Game brings creativity

Adam Schoelz

So, to get this out of the way, I’m a nerd. And not just a school nerd, either. I’m a programming-loving, Dungeons and Drag­ons playing, card-carrying, geek-nerd. And if you kept reading past that sentence, there’s a fairly high chance you’re one, too.
But times have been tough for me lately. Winter is com­ing, and with it comes his­tory projects, which, while undeniably enjoyable to a nerd like myself, are still pretty stressful and time con­suming. They put me into a drone sort of mindset, where work waxes as interest wanes until I’m basically just doing the minimum to stay in touch with my grade. It’s hard to care about learning when there is so much of it to do. It’s like eating too much can­dy and getting sick.
Last winter, just before the start of Arab Spring, I found myself drifting into this drone mindset. What was the point, I wondered, of all the work? What was the point of such-and-such battle at whatever date? It’s a ques­tion every student asks at some point. However, either the cold of February or the pres­sures of schoolwork forced me into answering: I don’t know. This triggered a sort of existential crisis, where it seemed to me then that there was little point in believing in anything at all; history wasn’t important, there was no physical benefit to me.
But then I found this lit­tle video game called Minecraft. Being a nerd, I have a n a t u r a l a f f i n i t y for video g a m e s , and Mine­craft fits the bill q u i t e n i c e l y . Minecraft is a game w h e r e the en­tire world is made of blocks. Survival is the player’s goal, alone on an infinite planet. It’s a the Robinson Crusoe of games, where the player has to build everything, on his or her own. Building is quite easy. You take a block from the world — or mine it, rather—and place it somewhere else in the world. But it is one of those great things that is far more than the sum of its parts.
Upon realizing the world is infinite and that one can rearrange anything into any­thing, my mind exploded. The first time I played Mine­craft was spent building, min­ing, and then dy­ing from gravity-related causes , during the c o u r s e of nine hours.
There is just so much that can be done. On the more basic end of things, I could build a pal­ace that would make Marie Antoinette jealous. On the other hand, I could build a computer — from scratch. It’s simply a matter of select­ing something, then applying brainpower. In other words, it’s the dream game of nerds.
Here, at last, was the world I wanted — one where dreams were more than achievable; they were encouraged. The only re­maining limiting factor was my imagination. Minecraft is a world entirely without structure; it begs for amaz­ing things to rise out of the dirt. So that’s what I did. Af­ter a time, though, the same nihilistic tendencies that had plagued me before returned once more.
It flaunts the laws of phys­ics and besides, it’s a video game, long considered the lowest form of entertainment. I could gain no physical ben­efit from it, so what was the point of even playing?
But then it hit me: it doesn’t matter that Minecraft isn’t real. It doesn’t matter that I could never reach that world, that beautiful land of blocks and monsters. It doesn’t matter for me, be­cause as cheesy as it sounds, the emotions it created were real. And like a fog lifting from my brain, I remembered why I love history. The emo­tions of history are real; it’s a painting in pastel colors. And as long as the feeling is real, nothing else matters all that much.
By Adam Schoelz