Initially Being Exposed to Minecraft
Until last year, I had never given Minecraft the benefit of the doubt. When I moved to China in 2012 to teach English to young kids, the game had just become a hit there. I had heard of it before, but that was my first real exposure to the game. It seemed like a vast majority of the 1000+ kids I worked with during my three years in China were obsessively playing the game on their phones in between classes. They all loved it. I, however, saw that fact along with its graphical style and simply wrote it off as a game for kids. I spent the following five years denying the experience to myself until I saw that it had been released on the Switch.
*Fun Fact: Jordan and I happened to live and work in the same city in China. Small world!
Finally Decided to Give It a Chance
After the Switch came out, it quickly became my go-to console for gaming. Everything just seemed to fit better on the Switch for my on-the-go lifestyle. I passed over Minecraft on the Wii U, but I finally decided to give it a try on the Switch. Little did I know at the time that the game would end up engrossing me for well over 300 hours before I would start writing for Switchwatch.
When I first began Minecraft, I knew absolutely nothing about it. The only thing I knew was that you could break blocks and build stuff. Even knowing that the world size of the Switch version was smaller than in the PS4/Xbone versions and was infinitely smaller than the PC world, I was still astounded at the scale and scope of this world. It had everything I loved about an open world: caves, canyons, varied landscapes, vast underground tunnels. What made it all the more amazing was that this world was procedurally generated and likely nobody else had experienced this exact same place.
I wasn’t sure what to do, so I did what South Park taught me. “You punch the trees to get the wood. You get the wood to build the cabin.” Then I just ran about on the world map getting lost in this grand world. And then night came.
The Horrors of the Night
I knew that night time was supposed to be dangerous in Minecraft. It didn’t faze me, though. I thought, “This can’t be so bad.” I had my wooden sword, my pick axe and my crafting table. “I got this,” I was thinking to myself. I was brave in ignorance.
The first enemy I encountered was a zombie. It took a little adjusting to in order to get used to the timing required to safely attack an opponent without getting hurt. I was able to dispatch that zombie with a couple hits but not before losing some hearts. Then I heard the twang of a bow and started getting hurt rapidly.
Turning around, I found the culprit was a skeleton attacking me from afar. I tried to reach it, but was quickly felled before getting even remotely close to it. Of course, I didn’t have a bed crafted, so I ended up just spawning at a new point on the map. Everything I had made and my map were gone. This was when it began to dawn on me that this game was a little harder than I thought it would be.
My First Creeper
That same night, I was still exploring. I had just crafted some new weapon and was about to get back to it. It was around this point that I started noticing all of the caverns set about in the world which would mean certain death if falling into them. I had just finished gazing down one when I looked up to see a green rectangular block walking in my direction. I’m sure you all know where this is going. I confidently strolled up to it thinking that it would be as simple as taking down a zombie. Nope! Luckily, I had full health, so I managed to survive the explosion; however, the sand the began to cave in around me and I feel to the bottom of the deep cavern! There was no escaping that one.
Turning Into a Mole
This was when I learned to fear the night. I had noticed the ability to craft torches in the crafting table and came to the realization that the mobs would not spawn in light. The idea came to me that if I made some well-lit underground tunnels to get about at night then I would be safe. I would end up spending the next fifty hours with the game purely underground only coming up for food and more wood.
This is what I really came to love about Minecraft; there are so many options. It is an adventure where you create your own goals and play at your own pace. My tunnel system was originally planned to be vast and connect every point of my map. I ended up realizing that this would take far too much time and went on to create an underground house in a large cavern which I completely carved out myself. I even made a huge canyon underneath it extending almost entirely down to the bedrock.
The Long Road Ahead
After my girlfriend started playing the game together with me, we decided to try tackling the over world. She ended up making a tall 6-story house. This would become our beacon of light as we decided to give exploring the whole world a try. After I made a map room in my underground lair, we set about on the map. Here, my underground tunnel system would graduate to an extensive road system leading from point to point. At present, the road system connects five of the maps for easy travel to various locations. The road even wound up extending into the Nether to give us a safe path to travel on between Nether portals.
Discovering Perpetual Night
One of my favorite things I discovered was the ability to turn off the day/night cycle. I had to activate host privileges to do it and lost access to achievements, but it was well worth it.
My idea was to sync up the day/night cycle to real time, and I quite enjoyed playing the game like this. I would simply set the game to day when it was daylight and set the game to night during the real-world night time hours. By doing this, I was able to just explore freely for several hours without needing to worry about monsters, then things became really interesting when it got late.
Normally, night only lasts for about 10 minutes in Minecraft. After the sun comes up, the mobs get cleared out by the light. However, if you have the day/night cycle turned off and the night lasts longer than normal, mobs just keep on spawning so long as you don’t leave the chunk you are currently on.
There was one point when I left my village to go searching for supplies after it had been dark for over two hours. When I left, I must have been in the eye of the storm as it was relatively calm. It wasn’t long before I started noticing the mobs speckled about here and there. It wasn’t anything out of the usual.
I then stumbled across a zombie villager which I wanted to bring back to my red stone zombie villager processing unit. While I was leading it back to the road, I began to see more and more mobs coming at me from all directions. At one point, I was dodging between seven zombies, three creepers and a couple skeleton all at once. Needless to say, I had to give up on that potential villager!
As I play Minecraft, I always end up coming up with new ideas for how to develop my world and ways I want to play. My current goal is to bring Nether rock into the over world and have a large section of on map completely “Netherfied” on the top layer. I’m planning to have it appear as though the Nether has bled out of the Nether portal and corrupted the land. My other plans at present are to construct a better-looking village, experiment more with red stone, turn a water temple that I completely emptied of water into a home base and to line my road with lampposts and make some inns populated with villagers along the road.
I was absolutely surprised by the amount of depth available in Minecraft. I knew of it being used by people to make impressive structures and things like working calculators, but I didn’t realize how superb the game would be for somebody looking for an adventure game. In most open world games where I am simply going from point A to point B while searching for interesting quests or structures dungeons to do along the way. My adventure in Minecraft has allowed me to progress in any way I see fit while using my own problem-solving skills to navigate the world.
Some people dislike Minecraft because of its lack of structure. You aren’t given quests by NPCs. You don’t have any apparent goals the game leads you on. It simply drops you into the world with nothing more than your fists and wits. It is truly a make-your-own-adventure game, and so long as you have the self-motivation to propel yourself along, the game will provide you with unending thrills. Simply thinking about how much I have accomplished in the game already with the time invested while having only barely scratched the surface of what it offers is truly awe inspiring.