Minecraft Revisited

When I first
played the game Minecraft I knew that
it was going to stick with me for a while. My enthusiasm for the game knew no
bounds and I played it for hours, digging deep caverns and building high towers
of stone. Minecraft spoke to me in a
way that few other games ever had.

But I
eventually lost interest in Minecraft.
It was an odd end to my time with the game as the reasons I loved it so much
had become marks against it. I loved the idea of being a crazed hermit,
surviving alone in a hostile world and trying to build a self sustaining home.
But soon a strange depression of sorts set in. I was proud of the huge stone
castle I had built with its main battlement rising high above the clouds,
allowing me to see far into the distance, safe from the monsters that prowled
the land around me, but a nagging thought wouldn’t leave my mind; a twist on an
old question. “If I’ve built a spectacular monument in Minecraft but no one is around to see it, does it even exist?”

I didn’t
know anyone who ran a Minecraft
multiplayer server so I scoffed at the idea of playing with other people. “There’s
no way it would be fun”, I insisted. But suddenly my interest in the game completely
hinged on my work not going unappreciated and with no server to join, I stopped
playing altogether.

A year went
by and while I kept an eye on the updates Minecraft’s
developer continued to release for the game, I wasn’t drawn back in. It wasn’t
until the website and online community I haunted, BoardGameGeek.com, started
its own server that my interest once again piqued. Here was an opportunity to
start fresh with the game but with the new experience of playing with actual
people. The world in Minecraft is
huge so even a populated server would allow for room to build things unhindered
like the single player experience, but the idea that someone could then wander
upon and admire some odd work of mine was exciting.

So after a
long break, I’m back!

I love this
game. Some people have criticized Minecraft
for being pointless and in many ways it is. There are no objectives other than those
you set for yourself and some people can’t handle that lack of direction. That,
however, is exactly what I want from this game. After a long day of work,
sometimes I just want a game where I’m not in a hurry, where no faceless NPC is
shouting orders, and where I’m not tied to a log of rote quests that supposedly
advance a weak story. My mission for the evening may be to find a node of gold
ore – my last compass was destroyed when I fell into some lava – or to dig the
moat around my castle just a bit deeper. Or really, I can work on the forty
other projects I have going if I so choose.

Minecraft - My insane stairs

My stairway of insanity

I love that this is the image that spawned for the first painting I placed by my front door.

I planted a
deep forest around my base to ensure a steady supply of wood as I had a big
project in mind. Not far from where I had established myself another player had
already built a large castle. I decided to play a little prank on him and built
a giant wooden Trojan Horse next to his castle. I have no idea what his
reaction to finding this giant horse hanging its head over his walls ended up
being, but it was a fun I never had while playing in a single player world.

Nothing suspicious here. Just a giant, gift wooden horse.

I enjoy
wandering the world map looking at the crazy structures other people have
built. Among other things, I’ve encountered a huge reproduction of Tower
Isengard (from Lord of the Rings), a
fully reproduced football stadium, and an amazingly detailed sushi restaurant.
My main project recently was building a rooftop garden that contains every
block type in the game. It’s been an enjoyable search looking for some of the
more obscure block types and then fussing over their placement in the garden.

Saved as the wallpaper on my work desktop, this image keeps me sane during a busy workday.

While the
server I play on has strict rules about not destroying other players’ work and
not stealing their stuff, it’s still fun to build my fortress to withstand
imaginary attacks. My staircases always spiral upwards clockwise, my deep moat
is filled with sharp cacti, and I’ve placed many defensible fall-back positions
within my lair in case of an invasion. The deep, dark forest I’ve grown around
my mountain spawns innumerable monsters so even getting to my base is a

The sea-side of my floating gardens.

I realized
while typing this that waxing
about a video game in this fashion seems incredibly silly.
Nonetheless, Minecraft is a
cathartic, “sandbox” experience that I enjoy jumping into whenever I can and
I’m glad that trying the multiplayer experience caused me to rediscover what I
loved about the game so much in the first place. The game itself continues to
surprise me and now that I’m playing along with real people the potential for
new astonishment seems endless. I can still be that crazy hermit, hidden away
deep in a mountain, but if someone ever makes it to my castle I’m more than
happy to give them a tour of my place.  

** Addendum

I wrote this
post before the 1.8 patch to Minecraft.
Sadly the BGG server closed the old 1.7 map since it wouldn’t be readily
compatible with the features of this new patch.

the server’s admin let me download a copy of the old map which I’m now playing
in single player. It’s a weird experience wandering the old (and dead) world in
single player, encountering structures built by other, now non-existent people.
It feels very post-apocalyptic and while strange, is actually very fun. Out of
politeness I never wandered other people’s structures but now I can walk around
admiring their work and poking into their treasure chests. 

On a multiplayer turned single player map, this tamed wolf is waiting for a master who is never coming back.

When I come across a
half-finished work it’s like an archeological study trying to figure out what
their intent was with the building and knowing that unless they’ve deliberately
left a sign, I’ll never know who did it. The range of buildings I’ve
encountered has spanned from breathtaking to laughably creepy.

Encountering a spectacular pyramid

The inside of that pyramid – screenshot doesn’t do it justice. Breathtaking.

From breathtaking to creepy, stumbled into this. Umm… what the hell is this room?

I’ve joined
the rest of the crowd and am playing on the new 1.8 multiplayer server but
doubt I’ll sink as much time into it as I did with 1.7. It was heartbreaking
enough to find out that all my work wasn’t going to carry over with the new
patch. I won’t invest that kind of time again until Minecraft is finally “released”. Until then I’ll keep messing about
in my single player world, wandering its expanse, and having fun guessing at what
I’ll come across at the next turn.