Minecraft and the Ends of Things

Great Uncle Bill was an amazing man; he lived with my Aunt Irene on a good-sized piece of property in Martinsville, New Jersey, and we would visit them at least once a year for family picnics and gatherings. Since I was about five years old at the time, I didn’t really know a lot of people yet, but Uncle Bill was the first person I knew that had solar panels – two on the roof of the house and two freestanding in the backyard. The  power they generated was used to heat the hot water heater in the house and run the lights and whatever electronics that were associated with the swimming pool. Uncle Bill ordered plans and parts out of the back pages of periodicals like Popular Mechanics and Omni magazine. He was that guy.

Late one summer evening, the family was sitting outside and there were a few rabbits hanging out in the backyard. Uncle Bill handed me a saltshaker and said, “if you sprinkle salt on a bunny’s tail, it will fall off and you can catch it.” That evening I ran myself tired trying to catch bunnies. I never caught one. However, that knowledge nugget stuck with me. I knew it was irrational, but it was something I was told and something I believed for far too long a period of my life.

Uncle Bill has been dead for some time now. A few years after he died, the house was torn down along with his masterpiece of backyard technology. I think it is part of a condo complex now.

Like many children, I enjoyed toys that I could build with. I liked models and LEGO and Erector sets.

One Christmas I got a set of of imitation LEGO called Loc Blocks. On the box, there was a picture of two children playing with them. They were smiling and wearing comfortable clothes. Loc Blocks weren’t interchangeable with LEGO. LEGO had minifigs and Loc Blocks did not. As you can see on the box, there is a picture of a Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy made out of Loc Blocks. Those images haunt my dreams.

As a child, adults led me to believe many things. One of them was that Loc Blocks had been specifically designed for play, only during the morning hours.

It was either my aunt or my grandmother that told me this. This was because the children in the picture on the box were wearing clothes that could resemble pajamas. I believed the rationale behind it, because the boy was wearing some kind of football jersey. If you recall, Janet from Three’s Company would wear a football jersey with a big zero on it as pajamas.

I knew then that there was something that didn’t make sense, but it didn’t matter. It was something that I believed and this is something that I remember. Eventually, the idea of morning play disappeared.  Loc Blocks and LEGO all ended up in the same box and were thrown out.

On rainy days, when my dad was home, we would occasionally play on my Bally Astrocade. The Bally Astrocade had two pistol grip-style controllers and came with three games built into the memory of the machine: Gunfight, Checkmate, which was not a chess game but more like Snake or the light cycles from TRON, and something called Scribbling.

Scribbling was awesome.

A very basic drawing program, Scribbling makes MS Paint look like Photoshop. The “game” was just to draw stuff with the joystick. That was it. It was up to the user as to how much fun it could be. My father and I made up our own game,  a simple one. We would color the whole screen blue, and then about three quarters down the screen we would make the rest green. We would then build a house, out of pixels. Thin white lines would map out the door and walls. The game was in the details that we would provide. I might draw a chimney; my dad would make the smoke. There would be a fence, a mailbox and usually the sun or moon.

Eventually we would “scribble” until the screen was full of birds and blocks. Since this was a time before games had storage, once the machine was turned off, the environment we created would disappear.

The adventurers arrived at Castle Pardue and the clang of the gates welcomed their entrance. Within the walls of the castle is the courtyard, where the heroes gathered. In the middle of the courtyard grew a tree, which had come to be known as the Heart Tree. It was the nexus around which all of Castle Pardue was built. The tree instilled the castle with a sense of sanctity.

Some of the heroes went off on their own, wandering the halls of the fortress for what could be their last time. Others took to the crafting tables to work on some final supplies before their journey into the unknown. As more heroes gathered, the courtyard began to fill with discussion. Some voices were tinged with panic and others with frustration, but all held an underlying sense of excitement.

“I am ready to make a choice – I hope all of you are as well!”

“The Ops be damned! Does he need a monument that can only be seen from the skies above?”

“We must fight the beast! To know that we live!”

“Tonight we fight, or tonight we die!”

“If we all had the powers of the Ops, we would not have to live in fear of the night anymore!”

Several pigs and chickens looked on at the din but they seemed to be uninterested in the goings-on. One of the heroes fed the pigs some wheat. After chewing the wheat into a cud, one pig seemed to smile. It had no idea what lay ahead for the group.

Life has no meaning here! We have no life to speak of! This is all here for us to do as we please.

“What if we die in there? What will happen to us? Will we be brought back to this eternal endless land? Will all of this mean nothing?”

Small traces of each hero’s individuality could be seen behind their armor. Some were builders and some were adventurers; others were loners or farmers. There was a place for everyone in that endless land, even for those who are cruel and breed monsters to exploit and experiment on for their own gain. Some might think of that as playing God. Is this world broken? Will this adventure be the event that brings forth the tools will fix the world?

“Who are we to say that it is not us who are the monsters of the daytime in the Overworld?”

“What will be left of the world once we have completed the final task?”

The storm of questions spun around in a frenzy. The answers were all the same: the heroes must finish the fight and end the questions by seeking out the answer.

“Some of us might not come back! What then? Who will mind their towns, their people?”

Finally, one voice rose above the rest. “People?” shouted the one they called The Doctor. “These people are nothing more than empty shells, not individuals. They have no soul. Nothing has a soul here!”

The Doctor pulled out an egg from his pack and threw it on the ground. A chicken appeared. “I just created life! Life has no meaning here! We have no life to speak of! This is all here for us to do as we please. If the land becomes too corrupt, why should we care? We can just invent the world all over again. Do we ourselves all already have the power of the Ops?”

A distant thunderclap rang out and a quiet settled over the group.

Later that evening, the group set forth to the Ender Portal to reach the final battle of Minecraft and to have it all mean something. The adventurers truly became heroes when they fought the Ender Dragon. You have to play the game to see what happens. Their world is persistent; we can leave it, or we can start it over again.

Nothing lasts, so make the best of it.

———

Follow Chuck on Twitter @JapanDudeGirl. He no longer tweets about Minecraft.

Subscribe to Unwinnable Weekly
Categories:
Charles Francis Moran VI, Commentary, Gaming
Unwinnable On The Web: