So my brilliant plan to play Minecraft and keep an entertaining diary of the experience hit the showstopping snag of me playing Minecraft. By the time I realized how long it had been since I updated the series, I had other priorities, like coming up with an excuse for all those weeks of missed work and showering.

What day is it?

(I think it was the end of Tom Francis’ hugely entertaining Minecraft Experiment over at PC Gamer that inspired me to dust off the blog and start writing about Minecraft again. The “experiment” was Francis’ attempt to take death seriously in the game by deleting his entire world any time he died. Eventually, he went through a long journey to Hell and back. It’s like Dante without the metaphors or potshots at 14th century Italian politicians. Check it out, it’s well worth the read.)

Maybe it’s possible to play Minecraft casually, the way so many people abuse meth casually. But if you’re anything like me and most of the rest of the game’s rabid fanbase, that’s not an option. You’ll find a tutorial like this one, which instructs you to build a 50x50x2 dark underground room full of canals (that’s 5000 blocks you have to clear just to get started) so that the monsters that spawn will be drawn into a trap and you can collect their dropped items from safety, and you’ll think, that’ll save me so much time! You’ll think this because you are deeply invested in the creative possibilities of Minecraft’s virtual world, and also because you are crazy.

I can’t think of a better way to spend four and a half hours.

So yes, I built a 50x50x2 monster farm underground. It’s just one of a long and still-running series of ridiculous ingame projects I’ve worked on. Here’s a brief overview of what I’ve done since that first Minecraft diary…

I ended up abandoning my original world after I experimentally loaded up a new one and found it much more appealing. Lots of hills, mountains and cliffs overlooking an icy sea. Close to my spawn point I found a natural cave that made a perfect starting point for Castle Quinn. Many hours later, this is what I have:

The castle is connected via a two-level bridge to a tunnel that leads to this small boathouse, a few feet from my spawn point. If I die at night, I can quickly run inside to safety.

The tower offers me some lovely views. Beneath it is a greenhouse, and far below that is an enormous cave system that I still haven’t explored fully.

Zombies sometimes spawn on the roof, hilariously.

I was originally planning to do most of my building and landscaping in the area around my castle, but then I went off exploring one day and discovered this crazy mountain/mesa thing:

Well, there was no way I could ignore that. I planned to build myself a little vacation home up there, but as with all Minecraft projects, it soon ballooned into something much more grandiose. I ended up with a grand villa, complete with a glass pavilion extending over the valley below. The villa was originally supposed to be about twice this height but it turns out you can only build so high in the game before you hit a ceiling. The stone columns are right up against it.

Living in style.

Eat your heart out, Grand Canyon.

It doubles as a farm.

The villa has become my primary residence in the game. The top of the mountain is well-lit enough to keep any monsters from spawning, and affords me lovely views from above the clouds. I wonder if you’d be able to breathe up here in real life.

The villa is connected to my original castle in two ways: via portal, which takes me to a covered tunnel in the Nether (the game’s version of hell) through which I can run back to my castle-portal in safety; and via rail, which is much less practical but way more awesome.

Eat your heart out, Amtrak.

Wheeeeeeee!

Since my pavilion is nearly at the maximum height of the world, there was only one practical thing to do with it: dig down as far as I could to create the ULTIMATE HIGH DIVE. Minecraft takes the “soft water” approach to water physics and allows you to fall any height into water without taking damage, so this is the quickest and by far the most dangerous way for me to get from my villa to the mines (and monster farm) deep below.

My newest project is a Bioshock-inspired underwater lair, located in a bay about halfway between my castle and villa. I’m planning a complete arboretum for it. Did I mention I am crazy?

Rapture can be yours as well.

So is there any value to all this? What am I getting in return for all these countless hours spent rearranging blocks in a fake computer-generated world? I guess this is a question you could ask about any video game, but I certainly didn’t put this much time and energy into Red Dead Redemption.

Well, I don’t have a great answer for that. I think Minecraft is more of a simple but deep 3D art program than a true “game,” and what I’m doing in here is just as satisfying artistically as drawing a picture or writing a story. The only thing that bothers me is that, unlike my novels or comics or animations, I can’t ever hope to sell or make any money off what I’m doing in this game. But if that ever becomes the sole metric by which I judge the value of making art, I’m in serious trouble. Art is not a very practical way to make money and never has been; if you don’t create for the pure joy of it, at least in part, then it’s probably not the best use of your time. Building in Minecraft is true art for art’s sake (and play for play’s sake, if there’s even a difference between the two). Plus, I can’t remember the last time I got this much fun out of ten bucks.

So, obviously, I’m going to keep playing. And I’ll probably update this diary a little more frequently, if only to have something to do with all the screenshots I’m taking. I’m hoping to join a friend of mine on a multiplayer server soon, which will greatly expand the building possibilites of the game and add some fun human-interaction unpredictability to the experience. Stay tuned!

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