My brother and I have been playing the same minecraft saved game since 2012. We started with a little shed on a hill and a large stash of homebrew in the fridge. Both unemployed, both drunk and very bipolar.
Our little town grew to a city, then to a kingdom. Now we have over 30 small villages, several large towns and big cities, multiple kingdoms with huge statues, massive lord of the rings sized fortresses, underground markets, secret passages, puzzle dungeons, pirate ships, and my brother is currently working on his own personal Mines of Moria.
We have sunk more than stupid hours into this little universe. My brother dug out a massive dwarven hall at the bedrock by hand, taking hundreds of hours to finish the thing. I’ve spent no idea hours wandering along its many roads, killing zombies, paying merchants and sitting around the fire at Snowmane Memorial Campsite (RIP) or drinking in the tree-top tavern The Lofty Standards on the Champ Memorial Balcony (RIP).
We have a national currency, business ventures, and we are digging a road between two portals in hell. I wish I knew how to make the computer box make pictures so I could show you.
I have a recurring dream about being in minecraft.
It started off in a vast and intricate desert structure. I was solving a puzzle by floating beneath sandstone beams and pushing heavy cubes onto buttons. The puzzle unearthed a long, cavernous road beneath the sand, half in shadow and engraved with ornate pictograms. I followed it for what seemed like miles, hiding from giants in the deep shadows until the dream disintegrated.
In a following dream I was in a deep cave structure. I kept diving deeper and deeper down, block by block, in a jagged and vertical shaft. Each time I reached flat ground I would find a new, darker passage leading further down and I would continue to dive. I reached craggy bedrock at the bottom of the now claustrophobic shaft, and saw a hole glowing with red light. I stood on the edge and looked down, seeing a wide burning chamber with a circular bloodstain smeared out into runes. Pink and hairless devils wandered around with blank eyes frozen in glares of pure disgust. Terror woke me but it was hours until I felt like I left the dream.
Weeks later I had moved on to a far off Nordic land over the ocean, filled with sweeping hills, dark hollow mountains and frozen forests. I had built a small settlement there and was showing my brother around. Log cabins behind tall and thick palisade stood empty in the snow, and the place felt new and wild and dangerous. I told my brother of all my plans for this new kingdom, though I knew it would be a long time before I came back because it was so far away. The dream left an ache in me that gives me shivers, longing for a place unreal and untamed, far from any place I’ve been or will go.
The most recent dream I had I visited my small settlement with my brother after many years, but giants had come and broken everything down. All that was left was blocky rubble and floating item sprites. The giants stomped around, throwing the wooden blocks my cabins were built out of and crushing them beneath their boots. My brother looked worried but I just laughed. I led him into the ruined tavern and we sat against the broken wall drinking beer out of 2D mugs.
I drank and leaned back and said to him:
“I know this ain’t the right place to admit that I’ve been struggling.
You know I get real sad at the drop of a hat and pretty regularly.
And it feels like there’s always been this deep sadness in me, and maybe there’s just no reason for it.
I’ve thought about it hard, and I don’t know what I’d do if the sadness wasn’t there, if there was nothing to build in me and nothing to fight against.
It would feel like it was over and I don’t want that yet.
I’m not moping or drowning in my sadness.
Building shit makes me happy.
Even if it gets torn down or torn up.
Every block I put down fills that gaping hole in me just a little.
And even if I’m just building minecraft in my dreams, that’s at least doing something.
Struggling is still doing something.
The end of it ain’t that far away, and I know I’ll be happy again.
And that’s good enough