Mining for Meaning
by John Andreula
edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk
It happened a few days ago…
My daughter wanted to play MINECRAFT, so she powered on our XBOX 360.
The console’s old, but it frequently gets use for viewing movies and television shows. Seldom does it get used these days for its primary intended purpose of playing video games.
There we were. My daughter was attempting to use the device for what it was initially coded for, but her efforts were curtailed. The game required a software update. Why wouldn’t it? It was only released in 2011, so why wouldn’t it need one now, in 2019?
Unfortunately, my fully expanded expandable memory was at too full capacity for the system to accept the download. We’ve all been there, right?
I had to come to the rescue. Who wants to see their lone precocious daughter disappointed?
Plus, it was my own fault. I’m the reason the hard drive was at max capacity in the first place. I am a data hoarder. I never seem to say no to the offers of free downloadable games, despite my increasingly less frequent gaming sessions.
I pulled up the system’s on-board memory and deleted one of the first games listed, ASSASSIN’S CREED ROGUE.
ASSASSIN’S CREED is a series that I have experience playing extensively. Each time I have tried out a new one I end up being disappointed. The stories are consistently hollow and they seem to go nowhere. This is only exacerbated by the awful endings that are awaiting those who wade through the entirety of the games.
Yet for some reason (because it was free, and I’m a sucker for free stuff) I downloaded this one.
After the file deletion we were in good shape. That piece of crap game accounted for over 6 GB. We now had enough free space to import the necessary data to get back on the MINECRAFT-craft.
Either the file was large, or my internet connection is slower than I realize, because the download took quite some time. I wisely moved on to some yard work while my daughter opted on watching the pot sluggishly boil.
It was somewhere in the midst of this nerdy sequence of events that I came to an unsettling realization: I probably should have my geek card revoked.
I haven’t purchased a video game or an anime in over a year, including digital downloads or expansion packs…
I haven’t made it to any cons or nerd culture gatherings in quite some time either…
And possibly most egregious of all, I still haven’t seen AVENGERS ENDGAME!
I couldn’t help but wonder What’s wrong with me? The same guy who writes columns about video games and pop culture is as out of touch and out of date as this? I am in such proverbially poor condition when it comes to my geek content consumption. How can I claim representation and the expertise required of such a role within the community?
My daughter stared patiently at the glacially-paced download status bar for a bit longer. Eventually, she was rewarded with the MINECRAFT title screen.
She immediately selected “Creative” mode. She’s a blossoming gamer, and this was a change from our past spins of the game. The previous handful of times we played in “Survival” mode. That version’s inevitable night-times and their resulting aggressive creatures intimidate her. She would end up not enjoying the game as much as she should have, and in turn was unwilling to attempt to play it without me.
I sidled up next to her and sat down at my girl’s side in front of the couch. What I witnessed tickled my nerd-senses.
“Creative” allowed my daughter a menu of unlimited resources, building materials, and in-game items. This mode was a built in cheat! It was incredible!
My daughter donned a full set of gold armor and a matching gilded ax. She proceeded to build a house out of diamond, gold, and emerald immediately afterwards. I was beaming with geeky, fatherly pride.
Then, as any true video game enthusiast should, I asked for the controller. Previously we had witnessed some of my friends’ kids and daughter’s friends play the game. I knew there was a way to float around and build and destroy like a virtual god.
I opened the menu and uncovered a pair of “Elytra” wings. I didn’t know what they did, but they were cool. I put them on. I figured they may help us achieve my goal of her becoming a near-deity. I mashed various combinations of buttons to get our—her—character to fly, but nothing worked.
My girl grabbed the controller back from my hands. In a perfect modern world moment, she accidentally stumbled upon the command that allowed her character to float. Her avatar flew around the screen for a bit before I suggested she float up as high as the game would allow.
I had recently seen a Quora thread that spoke about kids who were addicted to MINECRAFT. Ironically, the parents and the children who were engaging in the thread, were primarily complaining about how each was treating the other in regards to time spent gaming online. A central theme was the struggles in detaching from a gaming session when real world responsibilities beckoned.
What piqued my gamer interest, however, was one troll’s passing reference to kids being able to travel to multiple dimensions within the game. I figured my daughter and I may as well take our first shot at it.
The female avatar rose into the sky. She floated above the clouds. The ground slowly shrank away, and then disappeared completely from our viewpoint. We directed the character straight at the pixelated sun above her head.
We took turns rising, but never seemed to close the distance. After a few more minutes I got the feeling that our character may have been stuck in some sort of glitch.
We attempted to reverse our trajectory and head back down to the cold calculated familiarity of terra below. The return journey was very disorienting. Without being able to see the ground we couldn’t be sure we were even heading in the right direction. We had climbed so far into the virtual sky that we couldn’t be certain we were going anywhere at all.
Then, by a stroke of similarly dumb luck and accidental key inputs, our character ceased floating and plummeted back down to the comfortable familiarity of the ground.
My daughter and I both recognized what our discovery implied in terms of what we should be able to accomplish within the coded reality of the game. Unfortunately, we were unable to duplicate the condition of floating again, despite several failed attempts.
Next I did what any impatient borderline-millennial does in this position. I reached out to the internets. After a brief search, the spoiler and instant gratification production community provided me with exactly what I was looking for. I discovered how to reestablish our floating ability through simply double-tapping the jump button.
I also found out how to engage the Elytra wings I had equipped. They would allow us to glide around our icy, rocky mountains at a much higher, but significantly less controlled, speed.
We equipped a blank map and zoomed off. I watched as the map slowly filled itself in. We journey around and through the various locations within the game and barely made an impression on the map’s face.
It came time to bring our session to a close and disconnect for a while. That afternoon, we had spent double the standard amount of time my wife and I usually allot for our daughter to have in one sitting of screen-time.
It was a struggle to get her to turn it off.
I don’t have as much trouble as my daughter in compartmentalizing these urges. I have big people responsibilities like chores, work, and writing columns for 5280Geek.com constantly pulling at my attention and energy.
However, the following day I did feel that all-too-familiar pull to play some more MINECRAFT. I have to admit, our marathon session left me feeling that old itch as well. I’ve been thinking about sneaking in more game-play after she goes to bed, so I can build a castle in the sky.
Don’t worry, though. I’ll make sure she has ample opportunities to get her turns in as well.
The course of events, and the connection with my daughter, reminded me that I am still justified in pontificating on gaming. I still know what a quarter’s worth…
John Andreula is a geek & gamer residing in Westminster, Colorado.
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