Tag Archives: gaming

#182: Child’s Play

minecraft-cover

My boy has taken to video recording
his game play and adding
commentary over the top.  He’s
seen this on you tube.  Some of
his heroes are dudes who video-
tape themselves playing video
games, who have become
celebrities of sorts; thousands of
viewers can’t get enough of dudes
playing video games filming them-
selves playing video games.

I want to be dismissive of this
kind of entertainment.  I want
to say it’s total bullshit. And yet,
when I hear my boy by himself
in the other room, playing,
commenting on the proceedings
to an imaginary audience with
whom he seems to have a
tremendous rapport, attempting
to capture it all on the iPad
pointing at and recording
the action on the screen, I think, yes.

What did I do as a kid?
I watched Star Trek and then
I pretended I was Captain Kirk
and my stuffed animals were
my crew and my less favored
stuffed animals were bad aliens.
We fought each other in
the hallway. There was dialogue.
There were sound effects.
There was that Star Trek
fight music. I was always
victorious and my legions
of imaginary fans kept coming back
for more. Ultimately, it’s the
same damn thing, isn’t it? Except
I didn’t have a camera on a
stupid smart device.
If I did, you can be sure
I would have captured
every single moment.
And either I am trying to
rationalize my son’s screen
time or I am realizing that,
though the medium is different,
the two activities are
essentially the same,
equally creative, valuable
beyond compare in the endeavor
of every child to become
the person they want to become,
a captain of the Starship Enterprise
or a video game genius with
throngs of adoring viewers.
Who’s to say which of these
pasttimes would have the
greater real-life application?
I could probably say, but for now,
I hesitate.

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Filed under Parenting, Poetry

#79: A Minecraft Poem (Dad’s Understanding Emerges)

Minecraft-minecraft-19670226-1600-900

As I understand it, Minecraft is a computer game
in which a first person player named Steve
wanders through a seemingly endless outdoor landscape
made entirely of blocks of things. The grass, the trees,
the water, the hills, the clouds in the sky–all blocks
(nothing in this world is curved, arched, or angular-slanty).
In his wandering,
Steve digs holes in the ground, holes that consist
entirely of right angles. In his digging,
he finds things and collects things and stores them
away for future use. This is the mining aspect,
I gather. Steve can then build things with the stuff
he has collected, whatever he wants, again, using
only square blocks of collected stuff: wood, iron, dirt, glass,
brick, grass, and a dozen or more other kinds
of material, the names of which escape me.
Steve can build a house, a restaurant,
a library, a fort, a shelter, a tower,

a tunnel, a roller coaster, he can plant
a garden, he can make any thing that might
amuse him.  This is the craft aspect, I assume.
So he wanders, mines, and crafts.  But Steve is not alone.

The world is inhabited, if Steve chooses it to be,
with blocky entities called Creepers and  Zombies,
cube-constructed animals like chickens, cows, and pigs,
all of which, I think, Steve can “spawn” for his
use and amusement, or even  kill, if he likes.
If he kills a chicken 
or a cow or a pig, the death
of that animal can become 
food for Steve.
It is necessary in this game, I think,

for Steve to consume food.  To kill a Creeper
or a Zombie, or an animal for that matter,
Steve must simply hit his target with something,
some kind of weapon he has mined and crafted,
and as he hits his target it jumps back a few times,
stunned but decidedly unharmed.  But if
Steve continues to hit at the Creeper or
the Zombie or the animal, it flashes red
as it jumps back, indicating, I think, its eminent
demise.  When it dies, it falls over on its side
and then simply disappears.  Not a gory
affair, by any measure, but violent, nonetheless.

But the killing of things, or the fighting of
bad guys, does not seem to be the game’s primary
purpose. The goal of Minecraft, at least from Dad’s
perspective, is allusive, ambiguous.  But he thinks
he may have stumbled on a working theory.
Dad has finally reached the conclusion
that the ultimate goal of Minecraft
is to continue to play Minecraft.

The graphics are surprisingly primitive,
the soundtrack minimal, often soothing,
but what gives the boy  the ultimate thrill
that keeps him going and going until Dad
and Mom pull the plug is this feeling perhaps
of unlimited possibility and unfettered control
to move and manipulate this endless space,
this landscape, this mutable and ever-changing
environment that becomes entirely his
and only his. And if he chooses, if he tires
of being Steve, he can reinvent himself
with a new skin and a new identity.
And, if he is feeling lonely, he can join
others via the mighty web in worlds
they have created and opened up
for visitors.  This is the aspect that makes
Dad nervous, but so far, as far as Dad can tell,
no harm, no foul.  What also worries Dad,
to a lesser degree, is that what seems to interest
his son is a game called Minecraft.  After that,
Minecraft comes in at a close second.
His third choice: Minecraft.  And finally,
in a tight race for fourth place but moving
steadily and stealthily into stiff competition,
are videos of other guys playing videos
of Minecraft.

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Filed under Culture, Parenting, Poetry