Let’s spin a yarn from early 2010, the heady days when pre-alpha Minecraft was little more than a pacifistic Infiniminer-clone, a big, 3D, multiplayer MSPaint. When left-clicking placed blocks and right-clicking removed them. No restrictions, no mining for resources, no monsters. Nothing between you and your creation except inspiration, hard work and time.
Walking through an online-server in those days was a crazy thing. Untethered creativity and rampant griefing (intentional damage) meant servers quickly developed into messes of colorful blocks, like joyous, three dimensional Jackson Pollock paintings.
My story takes place in one of the more ordered ones, less Pollock and more like a public wall in a seedy neighborhood,with me attaching an underground bar to the unassuming suburban villa that I had just completed. Crammed in between a twenty foot Megaman, a yellow pyramid and a giant sign exclaiming “GAYB” in large yellow letters, my house was an outpost of normalcy in a crazy world. While making the necessary excavations for my new project, I came upon a hole. One block wide, and deep enough to seemingly go on forever. Quick math approximated my position to somewhere below the “GAYB”-sign.
Already here, in its infant form, Minecraft could switch instantly between creation and exploration. The difference being that without the necessity of resource gathering, exploration was all about the wonder of other peoples creations. Wandering the halls of underground subways, gaping over giant 2D sprites and breaking into fantastic floating castles.
I jumped, is what I’m saying.
I landed on a limegreen floor, surrounded by walls striped in yellow and red, covered in flowers and with the word “GAY” written in large, exuberant letters on the walls. Parts of the floor and ceiling were made of glass, with more rooms shimmering through layers of green vegetation.
“Do you wanna take the tour?” showed up in the chat window, coming from a player standing in the corner of the room.
Another thing that never changed from Minecrafts early stages is the pride and willingness with which people show of their creations.
The locals spent the next forty minutes showing me around libraries, bathrooms and saunas. They showed me giant ballrooms and tiny bedrooms, enigmatic hidden doors and grand passageways. The lower floors housed an arena, a huge three-level complex made for playing “spleef”, a game where you try to dig the floor out from under your opponent. Everything bound together with a network of blue-green stairs, every room in fantastically bright colors and decorations betraying a loving attention to detail. I asked my guide how long time it had taken to build, to which he replied that there hadn’t been much sleep for him and his friends the last few days. He appended a happy smiley, and I smiled back, infected by the enthusiastic pride.
The end of my tour he leads me up through the yellow spiral staircase that leads to open sky. He leaves me with “Don’t tell anyone we’re here, don’t want any griefers :)”, and rebuilds the unassuming wall that hides the main staircase. Again, only me, a yellow pyramid, megaman, a suburban villa and a sign being completed to spell out “gaybar”.
I walked back into my house, where someone had incorporated a purple penis into the floor of my bedroom. I logged off with a smile.
Coming back a few days later, the server was barren. As these things go, admins sometimes decide that this is the time to pull the reset-lever on their server, destroying any pyramids, posh houses and underground xanadus that might exist there.
Settlers of this new blank canvas had begun making it a home, and I could see three blue-green men, building a large, exuberant sign spelling out “GAYBAR” in large yellow letters. They seemed happy, decorating the sign with flowers while debating which of Quake and Unreal Tournament were the ultimate multiplayer deathmatch game.
And as far as I know, they are still out there, eternally building and rebuilding their monument to patience, grandeur and homosexuality. Which brings me joy.