House Spirits to Keep You Company

House Spirits to Keep You Company


The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt

Classic SFF Review

A Wizard’s Sacrifice by A. M. Justice – Cover Reveal and Excerpt

A Wizard’s Sacrifice

Cover Reveal & Excerpt


A Noob Plays Minecraft

Minecraft (cover)Gaming. It’s a big thing in nerd culture, and yes, I do consider myself a gamer. Though perhaps not a super serious one, I played quite a lot while growing up—Zelda, Mario, Spyro, Crash Bandicoot—and I always turn back to video games even now when I need a break. (I got Zelda: Breath of the Wild last Christmas, and my goodness, it’s amazing.) But there’s one game that I never got around to playing: Minecraft.

It’s okay. You can take a moment to digest that shocking revelation. After all, how could anyone consider themselves a gamer and not play Minecraft? I’d seen the title around, of course, and knew quite a few friends who absolutely loved it, but it never really drew my attention.

Minecraft, as you probably already know, is a first-person sandbox video game. (Noob Notes: Sandbox means it’s an open-world concept where the player can roam and select the tasks they’d like to do, as opposed to a more progression-driven game, where the story is segmented or in levels.) Minecraft is one of the most popular games in the world, and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. Plus, my sister recently got an XBox One with the game installed, so I decided to take a dive into that famous blocky setting.

Creeper (meme)At first blush I was kind-of unimpressed. Okay, seriously unimpressed. I honestly couldn’t understand the appeal. You mine for a long time than craft the mined materials into something usable and then just…build things? That was the whole game? I tried to be positive when I first turned on the console but my attitude wasn’t really in it. Plus, the controls weren’t as intuitive as I would’ve liked. I spent the first couple of minutes crouched and wondering why I couldn’t walk very fast. (Though, to be fair, that might be because I had never played on an Xbox One so the controllers were a little off kilter for me in general.)

Anyway, I knew I could get over odd controller quirks, so I pushed on. I was on an adventure with nigh but a block of dirt I managed to mine to call my own. And guess what? I died. A lot. I died when a creeper blew up when I hit it with my little block of dirt. I died when a random skeleton shot me with an arrow. I died when I tried to swim across a pond and an octopus ate me. I died when a black spider with red eyes that could only be from one of my nightmares attacked me while I was mining some pretty yellow flowers. I died a lot, guys, and that was really disappointing. All of the stuff I mined would be left where I died and then I spawned in a random location! (Noob Notes: A creeper is a green dude that sometimes explodes when it dies. Run away when it starts flashing white. Run far, far away. Spawning is what it’s called when things pop into the world—so you spawn, or come back, after you die; animals spawn in different locations depending on the environment; enemies spawn way too often at night.)

waiting for morning by ohmonahWhen I spawned again, I learned how to build a crafting table, so I figured I could build a chest to keep my stuff safe. That worked out great, until I died (AGAIN) and couldn’t find my chest since I didn’t spawn right next to it. So, the next time, I focused on building a tiny dirt house, a crafting table, a chest, and most importantly a bed. (Noob Notes: Once you sleep in a bed, you spawn at that location! Super helpful.) Since I had that bed and house I felt pretty good about exploring the world a little more. Well, I explored and mined and got some amazing things…and then I couldn’t find my way back to my house! It’s an open-world game, so I got lost a lot. I also left my map back at the house so that was really unhelpful. I ended up dying again.

But even after I rage-quit a couple more times, I still gave it a chance and slowly but surely the game grew on me. It’s more than a simple building game as I first assumed. It’s an exercise in exploration and invention. I improved my house, now made from cobblestone instead of sand and bigger than my first. I got better at planning ahead by actually taking my map with me and putting a candle on a tall tower above my house so I could see it at night. I mined stone and made more advanced weapons and tools. Once I discovered the animals—I found horse and sat on it, and hearts appeared over its head!—I was hooked. Now I have a pen full of sheep and let me tell you, the babies are a-freaking-dorable!

in a tight spot by Stan LoiseauxAnd it’s quite a pretty game, too. When I first started, I unfairly compared it to Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I missed the sheer beauty of Zelda; the artwork is amazing and I have a soft spot for the story. When I first started playing Minecraft, I was a bit disappointed in the graphics and how…blocky the world was. (Noob Notes: The whole game is made from blocks, every single thing. Want a sword? Have some blocks lined up in a row.) But as I explored the world, I realized Minecraft has some stunning images, too—the way the moon looks, the cute sheep I mentioned earlier, the tiny square raindrops. It’s not Zelda, but it’s beautiful in its own blocky way.

Overall, Minecraft is a good game. It’s peaceful when mining, it allows the players to be super creative, and as long as you have swords, nighttime isn’t that bad either. I can see now why so many gamers like it, and I’m glad I finally tried it out. Plus, I’ve heard there’s an ender dragon, you can create portals to other worlds, and floating cities are a thing, so I like the fantastical element to it as well. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure style of play, and I finally understand why it’s gotten so popular…exploding creepers and all. Mine on, my friends, mine on.

Title image by Unknown Artist.


One Comment

  1. Games are supposed to be fun. They help pass the time. But the best games are didactic; they teach important skills.

    Endless games like Minecraft sometimes achieve both of those most needed qualities in a game, providing enjoyment while teaching the player something. From your review, it is clear that Minecraft has a learning curve with real-world lessons to learn from playing it.

    But that endlessness issue really gives me pause. I’ve played my fair share of endless games, from MUDs (Multi User Dungeon’s) in the 90’s to MMORPGs like the highly addictive CardHunter.

    Games like this are a mirror to your self. As you play them and interact with other players, you discover that the sorts of choices you make in the game are very much like the choices you make in the real world or are at least the types of choices you wish you could make in the real world.

    Having realized that games reflect my real identity, I’m not quite as interested in gaming anymore, since I’ve realized that life is its own game.

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