravitated towards that outlet, I probably would have sought another way to try to fill a need in myself.

But realizing that I have a problem doesn't stop me from being tempted. I know that despite my best efforts, I can fall victim to psychological addiction once again in one form or another, so I have to remain vigilant about a lot of my activities now, not just gaming. There are other factors involved of course, but I guess it is better to err on the safe side than end up in a situation I really don't want to be in.


Bean said...

It could have been worse - you could have been addicted to Infocom interactive fiction like me. Of course now I have fancy modern addictions too, like MMORPGs etc, but I still went back and replayed those monstrously difficult text games whose puzzles I couldn't remember the answers to just last summer. And you know what? It was still fun.

MC said...

Those are what some of the quest puzzles on the MUD were like.

TJ said...

I understand completely. My addiction was Neverwinter Nights, which can be played online in persistant worlds that are created and hosted by fellow addicts. As much as a tried to limit myself, I found myself escaping into that world far more than was healthy for me (and my family).

Eventually I quit cold-turkey. I went for a whole year without playing. A few months ago I went back to the old persistent world I was on (Arleah) and played for a bit, but now I am able to limit myself to a couple of hours a week. I'm actually pretty proud that I was able to conquer this, but it is a horrible addiction -- almost as bad as quitting smoking was (and I've done that too, so I know what I'm talking about).

MC said...

I read research that suggested that there were two disparate threads in this type of addiction, escapism(yo!) and being goal-oriented(so someone who wants to achieve things). These two impulses are rarely linked together as the motivating factor in this kind of addiction... it is usually one of the other.

kanrei said...

I was hooked on NWN, on Dark and Shattered Lands on ZMud before that. My last was Guild Wars. Lasted 3 months before I saw the pattern and just stopped playing it.
To those of us raised on Pong, these new games are too incredible to resist.

Nice site btw =D

Mr. Fabulous said...

Oh man, we must have been separated at birth. I too must be ever vigilant.

I hear City of Villians is really cool...

MC said...

Kanrei: Well, some of the old games still dazzle me today. I look fondly back at Super Dodge Ball and Defender, but the newer games seem to have a little more meat on them. Thank you for the compliment.

Mr. Fab: I probably would have never written this article if it wasn't for you dude. Confession is good for the soul of course. And well, I do have other gaming obsessions of course... like taking detailed season notes for Madden and NCAA Football for instance. I look forward to competing against you fantasy football.

ender said...

Your such a joke. How weak willed and lame can you be to consider yourself addicted to a online game? 1 if you skip classes its not cause the game is holding a gun to your head, I have mudded in class and never had it effect anything. 2 You were having fun, all you needed to do was figure out that you had your whole life to play the game. It's not like it was gonna run away why you were at class. 3 What the hell is addiction anyway, but a way to make someone feel bad about doing what they like. Discworld mud is a never ending game no matter how much you play, so you can advance to the day you die. There's no reason in playing 8 hours a day, unless you wanted to because it was fun. Addictions come in two ways, mental and physical, physical can be beat by quiting the substances and replacing them with healthy ones. Mental can be beat by you thinking cleary, and if there is something that prohibits you from doing that it can be treated with medication. Since the fact that I wasted my time writing this message, is already starting to annoy me. Hopefully someone will read this,not be bs'd by your crap, and have fun doing what they love whether it be muds, mmorpgs, etc.!