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I am smitten with Minecraft. I can’t stop playing it. I am addicted in a way that feels good—like people are “addicted” to watching sports. You just want to do it, all the time, and you slowly draw away from people who don’t “get” it. It’s a passion that all right-minded people should have.
What can I tell you that would make you fall in love with the game? I can tell you that you stack blocks together. I can tell you that the goal of the game it to mine things and then to craft things. You mine dirt, you make a shelter. You knock down trees, you make a wooden pick. You use the pick to mine stone. Then the world opens up to you.
There is lava. There is water. There are zombies and ghouls and ghasts and spiders that jump ten feet in the air to ruin your life. All of these things come together to demonstrate the soul of Minecraft: it is a fear simulator. It is something that hates you, aggressively, but it creates a strange effect in me. It makes me want kick zombie/spider/skeleton ass. And the game gives you the tools to do that; it’s a game about making things from the ground up, and knowing that everything that you’ve made is a product of a process that you’ve commanded. It’s a little like seeing into the mind of a god—everything makes sense because you can track causality, process, even emotion, from beginning to end.
I want to tell you a Minecraft story. It involves several players: Isotrophic, Petit Pont, McDuffy, and DavidLynch (me). Over a couple days, we had created a large complex that stretched over about a kilometer square. It had several key areas: the Farm, the Mine (with Gate to Hell), McDuffy’s labyrinthine chambers where we were supposed to “play tag,” the Oubliette, Fort DavidLynch, and several other minor structures. Connected to that through tunnels were Fort McDuffy Sr. and Fort McDuffy Jr., two large forts connected by bridges. The McDuffy Forts were positioned in the middle of a bay, surrounded by several smaller islands of mixed importance: Fort Babyisland, Forward Tower, OP Restrepo, and Isotrophic’s “Seaaaa Laaaaaab,” an all-glass structure built below sea level.
All of these things were good. We had a Lava Display Case—we were really living the good life. But there was something missing, and one day Isotrophic spoke up.
“We need to pick up and move south,” he said. We were all quiet for a moment, but then the idea started rolling in our heads, and we all piped up. Emboldened, he described his plan. “We will move beyond this land, into virgin territory, with only what we can carry in our inventories.” Minecraft generates as you explore it—there is no “edge” to the world. If you get close to somewhere that no one has ever been before, the game creates the territory. When we moved to the edge of the map, it would literally be created in front of our eyes.
So we did it. We gathered the diamond pickaxes, the bucket of lava, the iron ore. We gave a good look around, swam up the waterfall elevator, jumped the wall of Fort McDuffy Sr, and were off. The five hundred foot crow’s nest receded into pixels and fog behind us, adversity and hard time stood firm in front of us.
If began to get dark as we crested a small mountain, and we built a shelter. It was only six feet high, however, and a spider jumped over in the dead of night, scaring the hell out of everyone until we beat it to death with pickaxes. We huddled under a dirt pile for the rest of the night, and at daybreak we broke camp, destroying everything we had constructed. “Scorched earth,” Isotrophic mumbled as we walked away, “total war.” Petit Pont giggled.
We traveled until the grass turned to snow. It was gradual, a patch here, a patch there, and then it was full-on artic tundra. No wildlife for miles. We walked across a frozen lake. “It’s slippery,” McDuffy said. “Careful,” Petit Pony cautioned him, “the first time I ever played this game I chipped through the ice and was swept underneath it. I drowned.”
“Quiet,” Isotrophic hissed. “Over this mountain, this is it. New land.” We trudged up, wailing on the jump button to get up the giant mound. Past that, there was a plain. It didn’t look particularly new, but we took it on faith. The faith proved itself. We found our Promised Land.
It is a small valley overlooked on three sides by giant, needle-like mountains. On the non-mountainous side, there is a forest, and then a body of water with an island. We live there now. On my mountain, I have crafted a stone-and-glass overlook. Isotrophic coined his mountain Tyconderoga Point; the addition of a lavafall and intimidating gate has changed the name to Tyconderoga Citadel. Petit Pont put a ceiling over a chasm in his mountain, creating a home where everyone can see him all the time. McDuffy made a treehouse in the forest.
That is the story of Minecraft. It’s really fucking serious, and more than that, it’s beautiful. It rides the line between real and fake. It bleeds in and out of me.