Paola Kathuria was kind enough to send me a copy of the letter she has sent to OASIS on the subject of the MUD "rape" command so that I could formulate a reply in time for issue 14. Here are my thoughts on the points she raises:

I agree with most of what Paola says. Concerning the approach to "murder", yes, I think that it is best regarded objectively as a game mechanism for promoting a sense of excitement among the players. However, my reason for mentioning it was that one of the reasons people cite for not wanting a "rape" command is because it is a brutal facet of real life which, by its very nature, is offensive. If "being offensive" is a reason not to have a command, though, then the same rule must surely apply to "kill", which would render the game unplayable.

Paola suggests that the reason "rape" should be removed is because (unlike "kill") it serves no game purpose. There are many other commands like this, however, such as "laugh", "gurgle", "genuflect", etc - there are maybe a hundred or more in total. MUD could work without them, but if they were omitted then the game would lack breadth. Breadth is an important feature in MUD-like games, since players find it a real turn-off if they attempt to do something and the game cannot handle it. If I remove "rape" because it added nothing to MUD, then logically I should remove "kiss" and "smile" and so on, too. Maybe I should?

Paola asks a number of questions that I did not address in my original letter, ao I will answer then now. Male and female personae are identical except that, on average, a new male player will have higher strength, whereas a new female will have higher dexterity and stamina attributes. It is clear to a would-be rapist that if they try the command again they will suffer the same consequences. The intended victin is informed that their assailant was hoping to rape them. Other forms of sexual assault are dealt with, usinq the same process as with "rape".

Paolas reasoning that the best way to handle "rape" is to remove the command is, I believe, flawed. This is not her fault, it is just that in my letter I did not make explicit the point that although some people do object to the command, others would object if it were removed. This skews her profit-and-loss assessment, since there is now a cost to removing the command.

I see my problem as having either to convince people in favour of having a "rape" command that it should not be there, or convincing people against the command that it should be there. Up until now, I have been following the latter course, but I have no evidence except personal conviction that it is the best approach. Mind you, I confess I had not considered Paolas argument that because rape is a controversial and emotive issue I should not try to deal with it; my own basic standpoint is the exact opposite - the reason rape is controversial and emotive is, in part, because people do not try to deal with it.

Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk)
21st January 1999: oafeb91b.htm