A few weeks ago, Stewart Brand emailed me asked if I was still playing World of Warcraft and if I had read DAEMON. I was still playing World of Warcraft and hadn't read DAEMON. A few days later, thanks to Amazon, I was reading DAEMON.
Years ago, I remember thinking about Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) and how much they affected people in the real world. I knew people who were obsessed with MUDs, the first Multi-User Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). I was obsessed. (I think the first time I ever appeared in Wired was in 1993 when Howard Rheingold with Kevin Kelly wrote about MUDs and mentioned my obsession.) In MUDs, people got married, people got divorced, people lost their jobs, people shared ideas... The MUDs I played touched the real world through all of the people in the game.
Unlike the World of Warcraft and more like Second Life, MUDs allowed players to create rooms, monsters and objects. When you entered a MUD, it was like entering the collective intelligence of all of the people who played the game. There were quests that were designed by people using their knowledge of Real Life™. Playing in their worlds was like walking through their brains. These worlds merged and collided as people from everywhere collaborated in creating MUDs of various themes with various objectives.
At some point in the evolution of MMORPGs, MUDs forked and we ended up with most of the people who liked creating objects and worlds in places like Second Life where, while you CAN make games, most of what happens is world creation. The "gamers" ended up in games like World of Warcraft where the game play aspect has been honed to a fine art, but the player content creation aspect has been completely lost. (Although most of the developers are former obsessive players.)
What I envisioned back when I was playing and hacking MUDs more was that if you turned the world a bit inside out and imagined that YOU were the MUD, the people who played your game were like little pawns or interfaces for you in the real world. They inputted content and created worlds and taught you about the real world. They promoted you to their friends. They played obsessively increasing experience points and commitment to the game so that they would forever feed you and keep you alive. They would set up servers and pay for hosting just to feed their obsession and protect their investment. If you became extremely popular, a group of your players would spawn a new MUD with your DNA-code and there would be another one of you.
The hardcore players would hack your open source code and keep you evolving. The Wizards would educate and add character to each instance of your code. The players would be your footprint in Real Life™.
When most of the gamers moved to corporation owned closed source games designed by a team of developers, I stopped having this dream. The games were no longer "alive" in the same way I had envisioned them evolving.
After reading DAEMON, this dream is back. Leinad Zeraus depicts a world where a collosall computer daemon designed by a genius MMO designer begins to take over the world after his death. In many ways, the vision is similar to the vision I had, but the author adds a macabre twist and many many more orders of scale to make this one of the most inspiring books I've read in a long time. The author is "an independent systems consultant to Fortune 100 companies. He has designed enterprise software for the defense, finance and entertainment industries." He uses his experience to make the book extremely believable and realistic and still mind-blowing.
It was super fun to read and is a book I'd recommend to any who loves the Net and gaming. I'd also recommend it to anyone who doesn't. It's a great book to learn about the importance of understanding all of this - before it's too late.