Let me make that clearer, is Theman the same as me? The point here being that you have no way of knowing ... come to think of it I'm not convinced I know the answer to that either. I could in fact be a twelve-year-old kid living in northeast Switzerland for all anyone really knows (I'm not by the way). When it comes to playing a game like MUD in many ways you are playing it not as yourself but as the persona you decide to put on but how realistic that persona is to your real-life self is put entirely into your hands.
Existence is defined rather vaguely as "The fact or state of existing; being" and even more vaguely as "To have actual being, to be real". So when I log into MUD how real am I? I know that I am real sitting at the keyboard but the question of reality comes when I met other people through not me but another character who I control. So do the pieces of code that make up me in a world constructed of other pieces of code actually count as existence? In my opinion, no. In the world of MUD there is no sense of constant being I am not a permanent fixture of that world although the memory of me may live on in those who play with me. I can kill Theman of whenever I choose through the use of a few simple commands and then moments later emerge as a completely different person ... not just me with a different name.
"I think therefore I am" sums up the real definition of what being actually comprises of, yes Theman does think but he does not think independently of myself, I cannot leave and him continue to think and as he does not think he does not exist. The use of Theman as a separate entity here is quite deliberate (and not part of some dual-personality disorder I have picked up over the years) because in many respects he is not me, the way that I think when I play as him both socially and as a game player is slightly different to the way I actually am. In general this kind of thought process is merely a subset of the way I actually think, basically they lack complexity and in many ways depth. It may seem odd that I choose to represent myself in this manner but I assure you that is not something that has been done deliberately but rather a habit I got into when I started playing.
Although there maybe a lack of existence in the world of MUD there is clearly something there that represents who we are; essence. How other people see us and how we see ourselves is what truly defines who we are whether it is in the world of MUD or in real-life. Our actual beings do not exist in the world of MUD so the key skill of actually being able to verify people is no longer there. We are forced to do something most unnatural, we have to trust people. I am a twenty-something because I say I am not because you think I am or you know I am regardless of if it is true or not. If it is not true I have already taken the steps to creating a different persona for myself, there is me sitting at the computer and me in the world of MUD. Note I have not created a separate existence for myself; I still only exist in the physical world sat at my computer.
You are only identifiable by the way you act and the way you speak; the number of personas you can invent is only limited by your ability to think of them and act like them. So remember that in MUD it is not just the world that is artificial.
This Web page copyright © 2002 Viktor T. Toth