I dream of Minecraft – Paste

“Girls came to check the house,” my roommate tells me. “I would have let them in, but I was tearing Minecraft, so…”

His excuse is common with me lately. It pairs well with the endless five-keyboard babble that pervades our thin, shoddy walls and floors, the echoes looping through the Discord call connecting people to just one floor. Locked away from the rattling and banging in my room, I hear a subdued “damn vine”! and moan. My roommates started their most recent Minecraft phase.

Although it was the recent “Caves and Cliffs” update that got them hooked this year, a throwback to Minecraft has been an annual event in my house. For about a month, this college collection returns to middle schoolers as gaming becomes their raison d’etre. Classwork, group movie nights, and even sports are all put on the back burner during their quest to not only completely dominate the ender dragon, but to break the game in the process.

I’ve never been a particular fan of Minecraft; the game felt a bit like building LEGO without a guide to me, so I often get lost trying to follow what they are doing. They play like seasoned veterans as their 13-year-old muscle memory kicks in, and the internet notifies them of any updated content that might have appeared in their absence. Starting from scratch, it only takes a few hours for the party tower to be erected, followed soon after by massive farms, villager corrals, water lifts – if there is a way to manipulate the game , they’re doing it.

Every year, I rack my brains to find an explanation; most of my roommates would rarely call themselves “players” so how can they be wrapped up in Minecraft so often ? A roommate posits that it’s relaxing, that the game is so ingrained in their memories that playing becomes a hobby. They often spend hours in-game making little progress, instead focusing on harvesting and transplanting their crops while discussing the mundane things together. Nether travel is like grocery shopping: explore while grabbing what you need and heading out. The end goal of slaying the ender dragon seems like an afterthought; they would much rather spend days molding the world in their favor just for fun.

There is a high possibility that they will play the game with a deep sense of nostalgia. Minecraft has been aging for years, his 13th birthday just a few months later. Recently, Mojang developers have added more to the experience than ever before; the nether update and Minecraft Dungeons both arrived in 2020. Even with all these changes, the heart of Minecraft has not necessarily increased over time. The game is largely the same as when it launched, making it easy to come back after a while. The various quality-of-life improvements downplay the game’s past flaws and affirm the nostalgic fantasy that it’s always been played just as well. It’s better, but also exactly how they remember it.

As we are about to leave college for a job or graduate school, Minecraft could be their way of coping. While some of us have our next steps lined up, just as many look gloomily toward an unforeseen future, an unstructured future that harbors a terrifying amount of possibility. Playing Minecraft for days brings out a childlike joy for them, reminding them of their lives in a much simpler and brighter time. Their endless afternoons as teenagers weren’t filled with homework, cooking, or responsibilities, but playing with their friends. It was a time when all that mattered was the computer screen in front of you, secrets were shared on the playground and in the cafeteria, and the only challenges you faced were learning how to survive the nocturnal hordes of spiders and Endermen.

Sometimes, however, nostalgia can look a lot like a drug from the outside; the constant, irritating desire to gamble feels more like an addiction than anything else. Their vision darkens with pure adrenaline and the euphoric hit of nostalgia that comes from their annual excursions into Minecraft. They’re glued to their seats for hours staring at blocks and cultivating the elusive item they need for their checklist. Every time I try to distract them, I feel like I’m dragging a child away from their candy. The game becomes an obsession. And I, as a solitary spectator, must sit and wait for the annual cycle to take its course.

“I dreamed of Minecraft“says my only roommate. He says it good-naturedly, but a hint of worry creeps into his voice. “I’m going to have a normal dream, and then suddenly there’s Minecraft things. Villagers, vines, you know? »

Mik Deitz is a freelance writer and intern at Paste. They inhale stories from video games, movies, TV, and books, and never finished God of War (2018). Shout out or compliment them on Twitter @dietdeitz.