I’m Not Racing, I’m Just Sprinting

 someone on the internet is wrong

Arguing on the internet is a waste of time. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, and you aren’t going to convince anyone of anything on so vacuous a medium.

But sometimes, someone is just… off the mark. Offensively so. And so here I am, throwing my hat into the ring in defense of we Builders.

I chose this video over the vast trove of Minecraft demonstrations littering the web because it does just as good a job of demonstrating the innate beauty locked away inside the human imagination. If you want something a bit more topical, just google “Minecraft” and click the videos tab.

My point: The dude in the video above is dancing — I’m assuming he really likes that song.  Then he posts a video of it on the internet, and a few people see it, and like it, and pass it along. Hasn’t blown up or won him national accolades or anything (there are “only” 45K views).

But that’s not the point, is it? “Hey,” he says. “I have made a thing, to music I enjoy.”

And fuck you, it’s beautiful.

“But I can’t play along, because there’s nothing in it for me, no skill points or dialogue options or Achievements beyond simple joy and the satisfaction of knowing I created something from nothing. And that’s not enough.”

–seraph, “Minecraft is for Kids

You are the problem. Your inadequacy — because that’s what it is, inadequacy — and the inadequacy of the enigmatic “adults” to whom Jeff Vogel is referring to in “The Hardest Game. For Adults” is the problem. Also, it’s insulting — let’s not beat around the bush here, “X is for Kids” is the one the more basic, uninspired pejoratives out there.

But it’s your problem. And your myopic arrogance.

Minecraft isn’t for kids. And neither is Lego — see: The Brothers Brick — or building sand castles — see: Random Google search — or whatever other scapegoat you choose to explain your inability to wrap your brain around the joy of exploration and creation.

I blame television. And religion. Television (and popular media in general), because it has so bastardized the classical notion of the Hero’s journey, leaving behind a formulaic husk. Storytelling without a “point” becomes boring. The Silmarillion — one of the finest literary examples of world generation I’ve ever encountered — is derided because there’s no consummate payoff. Whereas something like Star Wars is idolized because it feeds everything we’ve been taught to need so well: stock instances of nobility, sacrifice, redemption and love, all wrapped up in neat 2 hour segments.

And then there’s religion. Religion has taught us to place a fear of the end above all else: life becomes a matter tallying concrete accomplishments, moving from one event to the next in the most morbid race this side of the Special Olympics [god I’m such a dick].

Spoiler: we all die in the end. The fact that you’ve racked up more achievement points or read more banal literature or ran more miles than the rest of us doesn’t unlock a bonus round in the end. You (all of you) will die. And while some will last longer than most, those of us who spent our days with a short glass of whiskey building empires or worlds or stories with friends and loved ones or with our own imaginations will have lived no less of a life.

Hell, I’d argue we came out ahead. Because the time we spend designing [dwarf] fortresses or tinkering with [eve] spreadsheets or traipsing through randomly generated forests, [mine] crafting disposable tools or just punching trees colors our personalities. Because we live to build, and to explore, and place more value in shaping or disassembling things than digesting what someone else has wrought. You? You expanded your vocabulary, and probably got buff. Cool.

“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”

— Neil Armostrong (i think)

Which isn’t to say that running laps or lifting weights or watching TV is a waste of time.

Scratch that, Television is an abysmal waste of time, but that’s only because other peoples’ stories tend to bore me (unless they’re really fucking good: See Tolkein, Delillo, Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, etc).

There’s simply a difference between saying “I don’t get Minecraft / Dwarf Fortress / Dancing on my Own because I prefer structure” and “A thing loses meaning when its meaning isn’t an explicit one.” And it’s a problematic difference: the reason we rely on smaller developers to make Minecrafts and Terrarias and Dwarf Fortresses, while the “Adults” are gorging at the trough o’ sequels.

Here’s another take:

Conversation 1:

“Did you choose option A or B?”

“A, with the shotgun on that desk.”

“Oh, sweet! I totally went with B, with the sniper rifle in the vent. You should try B on your next play through of that segment.”

Conversation 2:

“Last night I was trying to figure out how screw pumps work. See, I diverted the flow of a river to flood a pit to drown the goblins who keep invading after I’d trapped them in cages  (they’re too dangerous to leave alive). But I needed to pump the water out of that pit to get the loot they dropped, and get more cages in there. But Winter set in by the time I’d dug out an impromptu aqueduct, which froze over the water in the aqueduct (trapping my dwaven architect — sorry about that!) and stopping that process short. So I send a horde of miners to dig him out, but goblins start to siege and kill them all. And then invade my fortress. So as a last gasp I opened the floodgates, and drowned err’body.”

“Why didn’t you just flood the entrance? I set up a network of floodgates at the mouth of my caverns. Those goblins charge all the way in, I shut the doors, open the gates, drown them all, then shut the gates, open the doors, and let the water flood out the front. It’s messy, and leaves everything all muddy, but I’ve moved my pastures into an inner courtyard anyway. Try that on your next fortress. Better yet, let’s grab some paper and doodle some plans.”

Neither option is wrong, or even preferable for everyone — different strokes and all that.

But which moment in time would you rather be a part of? Let that decision define how you “define” play. Not some petty “Adults” or “Kids” label.

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