Hello Darkness My Old Friend (or The Sound of Zombies)

What’s that you say? Am I still playing Minecraft? Why… why, yes, I am. And in fact, inspired by watching Gordon playing single-player at the Normal level of difficulty, which means “darkness brings the zombies”, I’ve decided to give that mode of play another go. Previously I’ve turned off the zombies because they were just a pain in the ass without seeming to add much to my experience of exploration.

Today’s important observations in the game were on the nature of darkness, then. I can’t think of another game I’ve played that’s forced me to have such an intimate and crucial relationship with the dark and the need to vanquish the dark. Even in the absence of zombies and other nasties, Minecraft is hugely a game about lighting up the darkness – especially if you’re exploring caverns. The basic fact of the matter is that you simply cannot see in the dark. Revolutionary, I know, but surprisingly absent in most games nonetheless.

Inching your way down a vertical shaft, carefully placing torches as you wait for the bottom to emerge from the darkness is quite an experience. Particularly if you’re worried that your general incompetence will lead you to fall down into that darkness. Allow me to share with you that this happens quite a lot to me, sometimes including me falling from a great height, landing in water, and being swept away on the current, all in pitch blackness. These are the experiences that make Minecraft both nerve-wracking and wonderful.

With zombies turned on in my latest game, the dark has become yet more significant, because if it’s dark then zombies may turn up out of that darkness. This makes lighting up the caves I currently live in a matter of great urgency. It also means that I spend time essentially walking into the dark, fearing for my life, and then hurriedly attaching a torch to a wall and whipping out my sword, trembling at the thought of what the light will reveal. It also means that when I run out of torches and stand there in front of a pitch black cave entrance, I feel afraid. Actually afraid.

And then I hear a gurgle and a moan and a shambling step.

28 October 2010
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