Trigger warning: contains mentions of implied sexual assault.
Between around 2000 and 2005, mostly during my second and third attempts at tertiary study, I racked up substantially more than one year’s worth of time in a text-based RPG. The particular one I played was a very heavily customised CircleMUD and had been going for quite a number of years at that stage.
Back then, I was an environment geek, or so I thought. It was during the second tertiary course that I learned the uber-basics of how The Internets worked, mostly from trying and (given my inexperience) largely succeeding in creating a website for a class project. The site was to document the species found in an ecological restoration site.
I learned HTML in the space of a weekend, and continued on to create the entire umpteen bazillion HTML files over the following few weeks. By hand. In static HTML. And frustrating the hell out of the teacher who could not get over my use of Notepad as my preferred way to edit HTML files. You really do not want to know what she wanted me to use.
All the while I was doing this, I was spending my spare time smiting the living daylights out of textually represented orcs, goblins, trolls and so forth, doing quest tasks, and generally having a fun time. So much fun that I started contributing to the game by making zones — new lands full of things to smite to shit, and be smited by.
I was prolific in my zone building. I tidied several orphaned zones up to start with, then I earned the privilege of being able to add completely new zones and expand one of the adopted zones to be a whole new area which was richly scripted. I moderated the communications channels, and helped form policies. I had a penchant for running weekly quests and all this meant that by the time I left, I ranked moderately in the deity hierarchy and knew how to code.
There was a small group of regulars who were women. That is, women in Real Life. To say we were “sought after” would be an understatement. To say that some of the dudes didn’t know boundaries is probably a larger one. At least once I had someone attempt to enact a caveman mating ritual. For real. Using a knock-out spell and the “R” word and everything. It was awful, but thankfully my protests were heard and the asshole was banned for a significant period of time and learned from his mistake.
Unfortunately, there was not always this level of understanding.
Years later, towards the end of my playing days, there was an individual who developed an obsession with myself and one of the other deity women. He abused the messaging services within the game, and when he realised that we had set him to ignore on all fronts, he proceeded to abuse scripted things within the game such as the florists, and out-of-game contact methods like email, to send us things. Awful things. Like links to pictures of hysteria machines saying how fun they would be for us. The higher deities were aware, and some of them did their best to spare us from the harassment, banning him when things got bad. At one point, the individual even posted a hate website to try slut-shame our characters.
Then, one day, the asshole appeared online as a deity himself. We could no longer avoid him, as he too was now a deity and impervious to ignore filters. What the hell was happening?!
It turns out that this little freak had befriended the administrator’s fiancÃ©e, and then the admin. They had decided that since we’d never taken our complaints to the admin himself until the promotion — just the deities above our own rank — that they didn’t have to care. We were told that we were just making stuff up for the sake of spite, then we were reprimanded rather fiercely by the fiancÃ©e for getting angry at her for defending the asshole.
I tried to hang around for a while, and even tried to continue playing under the guise of an alternate character. Alas, the fun was no longer there.