Coming Home

Having done more or less what I wanted with the Glass Mountain in Minecraft, I decided to randomly load another of my saved worlds to just see what kind of state it was in. As luck would have it, I chose the world in which I’d spend ages preparing myself to walk as far away from home as possible to experience the landscapes along the way. At the time of loading, I’d already travelled a long way from home.

Standing out there in the unknown really brought home how important the spawn point is in Minecraft. You could build a house anywhere on the surface of the giant (infinite) planet, but your true home would still be the spawn point. Naturally enough, too, since “from the spawn point we come, and to the spawn point we will return.” The spawn point is very literally the centre of your existence in the world of the game.

Importantly, though, this doesn’t just lend itself to a technical understanding of the spawn point (“okay, sure, that’s where I spawn”), it’s lends a very strong emotional pull to it also. The spawn point is home. And home is where the heart is.

Out in the wilderness of the loaded game, I wanted to go home. Like a character from some coming of age novel, I felt I’d been terribly foolish and reckless to just leave home behind in favour of adventuring. Frankly, adventuring seemed empty and pointless to me, while home seemed safe and normal. Eyes on my compass, I started to run back the way I’d come.

It took a long time. I had to make boats to cross seas. I swam vast distances. I ran around mountains. At one point, caught in the dark on land, I heard but didn’t see spiders and skeletons trying to kill me and ran and jumped for my life. They had me down to a sliver of health, but somehow I managed to find water and swim away. At one point, making the almost fatal error of checking behind me, I saw the red glow of a spiders eyes as it swam steadily on. A touch too much like the terminator, actually. Still, I prevailed and escaped, spent the rest of that night in a tiny crevice in a cliff face.

The journey home was harrowing, to say the least. Perhaps strangest about it of all was the very fact I feared death so much – if I died I would just end up… back at home. But dying my way there didn’t fit my image of a homecoming. I had to get there on my own blocky legs.

One of the more pleasing moments was, as dawn rose on another day, realising I recognised the landscape around me, that it was the surrounding area of my homeland. I recognised the giant overhanging cavern with a waterfall tumbling pristinely into a pool at its base. I recognised the eerie vertical shaft I’d almost fallen down once before, long ago. Then I saw the tower I’d built, resplendent with torches, to guide me home when I got lost. I ran toward my house, opened the front door, and slammed it behind me.

I feel it’s not often you get to “go home” in a game world – most often you don’t have the chance in the first place (the hero’s journey usually takes him further afield), and even if you do it’s not really home anyway. The joy I felt at making it back in one piece (or most of a piece, anyway) was quite surprising to me. I felt like a weary hobbit from a Tolkein novel, finally back after a dangerous quest.

6 February 2011
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