Sceptre of Goth and MMO History

Richard Bartle had a recent post about the pre-history of MMOs.

I’ve read so many histories of MMOs that are just plain wrong, that I myself always try to get it right to the best of my knowledge and understanding. This is why when people introduce me as “the man who invented online games” or whatever, I always mention that I co-invented them with Roy Trubshaw. If I’m able (which isn’t always possible in live interviews), I’ll also correct the focus (it’s just virtual worlds) and point out that plenty of other people independently invented them too: Roy and I did MUD; Kelton Flinn and John Taylor did Island of Kesmai; Randy Farmer and Chip Morningstar did Habitat; Bruce Maggs, Andrew Shapira and David Sides did Avatar; Rich Skrenta did Monster; Alan Kleitz and Bob Alberti did Sceptre of Goth.

He goes on to talk about the genealogy of games and the allocation of credit.

Worthy reading for folks who care about the world before the World of Wacraft.

: Zubon

2 thoughts on “Sceptre of Goth and MMO History”

  1. Doesn’t surprise me much that Bartle takes this view. He is an academic after all.

    The position of gaming in current culture (rolling currency) is going to be no different to that of the novel, movies, popular music and so on. RPGs will stand to that as, say, Crime stands to The Novel and MMORPGs as, say, Whodunnit stands to Crime.

    Just as no-one would really expect a contemporary reader of, say, M.C. Beaton to be able to give chapter and verse on the lineage of the sub-genre all the way back to The Moonstone, it’s unreasonable to expect a player whose first MMORPG was Tera to recognize the names of games that may have closed down before he or she was even born, let alone know the names of the individuals who made up the teams that devised them.

    Of course, among every generation of new MMO players there will be a small subset who find the history of the gene intriguing and they will become the keepers the knowledge who write articles and blogs and bore their friends to distraction in guild chat. That’s how I learned about comics, except my friends were loading me down with facts in the pub not in a chat channel…

    It’s a lot more reasonable to expect either professional or even self-identifying “historians” to get this stuff right but given that most historians’ career paths rely on disagreeing with each other over what happened and why or on over-simplifying whatever widely-accepted version already exists and packaging it for an audience not interested in detail (or accuracy) then that seems like something of a forlorn hope.

    And anyway, this is only Dr. Bartle’s version. We all know there is no truth when it comes to memory.

    1. Being of a similar breed to your fact-feeding friends, I frequently face the dismay of an audience “not interested in detail or accuracy”.

      Such is the modern gamer – if it doesn’t directly impact their game experience, then it’s worthless trivia. Which is why I’ve taken to asking those that are Star Wars fans, for instance, whether it matters if Ed Wood had directed the first trilogy. Or a Transformers-era Michael Bay.

      Video games, even small ones, are products of huge amounts of work and inspiration. Things like that aren’t created without a good bit of the creators seeping into them. That’s worth something.

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