Do you remember being a child and getting scared by the world? The kids in school were picking on you or your parents yelled at you for something and you just wanted to escape. Strange visions of far-off lands filled with beautiful trees, glistening sand and pure, pristine water shot through your mind.
For most of us growing up in the ’90s, we took to video games as an escape. Some kids had tree houses or went to the park. Others hid under their beds or underneath the bed sheets and read stories. We all had some kind of escape from reality that helped us cope with tough times.
When we grew up, though, those imaginative worlds and places left. I suppose books are still around, but video games have definitely taken a turn towards realism. I find that I have nothing to really look forward to when I’m having a tough day, mainly because video games are almost a perfect recreation of life.
I recently reconnected with an old friend of mine. I had caused quite a rift in our friendship over a trivial matter and it hurt me dearly. I found solace at the bottom of bottles in dark, dreary and often unoccupied bars. I became isolated, scared and wished for distant realms to escape to.
He, on the other hand, found Minecraft. When I saw him for the first time in two years, he showed me this game and it blew my mind. I had always known about the title, but never really experienced it. I thought the entire thing was just some gigantic time sink with an aimless attitude, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
My friend explained how one of his buddies on Xbox Live took to building an entire apartment complex after he broke up with his girlfriend. He was so overwrought with depression and anxiety that he didn’t want to carry on with life. He wanted to shut himself away and cry for days.
Instead of giving up all hope, he let his creativity expunge into a fully functional building in Minecraft. Once he had completed his apartment after four days, he was no longer sad and wanted to start life anew.
My friend then explained how he carved out some caverns under the island in an effort to confuse people from his secret lair…which was two steps east from the entrance. He had long, winding rail tracks that lead to nowhere and a few death pits thrown in for good measure.
There were moats of fire, gigantic statues of men vomiting and a blimp that served no purpose other than to claim, “WE BUILT THIS!”. Minecraft had given my friend an avenue for some of his ludicrous ideas. When things troubled him, instead of punching walls or cutting himself (two of his most telling cries for attention), he would concoct ideas for how to expand his Minecraft getaway.
I then remembered when I was young and wished to run away from the world. I loved Pokemon and had fantastical ideas about islands where Charmander would run free and I could be the absolute master of the world. I wanted a vista where I was king and people respected me for my achievements.
As I got older, I obviously learned to think realistically, but I also lost that sense of wonder and awe. I used to be a creative writer, but I turned to journalism in an effort to make my craft more concise and understandable. I didn’t want people to read my asinine ideas and think of me as weird.
When times got me back into darkness, though, I wished I could just flee. I wished for a world where there was no war and everything was themed with an Eastern design. I wished for lush greens, deep blue seas and bright, orange suns. I wished for tall mountains, dark marshes and valleys in every direction.
It took me until now to realize that I can have that. Not only do I possess the ability to make that world a reality, but I can also digitally re-create that idea. If I’m really feeling dark, though, I can make that whole idea a hellfire. Or I can have floating Moai heads.
Sheep in the country side, grazing on the grass. Those very same sheep can be cast alight, too. Absolute perfection of construction with towering skyscrapers and quaint, cottages. The city can also be broken, battered and in shambles. The world is my oyster, as long as Minecraft provides the tools.
The best bit, though, is that Minecraft has shown me that even the most abstract and guideless of ideas can lead to inspiration and creation. They can also rekindle a long dormant friendship. I may never pick up Minecraft, but I do now understand its purpose in the gaming world.
Instead of assuming its popularity rose from Deadmau5 falling in love with the game, I now just “get” why people crave it. Minecraft is like being a child again. There are no rules, no regulations; everything is just fun. What more could you ask for from a game?