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  • Writer's pictureCarrumba

Coffee Shop Sermons (Minecraft edition)

Two years from celebrating half a century on this rotating galactic life-boat and I have finally bothered to play Minecraft - a clear fifteen years after my kids. Two late nights and some well oiled RSI later, here's what I think. Let's have an unreasonable discussion..

I clearly remember my eldest kid sinking hours and hours into minecraft, glued to his monitor, crafting away and questing deep into the caves with friends. My youngest casually built an entire pirate ship, complete with caged villagers on a tablet PC whilst sat in the back of the car - I might have been intimidated by their expertise and stayed in my lane of space exploration and casual tank murder. After 12 years, I finally decided to dip my stone pick-axe into Minecraft Java to see what I could do and, my goodness - it's like digital crack! Too late, I have realised what an horrific, addictive time-sink I unleashed on my kids! I've already had a couple of "oh, it's nearly 3am, I better go to bed" moments. The 30 draw-distance stare is real.

The game is a winner for its complex simplicity. I have built my initial survival box, expanded it with crafting facilities and access to fully lit mining - it even had a thriving wheat and bamboo farm outside. I was very proud of myself. Meanwhile, my eldest had terraformed the side of a mountain to create a hobbit hole with a sunset view to die for. Second eldest had farm animals, full diamond armour and had collaborated with another experienced minecraft friend (who had also previously enticed me to pick up the game- hello Oldcrowexpress!) to build an impressive skeleton harvesting murder and filtering device. It was a level of efficiency and organised brutality that would make Suella Braverman proud.

Enderman character from Minecraft. Black stick man with purple rectangular eyes and surrounded by purple sparkles
Me after playing Minecraft till 3am

Despite being a decade of experience behind my server companions, I am thoroughly addicted to the game. I have since bulldozed my initial home after being enlightened to the use of bamboo scaffolding and, having created a motte and bailey style castle to live in instead (the planned moat was discovered to plough through the bedroom of the subterranean annexe of home number 1!), I am now exploring the mahoosive caverns that my mining has stumbled across complete with lava and red stone. I love the way the game doesn't hold your hand and crafting is a voyage of discovery, with a whiff of coding in remembering combinations of ingredients and placement orders. What is a pretty basic, low-threat environment (though the hypno-eyed Enderman still manage to creep me out when they appear next to you as you are balanced precariously over a precipice in a cave) challenges your creativity instead. Already I am looking at my new castle, and I am trying to think of ways to add corbelling, golems and decorative water-spouts. I want to start making a massive suspension bridge to hobbit hole-on-mountain island. It's a helluva time-sink.

At first, I was hit with a wave of regret for not playing the game sooner and playing it with my kids as they were growing up and experiencing it for the first time. But as I have thought about it, I think that was my natural FOMO kicking in, and I am actually more pleased that they have had this experience as their own gaming secret which they are now letting me in on. It's their world to be expert in, like Elite:Dangerous is for me. It's also a healthy source of entertainment for my kids as I plod about thinking I am making great strides as they move in their own time continuum, building rings around their slothlike dad - imagine The Flash meets Mr Bean.

Apart from my slow realisation of crafting a universe (slowed even more by Baldur's Gate 3 - damn, that's a good game) I am now engaged in the task of trying to remember how to FTP stuff like it's 1999 and get plugins working on the server - no easy task apparently. The tweakability of the game is truly legendary and the Java version of the game, along with the range and quality of the mods, appears to have survived the behemoth of being bought up by Microsoft and made into a Windows game because the original version is much more readily adaptable. There are mods for the Windows version however they seem to be a pale imitation of what is available on the Java version. I am playing the game through the PC Xbox Game pass and it speaks volumes that it is so easy to play the Java version, rather than being railroaded down the Windows route.

This is why Minecraft has such a healthy future. The game has just released a major update (Trails and Tales 1.20) and even has RTX capability in the Bedrock edition._ There is a lot that is done superbly by Mojang that will be the envy of many companies looking to build a long-life persistent MMO - a huge chunk of that is trusting the player base to create content that enriches the base game available. It won't be possible for everyone however, Minecraft provides an interesting model for those MMO's approaching their twighlight years that could get by on a developer crew of sub five hundred employees.... with a massive parent company swimming in cash. Yeah, I guess that's a *bit* of a catch.

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