Minecraft means different things to different people. Brenna offers this small tribute to the hundreds of worlds she has built and destroyed in Mojang’s seminal sandbox.
I have worlds inside of me.
The first world I made was largely built of mud. I landed on the tiny end of a peninsula cut off from the rest of the land mass by a mountain ridge, and there I stayed, baffled and enchanted.
Where the snowy shores met the sea I dug trenches, grinding for hours, and with these I built a tower on the ice. It had no doors, and no lights; the windows let me see, fuzzily, the winding one-block staircase with which I climbed to its peak.
“Look what I made,” I told my partner, and we looked at my tower of mud, hulking dark in the moonlight. Then I fell off.
At some point in my trench digging I struck stone. Suddenly I didn’t want a mud tower. I wanted a stone tower. I decided to replace it, brick by brick. But digging into its foundations I chipped the ice, flooded my cellars, and drowned myself under the ice.
Later, I hit coal, but having done everything so far with bare hands – having not discovered crafting, or even the inventory – I couldn’t extract it from the stone.
This will not do, I decided, and went to read a wiki.
A few minutes thereafter I deleted that first world in a fit of embarrassment at how little I had understood of how Minecraft works.
“Mass Effect 3, The Secret World and Destiny have all showed me that multiplayer is the rich trove of constant entertainment and new stories proponents have always said it is.”
That was how my first Minecraft world died. I couldn’t tell you how many have gone its way in the years since.
I was a relatively early adopter of Minecraft, jumping in before mobs were fully implemented, for example. I like it, that’s for sure – but I just don’t have the passion in me to be a true builder, like those guys you see in YouTube videos. Like my friends’ kids. Like the random Internet acquaintances who occasionally cajole me to come play in their sandboxes. (I usually turn up once then vanish and never come back. I’m one of the most shy people ever to make a living being on the Internet).
Perhaps it’s because I’m one of nature’s solos. I’m not attracted to the experience offered by competitive first-person shooters, from Quake to Call of Duty. I’ve never really felt the bite of an MMO like Ultima Online or World of Warcraft. Until online co-op became such an accessible and rewarding pastime, I was one of those tiresome commenters who considered multiplayer a plague on the industry.
Things are different now. Mass Effect 3, The Secret World and lately Destiny have all showed me that multiplayer is, after all, the rich trove of constant entertainment and new stories proponents have always said it is.
I’m interested in taking this knowledge back to Minecraft, to see if I could hook up with a regular crew and get some sort of world building going on. Some shared project, or just shared examples.
But until that happens, Minecraft is, for me, not quite the experience it seems the rest of you have: a cheerful romp with mates.
This is how I play Minecraft: I forget it exists for months at a time. Then, somewhere on the other side of the world, a butterfly flaps its wings just so and before you know it I feel the fever burning in me.
The next few days are dominated by Minecraft. I log in every hour I’m not required to be elsewhere. I generate dozens of worlds seeking the perfect starting zone. I find it, and I pick a spot. I begin building the castle. This is the one. The ONE. It will be the best castle ever built!
Days later, I delete the world. It was not the one. I made some mistake, some error – and it just isn’t working. It is all too hard to fix, and so I give up.
I start again – but the same thing happens. As the days turn into weeks, I accelerate – like a serial killer – abandoning worlds faster and faster and losing enthusiasm in ever smaller periods of time, before finally I switch it off. I am done with Minecraft … until next time.
I wonder what this says about me.
“As the days turn into weeks, I accelerate – like a serial killer – abandoning worlds faster and faster and losing enthusiasm in ever smaller periods of time, before finally I switch it off.”
Some of the worlds stick in my mind. I like to build, when I can, on high ground. If one wall can be flush with a near-vertical cliff, and the other gives way to a gentle, grassy slope – that is ideal. If these two walls can face east and west, my heart rises in my chest and I begin furiously laying foundations. When the stars aligned for me in this way once, and the underside of the cliff face included a huge waterfall and coal cave, it ate my life for weeks.
I don’t remember why I abandoned that one, but it may have been Creepers. Let us always remember that if your mansion is large enough you need to light that shit up like a Christmas tree at all times, or mobs will spawn in your back yard. Woe.
Another one succumbed to fire. I love forests, even virtual ones, and in the absence of later survival sandboxes I decided to recreate the little-cabin-in-the-woods lifestyle I’ve always wanted inside Minecraft.
A couple of years back there was a great glitch in Minecraft that allowed logs to burn forever if you partially buried them. To keep mobs out of my little Utopia, and to provide light to keep them from spawning inside, I had the bright (ha!) idea of building a perimeter wall of ever-burning fire.
Everything was going so well until a mob caught sight of me pottering around just inside the borders, charged into the flames, and proceeded to set the entire forest on fire.
The results were glorious, of course: but also very stressful. I gave up on that one.
“Minecraft gives me the illusion of ownership, and control. It gives me the feeling of shaping the world around me, to bring me comfort, peace and connection.”
There was one time, in a swamp, where I struggled to bring myself to hit the “delete world” button. Back home, where I come from, the land has been drained for a century, but the soil remembers when it stood under water. A piece of crown land attached to my family’s property hosts one of the most notable seasonal swamps in the district.
I suppose not many people get nostalgic for the scent of drying clay, the whine of mosquitoes and the sticky black mud and pollen that follows you home. But I do. There was one little shack I built in the spreading arms of a great mangrove, torchlight wavering in the corners. In the evening, in the rain, I could squint a little and pretend to be somewhere so much more beloved than my overpriced, roach-infested inner city rental. There’s not a hell of a lot of coal in the swamps, though.
There aren’t a lot of jobs in the swamps back home, come to think of it. There’s no ADSL. There’s no chance to better myself and move my career forward.
And here, in my crowded, close little share house in one of the most expensive cities, there isn’t much hope of a place of my own, to shape as I see fit. I despair of ever owning my own home. I despair of ever being able to retire, and go back to the places I love.
Minecraft gives me the illusion of ownership, and control. It gives me the feeling of shaping the world around me, to bring me comfort, peace and connection. Ultimately, though, it is just an illusion, a feeling, and like most of the distractions and lies that we tell ourselves, its power wears off with exposure. This isn’t the real world. It can’t remedy the deep sadness I carry in my bones. And so I tell myself that there’s something wrong with it. Delete world.
If only meat space gave us the chance to wipe the slate and start building again.