A million years ago in the mid-1990's, before Second Life, DC Universe Online, or social media as we think of it today, I joined an interactive gaming community known as a MUSH, a "multi-user shared hallucination."

Essentially, a MUSH is an Internet-based interactive story. Players log on, become "in character," enter the text-based environment, and interact with other players. Unlike other multi-user experiences, a MUSH is generally open-ended; the focus is not on winning but on creating believable characters and storylines. The theatre-like environment fosters spontaneous, creative, and collaborative improvisation on a real time virtual stage that is available 24 hours a day.

Many MUSHes were based on popular books and movies; the Pern novels and Star Trek are good examples of source materials used to create popular MUSHes. The particular MUSH I became involved with was DCU MUSH, which was based on the comic books published by DC Comics. I played several characters, most often one of my own creation named "Mirror Lad" who I created a visual for as well. I also created virtual sets and produced several "TinyPlots," which are interactive story arcs often taking place over several days.

Mirror Lad, my DCU MUSH character
Mirror Lad!

The MUSH environment comes with its own unique command language for creating characters, objects, and virtual sets and for communicating with other players. For the curious, I have included examples below of the characters and sets I used written in the MUSH command language.

Having proven myself as a good player, I was honored to receive "wizard" status on DCU MUSH. Wizards are expected to mentor other players in improvisational skills, developing their characters, and "learning the ropes." I was also trusted with a higher level of system access within the environment and given wider latitude in creating new virtual sets and objects.

A MUSH is a very "pure" blend of entertainment and technology, and my experiences on DCU MUSH were much more rewarding than I expected. Creating TinyPlots allowed me to flex my storytelling muscles, but I also learned a great deal about creative collaboration. Unlike a film director, a player leading a TinyPlot has little real control over the story, as different players bring their own perspective, reactions, and insights. So teamwork and real-time problem-solving become very important skills to master.

Today, with more robust hardware supporting graphical interactive worlds, text-based MUSHing is yet another lost form of online gaming.

Example character code for Wonder Woman

&info me=Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazons%rNAME: Diana Prince%rHOME: Paradise Island%rEYES: Blue%rHAIR: Black %rPOWERS: Wonder Woman is strong, swift, and a master fighter. Her bracelets can repel bullets and other weapons. Her magic lasso can bend others to her will. %rHISTORY: Wonder Woman was "born" on Paradise Island, and, through her victory in a fierce competition with her sisters, she won the honor to be the Amazons' champion in Man's World. She is a member of the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron.
&desc-ww me=Wonder Woman, the sensational Amazon Princess from Paradise Island, stands before you. Flowing, curly black hair surrounding a face of goddess-like beauty, and her trim, fit body represents the peak of Amazon perfection. She wears a red top featuring a golden eagle, a star-spangled short blue skirt, and red boots with white trim; her accessories include a gold tiara with a red single star, silver bracelets on her wrists, and round red earrings. Hanging from one hip is her famous golden lasso. %rWonder Woman notices you and gives you a warm smile.
&desc-dp me=Diana Prince wears a smart blue business suit and skirt. Black-rimmed glasses help hide her beautiful face.
@set me=ENTER_OK
@lock me=me
@lock/uselock me=me
@adesc me=@pemit me=%N just looked at you.
@aconnect me=+msg/scan;whoami;@doing Visiting Man's World.
@otport me=steps out of an invisible jet.
@tport me=You step into an invisible jet and fly to...
@oxtport me=steps into an invisible jet and disappears.
@amove me=@emit/room [u(move[rand(6)])];+view
&move0 me=[name(me)] walks into view.
&move1 me=[name(me)], the star-spangled Amazon Princess, is here.
@alias me=WW
&chat_alias me=Diana
&plots_alias me=Amazon Princess
&allstars_alias me=Linda Carter
@sex me=Female
&pos me=JSAer, All-Star
&email me=mirrorlad@aol.com
&altchars me=XS, Terrill Hall, Mirror Lad @ DCU-FUTURE
&finger me=$finger *:+finger %0
&hit me=$hit *::punches %0 in the gut.
&lasso me=$lasso *::throws %p golden lasso around %0.
&laugh me=$laugh::throws her head back and laughs.
&o me=$o *:@emit/room ///OOC/// %N %0
&poke me=$poke *::pokes %0 with a sharp fingernail.
&smile me=$smile::flashes a picture-perfect smile.
&think me=$think *:@emit/room %N thinks . o O (%0)
&wait me=$wait:@emit/room [name(me)] waits.
&wave me=$wave::gives a friendly wave.
&whoami me=$whoami:@pemit %#=You are currently [name(me)].
&wonder me=$wonder::wrinkles %p brow in confusion. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."
&actions me=$actions:@pemit %#=%rWonder Womans's actions: %r - finger%r - hit%r - lasso %r - laugh %r - o%r - poke%r - smile %r - think
%r - wait %r - wave %r - whoami %r - wonder
&costumes me=$costumes:@pemit %#=%rWonder Woman's costumes: %r%r - Diana Prince: dp%r - WonderWoman: ww
&ww me=$ww::changes into her star-spangled outfit.;@desc me=[u(desc-ww)];@name me=Wonder Woman
&dp me=$dp::changes into her Army uniform.;@desc me=[u(desc-dp)];@name me=Diana Prince

Example set code for the exterior of the Daily Planet

@desc Daily Planet Building=The Daily Planet Building rises before you, thrusting a giant golden globe high into the sky, like an over-sized trophy. A revolving door leads into the building. @succ Daily Planet Building=You walk through the revolving door and enter...
@osucc Daily Planet Building=walks through the revolving door of the Daily Planet Building.
@odrop Daily Planet Building=emerges from the revolving door of the Daily Planet Building.

Example set code for the lobby of the Daily Planet

@desc here=You are standing in the lobby of the Daily Planet Building, a pleasant buffer between the busy streets of the city and the offices of the great metropolitan newspaper. Populated with potted ferns, antique printing equipment, a small globe, and a few scattered chairs, the lobby provides a comfortable, yet professional, environment in which to relax. %rA revolving glass door leads out of the lobby. An elevator offers access to the rest of the building. You notice a directory near the elevator.
@desc elevator=You see a normal-looking elevator. %rNext to the elevator hangs a directory of the building. Scanning through, you note the following:%rPerry White: Managing Editor - 21st Floor %rLois Lane - 21st Floor %rClark Kent - 21st Floor
@name out=Out;outside;northwest;nw
@desc out=A revolving door leads out onto the streets of Metropolis.
@succ out=You walk through the revolving door and arrive in...
@osucc out=emerges from the revolving door of the Daily Planet Building.
@odrop out=walks through the revolving door of the Daily Planet Building.
@name elevator=Elevator;ele;el;east;e
@desc elevator=You see an ordinary-looking elevator.
@succ elevator=You walk through the elevator doors.
@osucc elevator=walks through the elevator doors and disappears.
@odrop elevator=emerges from the elevator.