Here’s what I’ve learned:
Slack’s a great connector for community
We’ve been able to re-forge old ties and make some new ones with players on Slack, talking about our lives, jobs, movies, books, TV, politics, even parenthood.
Slack provides a persistent record of ongoing stories
Here’s where it really shines over the MUSH platform. New folks can log in, see the various roleplaying channels, and immediately get a sense of the stories in progress.
That’s an improvement over the “tree falling in the forest” feeling of the MUSH, where the only way to know for sure that RP is happening is to be there as it happens.
Slack’s mighty convenient and accessible
Very much this. From any web browser, from the Slack app on my iPhone, I’m instantly aware when people are trying to communicate with me or if there’s a new post on a thread I’m involved in.
When someone new joins, I’m notified by email. I can quickly respond with a greeting on the general channel. It’s a better situation than someone logging on to a vacant MUSH to find their hello met with resounding silence.
Slack’s a poor substitute for the MUSH
The downside of Slack, though, is a loss of urgency and immediacy. A scene that might normally take no more than a couple of hours on the MUSH can stretch out for months as people take time to pose.
What we gain in convenience, we lose in dramatic tension and commitment to character. And if, like me, we’ve got characters in multiple threads, it’s virtually impossible to stay “in the moment” when that moment goes on for weeks at a time.
There’s little sense of risk and intensity, and almost no opportunity for “holy crap, that just happened!” spectacles that become the stuff of our community’s storytelling legends. It all feels safe, and easy, and sanitary. Comfortable.
Instead of tossing rocks into pond to make ripples like we’ve done on the MUSH, we’re standing on the shore, dipping in a single toe with Slack.
They always come back
So what’s my takeaway now that we’re a year into this experiment?
Well, I’m still paying to keep the MUSH online, even though nearly no one’s active there. I’ve only occasionally paid a visit. But as much as I enjoy the convenience and accessibility of Slack, I miss the immediacy and immersion of the real-time MUSH.
Bottom line: Slack feels like it’s a great way to introduce people to what we do on OtherSpace, but it probably needs to be used more as a welcoming community and mentoring space as opposed to the sole stage for our collaborative storytelling.
Now, I can’t promise a wild resurgence of activity on the MUSH – by me or anyone else. Honestly, I think those days are gone. Few people accidentally find games like this anymore and I don’t tend to have the time (or energy) to promote OtherSpace like I did 20 years ago.
But I think it’s possible to run more real-time activities at jointhesaga.com 1790 for those who are interested.