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Perhaps its the perpetual summer feeling of my home state, but I never understood why people liked to move fallen leaves from one side of their property to another. The whole affair strikes me as a waste of time (they come right back) and an extreme case of persnicketiness (seriously, they come right back). That is until today.
During a brief walk to the Post Office, I spied an elderly neighbor doing her best to ward back the invading army of leaves which had befallen her driveway. Summoning the power of the wind, she calmly pushed them back into a neighboring yard or out onto the street. Despite my language, it was a rather mundane scene, but it did remind me of a similar phenomenon in my gaming life: Minecraft.
In a recent attempt to re-engage my interest in Minecraft (and finally beat the damned thing), I started a New Game as any player familiar with what comes out at night: I began building a log cabin.
It wasn’t just any log cabin, however; this was going to be my base of operations for all my adventures. After gathering the proper materials, I staked out a perfect claim near a small bay, and began terraforming the area into the perfect foundation for my base. I got rid of excess trees, vegetation, and farm animals. But by the time night had fallen, my oversized log cabin only had half the wall done. A Creeper spotted me through the open half, waltzed in, and gave me the perfect incentive to end this whole ‘let me play Minecraft’ again thing.
Yet, for all the time I spent perfecting the landscape to my ideals, I was thoroughly engaged. One of the great thing about sandbox games when they do hook you is the depth with which the hook sinks in. There was no prying me from that seat as I rearranged pixels for zero gameplay benefit. In fact, building a small closet might have kept me going longer or at least until Minecraft’s dull gameplay bored me to death. It’s the non-game portion of the game that makes the rest work, and that can be extended to the arguably superior game, Terraria, despite so little of my time there spent crafting elaborate structures.
Avoiding the broader question of why human beings are so obsessed with reconstructing a perfectly suitable environment for arbitrary/cultural/ornamental reasons, have you ever experienced this kind of profound connection to a game? The sort where you tire away endlessly doing something that you neither are looking to show off to others or expect any real gain (in this case, measured by how it modifies gameplay)?
I am sure most of us have. I’d also bet that a few of us have stories of when we became more self-aware of this behavior than we were comfortable enough to admit. It had not occurred to me until witnessing that lady with her leaves how overwhelming this basic aspect of human nature could be and how easily it could be translated into a virtual world.
Is this a good thing? Should games be more concerned with tapping into this behavior or more focused on being actual, you know, games? What about counter-examples? I certainly have met people with zero interest in building anything beyond basic functionality in many games. Rather than grandiose plans for a city in a city building game like Banished, they go the boring (I think) route of incremental urban planning. Their way tends to lead toward better results, but often at the cost of aesthetic quality, which seems quite important to me with those sorts of games even if it isn’t measured in any meaningful gameplay ways.
Feel free to add your own experiences below.
#Minecraft #Sandbox #OpenWorld