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So, to get this out of the way, I’m a nerd. And not just a school nerd, either. I’m a programming-loving, Dungeons and Dragons playing, card-carrying, geek-nerd. And if you kept reading past that sentence, there’s a fairly high chance you’re one, too.
But times have been tough for me lately. Winter is coming, and with it comes history projects, which, while undeniably enjoyable to a nerd like myself, are still pretty stressful and time consuming. They put me into a drone sort of mindset, where work waxes as interest wanes until I’m basically just doing the minimum to stay in touch with my grade. It’s hard to care about learning when there is so much of it to do. It’s like eating too much candy and getting sick.
Last winter, just before the start of Arab Spring, I found myself drifting into this drone mindset. What was the point, I wondered, of all the work? What was the point of such-and-such battle at whatever date? It’s a question every student asks at some point. However, either the cold of February or the pressures of schoolwork forced me into answering: I don’t know. This triggered a sort of existential crisis, where it seemed to me then that there was little point in believing in anything at all; history wasn’t important, there was no physical benefit to me.
But then I found this little video game called Minecraft. Being a nerd, I have a n a t u r a l a f f i n i t y for video g a m e s , and Minecraft fits the bill q u i t e n i c e l y . Minecraft is a game w h e r e the entire world is made of blocks. Survival is the player’s goal, alone on an infinite planet. It’s a the Robinson Crusoe of games, where the player has to build everything, on his or her own. Building is quite easy. You take a block from the world — or mine it, rather—and place it somewhere else in the world. But it is one of those great things that is far more than the sum of its parts.
Upon realizing the world is infinite and that one can rearrange anything into anything, my mind exploded. The first time I played Minecraft was spent building, mining, and then dying from gravity-related causes , during the c o u r s e of nine hours.
There is just so much that can be done. On the more basic end of things, I could build a palace that would make Marie Antoinette jealous. On the other hand, I could build a computer — from scratch. It’s simply a matter of selecting something, then applying brainpower. In other words, it’s the dream game of nerds.
Here, at last, was the world I wanted — one where dreams were more than achievable; they were encouraged. The only remaining limiting factor was my imagination. Minecraft is a world entirely without structure; it begs for amazing things to rise out of the dirt. So that’s what I did. After a time, though, the same nihilistic tendencies that had plagued me before returned once more.
It flaunts the laws of physics and besides, it’s a video game, long considered the lowest form of entertainment. I could gain no physical benefit from it, so what was the point of even playing?
But then it hit me: it doesn’t matter that Minecraft isn’t real. It doesn’t matter that I could never reach that world, that beautiful land of blocks and monsters. It doesn’t matter for me, because as cheesy as it sounds, the emotions it created were real. And like a fog lifting from my brain, I remembered why I love history. The emotions of history are real; it’s a painting in pastel colors. And as long as the feeling is real, nothing else matters all that much.
By Adam Schoelz