We began our explorations of MUSHes today. In a nutshell, the activity was slightly disappointing, but I learned something important (especially at the end of the class).
We logged into a world war 2 mush and began character generation. This was the first difference the kids noticed - interactive fiction had no CG and the mud we played had a minimal CG process. The kids chose skills, attributes, nation of origin, looked at descriptions, and backgrounds. After about 10 minutes of character generation, the kids started to complain "I just want to play!".
We continued, though, and they enjoyed looking and choosing the skills. There was a very entertaining conversation about flamethrowers. Still, though there was some impatience. They chose complimentary roles they thought would make a good party, and as with other text-based games we have played, they were incredibly excited and interested (but a bit impatient).
We finally got to the training grounds, and the kids learned the commands for targeting and shooting. This was very different for them, as the combat system worked on a time-based point system (we are on mush, after all). The talk soon turned towards "this is boring" and "when do we get to attack stuff"? One of the kids seemed especially disappointing there wasn't a flamethrower around for him to use. Heh.
So I realized at this point I had made a mistake. The mush we were on is actually very well designed, and well coded. The problem was we were trying to play a mush like a mud. With the kids becoming exasperated, I told them we were going to role play new privates in the army during world war 2. We had already gone through character generation, so the kids had a sense of their character. I taught them how to pose, and we discussed our pose order, and we got started.
The complaining immediately stopped, the room became quiet, and the conversation began! The kids were acting like solders, and having a blast. They were in-character, and acting like, well, new recruits. They responded to each other in character and were having fun.
I told them we might play a "pure rp" mush next week, and I apologized to them. They were quite understanding. They remain very excited about making their own game. We are going to explore how different games are made over the next few weeks before settling on a specific text-based domain.