Out of all the things I’ve experienced, the tediousness of common-days is the most unsettling. It is a reminder of the mundane, a reminder of wasting oneself. Anger and melancholic throwbacks have their unpleasantries, yet they do offer me a sense of awareness. Wouldn’t you rather fight an epicly-difficult boss rather than smash one small unsatisfying foe, then another, then another?
On one hand, there’s escapism. Not good-looking enough, not a hero, not having a lover, not able enough to protect your causes? Enter video games – you can swing a sword around, heal people, shoot a bazooka, establish dominance and shout in dragon-tongue.
On the other hand, there’s a “catalytic” function – taking a walk and smoking help you think due to their reflexive nature. It’s a nice wordplay that doing an activity out of reflex helps one reflect. Games oftentimes require focus, require an active effort, reason for which it might seem unlikely to be able to think and wonder whilst playing a game. And sometimes, they don’t (require effort).
There’s a huge gap between the two. One is avoiding a problem, further allowing it to mess (around with) you. The second is processing the problem, accepting its existence and finding solutions. Games are notorious for the first part – we all know the stereotype of the nerd, the geek, who finds sanctuary in the worlds within games. Let us explore the possibility of the other.
Minecraft is one big thing. It’s a game for modders, streamers, builders, circuit-makers, adventure-seekers, burn-the-worlders, socializers, family-timers and everyone in-between. It’s a sandbox with all kinds of sand and a survival with all kinds of tools. I’m unaware of where the parameters lie in the formula of success (I really wonder if Notch himself knows); what I am aware of, however, is the source of a chunk (heh) of its beauty: the world.
The world is the player’s playground, despite it seeming something larger than the player. Is our own world larger than ourselves, since we’ll never get to experience its entirety?
When you hear ‘meta-game’ you might think about strategies, builds, tactics, or about games that break the fourth wall. When I do refer to the meta-game, I refer to any purpose which interacts with the game, or uses the game, despite it reaching outside of the game.
The pickaxe is a tool used to obtain resources, convert resources (stone to cobblestone) and undo (building) mistakes. The game-world is, as well, a tool – a tool used for a particular meta-game reason (build a castle), or an outside the game purpose (play multiplayer with the kids). It also functions as a catalyst for resource-conversion: time, electricity, CPU-power and our input and attention span generate the experience of play.
I see it as a highly hermetic matter, an “as above, so below” of sorts. Minecraft, the way I see it, achieves through its design the exploration of our inner worlds – because we shape the game and play the game the way we desire. But is it not that every game does it? To an extent, they do – although, that’s over-analysis already. Plus, sandboxes offer the grandest variety of tools for us to ‘meta-game’.
Minecraft makes me think. Minecraft makes me think a lot. Whatever the purpose, when you play it and go mining, you can’t help but think. Some thoughts are game-related (how many diamonds do I need), some are related to the outside world (what should I cook for dinner), some are dialogues of self-exploration (I like to build – I should build more).
The pleasure of mining is the same pleasure as the one of taking a walk, and it requires the same (minimal) amount of mental effort. What’s more, both are made by reflex and both offer another set of passive and gradual changes (getting resources/ores and getting healthier).
The pleasure of mining is the pleasure of thinking.
Apotheosis is the climax, the highest state of something. Minecraft lacks apotheosis – yeah, sure, there’s the ender dragon and the philosophical dialogue at the end, but you can continue playing after that. Funny thing is, our lives lack apotheosis also – we can’t reach perfection nor an ultimate state of any kind.
Yet, we thrive, and we work, and we try, and we fight. We are in an ever-present conflict with ourselves and the status-quo/ world-state.
Get a nice job, see the world, eat chocolate, enjoy the little things, do good deeds – these are things we live for. Why do we play Minecraft? To build a rollercoaster, to fight a dragon, dive into the depths. All of these have little purpose to the world – they have purpose to ourselves. The game-world, the product of algorithms, sprites and soundtracks, doesn’t recognize what a rollercoaster is – yet, we do. The real world, the product of laws of physics, doesn’t recognize what a meaningful life is, or what divinity is – yet, we do.
The grandest of meta-games is apotheosis.
Obviously, we won’t reach god-state by playing Minecraft, nor by eating chocolate. It’s natural to do things which we think steps us up. We might do an infinite amount of changes and apotheosis remains asymptotic.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed this article, this little wild ride of mine, and you’re gonna stay for some more. Most of my content is not as esoteric.
As of recent months I’ve been at war with myself and I’ve been losing battles. Guess I’ll pay my old Minecraft world a visit.