For lack of anything better to do, I tear up a vegetable patch. Thrash, thrash, goes my club of a right arm: green matter flies, satisfyingly. With a pop! a large carrot appears in my hand––so now I’m armed. I mount tiers of grass and stone, and find myself in some kind of settlement, a jigsaw of low wooden buildings. I hear a sound—hawnh! … hawnh!—a muttered, skeptical little half honk, and turn to locate its source. A human figure is pottering toward me in apparent curiosity. Hawnh! I hit him with my carrot. He recoils—hawnh!—his entire body flashing red as if at the violation of some exquisite social instinct. Ashamed, I hit him again. Then I move to the left, fall into a small pond, and drown. It’s my first day in Minecraft.
Some context here: I am a 46-year-old man, congenitally resistant to gaming, viral videos, BoingBoing.net, Gawker.com, the future, the present, all of it. I don’t blog. I don’t tweet. I have no Facebook account. The global suck, the virtual slurp—I resist it. When a gentleman buttonholed me in Starbucks last week, speaking of connectivity and community, his desire to mesh networks, swap sources, link with me on LinkedIn, I resisted him. (“Remember this moment,” he said, “when you denied yourself this possibility.”) And I resisted Minecraft, even as my 11-year-old son apprenticed himself to it with a passion that in almost any other context I would have found quite wonderful. “Get off the damn computer!,” I would patiently suggest. “Off! Close it!” Suddenly he was spending chunks of his day inside this game, tippy-tapping, minecrafting, playing it. His friends were all playing it too, and the children of my friends. But was this really play, in the proper, Edwardian sense? It was so absorptive, so immobilizing. In the game itself I took, of course, no interest whatsoever: for the first couple of months I thought it was called Mindcraft. I simply registered it as a threat, another child-stealing innovation secreted into our world by the enormous locusts who dwell behind the dimensional curtain.