I’ve been chatting a lot with DeGei, who you might know from listening to the Group Quest podcast.
Quick plug, if you haven’t listened to it, it’s a great roundtable discussion of things in WoW. There are always great discussions that get me thinking.
DeGei and I have mostly been talking about pet battling and old school raiding, but one day he turned the topic, quite subtly, to what Alex was doing lately.
“Alex is mostly playing with toys and the 3DS, or tablet games like Star Wars Angry Birds. He pops in and out of Warcraft, but the complexity and difficulty of the game this expansion is hampering things.”
I should have been suspicious. I should have suspected something, but no.
Oh no, not me. Blind fool.
“Well, has he ever tried Minecraft? I think he’d really like it.”
Uh oh. Another one of THOSE freaks.
He hasn’t played Minecraft, but I grudgingly admitted that the option was available.
Back in August of 2011, Cassie asked if I’d heard of ‘this Minecraft thing’, and said the game was on sale, buy the game and get a gift code for a free second account. We could buy it, try it, and if it seemed cool give it to Alex, AND one of us could play it too.
I bought it and tried it out a bit… and I was totally lost.
No quests? No breadcrumbs? No instruction manual on how to make shit? What the hell was I supposed to do with nobody there to hold my hand?
I read a little about it on the internet… Survival mode, monsters that would come to eat me and I had to scramble to try and build a crude shelter, light a fire, say what now?
Where are the menu of commands? How do I make anything? OMIGOD I’M SO CONFUSED.
it wasn’t for me because, hello, Warcraft, and Alex does NOT like survival zombie apocalypse ‘grue will eat you’ kinds of stuff at all. Alex was really loving World of Warcraft at the time, so I decided to shelve Minecraft and leave it the heck alone.
Fast forward to today, a year and a half later, and an uncomfortable conversation.
“No, he has never played Minecraft, but, um… we own it. So I don’t have a real good excuse as to why not.”
I signed off, and decided to dust the install off and give it another try. I knew it was still on my computer somewhere, because the Curse Gaming downloader saw it and added it to my list of games that had addons available. Curse knows my computer better than I do.
I found it, dug up my old email with login info, loaded Minecraft up and started trying to figure it out.
I would have given up again, except I decided to use my leet WoW skills. Namely, I went looking for a website that would tell me what to do.
Ah, the lessons learnt from WoW. If something takes more than 3 seconds to figure out, look for an internet guide.
With the beginner’s guide from the Minecraft Wiki open, I began to puzzle things out. Hey, this game is pretty cool, this is neat, you can…
“What are you playing, Daddy?”
Oh, shit. Busted. Cold, flat busted.
“Umm, it’s a game called Minecraft.”
It turns out EVERY KID IN HIS CLASS plays Minecraft, and talks about it sharing stories and tips.
They compare notes. They brag about hidden things they’ve discovered, as kids do.
I was asked, could I, maybe, just possibly, install it on Alex’s computer so he could play? Maybe? PUH-leeze?
Yeah, he’s gone.
Here’s the thing about Minecraft.
Minecraft is the LEGO of video games, before LEGO became all about movie video games done in block style.
You get out of it what you bring to it, and you really do tear down and build up anything you can imagine, one block at a time.
Yes, the graphics are primitive, but once the switch flips in your noggin and you realize this is a world made of LEGO blocks, and YOU can tear the existing blocks down and build whatever the hell you want, that’s it.
So, that’s what Alex has been playing lately. And I blame DeGei, damnit.
Alex started in the default game mode, ‘Survival’, and had a lot of fun with it. He learned how to mine, make torches, tunnel caves, make doors, and grasped the idea of ‘hide when it’s dark’ better than I might have wished. The game has taught him to be afraid of the dark and cower in a cave.
What’s really interesting is, he wasn’t even in danger at the beginning. He never saw a bad guy, but he had heard enough to know to fear what creatures the darkness would bring, so he’d build a shelter and focus on making it defensible, and being inside by lights out.
He was on the easiest difficulty, where he can’t starve, or really die except from falling or lava, and where monsters don’t even spawn in the game to hunt him. He could travel in the dark with impunity, he just didn’t know it.
Once he found that out, he got a bit more adventurous, although he had a rough time when he got lost far from his crafted home once.
I left him to it. I used the Minecraft Wiki to teach him how to make various things like torches and better pickaxes, and a crafting table and furnace, but other than that he was on his own.
A couple of days of busy activity, and he proudly showed off his new island home.
He’d found a small island off the coast, installed a stone road lined with torches, built a stone multi-storied house with real doors that you could open and close, put in a trapdoor to the basement with a pressure-plate for an ‘escape hatch’, built up a massive tower with torches all up the sides so he could see it like a lighthouse leading him home at night, and he even led chickens from the mainland to his island.
Just… amazing. And all of it from his imagination.
So, he was happy, but in order to advance, I was going to have to really break out the crafting item wiki to figure out what else he could do.
Then, chatting with Tish Tosh Tesh about Minecraft, it turns out Tesh plays it with HIS kids, and they play the ‘Creative’ mode.
Um, the what mode?
Oh, Creative mode! Where you can’t die, you start with infinite amounts of every item/block in the game, and can fly. So, you can build ANYTHING, anywhere.
Wow. Can Alex handle that? What if having everything so easy without having to mine materials and make it by crafting ruins the experience?
I am so FRICKING FUNNY.
It’s been about a week.
He has made a massive multi-level walled fortress with turrets, minarets and battlements. He has one tower filled with lava, and another tower next to it filled with water.
He has a basement chamber that is the petting zoo, filled with various animals like chicken and sheep.
He has a wolf that he tamed, using a technique taught to him from a school friend.
He built a special doghouse in the castle for his tamed wolf, and spent two days frustrated as heck that the Wolf kept escaping the doghouse, despite walls or whatever, until his classmates shared the cause… tamed wolves teleport to your location if you get too far away.
He dug down into the ocean, built a sub-basement and installed glass windows so he could look out at the sea and the swimming squid.
He built soaring towers of glowstone as a beacon and floors of glowing magma rock.
He has a big bed in his bedroom, and he’s got this chicken that seems to like hanging out there, because every tie he logs in, there’s the chicken… in his bed.
He’s got winding staircases and signs and… wow.
He loves it. And he loves it even more because he is able to talk with his classmates about the shared experience, all of them playing the same game, having something in common.
It turns out that the modern peer activity isn’t hockey, or football, or any other kind of sports.
The peer activity for his class, the NORMAL activity is video games, and specifically a creative video game called Minecraft.
I have a small sliver of hope for our future.
What will the world look like, or this corner of it, when it’s hard to call someone derogatory names based on being a geek when everyone grew up doing ‘geek things’ and there is no stigma of ‘the other’ attached to it?
He loves it, and he likes that he can talk about it with friends at school.
DeGei has told me about addons and modifications, but I’m really confused about that stuff. I don’t want to change things on Alex too much all at once, and most addon packs seem to have a ton of stuff all rolled together. I’m sure he’d like some additional items, but how to choose what, and not go too far?
Enough. It’s a great game, and I’m sure once he starts to wander, addons will bring more for him to excited about. Time enough to worry about it then.
Wait, World of Warcraft in there somewhere?
As far as World of Warcraft is concerned, he still likes the game, but this expansion has been very hard.
Some of the quests are designed to be challenging for normal players to negotiate, so he’s been running into some problems that lead to frustration.
He gets through them eventually, but when the stress level is that high, he takes his WoW in small doses.
He was really jamming the pet battles and taming, but he’s stalled a bit on that because he’s in the 19 range, and it gets hard to tell where to travel to for your next pet tames, and it can take a while to grind some levels on those pets. When you’re leveling in Pandaria and everything is 23 – 25, your team of 19′s don’t help.
He’s at the point now where he plays his Death Knight just a little bit questing, but he really looks forward to playing with us in places like Molten Core, AQ40 or Karazhan, where his level doesn’t matter because we’re all overpowered there anyway.
He still likes World of Warcraft, but it’s for playing as a family.
For everything else, it’s Minecraft. It’s all about creating his own thing fresh, and proudly showing it to Cassie and I.
What lesson could we learn from this?
I know one lesson… if there was an area in World of Warcraft where he could easily design his own house, walls, basement and barnyard, and populate it with animals and plants and whatever else, he’d stay in WoW all the time, too.
When it’s just visiting something someone else designed, if there isn’t something to kill, quest or craft, it’s only so good for so long.
Maybe that is where your farm in Halfhill is heading, but there will have to be one hell of a step up to compete with the world building in Minecraft.