Interview With Richard Bartle, Co-Creator of the Original MUD


Richard Bartle, co-author of the original MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), recently spoke with Keith Stuart in an interview for the Guardian Unlimited Gamesblog.

Covering topics ranging from virtual vs. real-life social interaction to predictions about the next phase in MMOG development, Bartle offered a unique and occasionally subversive view of the current online gaming scene, rooted in both his Ph.D. in artificial intelligence and his nearly-unique 30-year experience in the industry.

“What you have just described is the “main sequence” of player development,” he said, commenting on the common phenomenon of player burnout in MMOGs. “We noticed this very early on in the life of MUD, and it took me over 25 years before I had an explanation for how and why it happens. Sadly, that explanation is a two-hour lecture.”

Saying that “Social life in London may be better than that in Leicester, but people still go to Leicester,” Bartle described virtual worlds as places that people will interact with in much the same way as any other place, but that they’re not “ordinary” places, saying, “Game worlds in particular are places of adventure and excitement, similar to the real world but apart from it. People go there as part of a hero’s journey – a means of self-discovery.”

And when asked about that most famous of online worlds – World of Warcraft – Bartle began his reply by saying, “I’d close it.” His reasons why, and the rest of the interview, are available here.

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