Too many doors to open
I think there’s just no room in even the above average attention span for a roleplaying MUSH to thrive anymore.
Next week, we celebrate the 12th anniversary of OtherSpace – an evolving collaborative space opera epic that’s been the shared creation of hundreds of participants from all over the world. We still manage to draw 50-60 people on our busiest nights, but the new blood is rare and the veterans just can’t do enough to gain and retain new prospects.
It’s no one’s fault. The world’s just so different these days. Back in the peak of our popularity, the worst distractions that threatened MUSH activity were:
* TV shows
* Other text-based games
Now, we’re faced with those distractions, plus:
* Graphical MMORPGs
* Console games
* Smart phone apps
* Streaming Netflix
* Hundreds of cable channels
* Facebook – with Farmville, Castle Age, and Mafia Wars (among other attention funnels)
It’s not that hard to find a few minutes here or there to tend crops or help our friends fight boss monsters in a Facebook game. But who really has the time, energy, attention, and creative drive required to tell a collaborative evolving story?
It takes a special person to invest themselves in the effort of building a living novel, but such people, I think, are just becoming too rare a commodity anymore.
Sad but true: I envision a bigger draw for players to a web-based OtherSpace: Dominion game than we’ll ever see on the story-driven MUSH. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what people have time for. It’s as deep as most people are willing to go.
The age of the MUSH may really be over.
So, let’s assume it’s true. What’s next? Can the form evolve?
We’ve tried to experiment with other options – play-by-post in the forums and the Facebook fan page – but that’s never quite taken off. We’ve seen players start blogs to enhance the storytelling experience beyond the game. Again, they start, but they never really take off. Google Wave? Maybe, but that’s still less than elegant and not wildly popular.
I’ve heard some initial murmurings of a MUSH client for the iPad, but I remain skeptical that it would improve the likelihood of people committing themselves to the effort that’s necessary to create a quality storytelling environment on OtherSpace. It’s far more likely that iPad users would be drawn to apps like Plants vs. Zombies – quick fix, easy to drop, low intensity entertainment.
I’m not yet at the place where I want to call it quits with OtherSpace. However, I do think we might be reaching a point where we have to accept and embrace that the game’s never going to grow significantly and that the generation of players that we’ve got now may be the last of a dying breed.
What I’m Reading
Blackout by Connie Willis
What I’m Playing
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
You Don't Know Jack
World of Warcraft
Left 4 Dead 2
What I’m Writing
No Son of Hekayt - Book I: Artifacts
Free to download in PDF format!
Coming soon: 31 Days of OtherSpace - 1 work of fiction a day during March 2011.