That’s What She Said: Minecraft Makes No Sense
As a console gamer, sometimes there are things which completely pass me by. Dota 2, World of Warcraft and MMORPGs are just things that I have zero experience of, for better (Dota 2) or for worse (WoW). And sometimes there are games which I don’t even really hear of, so I have no idea that I am missing out. Minecraft is one of those games, and embarrassingly I only really started hearing about Minecraft at some stage this year (it’s been out since November 2011). Minecraft had been this game which floated around somewhere in my head and then I read an article about it, written by the dad of a nine year old Minecraft player, detailing how he never understood why his daughter spent hours playing, and so he started to try and understand the appeal. The takeaway was that he was building boxy shelters and his daughter was busy building airports (this is a nine year old) and that Minecraft is the definition of what a sandbox is.
Nine year olds and I sometimes have a difficult time together; in that if a nine year old can do something better than I can (which is actually quite a lot of things) we are not going to be best friends. So if nine year olds are building airports… well here is something I need to up my game in. I started reading more into what Minecraft was about and how it worked and to be honest, from the start there was just something I did not understand. Minecraft is what you want it to be? I would consider myself a somewhat creative person but what does that even mean? You get to create whatever you want? But why? It all just sounded like a massive and fundamental philosophical experiment (and not merely a game about building things) about self worth and the meaning and essence of your life. And children were into this? Things made even less sense.
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But as I am a big fan of only having an opinion on something once you have first hand knowledge of that thing (heroin, cocaine, murder and Dan Brown novels), I decided that obviously the only way of getting to answer the question of what Minecraft means, was to just play Minecraft. My brain was already boggled by learning about all the different servers and then that people make money by writing guides on how to play Minecraft. Again, nine year olds are playing this; surely this cannot be that difficult and intricate? Oh wait, there is a YouTube video of a child making an escalator on Minecraft (is this the screening test for an engineering degree?); intricate probably is the word.
Fast-forward to Minecraft! Which also happens to have the most adorable terms and conditions page (Minecraft is a community, please be nice to people, if there are people who are seriously not nice, then please email us about it) and it all sounded very child friendly. So I started at the tutorial because I know basically nothing (well actually nothing) and there was no way I was going into survival mode with people who build escalators and airports when I only knew how to walk around.
Minecraft’s visual feature is that everything is very pixelated; which is weird because normally we want everything to look like a live action movie and not a retro NES game. The first thing I did was just start running around (because it teaches you how to run and sprint) and then I stopped reading the tutorial tips because they are really long and I was running around. Mistake! So I started hitting trees because that is legit how you get wood (yes we use real science here for things like escalators but remove a square block from a tree and the top of the tree stays suspended because Minecraft) and then started digging holes and putting the wood in there; because that made sense to me at the time. Then I read the tutorial text (oops) about how I needed to use the wood to make planks to build a structure. But not really because first I needed a crafting table because I needed to make pickaxes and shovels and normal axes. Which made no sense to me because why did you need an axe for trees when you could get wood just by hitting the tree?
You need things to get things to make things. Who knows why. So I got a pickaxe (I think) and then started attacking a stone wall and got some cobblestone and what seemed to be normal stone. I don’t know why I needed both because I think a little wooden cabin is quite charming but adding stone blocks here and there to my structure gave it a nice modern aesthetic feel. Surely that is what Minecraft intended when they told me to mine stone? And then I made a furnace because I was told to do so and that I could also make glass now. Who wants glass? Glass seems to me to be wholly inappropriate for survival structures because they break and who knows what is coming for me in the night?
There were just so many questions, and was that the point? That Minecraft was always making you ask questions, asking you what you wanted to do? I had no idea but what I did know was that I had spent about two hours in a tutorial and I still hadn’t finished it and that if I couldn’t even build a wood and stone structure in two hours, how on earth was I going to face airports in the real Minecraft world? Was maybe that what Minecraft meant? That it would be my life, that I needed to spend all my spare time on it, creating and learning. Was this an allegory for development and civilisation?
So that’s where I am, still trying to figure Minecraft out and trying to make sense of things that make very little sense (well no sense really). I was right; it must be a giant philosophical experiment about life and asking questions and what it all means. No wonder all the nine year olds are so much better at it.