Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Minecraft: What? Why?

I'm really smart. I know this about myself and I'm not going to be shy about it. But there are different kinds of smart and unfortunately, I am not the right kind of smart to make decent money with my brain or survive a potential Lost type of situation. Once, when I was in college, I put the wrong sized light bulb in a desk lamp and almost burned down the house I shared with three other people. My roommate said I was the stupidest smart person she had ever known. I'm the type of smart that could win at Jeopardy! but things like computers, cars, and overly complex word problems are like magic.


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Recently, I've been humbled by the video game Minecraft. And by humbled, I mean forced to admit I'm really bad at it and had a temper tantrum. I don't get it. I just. Do. Not. Understand.

This looks like a diseased penis with a face. I mean, is it?
Oh, I understand that you're a guy named Steve and you're supposed to rip up the land to build shit, but why?! WHY?! Part of the issue is that you have to or the diseased penis up there will arrive in the night and eat your face. But if that's the only reason, why play the game at all?

Okay, I'm starting over. Minecraft makes me a little angry. I'm trying really hard to understand it because I work with teens at a library and a few of us have gotten together to try and develop programming based on Minecraft because everyone seems to like it. And in order to get people inside the library, you have to entice them with things they like. Like Minecraft.

I bought a copy of the game and played it for about a half an hour, digging holes in the ground and punching the shit out trees but got frustrated and died because I got attacked by one of these things when I couldn't figure out how to build a door for my three walled dirt house:

 


Next, I did what I usually do when I get frustrated by something but can't just kick it and move on. I read some books and got my learn on. I read Minecraft for Dummies and Minecraft: the Unlikely Tale of Markus "Notch" Persson and the Game That Changed Everything. Here is a short list of the things I learned from these books and my half hour of game play:
 
1. There is no point to Minecraft except for the points that you create yourself. For example, if you want to log on and build a Hadron collider - do it. If you want to log on and lay in a hole and build crude dicks and butts out of dirt and rock, you can do that too.
 
2. There's a very vague storyline with an end boss but you can ignore it if you want to. The process of getting to this end boss is also mildly Satanic and may or may not involve a blood sacrifice.
 
3. You can eat zombie flesh, but it has an 80% chance of giving you food poisoning.
 
4. Zombie pig men are in this game but they won't really hurt you unless you hurt them first.
 
 
 
5. You can make a saddle and ride pigs. However, one of my coworkers has informed me that Minecraft also has horses.
 
6. Markus Persson is a gaming god and he always wears a fedora.
 
My problem with Minecraft is that I try too hard to find meaning where there is none. This game is all about the building and creating. But when you don't have an ounce of engineering enthusiasm in your body, what's left is the story. And to me, the story is thus:
 
You're a guy, dropped into a world alone. There are other people, but they're few and far between and they're much more primitive than you. Maybe you fell out of a spaceship? Or a wormhole? These people are too stupid to take care of you, but you don't seem to be phased by your own displacement anyway. So you navigate this world and learn that if you don't hurry up and build a house, zombies, creepers, and spiders will murder you in the night and take all your stuff. And you can keep on living this way, day after day, in a dirt house, your life becoming nothing more than the avoidance of a violent death. Or you can use your daylight hours to build fantastic structures that no one but you will ever appreciate and serve no purpose other than being a more elaborate way to stave off flesh eating pixel beasts. Or, you can travel to The End and kill a giant dragon, but the other people in this land won't even thank you because they had no idea it was there in the first place. And you can sit in your dirt house or to-scale replica of the Enterprise and weep silently for the life you were so crudely ripped from while breeding blue sheep and eating mushroom stew.
 
WHYYYYYYYYY?!
And this is why I'm not the right kind of smart for Minecraft. I can't comprehend gaming without a set objective. Even Pong has a purpose, which is to beat the other guy. I need structure. I need narrative. I need a definitive in-game goal or I will get bored and just come up with stupid ways to kill my avatar like building a house in The Sims and not putting in a toilet.
 
So, this has been my Minecraft experience. I'm going to keep trying because my patrons love the hell out of this game. But I may never really understand it. And I guess that's okay. For now though, I have to go. I have to level up my human hunter on World of Warcraft.