Friday, February 25, 2011

Two Strangers Play Minecraft

I awake in the middle of an island. I know neither my exact coordinates, nor how I came to be here, only that I now stand on some sort of finite landmass beset on all sides by water.

It is daybreak, and I am alone.

The beginning of Minecraft is by now a familiar story, and one which holds a strikingly infinite number of possibilities.

I observe my available moves. I am new to this game, so I stroll aimlessly across the island, testing boundaries. I find I am able to jump, to punch animals. Everything that I am doing is the unforgiving equivalent of using white’s first move to push a rook pawn; it yields little and prevents me from doing the crucial things I must do to set up the rest of the game. I have lost already.

The trees in this place are strangely pliable, so I claw away at them with my bare hands until I have harvested a fair amount of wood. I emerge from my errand raw and bloody, shocked to find that it is already high noon. It seems as though only minutes have passed.

I have overheard much about this game and seen screenshots that did not quite make sense to me. This is that game? Playing my first round, I am quite sure that I do not get its appeal—or what it is to begin with. I am disappointed that, despite the blocky and unappealing aesthetic of this game, my computer is positively sputtering, unable to process. I curse at the inevitable decay of technology. I futz with settings. I am eaten by a monster that I cannot see because it is so very dark outside.

Night will be here soon, and although I am not sure exactly how, I know that it will bring unspeakable dangers. I will need to find a light source. And then I will need to dig.

I have a pickaxe made of wood. I have several cubic units of dirt and several blocks of raw wood. I have a worktable whose sturdiness is rivaled only by its surprising portability. Glimpsing my target, I grasp my virgin pickax and bound with purpose up a steep rock face. The sun edges ever closer to the horizon.

Home Sweet Hobbit Hole
I start a second game. I have discovered a helpful guide to getting started. With hobbits dancing in my brain, I create a home for myself in the side of a nearby hill. Materials are scarce, but there is a soothing rhythm to the game. Dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, BLOCK. Dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, BLOCK. It is nighttime but it is the weekend and I feel like I can do this forever.

* * * * * * * *

My palace has windows. Torches lavishly decorate the walls, filling my fortress with the warm glow of safety and comfort. Exploding zombies are clawing at my door, but they won’t get me, not tonight.

Weeks have passed and I’ve all but hollowed out this place. I’ve smelted iron. I’ve built a patio that overlooks a cascading waterfall. I’ve landscaped a lake of fire. I mull over what the next day’s work will bring. Will I plant crops? Will I build a new fence? Will I finally see what’s over the ridge in the distance?

There is much to be done. But it’s late, and I could use some sleep.

Awesome lead image was created by Gamer Melodico’s own resident illustrator and Kirby sympathizer, David Tracy. For more of his artwork and non-game-related musings, check out him out at his personal blog, Doubtful Guest.
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