In issue 013 Richard Bartle explains his dilemma on MUD vith regards to the 'rape' command. He tells how the command has no function in the game, as such, but that anyone who uses it will suffer as a result, possibly in the loss of their character.

Richard says ".... is [rape] as bad as trying to murder people?" but is MUD advocating murder? I know it is difficult to describe a game in the space that Richard had available, but I think he did it an injustice. Multi-user adventure games are, by their very nature, about ddnger and fortune. Simply, the object of the game is to gain experience points to attain wizard status. Its also about survival and skill. Although one could gain sufficient points by collecting treasure, points can also be attained by killing other players. As characters increase in experience, the number of points their killer gets also increases.

When people enter MUD they start off with equivalent characteristics of strength and dexterity (although I an not sure if female character profiles differ from male ones), so it is skill which distinguishes between them, unlike the situation in our "real" life. When people play such a game, they should know that their character will be in danger from other players. So, part of the game is learning how to survive (finding the appropriate weapons, potions and magic spells and learning how to use them).

When one tries to kill someone else, the victim does not die immediately. Rather, the game enters them into a fight and administers each players hits every few seconds, between which the players can execute other commands. I have played such games for a couple of years and I have never thought of it as murdering anyone; the games are usually in a fantasy setting and killing another player for points is just part of the game. When a players character dies, they lose all their experience points and have to start again. On MUD, people have three characters per account, and people might bring a couple of characters up to the same level so that the loss of one would not seem so great.

I tried to think why the "rape" command is useful in MUD. I can only think that its existence and bad consequences are to teach people a lesson. However, if killing, people in the game does not affect me such that I do not try to kill people in real life, then I would say that a lesson learnt in the game also has no affect on a persons thoughts. Richard did not say if it was clear to the would-be rapist whether the consequences would be identical the next time they issued the command. Perhaps some players think thdt there is some chance involved so that they might try it again. He also did not say what the intended victin saw; did they know that another player tried to rape them? If so, I would definately not want to know if someone tried to sexually assault my character.

While talking with a friend about this, she asked what other commands in the game made people victims. I thought about "kill", "blind", and "deaf"en. However, ones wounds from an attempted killing can be healed and full stamina regained, one can be unblinded or undeafened but the concept of unrape does not exist.

If Richard wants people not to use the command, I think that "command not known" is as effective as the current situation. Players then have no doubt that there is no point in trying the command again. I also think that it would be distressing for some people if they knew that they were nearly a victim. If Richard is trying to make a point about rape, then why single out rape? Why not include torture, torch, sodomise and other power evils? I must object to Richards statement "of course, I will never suffer rape myself" since it is part of the myth that men are not victims of rape.

Finally, the cost of the current handling of the command is that some players object to its existence, while the gain is that the would-be rapist learns not to use the command again. If you were to remove the command, the gain is that would-be rapists will not use it again, and that some players would have one less thing to object about. I see no cost for the latter route. Because rape is such a controversial and emotive issue is a good enough reason not to try to deal with it

Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: oafeb91a.htm