On Minecraft and depression

Ok, this will be an odd first post. But it’s about two of the things I am mostly into, lately: one is depression, and the other is this compelling, highly addictive sandbox game called minecraft – and how I suddenly discovered those two things are surprisingly related.

Minecraft has no story or plot, after all. There is a quest about Steve (which is your character, a poor guy who lives virtually alone in this world) finding a hidden stronghold and traveling to the Nether to slain a dragon — but frankly, in this virtually infinite world, eight times bigger than ours, you can travel and build houses and mine and find objects and never ever worry about a stronghold. So, besides the dragon, the game is pretty much aimless; it’s just you wandering around, building houses, trying to survive, staying away from mobs and monsters that usually come out at night and, of course, want to kill you for no reason.

The game, surprisingly, isn’t boring at all. Maybe it has something to do with me being in need of an alternative meaningful life — but you can go around, discover things, new materials, food, minerals, you can go on and build things: first a hut, then a proper house, then a ten bedrooms castle, a swimming pool, your own island, waterfalls, and so on.

That seems pretty exciting, and it is. It keeps you playing for hours and hours, wandering around in search of new things to discover. And yet there’s something which is incredibly sad, and so close to my reality. Steve is, essentialy, alone. He goes around endlessly, settles somewhere but is in constant search of something else, he explores his surroundings everyday and then he comes back home. Of course there are other creatures in this world; some of them are hostile, as I said. Some others are essentially neutral, like animals; some of the animals can be tamed and make good company (although I have to say cats, as real life cats, are quite annoying). At some point of my being alone with a hundred dogs in minecraft I discoverd there are other humans – others, like me, living in villages. I was not alone.

So I prepared for a long journey. I took a lot of food with me, torches, tools, and a bed to find a shelter for the night (this seems odd but it makes perfect sense to a minecraft player). I traveled for days and days with no other company than an excruciatingly sad, yet beautiful, soundtrack. And at last I found the village (a village, as it seems there are many of them). I saw it from afar. I was running through a field  when I saw a grey stone house, which, oddly enough, looked like a church with no crucifix over it. And houses, grey houses, made of stone, some of them had a wooden roof. I ran towards the village, eager to meet people, thinking they might refuse me at first, even be hostile, but then eventualy they would become my family, as I was sick of  raising dogs and build houses for myself.

People were not as I expected them to be. They all had the same blank stare, a dumb countenance with green eyes; they all, except one or two, wore the same clothes. They didn’t really seem affected by my presence at all, except when I tried to interact with them; and all they wanted to do was sell me something, mostly things I didn’t need. I established myself in the village and built houses for them; they reproduced and became many many more. Their kids were a miniature exact copy of themselves – same dumb faces, same green eyes, same indifference towards me. I lived among them but never really belonged. So at the end I left, set to return to my previous home, to my hundred dogs who were waiting for me, after all.

Of course I was mad at them. I built houses for them, streets, fences to protect them, and they did not love me back. Like Dogville‘s Grace I wanted to set their houses on fire and walk away proudly, with flames climbing high behind me. But I did not. I am not that kind of person. I am going home, where I am living alone for the rest of my life.

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