Brain Candy by Wes Platt
"I've tried MUDs and MUSHs, and while I've always been intrigued by the possibilities therein, the obtuse interfaces and difficulty in simply navigating the worlds--and gaining any sort of "situational awareness" in them--really puts a damper on my enjoyment."
That's an actual quote from an actual computer gaming magazine editor talking about why he thinks text-based games don't get much attention in the mainstream gaming media.
Huh. How obtuse are the interfaces on MUDs and MUSHes compared to the learning curve required for graphical flight simulators? For MUDs and MUSHes, you need to know one major command: HELP. After that, sure, you have to learn some codebase and game-specific commands, but it's generally no more complicated than having to sift through the manual for Rainbow Six, setting up hotkeys - most MU** client software has room for personal macros, as well as coming with some already installed.
Perhaps he's referring to the coding aspect - it's true that not just anyone can plop down and start building their own *good* MU**. The coding can be complex and difficult to learn for novices. But I have to say that the coding for Everquest isn't any less complex or difficult to learn.
And what does coding have to do with *playing*? Not much.
When the person above, who shall remain nameless so as to spare him pointless flaming (I get the feeling all the flaming in the world won't change his mind, so why bother?), talks about not "gaining any sort of 'situational awareness,'" what he's really saying is this: "Unlike Everquest, MUDs and MUSHes don't spoon-feed you environmental eye candy to give you a sense of place." And, he's right, as far as that goes. But the limitation on "situational awareness" isn't the problem of text-based environments - it's a lack of imagination on the part of the beholder.
As Bono sings in "Walk On," it's "a place that has to be believed to be seen."
Unlike the sometimes obtusely-interfaced graphical games, the best text-based roleplaying games - especially the RP-intensive games - challenge and excite imaginations, encourage literacy, foster a sense of community, and immerse participants in fantasy worlds that may raise their blood pressure, make their pulses race, break their hearts, or fill them with jubilation.
Instead of eye candy, RP-focused games provide brain candy.
All the pretty pictures in the world don't matter if the characters around you are cardboard and the impact you have is limited to how many bunny rabbits you can slay in a field and which spiffy equipment or virtual real estate you can hock on ebay.
In the best text-based roleplaying games, the interfaces take some getting used to for novices - but that's true just learning your way around a web browser! I am sure my colleagues in the RP community will agree that the minimal learning curve required to play our games is made worthwhile by the benefits of the experience.