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Minecraft

29 November 2010

On one world, I found a cave complex I named Many Rivers. The cave entrance exists near the seaside, and I know that those near-endless caverns extend well beyond the coast and into the oceans themselves. I often wonder if they connect to other islands, other continents…

At the center of the cavern, three subterranean rivers converge in a swirling vortex of water, it plunges through a sheer pit into a vast pool of lava, cooling the center into an island of obsidian glass. One day, I know I will mine that glass, and use it’s unusual properties to carve a hole from this world to the next.

I dug a base for myself from a pocket of stone not far from the grotto where the three rivers converge. There’s more than a few paths from the Fortress of Many Rivers to the surface. I took to mapping the trails with the glowing red powder I discovered in isolated pockets of loose stone near the lava.

I need to return to the surface and craft myself some signs.  With an armload of wooden planks, I could label the individual passages and paths. Perhaps with an accurate enough map, I could determine the last patches of dark beneath the ground, from whence the dead rise and horrible creatures walk. Wood is certainly more common than the red dust I’ve used thus far.

I’m not in a hurry though, I have all the time in the world on this isolated strip of land. I sometimes consider hiking the interior, or hewing out a boat from the trees and traveling onwards to the horizon. Maybe there are others here somewhere, maybe I’m not completely alone, building in silence within the depths.

This is Minecraft, and this is the only way I can think to explain it to someone who hasn’t played it. The game has no narrative, no story to connect it to our lives and give it meaning. Despite this, it’s an extremely compelling and addictive game. Like the homes and mines we carve from the randomly-generated terrain, the game itself invites us to carve a narrative out of the void it leaves behind.

The hunt for meaning in a meaningless world is an existentialist quandary. The plight posed by the blocky and cartoonish game-world reminds me of my long past trip through the Nevada dessert.

In the nevada wastes, I witnessed entire communities from the window of a greyhound bus. These tiny villages had carved out a living from what (too me) seemed to be nothing more than empty patches of dirt; A meaningless waste, generated at random by the harsh realities of the desert.

Here, in what I would consider the middle of nowhere, you still have people, humans who create community from land, cinderblocks, and cement. They brought meaning with them. It didn’t exist before they arrived, and it will disappear should their tiny community ever succumb to the ugly truths of rural life.

If you believe, as existentialists do, that the universe is a random and careless place, it can be easy to mistake such a truth as an invitation to depression. If the world you walk through has no grand plan for you, then what’s the point?

The deeper truth of existentialist philosophy lies in the answer to that question. What’s the point of a meaningless world? You are. If there is no grand plan, no detailed roadmap laid out by the hand of god, then every action you take is the grandest of plans, every plan you lay out becomes a plan from god’s own hand.

You create meaning, both in the game and in the world.

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