I am a huge Minecraft fan. So great a fan, in fact, that before last Friday I hadn’t played in about a year. That’s because Minecraft is a bit like the Bat-Signal, and should be fired up only in times of greatest need. Usually it’s the need to escape from something without leaving my spare bedroom. That could be the sudden descent of family upon my abode, unprecedented mountains of laundry, Brexit—anything that I just can’t face right now.
Each time such a crisis arises, I start a new world. Great cities and blocky wonders have been lost to the Recycle Bin or in hardware upgrades, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m not interested in the finished project. Finishing means I’ll have to face up to the fact that my country just voted itself into political oblivion. No, the real escapism lies in the first few days and nights, when you’re alone and unequipped in an infinite, empty world.
Loading into a new world—after a few experiments with seeds, of course—is like the first sip of icy water on a blazing summer’s day. Everything around you is clear, simple and refreshing, both in the literal sense of the signature aesthetic and in the ritual I must perform.
The sacred Building Of The First Hut (or Digging Of The First Hole, depending on how long I’ve spent placidly wandering) is the first opportunity to collect my thoughts. My brain disconnects as my muscle memory carries me through the task of punching trees, getting wood, making a table, crafting a pick, gathering stone and cobbling it into an appalling hovel.
Architectural concerns are secondary. Later, depending on the magnitude of the real-world problem that forced me to seek refuge, huts become halls and fields turn to fortifications. Right now we’re looking at a 1:1 reimagining of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
It’s really about lasting the first few nights, though. Minecraft sparked the survival fashion, so despite its rudimentary mechanics it that regard, it’s still the quintessential wilderness. That is, until I can afford to build a real log cabin deep in British Columbia and live as a hermit with only a faithful hound for company.
Played like this, Minecraft is an infinite source of solitude. The thought of its many bustling multiplayer servers is horrifying. Sometimes it’s good to be antisocial for the sake of your sanity, and on those occasions, Minecraft has just the empty expanse for you.