August 23, 2013 5:37 PM | Paul Hack
When Shelby Smith wrote to me about his latest project, Space Email, I was immediately intrigued. Space Email is a "communication experiment" in the form of a virtual email terminal. Before I sent my first space email, I was skeptical that this could be a compelling experience. A day later, after keeping a browser tab open to compulsively check my space inbox, and after firing off several missives of my own, I knew I was hooked.
You start with an empty inbox. Click "Compose", then enter a name, subject, message body, and click "Send". What will you write? A declaration? A story? A joke? Smith said that the question on his mind when creating Space Email was "What would you say if you didn't know anyone was listening?" But the theme could just as easily be "What would you say if you knew that anybody might be listening (but with no idea of who you are)?" Just don't include any personal information that you don't want public; all messages will be stored indefinitely.
After you've sent at least one email, go back to your inbox and click "Refresh". Within a few seconds, you should have mail. Read it, ponder it, then go back and refresh again. Sometimes there seems to be higher traffic than others, but it shouldn't take long before you've got an inbox full of enigmatic epistles, curious confessions, and flash fiction. Each email will show up in everyone's inbox. You can't reply directly, but I've already seen some replies to other messages labeled as such in their subject lines (but some are just marked "Re: whatever" for the heck of it). The content in Space Email will only become better and more varied as more people contribute.
Some may ask if this is a game. Considering all of the interaction and rewards, I can only answer with a resounding "Yes!" It is a massively multiplayer, asynchronous, text-based game and I hope its servers stay running forever.