The seemingly unavoidable joy of Minecraft

By Dan Dunkle | Apr 04, 2014

A while ago now, my 13-year-old started talking about Minecraft.

It took some time to register with me because at first it was just a nonsense word. Our conversation would go like this:

Me: "How was school today?"

Wesley: "Boring. So Dad, afterschool, I went on Minecraft, and I had a diamond sword and armor, which is really good, but then a creeper came and blew up my mine. I was wicked mad, but I got it back."

"Uh... so nothing happened at school, huh?"

With my experience as a reporter, I should really have asked follow-up questions. "What is Minecraft? What is a creeper? Why would you need a diamond sword? Does this sword have magical properties?"

You know how a chef doesn't come home and cook for his family, or a massage therapist on a day off doesn't give back rubs? After work, I sometimes don't bother to ask questions.

Over time, though, as Wesley kept talking about it, it started to work its way into my consciousness, like osmosis.

I figured out that Minecraft is a videogame. It involves placing blocks and destroying blocks. You can play on creative mode, just building houses, palaces, castles, Star Destroyers, or you can play on survival, trying to build a house and gain armor while monsters including the aforementioned creepers attack you.

This is the kind of game you tend to play on a PC, and for the most part, I play videogames on PlayStations. I've owned versions 1 through 3. The exceptions being Zork and old Atari games like Adventure (Read "Ready Player One" to make this all seem cool).

Eventually, though, Christine downloaded Minecraft for Wes on the PlayStation in the living room. So one day I tried it.

Then I tried it again. Now I'm trying to cut down on the number of times I try it, per day (note, that's a rip off of a "Kids in the Hall" joke).

But Minecraft is oddly addictive. On creative mode, you have this amazing power to build anything, as big and grand as your imagination. On survival, you have the joy of exploring deep caves, finding iron ore and veins of gold, only to be killed by a skeleton with a bow and arrow.

Just like real life, you have to build yourself shelter, you have to find food or your guy will starve to death. You can amass treasures for yourself.

People post videos of themselves playing this game on YouTube. Wesley watches a lot of these videos. It's strange. When I was a kid, I would never have watched a TV show about people playing Q*bert (or would I?). See example above.

My 8-year-old and my wife also like to play. You sometimes have three of us clicking away at once on our controllers (we don't have four controllers or you would have all of us at once).

My biggest complaint is that this game has creepy music. Over time, it makes me feel weird and surreal.

This is also, of course, a total waste of life. That's the problem with the modern digital world. It creates a false sense of accomplishment.

"I have 500 Facebook friends, 300 Twitter followers. I have 92 experience points on Minecraft and have full diamond armor," a modern American might boast. But in the real world, they're broke and haven't talked to anyone in months.

For example, I have built an entire ship in Minecraft. It has a forecastle, steerage, cabins for the captain and mates, a hold for goods, three masts complete with sails. Took me hours. Meanwhile, in the real world, my kitchen needs remodeling. What am I doing about that? Nothing.

The good thing about it is it's more about creativity than just mindless killing.

And in a way, it's not a total waste. As Wesley gets into his teen years, there's the potential for us to have less in common, but for a few hours here and there, we share an adventure together in a magical world, and I'm OK with that. Now, at least, I'm listening and asking those follow-up questions.

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