What I Learned About History as a Text-Based Gamer

Growing up, my first love was a love of books. It was a love which began as an affection for fairy tales that eventually expanded into Greek and Roman myth, and after that blossomed into an obsession with ancient cultures. Whatever I could read, watch, or listen to which furthered my knowledge of various mythological archetypes, was devoured like a delicious meal, and it was rare for me to be found without my nose between the pages of some fantastical story or historical tale from the ages I found so magical. Over time my infatuation was put aside, and I focused on other hobbies, pursued different interests all in the name of becoming an adult. Occasionally, I would reward myself when in a bookstore or library, picking up something here or there to fuel the torch I had always carried for history and fable. But for the most part life intervened and kept me from devoting too much time to anything not related to schoolwork, and when I was older, an actual job.

Then, I found text-based games.

At first, my forays into MU roleplay tended towards high fantasy, where elves and dwarves were considered the norm and humans, who allegedly made up a majority of the NPC population of these strange, alternate worlds, were rarely played. There was little based in history, but there were politics and in one instance, a culture built loosely around the concept of 17th century French courts. In response to this, I began to research what life was like for courtiers during this time period, learning such things as the language of fans, their mode of dress, and the intricate social network in which they were involved. It contributed a great deal to my character’s believability, thus enriching the world for both myself and other players. Soon, I began to expand my knowledge apart from the game itself, reading about the monarchies of England in the middle ages, the life of moors in Muslim Spain, and eventually, when moving to another MU, the cultures of the ancient middle east. It was a fascinating foray for me back into my childhood, but with the technological addition of the internet to serve as a tool in this new form of intellectual excavation.

When the last game closed, I drifted for a couple of years without a place to play and found other ways to occupy my time. My newly rediscovered love of history remained with me, however, and I continued to nurture my natural appreciation of the past and its forgotten people, customs and events. Eventually, I returned to the text-based worlds that inhabited my computer and discovered Firan. With a strong Greco-Roman feel and enough fantasy to keep me on my toes, it was a place that would challenge the depth of my knowledge and encourage me to go further in my amateurish study of the age which had charmed me as a girl. I found myself drawn to television programs about Roman life, movies on the time period, and of course, any type of literature, fiction or non-fiction, which dealt with the subject. The level of roleplay I encountered on Firan was inspirational, and interacting with the other gamers made me want to be a better writer, a more knowledgeable player, and to do anything I could to bring the world to life in such a way that it was comparable to reading a carefully researched book on the topic.

There are myriad avenues which one might take on a game like Firan. One could be a merchant, a soldier, an aging noblewoman whose goal is to see her family succeed at any price, but all of them encourage a player to learn as much as they can about their role. It is an extremely creative world of writers and lovers of history, richly detailed and lovingly brought to life by the talented team of Adam and Stephanie Dray. The staff on Firan are equally amazing in their devotion to theme, taking on the many tasks which come with keeping a game of more than 100 players organized and running smoothly. In such an atmosphere one can only strive to do better, to raise the bar by bringing a real world knowledge to the table and creating a three-dimensional, tangible quality to every scene. In my own experiences, I have learned what it means to play an open-minded woman in a clan ruled by men, where everything you do or say is carefully watched and judged, and where the One True God rules over a monotheistic culture of people surrounded by polytheistic citizens of other clans. This is not unlike ancient Rome, where women were not allowed a voice in government and had to learn to work behind the scenes to achieve their goals. I have also been lucky enough to have played the exact opposite, as a young noble in a clan of egalitarian people whose women fight alongside the men as equals, and whose chosen Goddess is a ruler of the wind and dreams. It calls to mind the Spartans, a militaristic society whose males were trained from the age of seven to be soldiers, and whose women were educated along similar lines, experiencing a more liberal upbringing than most females in the Greek states. This was particularly a challenge, for I am not someone who lingers over tales of battle or the strategy of war. But in playing a character who would have grown up in such a society, I turned again to my familiar friend of research to guide me and learned more than I would have thought possible about the structure of the ancient military and how it worked. There are many other examples of this in the game. Perhaps, if your character was an armorer or jeweler, you might study the ancient techniques used in crafting at a forge. Or, if you play a priest or priestess, you could pick up a book on the religion of the Greco-Roman period to get a feel for the mysterious nature of their work or the politics of their positions. The possibilities on Firan are endless.

So, for any who aspire to an intellectual level of play not found in many internet games, I cannot recommended Firan enough. Dabblers in history, archaeology, and even the casual watcher of the Discovery channel can find something to interest them in text-based gaming. If, like me, you are still carrying the torch of a childhood dream, you can once more find your roots in the forward moving, complex world of MU*s, where one day is different from the next and anything can happen. Maybe you’ll even learn something new.

Adina, of FiranMUX, legendary.org 5000

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