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Blog post No. 3,121: Minecraft

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I knew that Minecraft existed. I recognised some of the characters and things. I’m quite into Rubik’s Cube-type twisty puzzles, and one of the stores in Mexico City that sells such things is in an indoor market called Friki Plaza. A lot of the other stalls there sell anime, comic, sci-fi stuff. And I’d see pictures of big pixelly swords and stuff. I didn’t know it, but those were Minecraft swords.

And then back in March, I was binge-watching a load of the excellent Ahoy videos on YouTube about computer/video games, their history, design and stuff, and during that binge watched this one about Minecraft:

The narrator said something very early in that video that piqued my interest: “in the beginning, all you need to know is: punch trees, get wood.”

I liked that it was blocky and looked simple, but it also felt a bit weird. I say this as someone whose most recent gaming has been along the lines of Red Dawn Redemption, GTA V, and such lush things. Maybe there was a part of me that also simply enjoyed the mining element. Aside from a Binatone console the family had when I was young, a couple of Nintendo Game & Watch things, and Puck Monster, the first actual computer games I played (on my mate Mike’s ZX Spectrum) were Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy. I’ve spent the last 18 years drawing with pixels, so after watching the Ahoy video, it felt kind of essentially that I try it for myself. I immediately downloaded Minecraft Pocket Edition for the iPad.

It’s sometimes a little weird to feel you are out-of-touch. I’m not a massive gamer or anything, but I did not know it was the second biggest-selling video game ever, having sold 107 million copies. That’s like not knowing who Taylor Swift is.

So, Minecraft PE downloaded, and armed with the knowledge that I should “punch tree, get wood,” I began. I have no desire to play online. I know it’s dead popular, but for me, I like to go at my own pace. Online gaming seems like a super boosted XtReMe version of the cocky kid who’d stand over your shoulder in the arcade, see you not doing so well with Galaxian, and offer to “finish your game for you.” The two other options are Survival and Creative.

I began with Creative. Unlimited materials, just building things. That was fun for a while. Essentially a fancier, iPad-ier version of Lego.

Por ejemplo, this was the very first thing I build on that very first play – a little square cabin dug into the side of a mound:

Then I got brutal and built an almost prison-like shack on a small island:

I had big plans for this next one. I was gonna build a massive moat, but got bored filling the trench with water and never finished it:

The pixelista in me soon realised I could make 3D pixel art, specifically Minipops. Here’s Drake, for example:

But after dicking around with unlimited resources for a few days, the urge to play Survival took over. Punch tree, get wood. But, that’s not really enough knowledge in Survival. I spent a few “days” (that is, Minecraft days, not Earth, real life, days) building tiny huts or digging holes to live in, and a) not sleeping because I didn’t know how to make a bed, b) starving because I didn’t know how to eat, and c) being killed by zombies, skeletons, and most often, creepers.

And that is where the Internet comes in handy. The Minecraft Wiki is something I spent a great deal of time referencing, but most of all, YouTube. I kinda love how the Internet and YouTube in particular has mini universes that you don’t know exist until you are interested in that topic yourself. It was like that with twisty puzzles, and good gosh, it’s like that with Minecraft. Paul Soares’s How to Survive and Thrive series was particularly useful to dip into now and then when I wanted a bit more info, especially when venturing into more complex things like enchanting and using redstone, a substance you can mine and then use to create more complex menchanisms.

Here’s some more photos.

This was the first house I built in Survival mode. It began as a hole dug in the dirt beneath what is now the house. The big tower with the light on top is something I learned in the above-mentioned YouTube series: a way to be able to find your way home when you’ve been out exploring the local area:

A stupid building that took a long time but was ultimately not much fun:

Here’s a few photos of the same project. The first shows the cave I dug into the side of a mountain to live in early on in a new game. Before I crafted a wooden door, I would drop a block of dirt into the doorway every time I entered and left. Eventually, that wee hole was expanded to be a nice apartment with a huge water feature outside the front door. The nearby river was a bit of a pain to get to, so I eventually mined through the mountain and built a wee train line that goes all the way to a nice little riverside cabin:

My most recent thing was on top of a couple of high islands which mean the zombies, skeletons, and creepers are less of an annoyance. Another thing you can do is dye sheep’s wool, and shear that wool off and make it into a nice carpet:

Here’s a stupid gate on one of my projects:

Here’s a zombie riding a chicken for some reason:

There have been many moments when I’ve been impressed with the pixel art of Minecraft. Voxel art, I guess, technically. I love the square suns, and the sunsets are an absolute delight:

Even when it’s messing up and not loading very quickly, the weird stuff it sometimes throws up (not often, I should be clear) are aesthetically enjoyable:

I think that Minecraft is fantastic because of the random generation of the world you play in. The different biomes (lots of photos of such things here) are a joy. And I like that I can play with my own rules. I played one game as a vegan, not killing anything, which makes things difficult in the early days of a game, when you need wool to make a bed and sleep, and obviously, you have to wait for crops to grow to eat, rather than just killing a sheep or pig or chicken or cow.

I played one game as a nomad. No permanent home, just carrying stuff that fit in my inventory, and digging a new shelter every night. That was a wonderful way to see lots and lots of different biomes. It was how I saw the ice spikes biome for the first time (after about two weeks of walking around).

I’m an adult. And Minecraft is fantastic. It must be brilliant for children too. And parents would probably enjoy that their children are playing a game where to get something, you have to put in a little effort. Basic life lesson, that, innit?

A wee bit of artwork

Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article
Jam and Lewis

Instagram Society6 Behance Feedly Tumblr

Other business
Here’s my portrait of vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence (please, Estados Unidos, NO!)

And finally, the song in my head when I woke up this morning
Crises by Mike Oldfield.

Written by Craig

October 10th, 2016 at 11:59 am

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