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LamdaMOO is a text-based online community developed by Pavel Curtis at Xerox PARC in 1990. The community had nearly 10,000 active users at its peak. Considered a social experiment by Curtis, the community was largely ungoverned after 1992 until the infamous virtual rape case of 1993, which was publicly described in Julian Dibbell's article, "A Rape in Cyberspace" (published in the Village Voice). After the incident, LamdaMOO's community (with help from the Wizards, or administrators) attempted to restore order through arbitrations and petitions but as the community grew more and more.


LambdaMOO began as a project to see if MUD (multi-user dimensions) software could be used for recreational purposes[1]. The software allows users to chat with one another and to add features to the setting of the community. The layout of the community is based off of Curtis's California home[2]. Users enter the community through the "Coat Closet", which is a silent room that allows for guests to become oriented to the different commands and general "feel" of LambdaMOO. The coat room takes users into Living Room #17, which is a common gathering place for many users. LambdaMOO, which is a virtual community still in existence, allows players to interact using avatars. The avatars are user-programmable and may interact automatically with each other and with objects and locations in the community.


List of common commands in LambdaMOO, listed in format of the action-what users must TYPE to get said action-what the happens after the user types the command:[3]

LambdaMOO Map
  1. Logging in-CONNECT GUEST (hit enter)-You log in as a guest.
  2. Looking-L, L(Character)-Type 'L' for a room description. Type 'L(Character)to see a character's description.
  3. Walking-N(for North), NW(for Northwest)-To enter and leave rooms.
  4. Talking-"HELLO THERE-All players in the room see: Guest says, "Hello there".
  5. Emoting-:SMILES-All players in the room see: Guest smiles.
  6. Transporting-@go(room number)-Will transport you directly into a room.
  7. Paging-PAGE(character)HI THERE-Specified character will see: GUEST PAGES YOU, HI THERE
  8. HELP-HELP(anything)-Help on any command.
  9. Find popular rooms-@parties-Will show you rooms with a large amount of people.
  10. Apply for a character-@request-This is done before logging in as a guest.

Notable Incidents

The Bungle Affair

In 1993, the occurrences which have become known as the Bungle Affair in the magical, online, text-based world of LambdaMOO took place in Living Room #17, a high-traffic "room" in LambdMOO. Many witnessed a character known as Mr. Bungle use a subprogram, referring to it as his "voo-doo doll," which gave the appearance that other users were performing sexual and brutal acts on themselves and other present characters. Julian Dibbell describes and analyzes the events and emotions of the Bungle Affair with the victims and witnesses in her article "Rape in Cyberspace" "A Rape in Cyberspace". legba and Starsinger were the two main characters that were victimized by Mr. Bungle's subprogram. These two users, as well as others in the room, were extremely affected by Mr. Bungle's actions in LambdaMOO with feelings of anger, confusion, sadness, and terror. They felt that not only were their characters violated, but they themselves were violated, too. One of the characters, legba, suggested that Mr. Bungle be "toaded", that his character be banned from LambdaMOO and destroyed. Initially, the system administrators, or "wizards," rejected the idea, not wanting much power in the community. They reinforced the idea that they were only there for technical reasons. However, after a meeting among many community members discussing the Bungle Affair and its consequences, a wizard decided to eliminate Mr. Bungle from LambdaMOO. These proceedings eventually lead to a new system where feedback and wishes could be submitted to the wizards and put up to a community vote. There have also been stricter rules to prevent this behavior from happening again the future.

Some argue that Mr. Bungle's actions on LambdaMOO are trivial and unimportant because they occurred in the virtual world. Proponents of this argument state that we, as humans, can make choices and should separate ourselves from the online world. On the other hand, others, including a seeming majority of LambdaMOO residents, felt that they were also affected in real life by this incident and that Mr. Bungle's actions should have some sort of consequence. legba, in particular, describes her real-life reaction to Julian Dibbell, recalling the distraught emotions of the event. This brings into question the line between real and virtual worlds and whether or not actions in online environments can have an impact in the real world.

Ethical Implications

Can someone commit a moral wrong against another person, even though their interactions take place entirely in cyberspace? In the LambdaMOO case, there were real actions by members of this virtual community, and not merely virtual actions by the characters on a screen. There was psychological harm done to the victim through the attackers actions. Morally, this was not ok. It not is acceptable to rape or assault someone in society. Just because there was no direct contact, there was harm done to the victim. The same ethical standards apply online as they do in the real world. (this seems very opinionated and subjective.)


There have been numerous instances where LambdaMOO has been criticized for how they handle inappropriate sexual acts by their members. One of the most famous cyber rape cases dealt with the LambdaMOO virtual community. As mentioned earlier, Mr. Bungle, forced two other LambdaMOO players, Legba and Starsinger, to perform "sexual acts" against their will on him which eventually led to the permanent deletion of his avatar. This event not only caused on uproar in the LambdaMOO community but on uproar online on how inappropriate sex acts should be handled in virtual communities. [4]

See Also

External Links


  1. Maloni, Kelly; Baker, Derek; Wice, Nathaniel (1994). Net Games. Random House / Michael Wolff & Company, Inc.. pp. 210. ISBN 0-679-75592-6. "Definitely the leading candidate for the title of largest MOO (more than 8,000 residents), Lambda is a veritable universe, centering on a cavernous mansion [...]"
  2. The History of LambdaMoo. Stanford CS 181: Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy. Retrieved 2011-12-08.
  3. LambdaMOO

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