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Is Minecraft Missing Morality?

Things were going so well over the past 11 blog entries, from X-Com 2 all the way up to the beating of Dangranronpa 2.  However, it seems I am once again back to being thoroughly dispossessed: 582 games purchased on Steam, more elsewhere, but nothing "worth" playing.  Most of my effort to find something to play has been spent on Minecraft.


It seems all the cool Minecraft geeks are playing skyblock scenarios.  These are modpacks which start you in the middle of a completely empty void, with barely more than a block of dirt, sapling, and a torch.  From this humble beginning, you leverage the Ex Nihilo mod to grind what little you have into all of the basic resources that you would normally find in the overworld of Minecraft

Although the skyblock scenario gives you the satisfaction of overcoming impossible-looking odds and survey a world you created from virtually nothing, skyblocks are not my cup of tea. 

Part of this is due to the lack of procedural generation.  For me, a lot of the appeal of Minecraft has to do with the potential for emergent gameplay.   Everything the player does is one form of emergence, but a whole other dimension of emergence is found in the procedural generation of the map.  The map generation is something Mojang put a lot of work into and a great strength of Minecraft, but Skyblock scenarios remove map generation entirely.

A bigger problem for me is that my main source of dissatisfaction about Minecraft really isn't addressed by the skyblock scenario.  I can look ahead and see that, if I play a skyblock scenario long enough, the initial lack of the overworld becomes irrelevant.  I would then be right back to where I started: lacking a long-term purpose to play.

A moral imperative: the missing purpose for Minecraft?

This time, while I was dabbling with playing Minecraft, I put my mind to the task of trying to figure out what exactly is missing from the overall sense of purpose in Minecraft.  What bothered me so much about the game?  

Well, I get all these cool factorization mods that allow me to obtain more stuff than ever, but all I can do with them is build things that get me more stuff.  It's like a poor example of a roleplaying game: you can do nothing but accumulate.  All you have to show for it in the end is bigger numbers of things.  

Minecraft excites us by seeming to go beyond that.  Its advanced sandbox mechanics all you to build (for example) a glorious castle, a surrounding village, its farmlands, or whatever.  (You could aspire to build a giant cobblestone cock if you want!)

Eventually, I got past that appeal.  I realize that, beyond the initial pride of making my own creation, there was no difference from grinding bigger numbers.  You obtain the things you create in Minecraft just as you obtain the materials you use to create them, but it's still just as pointless in the end.

So I thought about this in a tangent to real life.  In real life, lets say you have complete freedom, no glass ceiling, and basically you are miserably wealthy in no time.  Instead of spending our entire lives obtaining resources, we actually quickly reach resource saturation, and so acquisition of resources stops being our purpose.  Essentially the question becomes, "If you had everything you ever wanted in real life, what purpose would you have left?"

There is probably more than one answer to that, but the first and most prominent answer that jumped out to me is this: "You would strive towards a higher purpose instead."  In a word: morality.  You would leverage your resources to try to right the wrongs of the world as you see them.  (This might bring you into conflict with others of other ideals, and that's a game in itself, but lets take this one step at a time and focus wholly on the idea that you decided to strive towards a higher purpose.)

And this is what Minecraft is missing: it is a game absolutely barren of morality.  I am not saying it is an evil game; at no point does Minecraft endorse being immoral.  Rather, nothing in Minecraft has moral significance.
  • Mining - You're not providing for anyone other than yourself.  Therefore, the acquisition of resources has no moral significance, you're just gathering it for your use.
  • Crafting - You're not crafting for anyone other than yourself.  Unless you feel you have a moral imperative to build a pickaxe, or a castle, or a cobblestone cock, there's no morality to be found here.
  • Fighting - The monsters trying to kill you have no moral agenda, it's merely their nature.  In a hardcore game, that's pretty significant, because dead is dead... otherwise, dying is sort of a silly inconvenience.  You can't really treat the monsters as a scourge to be defeated because they are merely annoying and just respawn at the same numbers no matter how many you kill, although you can get some sense of accomplishment by building in such a way as to keep them away.
  • Killing The Ender Dragon - He's the big boss in The End, and killing him essentially beats the game.  But he exhibits no more a moral agenda than any of the yard trash, he just harmlessly flies around The End.  If anything, maybe you are the bad guy for invading his realm.
  • Killing A Wither - A bonus big boss after The Ender Dragon, you craft The Wither yourself, so it's as morally insignificant as any other automaton, even if it is quite capable of destroying your entire base if you were silly enough not to contain it properly.
  • Adopting A Village - If you adopt a village, protecting the villagers and leveraging your resources towards improving their virtual lives, it's a pretty decent source of morality.  However, the villagers are determinedly stupid, they don't do anything but trade and make noise pollution, and this deflates the moral significance of benefiting them somewhat.
It is really no wonder I feel such apathy towards Minecraft: it is a determinedly apathetic world!  It's ironic that a mostly-linear adventure game offshoot, Telltale Games' Minecraft: Story Mode, actually has more significance than Minecraft, whose open-ended architecture should have been a rich breeding ground for significance!
Maybe I just need to play Minecraft Comes Alive in Hardcore mode?
Again, adding a higher moral purpose is not the only way to add purpose to Minecraft, but it seems like a pretty good one to me. 


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