Life Lessons I Learned From Playing Minecraft – When In Darkness There Is Light
Perhaps the best Christmas present I got this past year was the PlayStation 4 version of Minecraft. There are all my other video games proudly displayed on my shelf and then there is Minecraft. It seems that I reach for that one more than any others. In fact, while checking the leaderboards recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I rank in the top 200 in survival mode easy travel! So, what life lessons have I learned from playing Minecraft during all those kilometers of traveling this amazing open world where anything one can imagine, one can engineer and create? There are so many lessons to choose from in my opinion, but the one that stands out is that old Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared!”
The world of Minecraft can be a hostile place for those who are unprepared. Darkness comes all too quickly and, with it, all those dark creatures (i.e., hostile mobs) that wish to kill you – spiders, skeletons, zombies, slime, and the dreaded exploding creeper. Even if a hostile mob does not lead to your untimely death, the beautiful landscape becomes a brutal death trap in the darkness including falling off mountaintops, plummeting into ravines, drowning in water or lava, or simply being lost in the wilderness without food and starving to death.
If all this scares you, you can simply play the game in Creative Mode and build to your heart’s content. But then if you do this, you will never learn how to survive in Minecraft. And survival in Minecraft helps you survive in the real world as it teaches you all about being prepared and, if not fully prepared, how to turn a bad situation around.
A perfect example of this was my play session yesterday. I wanted to finally get around to mapping out the part of my world where I decided to make my desert palace. To fill this empty map, I needed to run around with the map equipped in my quick item select in my inventory. While doing this project, I was exploring previously uncharted areas and biomes. The minimum I should have brought with me to ease this long journey was a map to view my terrain and coordinates, a compass to point me back to my spawn point, a bed to sleep in, a crafting table, a chest to store items, a furnace to make fuel and cook food, food including carrots that require no cooking, torches to light the darkness, wood to craft more torches and tools and a quick shelter and a wooden door to come and go as needed, a sword to defend myself and an iron pickaxe in case I find some rare ores such as gold or diamonds. But of course I wasn’t prepared and I hadn’t saved a backup of my game online since the previous day.
So, here I was in the middle of nowhere with darkness rapidly descending upon me and I come across a ravine that I just can’t resist. Rather than building shelter and hunkering down safely for the night, I just needed that “one more block and then I’ll stop.” That one block that leads to another block and another block. Of course the creeper came after me followed in rapid succession by the skeleton, the zombie, and the spider. I had half a heart left and if I died, I would lose my inventory, including my carefully completed maps and compass as I would never find my location again from my far away bed.
The only alternative I had was to jump deeper into the ravine and use some dirt and cobblestone to wall myself in. But I did not heed my advice of inventory preparedness. I did not have the minimum of two torches. I was in utter darkness. I could not see nor could I move the crosshairs. I was trapped in eternal darkness. I couldn’t even die to respawn. I even saved and rebooted the game to see myself in darkness and helpless again. My only choice was to download yesterday’s version of the game and call it a day and remap the world and build all those great rooms again and gather all those resources. Twelve hours or so of hard work erased.
But my boyfriend Steve told me I should not give up, that in utter darkness, there is always light if one can reach inside oneself to find it. I decided to open my inventory. I could see that my compass was working, so I knew I was at least turning my avatar around in the tight confines of my dark hole. By equipping my map, I could see a little bit of my surroundings, although if I could see more, I would have been able to read my height coordinates to see that when I did dig, I was going downwards instead of upwards. I thankfully had 14 or so carrots as well as a nice stack of wood logs. My pickaxe was on its last legs. If I could get enough cobblestone, I could make a furnace to craft some torches from my wood.
First, I turned some of my wooden logs into wooden planks. Then, using the crafting feature, I created a crafting table. However, I wasn’t able to place my crafting table down, so I tried to dig an area big enough to place it. Little did I realize, but I was digging downwards in the dark. Directly down with no space around me. My pickaxe finally broke and I had to dig stone by hand. I labored on for about an hour or so before I finally managed to do something right and place the crafting table. Then I had to find it in the dark, which took a few minutes. Fortunately, I was able to get enough cobblestone before my pickaxe broke to craft a furnace. Now, I had to make room to place my furnace. Once I did that, I was able to use some of my wood logs with some of my wooden planks to make charcoal. I also used my crafting table prior to this to make some sticks as I would need this with the charcoal to make torches.
The reason you need a minimum of two torches at all times and not only one is that you need to place one to see where you are. When you dig to the next area, you need another one to place at the new location. Then you are able to see to retrieve the previous torch. In this manner, you can keep moving through darkness regardless of the length of travel with only two torches to light your way. It was truly a triumphant moment when I heard the “thunk” of the torch as it hit the stone wall in front of me and my world was cast out of darkness.
I could now read all the coordinates of my map and see that I had dug straight down to bedrock. That was why I couldn’t hear the sound of stone breaking any longer. I was able to eat some carrots to restore my health and celebrate my victory and begin the daunting task of getting safely to freedom. I used my crafting table to make a stone pickaxe. I had just enough cobblestone. If I did not, then I would have made a wooden pickaxe, mined the cobblestone, and then made a stone one. Actually, once I gathered more cobblestone, I made several stone pickaxes as I knew I had a long way to go.
I did not have enough wood to make a ladder. Even if I did, I would risk falling due to how deep I was in the bowels of the earth and how far I had to go. Additionally, I had to be careful that I did not dig straight up some more and suffocate from falling cobblestone or sand or drown in water or burn in lava. I had to dig a stairs, two wide, all the way up to the top, spiraling periodically so that I dd not dig into water and drown as my map showed nearby rivers and ocean. I used the two torch method as described and blocked up certain sections of the lower stairwell periodically to protect myself from potential hostile mobs spawning in darkness.
But I did not need to dig far up before I realized I had hit a major gold mine. Had I not dug a deeper hole for myself and went downward, I would not have found all this gold! Originally I went into the ravine that got me in this situation as some iron ore had attracted my attention. Fortunately, I had just enough iron ore and wood to make iron ingots in my furnace and to craft an iron pickaxe. I got all my iron ore and saved my iron pickaxe just in case I found something else worthwhile, which I did not.
After another hour of digging and consulting my map, I realized I must be on top of a snow-covered mountain peak in a Targa biome. At the 78 coordinate, I finally heard some friendly mob making some farm animal sound – forgot which and realized that I was right under land and home free. The only thing now was to cautiously remove the dirt to make sure it was daylight and not night time. I finally got lucky and emerged into a fully lit world. I restored my health to full capacity and raced back to my desert palace. Nothing screams civilization like the comforts of home after being trapped deep in the darkness of the earth. Needless to say, I learned my lessons on preparedness well and never leave home without the minimum wood logs, cobblestone, and two torches, but prefer the full explorer’s list. This time I managed to be both wealthier and wiser for the errors of my way, but in Minecraft, as in life, it is foolish to test one’s luck and in the end, the fools will perish while the wise will survive.
– Des Manttari, Editor-in-Chief, Phoenix Genesis
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