The growing use of the Internet to provide a sense of personal connection and community is converging with the development of shared virtual spaces. In particular, the strong popularity of Multi-User Domains (MUDs), text-based networked virtual worlds, suggests the high premium many people place on social interactivity in their virtual environments. The project described in this paper was designed to broadly characterize what life in LambdaMOO—a classic, social, text-based MUD—is like for many of its members. A comprehensive, data-driven approach was used to explore topics including user and use characteristics, identity and gender role-play, sociality, and spatiality. A rich database of results was gathered. The findings demonstrate a striking and increasingly strong focus on social interaction, even at the expense of spatial navigation. Moreover, contrary to expectations, small, private, even exclusive social interactions were the rule, not the exception. In addition, provocative claims regarding the prevalence of identity and gender role-play were shown not to hold, at least for most people, in this classic social MUD. Finally, some intriguing results regarding the sense of place and space in a purely text-based virtual environment are presented. Taken together, these data shed light on robust psychological and social patterns observed in a large-scale, social virtual world. In doing so, they can help inform the discourse on, and design of, related systems in the future.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.