Prior to this week, my one experience with Minecraft had been downloading the app on my tablet, finding it entirely baffling, and never opening it again. But hearing so much about the game, and knowing people who really enjoyed it, made me decide to give it another shot.
I love building games, and sandbox style games that enable player creativity, and Minecraft is pretty much the ultimate sandbox. I could build the Crystal Gem Temple from Steven Universe. I could make a motte and bailey castle or build my own Rivendell! What couldn’t I do?
And so, with a little trepidation, I began to play. I chose survival mode, since that was the default, and because I like a little bit of challenge along with my creative building.
This was a decision I came to regret very quickly.
So there I was, in a strange, heavily pixelated landscape, with no idea what to do. I decided it would be interesting to try and figure things out on my own, and after a while I figured out movement, how to punch trees, and how to put things down.
I went to explore, and found some sheep, which I decided to try punching as well. This…didn’t go entirely according to plan. The sheep didn’t seem much hurt, but very offended.
That’s fair—what kind of person goes around punching random sheep?
I couldn’t handle punching it anymore, so I continued exploring and found a rabbit. Surely I could kill a rabbit? Nope. One punch, and it started running around frantically, trying to get away from me. No rabbits. I tried a pig, and it squealed so loudly I didn’t have the heart to continue. I decided I’d just have to be a vegetarian, since I just couldn’t handle punching peaceful creatures to death.
Night fell in the game, and, with no idea what that meant, I started building a wall. I was very pleased with myself at this point—a wall!
Eventually it could be part of a fort! But before my wall was very developed, I discovered that not all the creatures in Minecraft were so calm and forgiving as the sheep and pigs.
A spider came along and attacked. I managed to punch it to death, and congratulated myself on my prowess. Not only had I protected my wall, I had protected all the rabbits and sheep—my new friends! Since they were the only creatures I’d seen in this landscape, I decided we’d all live together in my fort, me and my animal buddies.
Then a zombie came.
Already low on health from my fight with the spider, I expired almost immediately. The sheep, the rabbits, and the pig would have to look after themselves; their protector was dead. The game awarded me a score of 5, which under the circumstances was more than generous.
It was at this point that I decided to give up on this whole “immersive learning” tactic and look up some tutorials.
I immediately discovered that night was when all the monsters came to attack you, and that torches would keep them away. I made notes on how to actually craft things, and I felt a lot more confident now. Surely with superior technology I could protect myself and my little friends.
Well, kind of. I did manage to get through my first night. I dug a cave and lit it with so many torches I’m surprised I didn’t die from smoke inhalation.
But I survived! I had mastered fire.
With what proved to be a blithe overconfidence I set out to explore some more. My “food” bar was beginning to get low, so I spent most of the day (vainly) hunting for the right mushrooms to make soup. When it began to get dark again, I wasn’t sure where my old cave was, so I dug a new one, put up some torches, and settled in.
I guess I’d gotten cocky from my first success, because I don’t think I had enough torches up. When a little person carrying a bottle arrived at my cave, I immediately began walloping them with my wooden sword. I was a little hesitant about this—maybe they were just there to welcome me to the neighborhood and offer a bottle of wine as a house-warming gift?
But then the little jerk threw the bottle at me and poisoned me, and all doubts were gone. I chased them out into the night…and was promptly killed by everything.
So Rivendell will have to wait. But here’s the thing. I was absolutely, 100% hooked.
I loved the crafting and building, and I loved the challenge of coming into a strange landscape with absolutely nothing and trying to forage for survival. It may be a long time, if ever, before I’m able to build something like a Gem Temple or the Rhodes Colossus, but I’m very sure that my first date with Minecraft won’t be my last.