I hear clanking. That means a skeleton, but I don’t have any arrows. That means I’m going to have to try to kill it with a sword while it shoots its own damn arrows at me. If I die this far into the mine, I’ll never get my stuff back. I see redstone ore and I want it. The cave’s mostly empty, but there’re probably some diamonds farther down. Diamonds mean I can finally make some better armor, maybe a new pickaxe. Then I can build that portal to the nether, then finally I can get enough glowstone and other stuff to build that giant, glowing, neon-ish, ginormous… Well, I haven’t really figured that part out yet, but it’ll be awesome. Yep, I’m playing Minecraft. I’m hating it, but I’m hating it it like I hate hangovers. Not enough to swear off the stuff, but enough to know I’m in for some pain.
I’m going to assume that you’ve heard of Minecraft. Since there’s a billion articles, YouTube videos, tutorials, and wiki pages floating around the ol’ interwebs, chances are you know the name. And that it’s pretty addictive. This is true, but there’s more to it than that. Few games made me ragequit and delete all my saves in one burst of fury. Minecraft did. Even fewer games have me playing until my neck and arm fuse into a single knot of pain, then starting up nine more saves for another eleven hours. Minecraft did.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a review. I’m not here to tell you how wondrously inane the premise is, I don’t think you really want to know how many happy faces the soundtrack gets and I don’t really want to have to come up with a rating system for a game that’s still in beta. The truest, most honest thing I can say about Minecraft is this: Minecraft reminds me that despite my beard, descended testicles and college degree, I’m still a five-year-old. I still love building things just ‘cause they’re cool and I laugh way too hard at suggestively-shaped sculptures. Want in on this? Well then, hypothetical reader, read on.
First things first: check a wiki. If you don’t know how to make an axe, sword or a crafting table, you’re going to die. Repeatedly. Your first night will be pretty embarrassing. Secondly, expect monsters every night. Try to fight them if you want, but they’re gonna kill you, at least until you have a sword and some armor. A bow is better. Every night you’re going to get rushed, so dig yourself a hole and block off the entrance. Or build a house. After the first couple of nights (about an hour real time), you should understand the flow of the game. Now you can really start playing.
Minecraft is a sandbox in the truest sense of the word. Within the game’s rules, you can build anything imaginable, just pixelated. Want to build an entire city out of TNT and set it off? There’s YouTube videos of that. Want to build a life-size replica of Helm’s Deep? Pretty sure there’s a Demotivational Poster of that out there somewhere. Want to build a glass Darth Vader with a gold pimp hand flipping the bird to a Mt. Rushmore of Star Trek faces? You can, and by God, I think I just found my muse. Now you just need cubes.
Minecraft is all about the cubes. Just about every object you see, be it grass, hills, trees, volcanoes, and everything else can be broken down into cubes. Last I checked, there were 77 different types, from water all the way to jukebox. Punch dirt to get a dirt cube (and a hole where the dirt cube was). Make an axe and chop wood to get wood cubes, make a pickaxe to grab some rock and iron. The fancier cubes take a little more work: glass has to be melted from sand, bricks come from clay, and so on. Once you have enough cubes, try building stuff. Carve mountains, plan elaborate sheep death traps; I even saw a video of a guy who made a working computer. Lemme rephrase/explain that one, for those who didn’t like Inception: he ran working programs on a real computer he built inside the 3d world of a computer program in a real-life computer. Confused? Fine, we’ll talk about mining.
Minecraft mines are giant holes in the ground that have all sorts of goodies in them: diamonds, redstone, lapis, obsidian and a bunch of other stuff. They also got loads of monsters (shoot you or eat you), pitfalls (kill you), lava (kills you), pitch darkness (won’t kill you but you’ll never see the stuff that does kill you) and they don’t follow any floor plan (you’ll get lost, get used to it). They’re loads of fun. I’m a sucker for exploration and the monsters aren’t too annoying, provided you know how to deal with them. If you don’t know how to deal with them, well, let’s talk about that respawn.
Death is pretty simple. First you die (you will), then you respawn at your spawn point. You always respawn in the same place, unless you reset your spawn with a bed. The only real problem with dying is that all your stuff gets dropped and you have five minutes to get everything back. So if it took you 30 minutes to walk to the damn cave, those nine goddamn hours you spent hacking every goddamn mineral out of that stupid hole is wasted. Unless you remembered to leave your stuff in a chest somewhere in said mine. But of course you didn’t do that, because you didn’t think the mine was that big. Hence my repeated rage quits.
But as much as it hurts, I keep coming back to Minecraft. Not because I’m writing about it, not because I’m a masochist (though both statements are pretty accurate) and not because I really want to finish my giant stone idol with a lava-spewing schlong (after the Pimp Vader, obviously). I come back because it’s fun. I like the idea of going into a totally new world and carving my name on it. I get a kick out of exploring haunted, monster-strewn caves for shiny stuff. I really love making obscenely large monuments to my awesomeness. The learning curve might be steep at first, but once you know what to do, it’s a breeze. A refreshing, blocky, pixelated breeze.
The author, Frank, got a new dog. He goes through ‘em pretty fast…