Today is the official 30th birthday of MUD. And MUDs are, for better or worse, the crucible in which today’s virtual worlds were born. There were people who played MUDs working on The Realm, on Meridian 59, on Kingdom of the Winds, on Ultima Online, on EverQuest. To this day, more virtual worlds have been made, run, and played as text muds than any other sort.
These days, the influences have gotten a bit broader — Second Life is not the product of mudders, for example. All these kids’ worlds are not made by mudders. And the cultural touchstone is World of Warcraft, a game which is also not made by mudders, but which has the conventions of the text games thoroughly ingrained.
Richard says the anniversary doesn’t matter:
So standing back and looking at it, the answer as to why there is not a lot of fuss over this 30th anniversary is that in the great scheme of things, it isn’t actually important. The mainstream isn’t interested because virtual worlds haven’t had much impact; developers aren’t interested because the paradigm is obvious; players aren’t interested because knowing doesn’t add anything to their play experience; academics might be interested in the historical facts, but anniversaries don’t figure in their analyses.
I disagree, if only because otherwise we wouldn’t get to geek out on printouts of the original source code and photos of the original maps.
In the end, it may be that this is only a historical curiosity. But the stories we tell about our origins make a difference to how we evolve. I think it matters desperately to the future of this medium that we know how it was born, and the spirit in which it was created: whimsical, wry, imaginative, and immersed in the hacker ethic; pushing at preconceptions and fundamentally intelligent.
We all have our favorite stories from muds. Today is the right day to share them.