suicide is painless

This entry is best read to the sound of Loudon Wainwright’s song, Donations (2Mb mp3 link).

When they go through my wallet and
fish out my license,
they’ll learn my D.O.B
and my eyes were blue.

As for my corneas
I don’t care who gets ’em,
but all other organs and parts
are for you.

Back in early July, after reading an interesting article by Jacob Shwirtz on the perils of a persistent online legacy that will easily outlive your own feeble mortality, I decided that I should try and tidy up a little before I go. Surely I could spare my next of kin the trouble of deleting numerous online profiles by closing down all those that I no longer use?

The first candidate that came to mind was an account I started a couple of years ago so that I could take part in my first MUD. Growing up playing text only adventure games on a Sinclair Spectrum gave me a natural curiosity about the world of Multi User Dungeons and I had promised myself for some time that I’d give it a try one day. It seems a little perverse spending your time playing a text based game not long after you get your first broadband connection, but I couldn’t resist finding out about the structure and content of some of the games on offer.

I chose Achaea. Mostly because it had the greatest number of positive reviews but also because a brief glance at the game description suggested that it was one of the most complex, having been running for a number of years. It proved to be a good choice, the complexity of the spaces and relationships surpassed all my expectations. It has its own dynamic and evolving economy, politics, theology, weather, conflicts and romances. The users all play an integral part in shaping both the spaces and events. It’s backed up by sophisticated methods of interaction and messaging. There’s a system of learning that helps you acquire new skills and encourage the use of mentors. You even get presented with your own journal to write your in-game memoirs in. They’ve been blogging in Achaea longer than most of us. I got quite enthusiastic for a while. I’d been given a new collection of complex urban spaces to crawl around and there was an equally complex cultural system to enrich it.

However, the shine began to wear off after a few weeks. With all that content that I’ve just described there was only one common denominator that seemed to be the primary interest for a lot of the users and a lot of the story making (the administrators develop an ongoing narrative to help construct patterns of events). That common denominator was learning how to get better at kicking each other’s butt.

Rising to the top meant being the best at delivering the deadliest key bindings. You looking at me? I’m gonna k1-k3-p4 your skinny ass! I’ve got a black belt in macro commands! You get the picture; my interest quickly faded. Combine that with the fact that it seems impossible for anyone to envisage a MUD that doesn’t involve Wizards wielding big staffs and Dark Lords of some description and the genre soon starts to get a little dull.

Why isn’t anyone interested in creating a MUD that takes normal, contemporary environments and lets the stories develop without any unnecessary Dungeons and/or Dragons? No, wait, we have that – it’s called Real Life.

Witness the following quote from the Achaea site news in April 2002. Bloody J.R.R.Tolkien has a lot to answer for.

Sartan Triumphant! Sartan, the Malevolent, the embodiment of Evil, consolidated his power today on the Isle of Evil. He raised Mount Mhaldor under the Baelgrim Fortress, which served as a magnet to any Evil influence within Sapience. As such, he gained control over the Ruby Sphinx, Thoth’s Bough, the Demon mirror, the Garden of Midnight, the Stygian Totem, the Valley of Shadow, and Blood Falls. He further destroyed the one landmark most closely representing Chaos, the Cave of Golgotha (and with it, the Crystal Cave). Finally, he renamed the Fist of Dameron to the Fist of Sartan. In a gesture of spite, he forever cut the flow of essence to the Occultists Guild.

Enough already! It would have to go. The first of my attempts to tidy up my online estate. I logged on and checked my location.

The bright sun shines down, blanketing you with its life-giving warmth. Some graffiti has been scrawled here. It reads, “Don’t not feed the humgii.” The Ratman stands here quietly. A sewer grate looms darkly beneath your feet. A
cute little humgii is sitting here placidly, attached to a leash. A runic totem is planted solidly in the ground. The corpse of Trevorp is here, impaled by a narrow bone. A note on it reads, ‘This is the end of those who would trifle
with Indrani.’ There are 2 mounted archers here. Casually causing electricity to dance across the iron gauntlet worn on her right hand, a War Witch of Ashtan smirks here haughtily in tight red leather.

Seems as good a place as any to shuffle off this mortal coil. I shall end it and join the unfortunate Trevorp, who has clearly decided that he too has had his fill of the Fist of Sartan. I’ll soon wipe the smirk from the War Witch’s face. Drawing my final text only breath, I type the word SUICIDE and press enter…

We do not allow customers to commit permanent suicide, to protect financial records. Read HELP SUICIDE for alternatives.

Ah, I see.

It’s been too long since I posted an entry of any real substance. By substance I think I probably mean an entry on architecture – I know at least a few of my readers visit mainly for that and could probably do without stories about cyber suicide. In my defense, the main reason for the neglect over the last few weeks is because I’ve been too busy making it to write about it. We’ve made the shortlist for the competition I mentioned a couple of weeks ago and the workload is pretty heavy for stage 2.

Next week I shall be offline and on holiday. I shall be accompanied by Peter Eisenman’s Diagram Diaries and a copy of Postmodernism for Beginners. Oh, and my wife and kids too. Not exactly holiday books but I’ve been thinking about Eisenman’s ideas on architecture’s ‘interiority’ ever since I read Peter’s entry on Fred Brooks, so I want to revisit the text and see if there is any connection. Book number two is Peter‘s fault too, I dug it out from under the book pile to post to him and then decided I’d better read it one last time. This is all rather neat, as they are perfect companions.

If I decide to blog anything else before the holiday, you’ll be the first to know.