Always Be Prepared, Diamond Pickaxe Edition

Today I started playing some single-player Minecraft to get more of a feel for the game on my own, rather than collaboratively. It’s a distinctly different experience to be in the giant, procedurally generated world all on your lonesome, nobody to talk to. I imagine you could go stir crazy – so you’ve got to keep busy!

My current thrill in Minecraft is basically to go for long walks, find spectacular scenery, and do the odd bit of spelunking if a particularly gorgeous cave turns up. To do that, however, you need some equipment or you’re screwed. Thus, today, on starting a new map in single-player, I spent quite some time literally just preparing to go adventuring. I’m still preparing.

First of all I had to make a house to survive the zombie-infested nights. That’s a whole other story of its own, I won’t go there. House established, I had to start gathering materials to make hardy equipment that would last once I set out for my treks in the wild. That meant going into some deep caves to find iron ore and, preferably, diamonds, to make the best possible pickaxe, shovel, axe, and so on.

But to go into the caves I found near my house I needed coal to make torches or it’d just be pitch black and I’d fall to my death. So I spent a couple of days desperately sprinting away from my house toward distant mountains and scouring them for coal deposits, trying to make it home before dark. Quite a weird and desperate experience.

Eventually I got enough and since then I’ve been exploring and mining a giant cave system right next-door to my house. I’ve found plenty of equipment, including the requisite diamonds for a long-lasting pick, and some red-stone so that I can make myself a compass that will lead me home when the time comes to return there. I’ve been much more systematic about exploration, planting torches always to my left as I proceed so I can keep them on my right on the way out, blocking off dead-end passages I’ve already explored with sand, and so on.

The point at the end of this story of preparation is really just how much I love that I have had to do all this preparation in order to go on a journey. Without all the equipment I’ve built and the resources I’ve mined, I’d literally be screwed once I headed out into the world. Thus, my simple goal of being able to walk, care-free, through the epic landscape, immediately pushed me to a very deeply nested set of subgoals, which also led to beautiful moments of exploration. To free myself from “home base” I had to first establish my home base very firmly (and, frankly, it’ll feel nice to know I have somewhere to return to).

Minecraft is that kind of game. It’s a life in a virtual world, rather than a game. To achieve your higher order goals, much as with with life, you often need to prepare the ground first. You have to earn your freedom.

But now I’m ready. I love to go a-wandering. Got a knapsack on my back.

26 October 2010
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