Having started in the simming community on AOL in 1993, I spent much of my first two years in Star Trek Sims Online (STSOL) and trying to unsuccessfully found my own sim group, Federation Online Sim Group (FOSG). By early 1995, I had largely given up on AOL chat simming and was working on moving my sim, the Enterprise-E, from chat to email.
Federation Sim Group (FSG)
In late 1995, the Enterprise-E joined the Federation Sim Group (FSG) Email Division; this would cement my online identity as "Farrell", one that I maintain to this day. At about the same time, I became a frequent chatter in the group's IRC channels, which at the time was rare for a PBeM GM to do. I also participated infrequently in IRC sims.
The summer of 1997 saw the retirement of the email division's CO and I was invited to take up the position by the group's leader, Hank Hutman (known as Grand Admiral Picard). Over the course of a year, I and the email division staff slowly made changes to how the division was run, including implementing a division staff-level mailing list to allow GMs to communicate with each other and in the summer of 1997, instituting the monthly report system in which GMs reported their sim status and player lists. This allowed the division to confirm that games were running and also gave us a census. This information proved valuable in the weeks ahead.
Allied Email Simulations (AES)
Without warning, FSG's leader retired from the community and withdrew the services he had been hosting for the group - including the email division's listservers. Division games ground to a halt. My patience with the interim group of people running FSG was thin and to be honest, I reacted poorly when I was told that restoring listserver functionality was not a priority. Over the next few days, I convinced the email division staff to split off and form our own sim group the month of August 1997.
By December, AES had its own .com website and listservices donated by the GM of the USS Galaxy, Mark Williams, and I had given up running my game to focus on running the group. The monthly reporting system continued to run, giving us the first exposure to the "multi-simmer" factor and the size of the group's membership. As far as I'm aware, this may have been the first time this sort of information was recorded and analyzed in any sim group.
In January 1998, I changed AES' middle initial to "Electronic". The goal in this decision was to pave the way for AES to be more than just a PBeM group, as part of encouraging diversity and attracting more players. AES' attempts to grow into other mediums did not go well, and the group largely remained PBeM to its final days. Unfortunately, the name change was not made without some intense debate on the staff list, which marked a gradual uptick in internal debate and discussion. At the same time, my college studies were going poorly. By June 1998, this came to an explosive combination that resulted in 125 emails on the staff listserver within one week and an emotional breakdown on my part that eventually led to my dismissal from the group and me dropping out of college.
It should be noted that in hindsight, the group was right and I bear no ill-will towards them or the decision.
The Sim Group Papers
Much of the final days in AES were punctuated by demands for reorganizing the group's operations, a move I was stubbornly resisting. As a way of dealing with my forced retirement mentally, I began putting together something of an after-action report -- a look at what went wrong and why. This expanded into a look at how other sim groups were organized. Later that year, I was asked to take back the Enterprise-E in AES, which allowed me to evaluate how the group had fared under its reorganization, with the advantage of not being emotionally invested.
The first "thesis" of the Sim Group Papers was published on my AOL web space in 1999, in which I proposed the sim group operations cycle. This formalized the rise and fall and split and merger of sim groups into clear operations cycles. It also established some of the basic types of organizations found within sim groups and documented their strengths and weaknesses, as well as possible ways to fix them.
In 2000, I began to add to the papers with Thesis Two, "Asociation: A New Type of Sim Group", in which I outlined a potential type of sim group organization modeled around the premise of sites like The Treklist, where the group existed purely as the infrastructure for providing services to games. At the time I was toying with creating a group called "SimpLISTity". This idea died on the drawing board, and over the course of that year I also withdrew from gaming, shutting down the Enterprise-E and handing another sim over to another GM. Still, I did write additional portions of the Sim Group Papers, such as the second look at Associations.
2001 saw me return to simming, but in the IRC medium. Eventually the sim I was on wound up in FSG, where I had the pleasure of being reunited with some old comrades and also getting to know the leader at the time. I also joined an IRC game running in UCIP as well. I also wrote thesis four, which revisited the sim group operational models and re-wrote the classification system. This was the first paper to be written having examined some of the top sim groups operating on the Internet at the time.
In the years between 2001 and 2004, I what would be the final papers to the collection. Thesis five provided more detail over my monthly reporting statistics in AES, including a chart of the organization's growth from 250 players to almost 450 and also established what appeared to be a two year trend. The census data, tied in with behind-the-scenes information about AES' operations during those times, helped confirm that organizational difficulties directly impacted sim group membership. Sub-papers on the prediction model and organization types were added, as well as the proposal for a "meta-group" or group that codified how and when to change operations models.
Thesis six, published in February 2004, is probably my most formal thesis to date; at the time, I had returned to college and found a few gems in the library that tied in nicely to the previous papers. It re-addresses the sim group operations cycle and even references the Timeline of Simming article on this wiki.
Are the papers still around?
Yes. Despite fears to the contrary, the Sim Group Papers are still available online; when AOL discontinued member web hosting, I moved them to my own personal domain. They can be found in their original form at http://not-quite.com/sim/
After 2004, my simming experience largely dwindled, though largely because I had moved into RPGs. I ran a BattleTech/MechWarrior RPG session at the local gaming store for some time, and participated in an online GURPS fantasy campaign and DP9 SilCore Heavy Gear Black Talon campaign. I've spent time in both EVE Online and Star Trek Online, though I'm not really active in either. Today I'm a very active Minecraft player and member of the Spumcraft fan server (with the MC username Farrell1701), and still occasionally dabble with role playing here and there while hanging out on the Blitzed IRC server.
On The Simming Prize
Perhaps it is also with a sense of irony that I write this, it has been a year since I was first diagnosed as a diabetic. Seth's passing was clearly felt by the simming community at large, and I am honored to be among the recipients of this award. While I have talked with people in the past about the sim group papers, I had no idea that their content had spread so widely and been so appreciated to justify the award. It certainly isn't something I expected back when I began writing them as part of the recovery process from the meltdown. In a ways, the papers have become my legacy, much like the Simming Prize has become Seth's.
I would also be horribly remiss in not pointing out that much of what exists in the papers comes not only from my hard work, but also that of a number of individuals in the community itself who were with me on the journey and made it possible or encouraged me to keep writing. This includes Chirstyn LaChance, Cloin PInnell, Theodore "Teej" Casser, Mark Williams, Derrik Lang, Christian "Kiwi" Waugh, Hank Hutman, Hannah Metchis, Ross "Jester" of Treklist fame, Ryan McClure, and the players who served aboard the USS Enterprise E (FSG/AES), Outpost 77 (FSG/AES), MSS Barracuda (FSG/AES), USS Surprise (AES), USS Horizon (FSG), USS Pegasus (SLA), USS Coronado (UCIP), Farrell's Fusiliers (unaffiliated), Black Talon 05 (unaffiliated), and Good Vs Evil (GvE, unaffiliated).
In the final thesis, I closed with the line "There is only one certainty - there will always be sim groups on the Internet." Writing this today in 2015 and looking back at those words from 2004, and looking at the groups that have survived to today, I have to admit that this may have been the least accurate words written in any of the papers. The rise of the MMORPG seriously impacted simming in general and the original purpose of groups -- to provide resources to its GMs and promote games to players -- has fallen by the wayside. The health of the few groups remaining on the Internet today seems fragile at best and I would not be surprised if within a few more years to see that sim groups themselves are no longer present.
Despite this, the concepts that the papers elaborate on still exist. Guilds and corps on MMORPGs, while not being sim groups, still suffer from many of the problems the papers discuss, albeit in altered form or limited by the framework of the MMORPG itself. I've always toyed with writing a seventh paper to discuss this, but I think this would best be left to players with more experience in the MMORPG environment than I have. Consider this my invitation -- stretch your mind, because in the end, it's all worth it.