Tuesday, May 17, 2011


On my last post, Brady of How to Kill Your Characters was "a little offended" - his words - at my Minecraft statement yesterday.  I had said that Minecraft was a piece of shit.  Note that Brady did not say that he disagreed, or that he felt differently; nor did he offer any evidence or convincing proof that might demonstrate why I might be incorrect about my statement.  Instead, Brady's response was entirely emotional.

No, I'm not going to rake the fellow over the coals.  Brady offers a fairly well written, middle of the road blog - at least as far as the game goes - with much emphasis on top ten lists.  It's not the sort of thing I'm interested in, but Brady's opinions don't offend me and I was not upset by the mild, thrown away backlash about Minecraft.  So I don't have any reason to rant.  Of course, I retain my opinion about Minecraft - having been given no reason to change it - but I'm not invested in that opinion so I really don't care, one way or the other.

This post is about something different, and Brady's response of being offended is merely an excuse to talk about it.  That being, how we respond to things we are invested in.

My first thought upon reading Brady's comment ... quote ... "I'm a little offended by your Minecraft statement, by the way" ... unquote ... was: "Did you create it?"

If, by any chance, Brady is one of the actual designers and programmers responsible for the existence of Minecraft, then yes, I do apologize, it is more than I could create in my basement and I did not mean to specify that its very existence should never have been brought about.  On the other hand, in terms of my interest in EVER playing the game as it exists now, I am unapologetic, since I won't.  At some future point, minecraft might appeal to some part of my interest.  Anything is possible.  But as it stands right now, no.

This second position, I would think, is the sort of position that is implied by virtually everyone when they say things like, "I hate chocolate ice cream," or "the Detroit Red Wings suck," or "Tim Burton fucks a big donut."  Culturally, there's no doubt that certain groups of people are offended by things like this.  Groups that identify with the product, and with the pleasure the product brings.

I should point out that in context, I was making the point that Minecraft was moving towards where the computer game experience ought to move.  In other words, that it was a valuable template for future design.  Sort of like the original phonograph that Edison's paid lackeys invented.  An unreliable piece of shit, basically, that was later improved upon and proved influential in the cultural landscape.  Sort of like I expect Minecraft to be.  The game as it is now?  Shit.  The game as it might be someday?  Gold.

Sort of like I view original D&D, now that I have improved on the game to suit my own tastes.  Yes, the game was fun then, but I was young and impressionable and had no familiarity with roleplaying games.  Still, I began to see pretty quickly where the game sucked big honking road apples, and I was happy - along with my friends - to throw those out and start making the game better.  I still am.

Would I, at present, go back to playing D&D the way it was originally written?  Not a chance in hell.  Not even for an evening, just to "remember what it was like."  I remember what it was like.  Kind of stupid.  Not like the game is for me now.

Last night, fooling around on YouTube - like we all do - I stumbled across some 1980's advertisements for Atari game consoles.  This inspired some head shaking, holy-shit-games-were-pathetic laughter, at the same time remembering all the time spent playing some of those games.  For two seconds one of the advertisements included a screen shot of a game that I recognized like being stabbed in the heart with a knife.  A game I had not played since the 80's.  I couldn't even remember the name of this game.  I could only remember that I had spent an ungodly amount of time playing it, horrific that it was, at least as much time as I now spend playing any game of today.

But a little research into game console game lists and there the fucking thing was:  Impossible Mission.  And not one of the updated versions, mind.  No, the original piece of crap itself.  And I used to play it on my Commodore 64.

Is it okay if I call this a piece of shit?

Games, thankfully, got better.  And I moved forward to waste large parts of my life with games less frustrating and more interesting.

I think we do ourselves a disservice when we become too invested with things.  I love D&D, as I said, but the D&D I play ten years from now is going to be a better game, overall, than the one I play now.  And if someone out there wants to say that D&D is a piece of shit (it isn't hard to find people who will say it), then that's fine for them to say.  I don't invite them around for games.

I know, I know, I get testy about things people say and I go off on rants intended to make them feel stupid or to otherwise abuse them.  So obviously I go a lot farther than Brady when it comes to having a visceral, vicious emotional response.  But I do try to incorporate more than emotions into my answers.  I don't just want people to be polite to me and tolerate my likes and dislikes.  I want them to understand why I like this, and not that.  I want them to know that I greatly appreciate the improvement in the games industry so that afternoons when I am bored are not spent avoiding dumb robots and listening to monotonous electronic feedback.  I want them to think about how Minecraft is not really very good compared with how Minecraft is going to be someday.

If we love too much things of the past, the past is going to be all we have.  And everything that IS right now, IS the past.  I'm not ready yet to quit on the future.  It has too many things in it that I really want to have.


DRANCE said...

I'm curious, have you ever codified your house rules for AD&D and made them available for download? I assume that you're not using a retroclone, correct? I'd be interested to see what your extensive modifications to the original rules look like.

Alexis said...


I think I'd have to answer, this blog and the wiki. I haven't felt it needed to be codified to any greater degree than that, though I do continue to work on things when I have the time.

At present, the Conflict! system I'm planning on selling to people has stolen from things I had hoped to get on the wiki by now.

DRANCE said...

Yes, codified. Organized or collected together.

Brady said...

Just to clear up any doubt, I didn't have any part in creating Minecraft.

Arduin said...

It's been a some time since you posted this one, Alexis, so I'll apologise for the tardiness of the comment.

I do, however, think you're coming at Minecraft, and indeed, your assessment of it, from the wrong angle.

Yes, nostalgia is a deceptive force, and we should be keenly aware of the flaws in our mediums of play. I might enjoy Koei's "Warriors" series, but I certainly don't imagine they are the definitive method by which to experience the Romance of the Three Kingdoms period in gameplay.

But Minecraft is only a game in the sense that D&D is a game, as you yourself have noted. The actual game itself forces no objective upon you, other than, perhaps, survival. The rest is merely using the interface to do as you please.

And that, to me, is where the mild feeling of offense arises. If you've taken a look around Youtube, for instance (since you hate the game I'll assume you haven't) and looked at some videos of Minecraft creations, there's some pretty impressive shit. The scale model of the U.S.S Enterprise, the non-scale (but still very large) model of Earth; a computing machine operated via special torches.

You're correct in that it can and should and -will- be improved, but what's there isn't neccessarily shit because of that. AD&D, while most certainly flawed, isn't shit right out of the gate merely because it can be improved. It is, in fact, quite a good game. More appropriately, it is a good interface, in much the same way that Minecraft is an interface.

Just as you've used the tools of AD&D (your own additions here being akin to the 'modding' community) to create a vast and detailed model of the reality you're out to interact with, the same can and has been done for Minecraft.

You ask if he made it, but it's not as if you yourself built AD&D, nor has any famous sculptor I've heard of joined up with a mining crew to personally carve out his hunk of marble, nor the painter weaving plant fibers for paper and dyes, and so on.

Point being, just because we have rendering software doesn't mean watercolor is awful.