Here I am, nearly a year after first hearing about it, finally giving Minecraft a shot. My first attempt didn’t go so well. When night fell and the zombies came out, I retreated to the back of a cave to hide until dawn. Of course, it’s dark in caves, and even darker in caves at night, and zombies are persistent. So when I heard zombies coming and I was unable to see anything, I did the only thing I knew how to do: I attacked the darkness. My inventory consisted of 8 flowers, 3 mushrooms, and 9 blocks of dirt. Of those three things, I figured the blocks of dirt would make for the most powerful projectiles. So I equipped them and right-clicked to throw them in the general direction of the moaning. I threw them until I didn’t have any more to throw.
I don’t think I killed any zombies. But I did succeed in walling myself in so I couldn’t move. Or see anything. I tried jumping, right-clicking, punching, crouching, to no avail. There’s apparently no crouching in Minecraft. Having Cask of Amontillado’ed myself, I think my only recourse is waiting until I starve to death and respawn. So, yeah, game one of Minecraft. So far, so good.
My second (and final?) game, after the jump
For guys like me who like a little guidance in our sandboxes, Minecraft’s achievements are a way to walk you through the basics so you don’t wall yourself into the back of a cave. Fair enough. I spent quite a while trying to punch down a tree before realizing that all I had to do was hold down the punch button instead of click individually for each punch. I’m willing to work out some of this stuff on my own. After all, there are blocky ducks, sheep, cows, and octopuses scuttling about adorably. What a pretty sunset. What an even prettier moonrise.
But now I’m stuck trying to figure out how to makes sticks. I get that you punch down a tree for wood, which you then craft into wooden planks, which you then craft into a workbench. But sticks? How am I supposed to make sticks? I accidentally made a few, but I have no idea how. And Minecraft, a game that has sold four million copies, can’t be bothered to tell me how. Every achievement from this point is based on me figuring out how to make sticks. Sticks. You know, the things you break off trees that are nowhere in evidence in Minecraft. I have hit a brick wall made of sticks.
But that’s not what kills Minecraft for me. I’m accustomed to figuring stuff out. If there’s one thing bad videogames have taught me over the years, it’s figuring stuff out. What has killed Minecraft for me is my own expectation for a construction sandbox. Early on, in that walking around and admiring how retro-cool this world is, I found a tree next to a pool of lava. The tree caught fire. And then the trunk burned away, which left the top part of a tree floating in the air. A burning tree. A hovering burning tree, suspended in mid-air like some sort of Old Testament omen. I watched it float and burn, simultaneously. So this is Minecraft, huh?
But maybe that’s just funky glitch involving fire. Surely when I chop away the trunk of a tree, the rest of the tree doesn’t just hang there. Right? Right? Wrong. The thorough Minecraft lumberjack has to reach up and punch down the higher parts of a tree after he’s punched down the base of the tree.
Look, I don’t want to be an unappreciative jerk, but Minecraft hasn’t figured out gravity? In X-Com, which was made nearly two decades ago, this tree wouldn’t be floating in the air after its trunk was chopped down or burned away. It can’t have been easy, but Nick and Julian Gollop figured out that when the bottom story of a building is destroyed, the top story shouldn’t then hover in mid-air. They figured out that the basics of what we expect from the real world deserve a place in a videogame world, even if it’s about extra-dimensional psychic aliens invading Earth and laser guns and action points. I have a few fundamentals when it comes to destructibility, and things falling down is one of those fundamentals.
I can respect that people love Minecraft and especially the things they’ve done with it. I’ve seen the YouTube videos. Bravo, Minecraft fans! When and if there’s more of a game in here that doesn’t rely on my fumbling around trying to craft sticks, and hopefully physics that include gravity, I look forward to giving it another try. But the release version of Minecraft is an interesting experiment whose physics consist of the ability to completely bounce off me.