Minecraft, out of the “box”
Ok, suppose you buy the game, convinced that your friends who recommended it think it is the most awesome thing in the world, and so you should try it too. What do you find? Well, in a word, you find the definition of freedom: I don’t mean that in a euphemistic or a cliche sense of the word. I literally mean a world with almost no bounds. There are very few limits on you, and there is not even a conscience engine built into the game. Before we go on, this is what real freedom looks like, and if our world was like this, for real, I doubt very many of the hard libertarians would prefer it. It is John Locke’s state of nature writ large, especially in single player mode.
But, more on philosophy later. I return to the game:
Suppose you have never played Minecraft before, but were told by one of the friends whose opinion you trust that you should check out the game. You start it up and wake up on a treeless plain under a rising sun. What do you do? There is no sign of anyone or anything anywhere around you. You will, of course, naturally start walking. If you are playing survival mode, you will treat it the same way you do in creative mode: your first impulse, in fact everyone’s first impulse is to look around.
Your first day and night
You may find a forest. you may find a cave. You may find caves with walls that have black or bronze colored streaks on them. While you aren’t sure how to handle this, the sun has gradually been transversing the sky. You may have figured out how to hit the dirt or the trees to get the blocks, and adding them to your inventory, you realize that you can put them back on the ground in a different place than you found them. You may decide to dig a big pit when you realize that there is interesting stuff under the dirt. You only notice the sun as it is setting. And then the first night arrives. And things begin moving. One of the things you notice is a friendly looking little green guy. This may be the first sign of life you have seen all day. Perhaps that thing will give you a clue about what you need to do.
He clues you in alright. As you go to shake his hand, he hisses a little bit and then blows up, leaving a huge crater where you once stood. You wake up (unless you played extreme mode, in which case, you don’t wake up…) in the same place you started without any of the blocks you collected, and now, suddenly surrounded by dozens of monsters, all bent on killing you. It is a nightmare, all of a sudden, which is only partially relieved in the morning as the zombies and skeletons inexplicably catch on fire in direct sunlight. The exploding green dudes and spiders, on the other hand, do not go away. You realize, after being blown up several times, that you need a way to keep the monsters away from you.
During your second day, you realize that separating yourself from the monsters is not nearly as easy as you may think: it is not enough to build a box. Monsters still come right up next to you and blow holes in your wall, killing you and wrecking your house. Keeping them farther away from you, with a second, outer wall, and with a moat preferably, and you have accomplished your first task in Malsow’s hierarchy: shelter.
After you actually survive a whole night
Now it is time to expand your domain. You may have noticed that you can collect stuff from the surface with a bit of difficulty. You can collect wood and dirt right off. But what is this? You can turn wood blocks into lumber, and then you can turn that lumber into a constructing table and some sticks? Constructing tables allow you to create a wooden pick and a wooden shovel and a wooden sword and a wooden axe out of lumber and sticks. Using the shovel, you can pick up dirt faster, using the axe, you can chop down trees (for more wood and more lumber) faster, using the sword, you can kill at least zombies more efficiently, and using the pick you can break the stone easier. Soon, you realize that that stone helps you make more durable tools. How far can this go? The only way to find out is to dig a mine. The game is called “Minecraft” after all, not “Dirt Hut craft.”
When you get far enough into the ground you start discovering different types of ores. The most prevalent one, coal, is useful for you to build torches and light the mile wide radius around your hut so mobs don’t come anywhere near you. (They are still in caves in the ground, don’t worry…) But you also find a bronze ore (iron, which makes great tools while you are looking for other stuff), gold (which is, predictably gold ore, that is useful for making electronics and booster rails) and red ore, (which is Red Stone; Not the most creative name for the stuff, but once you master its use, you move into a completely different realm of playing this game.)
Diamonds are a crafter’s best friend; Lava is a double edged sword
Eventually, you WILL come across a magical pale blue ore block. This stuff will change your life, but you don’t know it right now (actually, you do: I just told you.) These are diamonds. Diamond tools are the most durable, the most efficient, and the most destructive. Diamond swords kill with devastating effectiveness. Diamond armor (yeah, you can make that) will survive an indirect creeper blast, with you in it. Diamond picks will clear vast amounts of rock before breaking, and will do so at relatively blazing speed. Diamond axes chop trees down like they aren’t even there.
And diamond ore is notoriously difficult to find. If you don’t happen across it accidentally, you might not find it. There are a hundred strategies for finding it deliberately, and they don’t necessarily produce results more reliably than finding it accidentally, while digging around randomly or following cave systems near the bottom of the world.
There are other dangers that far down too: Lava is a major danger down that far. Falling in lava for the first time in survival mode is an experience you never forget. All the diamonds you collected, as well as the tons of cobblestone, coal, iron ore and redstone is suddenly gone: It doesn’t survive the lava, which burns everything, you included. (Lava is not all bad. It is needed to make obsidian, and obsidian is REALLY useful. But you can’t mine it without diamonds, either. You will break your iron tools trying.)
Lava is not your worst problem digging around in the earth. Occasionally, while digging tunnels, you come across a cobblestone formation. Picking through it, you realize what a horrible mistake you just made, real quick. There is a cage in there, and that cage produces monsters which you probably won’t be able to kill fast enough. Like Lava, however, these little monster spawners are also useful: You can use them later to create a guaranteed source of the stuff those monsters drop when they are killed (and your “mob trap” will kill them efficiently, while you are safe and sound at the collection point. Eventually, your mob killing machines will get way more intricate, and will produce much better results than the earliest mob killers do.) But, in survival mode, mob spawners can’t be destroyed, so until you get your diamond armor and diamond sword, it is probably best to try to avoid opening up one of these rooms, and if you do, try to run away as fast as you can.
The biggest danger to digging around under the ground is in getting disoriented and lost. There is no easier thing to do unless you figure out a system for finding your way back. It is easy to follow your path when it is a one block wide tunnel, with no side tunnels. But you will encounter natural caves underground. They are very dark, they are most often quite long, and they are regularly several caves linked together at different points, on several different levels, and in all directions. Unless you have a fantastic memory, you will eventually get lost. You will soon learn that digging straight up back to the surface is frequently a bad idea (there may be an ocean of water above you, and when you break through to the surface, that surface may be the sea floor. And as you will learn, columns of sand and gravel fall straight down when the solid block beneath them which is holding them up is destroyed. Those blocks will cause “suffocation.”) Developing a system to find your way back to the surface, you will discover, is imperative when traveling in a place where there there is no reliable point of reference.
A foundation for a Better way of Life
In the end, developing your first base and then opening your first mine during your first in-game day and week will form the foundation of your earliest experiences in your Minecraft world. After playing there for a little bit, you will have a healthy supply of materials which you have stashed in your chest back at your home base, and you will have a number of special ores which you begin smelting into useable materials. Soon you realize that a dirt hut is neither really all that safe, nor does it really look all that good. You begin thinking about how to use what you have to make a better-looking, safer house, and you start thinking about how to put the things you have obtained on your various adventures underground and over the surface to a use other than just as a chest filler. While you have been playing Minecraft, perhaps for a week by this point, you can finally say you have arrived- These first sparks of creative imagination are what the game is really all about.