World of Minecraft

The Glass Mountain project in Minecraft is rolling along nicely. You can see the current state of it (more or less) in the screenshot here (click to enlarge). The process of making this thing has hit a point where, having hollowed out a really big internal space and placed a lot of glass bricks, I’m wondering where to stop or what the metrics of the whole enterprise are.

One thing I’ve definitely gotten out of the project is a more refined and felt appreciation of construction as a process. That’s not to say I feel like I’ve learned what it feels like to be a builder or architect or whatever, but that Minecraft allows you experience the process of making something substantial, and that process is an important aspect of the reality we live in.

Making a mountain out of glass has a number of key elements. You have to look at the landscape around you and identify an actual mountain. You have to make a house to live in while you work on the project. You have to create tools and equipment to work with (pickaxes, shovels, smelters, workbenches). You have to gather resources like sand, stone, iron, coal. You have to transform those resources into more refined products, like glass. You have to survive in the harsh world while you work. You have to do the work itself, chipping away at a mountain, trying not to break the glass, lighting torches to work through the night.

By going through all of these aspects of constructing a large project you can’t avoid developing an appreciation for just how much goes on. When I stand a distance away and look at the mountain, it’s not just an aesthetic effect divorced from all else, it’s the produce of hours of work – mine in this case. And this transfers to the stuff we see daily. Those buildings were built by people with tools and materials. The tools and materials were build and transported to the site. Someone had the idea of how the building should look in the first place. And on and on it goes.

It’s very easy to be blind to the sheer constructedness of our daily environments, but games like Minecraft, which allow us to work in all aspects of construction, can bring them back into focus.

5 February 2011
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