Rise From Your Grave

Rise From Your Grave
What Purpose, Minecraft Zombies?

Russ Pitts | 26 Apr 2011 11:59
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It's sundown in Minecraft and I'm digging a hole. Literally and figuratively, both in-game and out. In-game, I am literally digging a hole from which I am pulling rocks to assemble into an obelisk. Out of game, every swipe of my digital shovel increases my addiction to this mighty, independent game industry force. I literally can't stop thinking about it, and figuratively can't stop playing it. Minecraft consumes my waking thoughts and my dreamy slumber. It is what I look forward to at the end of the day, and what compels me to extend each day's reach into night.

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For me, Minecraft has become an obsession so severe that it both terrifies and enchants me. It has brought me a joy so intense that I can't recall the last game that inspired such bliss. Which is fitting, perhaps, because Minecraft is unlike any other game I've ever played, and what enchants me about it so is not its game-like elements, really, but rather what it amplifies about the truths of life itself.

Take this hole I'm digging, for example. I'm so deep in it that I fail to notice the movement of the sun across the sky. I'm so absorbed in the joy of toil and the minutia of digging out each single chunk of rock, that I am completely oblivious to the fact that night is falling until it is well nigh upon me. I'd finished building my dream castle a day or two before (and renovating the mine underneath) and decided, on a whim, to turn the heap of rock in my front yard into an obelisk. For what purpose? None. I just liked the idea of having a stone obelisk in my front yard, and since there was already plenty of stone there - in the form of a hill - all I needed to do was, as Michelangelo phrased it "free the form from the surrounding stone." That was how I passed a day playing Minecraft.

Now it's night, however, and all thoughts of obelisks have fled from my mind. Night is not a time to be tending the stone garden in the front lawn. Not unless you've first build a sturdy wall, which I haven't. Not yet. See, the wall was to complement the obelisk and I needed the form of the obelisk in place in order to measure the angles of light to create the perfect ... never mind. It doesn't matter. It's nighttime, and I'm alone in the dark and afraid for my life. Night is when the zombies come.

Some games give you everything for free. Your weapons drop from the sky. Your tasks are handed to you. You arrive in the world as capable as you will ever be and your survival is a foregone conclusion. Not so in Minecraft. In Minecraft there is no official tutorial, no instructions, and no mission. What you do with your time, how you literally play the game, is up to you, and the list of what you could do is nearly limitless. The basic building blocks of almost anything you can imagine are all there, either as part of the landscape around you or buried deep underground. Assembling them into the creation of your dreams is as easy as imagining it. It is, for all intents and purposes, a world created just for you. All you have to do - your only meaningful challenge - is to survive, but in Minecraft, that's not as easy as it sounds.

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