Minecrack: A New Player’s Story

Into the Deep

Never mind girls, diamonds are a miner’s best friend. I should know, I’ve spent the entire afternoon digging and tunnelling into the dark abyss just for a few cubes of the shiny things. Long hours spent searching the darkness for them are justified by the fantastically durable tools they make. It’s seemingly impossible to hit a rich seam, and the few blocks that do carry diamonds often hang precariously above hellish lava pools. Today, I risked a painful cremation building a narrow cobblestone scaffold above the fiery stuff just for a mere three gems, one of which frustratingly plopped into the molten death below with an angry hiss. Rookie mistake.

A few weeks ago, Minecraft would have, at best, evoked an indifferent ‘meh’ from yours truly. It looked good, sure, but it wasn’t for me. I played the free version on-site a few times, but without objectives, limitations or risk, it seemed to me to be a rather pointless sandbox. Without challenge, there was no reward in building an epic castle or other equally impressive construct. Three days ago, however, I took the plunge and began playing the ‘Beta’ (the current paid-version), a totally different experience, and a much better one at that. Now, I’m hooked. The only sounds I hear when falling asleep are the pit-pats of a pickaxe on rock, the crunch of a shovel on gravel. I might as well be seeing my furniture in cobblestone cubes. If Minecraft were a drug, it would be the most trafficked in the world (not that I want to draw a comparison between videogames and depravity). ‘Minecrack’, they’d call it.

Despite the warming reassurance of Armand’s excellent illustrated beginner’s guide, I spent the first day in my randomly generated Minecraft world in sheer bloody panic. Night would bring zombies, spiders and those bastard creepers. I had, however, bigger and brighter ambitions than simply ‘surviving the night’. Survival?! Pah! “I am an engineer of Brunellian proportions, not Bear Grylls”, thought I.

Then, the sun set.

Spare me the creepers!

I had no wood. Instead, I had spent the daylight hours pretentiously surveying a mountainside and punching a couple of sheep. Oh dear. I frantically began piling dirt blocks around myself as legions of monsters grew audible in the distance, until I was entombed in dark as black as pitch. I had little choice but to wait out the night, struggling to keep my cuboid underpants dry as a veritable menagerie of undeath shambled about within metres of my tumble-down shelter.

The following morning, after a petrifying surprise encounter with a pair of stealthy creepers in an idly dug narrow tunnel, I made the cowardly decision to lower the game’s difficulty to ‘peaceful’, thereby turning off monsters. Don’t be fooled by Minecraft’s pixelated look: this game is frightening, and it’s proof that photorealism and gore aren’t prerequisites for trouser-ruining scares. Mining in the dark, one’s imagination is one’s worst enemy, particularly when enemies have a disturbing habit of appearing when least expected.

Minecraft is like Lego. Lego, that is, for big kids with computers and worrying amounts of time to kill. Lego with exploding green phalluses. Lego capable of instilling fear. Well, okay, it’s not entirely like Lego, but there are certainly comparisons, the most obvious being the vast amount of space both allow for an expansive mass of imagination. If you can dream it, you can build it, as long as whatever you dream isn’t spherical. The internet is awash with videos and galleries of player creations, from sky-scraping towers to a mind-bogglingly accurate reconstruction of the USS Enterprise. Minecrafters have built rollercoasters, log flumes and temples; villages, bridges, underwater bases made of glass, and even a videogame-character version of Mt. Rushmore. With such incredible room to do whatever one pleases, it really is no wonder the media has gone absolutely Minecraft-insane.

My adventures in the four-faced world of Minecraft are only beginning. Having found a deep-rooted mountain amidst a forest of snowy trees, I plan to tunnel, excavate, dig and, well, mine it hollow. Why bother? Sure, the gold and the diamonds are nice perks, but I have a destiny to fulfil: Moria. Yes, that’s right fellow Tolkien nerds – the dark caverns of my rotting mountain shall become the dwarven halls of Lord of the Rings fame, complete with titanic pillars and the infamous bridge of Khazad-dûm. I’ve already redirected rivers and bridged gulfs of molten rock in pursuit of my ambition and when all goes to plan, I’ll make sure to share my exploits here. Maybe I’ll turn monsters back on if I’m feeling brave enough. Moria needs goblins after all.

Building a bridge could be, uh... tricky...

Lego Rock Raiders, Minecraft's long-lost cousin.

I doff my cap to Notch, Minecraft’s original creator. Through passion, he turned a Java side-project into a phenomenon worth millions whilst never ceasing as a creative force. The game grows from strength to strength, and 2011 undoubtedly holds untold fortune for the new development team and players alike. At a personal level, I’m thankful for the vast amount of nostalgia it has provoked thus far, as the game reminds me immensely of a tragically overlooked PC/PlayStation classic, Lego Rock Raiders. Minecraft allows me to relive those experiences and best of all, I can do so with friends thanks to some truly awesome multiplayer options.

Kotaku recently asked its readers whether or not Minecraft is really any different to the Facebook phenomenon FarmVille. Is it? Both are open sandboxes with no narrative underpinning; both focus on almost obsessive gathering of resources and a careful spending of them. The similarities between the two, however, end there. Does FarmVille allow the construction of fortresses of gold or valleys of diamond? No? Oh. Alright then. Stupid FarmVille. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Gandalf-swallowing chasm to dig.

Here be diamonds. Somewhere.

*  *  *  *

Do you have your own Minecraft stories? Planning anything big? Share and tell below.

2 Responses to “Minecrack: A New Player’s Story”
  1. Armand K. says:

    Great story Declan. I laughed throughout the whole thing. I too have dreamed of constructing Moria (though I couldn’t recall the name of the place,) until I got distracted by all the awesome mods already out for the game. I hope to do a writeup about some of the better ones soon… but that giant room with all the huge stone pillars is what made me want to do it.

    My current goal is to mod the game to the point where it’s about tribes of burrowing animals fighting for space below ground while avoiding hungry wolves above. Not sure if I can pull it off, but sure would be fun. 😀

    Anyway, welcome to the cult..um, I mean club. We welcome our new mining brother!

  2. Rexly says:

    Very nice Declan. You are very ambitious with the whole Mines of Moria idea, and dropping the difficulty to peaceful is not cowardly…it’s a difficulty where everyone can be just as ambitious as you are without the fear of zombies every night.

    I have yet to unleash the fury of zombies because ever since day one, I played the game on peaceful to build my little utopia of a stone tower with a bridge that leads to a huge mine that connects back to my stone tower via an underground tunnel. Also included are a huge cobblestone house and a spaceship project that I abandoned because I realized it was just way too much. So now I’m working on an underwater temple. Whew, that’s a lot. I join Armand in welcoming you to the mining community. Let your imagination soar.

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