When I first started mudding, I wasn’t aware of cybersex. I hadn’t even dreamt it existed until my friend Brian told me about it. The night before, our characters had been hanging out in the Kurac wagon, talking, when another female character wandered in and joined the conversation. At bedtime, I logged out without thinking much more about it. The next morning, he messaged me with, “Holy s—, you abandoned me and then all of a sudden it was all silken thighs and molten heat emotes.” We were both, I think, appalled but intrigued.
The MUD we played on, Armageddon, was the first MUD that required – rather than merely recommending – roleplaying, which meant one always worried that invisible staff members were there watching and evaluating one’s play. No one was quite sure where the staff stood on the cybersex issue, but there were rumors: Supposedly, one set of mansions in the Elementalist’s Quarter had been written by a staffer specifically for his favorite player and their more intimate moments. Certain clans had particular reputations for licentiousness: the highly sexed gypsies of the Tan Muark or the fierce Blackwing elves, to name a couple.
Early on, at a gathering of Armageddon people in Iowa City, I heard a story about players who were powergaming and having cybersex at the same time. “They’d stand, cast a spell, then rest and go back to the sexy emotes while waiting for their mana to regen. Very efficient,” one staff member said with relish at an early morning pancake breakfast, where I sat with Tan Muark players on one side of me and Blackwing players on the other. I was the only female in the room.
Later, I became part of Armageddon‘s game master staff, and as I moved up the chain of command, I leaned on people to not do things like provide blow by blow commentary on the immortal channel (a special staff-only chat channel) or create off-color items to waggle at each other. Thankfully, the staff usually kept their illicit transgressions quiet.
I learned to not monitor certain characters and to ignore the fact they had been hanging out in the back of the Gladiator and Gaj tavern for six real-life hours. I figured those who wanted to engage in such activities were doing it with other consenting adults.
Every once in a while, people’s activities would turn from sexy to hilarious. For instance, a female character had received all sorts of attention from one staff member (he had even made a character to play with her) until the real-life gathering, where it emerged that both were male outside the confines of the game. The staff member abruptly lost interest.
Armageddon had always been a bit of an old boy’s club, with no codified rules addressing inappropriate activity. But there are always people who want to test limits. Somewhere along the line, a female player reacted badly to an inappropriate emote, since her character was unconscious and unable to tell the other player to knock it off. This led to all sorts of outrage on both sides of the fence, and, eventually, definitive policies emerged. For instance, our consent policy now says players can roleplay adult situations on Armageddon, but before instigating one with another player, they must specifically ask for consent.
My stance has always been that whatever people wanted to do within the confines of their character, it’s all fine. On occasion, though, people have let their enthusiasm for cybersex drive them to actions that didn’t make sense for their characters: Four-day-long stints of necking or forgetting about the virtual crowds passing through a room where one is humping. In one place, however, I’ve had to drawn the line: Players and staff having cybersex together, since that seems to inevitably lead to charges of favoritism.
A rich vein of player gossip concerning which staff member is playing which character, runs through Armageddon, and, for the most part, staffers are extraordinarily cautious about revealing the identity of the person behind the avatar. I’ve tried to quash controversy wherever it has reared its head, although I’m sure there have been unobtrusive instances going on. Perhaps I am thwarting true love with this policy, but there are plenty of other ways to find it behind the keyboard.
Sex in the game world even affects those who are merely watching. The Armageddon staff has learned not to go away from the keyboard for extended periods of time while monitoring clans, lest one come back to screens scrolled with graphic lines. Indeed, the code for monitoring clans has evolved elaborate sets of arguments to escape this possibility and exclude specific clan members, just for sanity’s sake. There’s only so much badly written erotica a person can take.
My main takeaway from the experience has been learning a wide variety of words for genitalia and that there are people in the world that refer to their nether regions as “purple- headed desert stallions” or “yonis.” Silken thighs and molten heat seem to prevail during these moments, and the exchanges usually read like smutty and overly explicit romance novels. But there is a sincerity of roleplay among many of the encounters that is touching. Just like romance novels, the quality benefits greatly from the collaboration.
Cat Rambo is a science fiction writer and one of the implementors of Armageddon MUD. She can be found on the web at kittywumpus.net.