What follows is more a narrative of my initial experiences with a widely popular game, mixed with a few musings. I should note that since my initiation, I have learned the basics of the game, and have some idea of what I am doing both in my own private world and on the server in which I play. Enjoy.
“You gotta get Minecraft and join my server.”
My friend had been telling me this for a few weeks now, so just over a week ago I decided that it was time to join in on what has become, for some, a full blown way of life. I was always interested in Minecraft, a game that throws its players into the great abyss and says “see what you can come up with.” I had watched the videos, intrigued by the possibilities, and read what others had to say, but the truth of why I had yet to play Minecraft was this: I was always a little bit intimidated.
Conceptually, it is a simple game, but at its core Minecraft is a perfect experiment in existentialism: the game leaves it up to the individual to give meaning to his or her own being. The vast worlds of Minecraft leave all sense of purpose and direction open to be found by the individual. Simple miner, grand architect, or maybe some sort of hybrid combination, the player decides what he or she will be, and that to me was a little bit frightening. Perhaps I was over-intellectualizing.
Of course I was unsure if my little crappy lappy could handle running Minecraft in all of its glory, so that did hold me back for a while. But once I checked, it turned out it could support the minimum settings. So there were no more excuses. I purchased Minecraft on Thursday, July 26, 2012, here forth referred to as year 0 AMP (After Minecraft Purchase)—truly a momentous day.
I created my first world, Tiny Town circa 0 AMP, to test how well the game would work (because passing the minimum settings doesn’t mean everything will run silky smooth), and found that even when I tinkered with the visual settings to increase frame rate, the game still suffered from frame rate drops. These frame drops did make playing more of a chore, but a quick Google search revealed a mod, Optifine, that would solve my problem. After figuring out the mod, I was able to tweak a few more settings, and voila! Minecraft was now playable.
Before joining my friends, I felt it necessary to play around in Tiny Town, just to learn the basics of the game (on survival mode of course). I wandered about the hilly landscaped smattered with trees and chickens, trying to get my bearings. It was a little overwhelming. I remember thinking: “What the hell is this? What the hell am I doing? Uh oh, it’s dark now. What was that sound? Dammit I’m dead. Well, that didn’t take long.” I’m sure somewhere the Gods of Minecraft were snickering to themselves as if to say: “Welcome to our blocky world, bitch. Enjoy your stay.”
Perhaps I’ll have better luck with a group who has experience.
I left Tiny Town behind and joined my friend’s server. Instead of being transported to a lush world with ubiquitous green hues, I spawned into bleak grey—no indication of civilization. I did what any sensible player would: I started walking. I was making headway, I could see the great divide where winter ended and summer began, separated by a small river. It was a striking contrast. A small body of water, eight blocks in length, separated two completely different biomes.
As soon as I crossed the river, I could see that I was closer to friendly confines. Off a short distance was an elevated rail system, torches lining the stone that supported the structure. It branched two ways and I was unsure which path to take, but before I could choose, my screen flashed and in a split second I was in the middle of a courtyard leading to a big castle. The castle was a massive structure that had taken the better part of a month to build and was/is still under construction (the beauty of Minecraft—nothing is ever finished). What the hell had just happened?
“I figured it’d be better to start you off here instead of having you wander the boonies,” my friend explained, using his mystical powers as server admin to teleport my character. Afterward, I was toured around what they call the “warehouse” where everything is stored to be shared amongst the few players who populate the server. It was very neatly organized. I was also told about Minecraft wiki at this point, and I have since frequently gone to learn some of the game’s ins and outs, as well as a few crafting recipes.
But back to the warehouse –everything had its place. If I needed a pickaxe, I needed only direct myself toward the conveniently labelled sign above the pickaxe chest. Soon I was armed and ready to embark on a grand mining expedition. I was ready to dig up the pixels of earth that populated my screen and become a productive member of Minecraft society. I had myself a nice set of iron tools and I was going to use them.
I left the giant mass of stone brick behind and found a nice mountain to tunnel into. The stone was no match for my mighty pickaxe, and soon I was making serious headway. Coal veins became very prevalent throughout my digging. It seemed that for every stone block I dug into, there was coal lurking just behind. I was quite pleased with myself. Those black little stones, they were valuable, and I was hauling quite a score. The soothing sound of piano keys matched my feelings of discovery. It was as if the song was my own, keeping rhythm as the stone blocks cracked and caved before me. My elation, however soon turned to dismay.
Not content to simply turn around and deposit my haul so my server mates could make use of it (making torches, fuel for furnaces, you all probably know all of this), I asked what else was needed.
“We could always use more iron.”
After a short break and a few loaves of bread (you gotta eat to survive), I set out to dig again. My index finger keeping the left mouse button depressed, my eyes scanned for any glimmer of that dull yellow. More valuable than gold.
The stone before me disappeared, but behind it only more stone. My food stores were low and my trusty pickaxe had long since been destroyed. I was now forced to dig with stone tools—stone on stone violence. Almost nothing could stop me in my dogged pursuit of the elusive ore. Eventually my tiny tunnel was juxtaposed by a massive expanse of intertwined caverns—a dangerous maze to test my nonexistent survival skills.
I placed torches on the nearby cave walls. There it was, right before my eyes, the iron I sought. My pickaxe met what had been the elusive material and it gave way, yielding. I gathered the materials. Then the dreaded groan. Zombies were nearby. There it was, coming out of the darkness, the green discoloured flesh, the tattered rags. No problem, just one zombie. I scrolled down to my unused sword, and struck the zombie down. The little experience orbs spilled out spoils of my victory.
Then there it was, that terrible hissing sound that so many of us have come to know. The explosion was imminent, and everything I had worked for had been for naught. Game Over.
Well, what do I do now?
“Whatever you want.”
Thanks for the help, really.