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1989 Adventure Convention

Comms Plus! / November 1989
By Paola Kathuria

Meeting men I've previously only known on a computer is always a nerve-wracking experience for me, so going to this year's Adventure Convention was particularly daunting because I would meet the people behind the persona names en masse. In my experience, unless I have got to know someone well enough to call them a friend, after face-to-face meetings, things are never the same back on the talkers. I have therefore developed a rule of not meeting people while I am getting to know them and instead just relish in wanting to meet them.

I am inclined to think that if I were male there would be no problem. I put this down to my hunch that when men meet women on a computer the way women are imagined to look like tends to be more like an ideal than someone who may be skinny or fat, spotty, six feet tall or four feet short. I know that when I started to meet people I had a real shock when I found out they wore glasses or had a beard; I tended to think in terms of light or dark hair and not much beyond what they chose to tell me ...

From an experience a female friend of mine has had on a talker, I know that having a live-in boyfriend does not necessarily deter someone's advances. The scenario I imagine is that I would be minding my own business on a talker and someone, who has found out I'm female, decides to talks to me, being obviously more friendly than had I been male. If I decide to talk to him, I be myself and don't hide behind any persona other than my alias. When we meet, and I turn out to be just some ordinary person, I fear that he would accuse me of leading him on and making a fool of him. My reply would be: I wasn't ever anything besides me, anything you imagined is up to you and your problem; I never made any claims to be something that I am not. This idea has come from the way I see men talk about women on the computers on university machines where most people are between 18 and 21. I feel that women are expected to be wonderful looking but no mention is ever made that the people discussing them may not themselves be the most gorgeous specimens who walk the earth.

Of course this may just be paranoia, but I spoke to some very pleasant women at the convention and one echoed this feeling which is why I think it deserves a mention now. However, she (Pugwash the Sexiest Player a.k.a. Fi Craig) had no problems when she met up with fellow Federation II players at their meets and has become a personality in the Fed. II clan.

Anyway, besides Fi I met Angelina the Dangerously Sane of Gods, otherwise known as Marion Taylor and I asked them both if they had any stories they could tell me that related specifically to them being women. It was interesting that I didn't come away with any of the anecdotes that I could come up with. Obviously, commercial games differ a great deal from the free university-based systems.

Fi described Federation II as not being a game based on killing as some other games are; rather the emphasis is on interplanetary trade. There was some non-violent physical contact but I got the impression that this was mostly greeting new and existing players with hugs and kisses. Players being accosted by use of any emotion commands seemed to be unheard of.

I quite liked the idea that points were in terms of how much money one had, thus, if one felt especially generous, one could give some money away to a new player to start them off. However, it'd be unlikely that someone would have such an amount of money to spare that the recipient's resulting experience level would put them out of their depth.

Marion, talking about Zone, said that having met many of the men made it difficult for her to participate in the on-line physical encounters. I also talked to a teenage girl who'd said that she had never been pressured into participating in anything in Zone. Fi wasn't very impressed with Zone being orientated around sex, rather than it being a side line as it is in some other games. We wondered if perhaps young people came away from Zone with inappropriate ideas about relationships.

I had a few words with Richard Bartle of Muse about how on-line sex is dealt with in MUD-2 and, although I'll be going into the result of our discussions and my first-hand experiences in a proper review later, I must include a quote he made about suspicious MUD players. An introduction to it will be that a few weeks ago I was paged on a bulletin board by someone I finally met at the convention. The page was: "How can you tell if someone is female?". I replied: "You can't". My reply surprised him.

Richard Bartle says:

If you see a persona with a female name, it's a male. If they come up and talk all feminine and giggle, it's still a male. If they phone you, meet you in a park, chat for two hours in detail about MUD and produce logs of their games, it's still a male playing the persona. If you actually see them sitting down, playing the game, behaving just like they do when you've snooped them, then they might be the real thing, but the chances are they're not. You can't be too careful!

I wonder what happens between graduating from university multi-user systems and moving onto the commercial machines; in the first case, people are more likely to believe one's female unless proven otherwise, later it's the other way round.

Finally, even though I was unimpressed that some games were still under development during the convention, it was cheering to see the variety of people involved and the increase in games since last year.