Alone in the Dark

Played some more Minecraft this evening on the same multiplayer server. I spent quite a lot of time trying to find my way back to an area I’d been in earlier, thereby demonstrating my profound lack of way-finding skills in the game. In fact, getting lost has been one of the most strongly felt fears I’ve had in the game. The idea of being lost in the game world and never finding my way home, or being separated from my companions, say, has always worried me much more than being eaten (well, punched) by zombies.

Still, getting lost isn’t quite the end of the world, because if it really comes down to it you can just kill yourself to end up back at the spawn point and, usually, your home (or one of your earlier homes). Yes, you can lose a lot of great stuff, but them’s the breaks – at least you can go home.

So today I randomly managed to encounter the best version of my fears yet. I was running around in the wilderness trying to find this particular location and failing. Eventually I figured I’d just kill myself, so I leapt off a high ledge down into a cave system. It didn’t kill me, and so I decided to just charge off into the darkness of the caves, figuring I’d fall off something or the monsters would get me.

It got very, very dark. And then I got disoriented. And then I realised that I had no idea whatsoever of what I was going to do. I had no torches to light up the area. I had no way of killing myself, since there were apparently no monsters around and I couldn’t see well enough to fall to my death. Nor could I see the way I’d come from. It was just me, spinning and jumping around in pitch blackness, wanting to die, but unable to.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so powerless in all my time playing games. There I was, in complete control of my avatar, in a perfectly reasonable physical situation according to the underlying structure of the game world, and I was totally screwed. With no way to die, I started thinking about how I could get access to the game’s server to teleport myself somewhere, engineer a little literal deus ex machina.

Fortunately, as I thought these thoughts, I continued madly jumping around in the darkness and, out of the corner of my eye, saw a dull glow. As I scrambled toward it it turned into the entrance to the cave system and I emerged, chastened as to the true dangers of the dark.

1 March 2011
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