I stand at the junction of several dusty, well-traveled roads. Passersby hurry through, chattering and laughing as they make their way from the city looming in the distance to the north, along the paths to the southeast, which branch out as the land grows less dense, winding through lakes and forests.
I haven’t been here in years, but it’s as familiar to me as if I’d been away only a few weeks. There are no familiar faces, and no one recognizes me. By memory, I make my way along the winding road and soon end up in a clearing by a lake. Trees bend over the water, dragging their tendrils across its mirrored surface. Birds chirp contentedly.
This is it; I’m home.
That’s because, in this case, “home” is actually “grove,” as in “a small wood.” It’s a term used in the text-adventure game I am currently playing, a Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) set in a vaguely Tolkien-esque world with touches of Greek mythology. I spent the better part of five years playing this game, all through high school and into college. It’s still running today, and it remains immersive to an astonishing degree, even compared with contemporary games—it has its own social mores, cultural life, history and folklore. Its political systems are complicated and well-developed, and to this day I still use some of the slang terms that were common. And it’s all presented via simple text on a screen.
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