Nobodies-for.bots MUD (Multi User Dungeon) Workshop

workshop MUD MUSH LARP game
multi-species decision-making future communities programming bots technology distribution fantasy-fiction

TodaysArt 2018 Festival, The Hague - September 2018

Game Script (internal document):


Project Summary

Collaborating as Hackers & Designers collective, programmers André Fincato, Cristina Cochoir, and I developed the second iteration of our Nobodies-for.bots chatbot workshop upon invitation by TodaysArt 2018 Festival in The Hague, NL. The festival themes were Parallel Worlds and Alternate Realities and our workshop was asked to address the sub-theme of ‘going deeper into the complexities of the current technological climate through relationships of humans and machines.’

The workshop took shape as an intense 3-hour multi-user dungeon/ multi-user shared hallucination game (MUD/MUSH). A MUD or MUSH is a multiplayer text-based real time virtual world and role-play game, which the workshop participants played via the app Telegram in silence in differentiated but proximate spaces of the festival. The goal was to create a game environment in which players could adopt an embodied vantage point of how role-playing is significant force in furthering the ideology of technological innovation. As well, we aimed to have participants experience how narratives, decisions, and power co-develop between different species of users (players, players characters, bots as characters, bots as chatbots, game master as ultimate manipulator), across the dimensions of a single application, and spatially between room-habitats (physically and in chats).

Participants were given (fictional) characters who were members of (fictional) communities of the future. Each character was a part of a mixed-species representative unit of their community at an annual bidding war for the most advanced technologies of the year. Players engaged with various political motives and backstories as they had to quickly develop a decision-making and agreement process for getting the technologies they wanted for their unit (or those they didn’t want in the control of the other units). Influenced by LARP (live action role play) and improv theater methodologies, participants simultaneously co-constructed the narrative, their characters, and the characters of their bots (as part of bot-building).

The game incorporated physical movement of players alone and together. We used subtle lighting, sound, temperature effects and spatial design inside and outside of the main workshop room.In the workshop’s realisation, I was the main convener, producer, effects and spatial designer. I led the game as Game Master and the characters and narrative workshopping portions. In the workshop’s conception, I created the idea for a role-play game, the game play/stages, narrative/character workshopping methods, the narrative/plot, characters, technologies, and most of the communities. We worked collaboratively in the overall project development, and ideas were reviewed, agreed upon, and thought out in discussion.

The workshop served as a prototype for a larger group play to unfold simultaneously with an event, like a multiple-day festival, at a university start of term, and across a larger building landscape or neighborhood. As well for future iterations could be an emphasis on the role of temporal zones of information in socio-spatial creation and immersion.

We received positive feedback from participants, with several interested in developing their programming abilities, creating chatbots for alternative exchanges, seeing many possibilities for the application of role-play game narrative methodology, feeling a pull into the mixed environments, and an unexpected awareness and new understanding of the effects of users (chatbots and human), and being users knotted in their development.🝏