You’re a brute of a man who wields a meaty fist. Your great strength is a blessing as you’ll need it to collect all of the land’s resources you can get. But night is coming and you need to build a shelter. For with night come many merciless monsters who tirelessly seek to tear you limb from limb. If you survive the night you can watch the day’s sun burn away the darkness’s stalking killers – leaving you free, for one more day, to explore the land.
I’m a bit addicted to the hit indie PC game Minecraft. It’s a game that mixes building and resource collecting, with a little I am Legend thrown in there. Everything in the game world is built out of cubes, most of which can be broken apart and reused elsewhere. By bashing apart trees with your fist, you can turn blocks of wood into useable objects like pickaxes, swords, and storage chests. Later, especially as you mine through mountains, those tools will be used to make resource collection more efficient. You may also use resources to craft other practical objects like ladders and minecarts.
Minecraft is man versus nature (or the unnatural really, with zombies and skeletons emerging from darkness). You’re completely alone, harnessing the resources of the world to make a better life for yourself. You have no mission, no goal other than to live.
I love digging into the mountain where I’ve built my home, tearing out its walls of stone, guiding the stream I found deep within the rock, and discovering nodes of valuable minerals.
This stream leads into the deep, dark underground.
Even above ground, I toil away collecting wood and sand (for making glass), hunting animals for their meat, and gathering whatever else I can find. But whether above or below ground, I work as a hermit with no one to admire or comment on these accomplishments. . Minecraft is a wonderful juxtaposition of peace and terror, comforting solitude and despairing loneliness; something I like to reflect on while playing. It’s as though I’m a survivor of a great apocalypse (my favorite fiction) or some lone settler of a virgin land.
So much potential.
Despite the isolation, the world of Minecraft certainly isn’t without fear. The quiet bliss of carving out halls of rock is often interrupted by the groan of a zombie, the slurping sound of a leaping spider, or some other evil emerging from the darkness – monsters can spawn from shadows so covering your home in torch-light is a must. There is little worse than finding yourself far from home, on open ground, collecting resources and noticing that the sun is starting to set. I built a torch-covered, skyscraping tower on top of my mountain so that if I found myself outside in the dark I can look to the sky and know in what direction I need to run for safety.
My fortress, thankfully, is hard to miss at night.
Minecraft’s terrain is randomly generated so you never know what crazy landscape you’ll run into while navigating the land. I’ll often stop and marvel at a chance rock formation and the adventurer in me goes nuts when I’m out collecting resources and I see a cave in the side of a mountain. Who knows how deep it is or what riches it holds?!
There is a multiplayer mode in Minecraft but I have little desire to try it. Maybe if a friend sets up a server where a few of us can play together I’d be interested, but playing with strangers doesn’t sound fun. With friends we could admire each other’s earthworks and largely stay out of each other’s way. Plus I can’t help but imagine funny scenarios where two of us would unknowingly carve mine shafts in each other’s direction, leading to a bewildered underground collision. Or I accidentally divert a river into another’s base. With strangers I’d worry about people stealing my hard earned resources or destroying my carefully designed home.
Minecraft is a wonderfully presented experience. It’s graphically simple but gives the player a deep interaction with the game world. There are tons of things to do – or not if you so choose. I imagine that players who want “purpose” in their game wouldn’t enjoy Minecraft. Also it’s probably a little daunting that there’s no documentation or instruction in the game. You have to consult the Minecraft wiki to learn how to craft items and see what various resources can be made into.
Probably the most exciting part is that Minecraft is actually still in Alpha which means that it’s not even in its final version yet. I hope not too much will change in the base game play as I think it has a good thing going.
Now, please excuse me while I retreat to my hermitage. I stumbled upon a node of iron earlier and want to get that dug out.