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Only You Can Cause Forest Fires in Minecraft - Destructoid


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What's up? I'm D-Sane. I like to play video games.
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There aren't many games that I connect with on a deep and emotional level. Sure, I'll play Mario games cause they're fun and I'll play Metal Gear Solid cause the story is badass. But afterward, I'm pretty much still the same person and I won't even think very much about the experience. Minecraft is different. For the first time in, let's say forever, I am feeling very real emotions in response to a video game. One that doesn't even have a set story other than whatever I decide to do to the world. It's a kind of crazy experience. And today there was a fire...

Like many of you reading this, I have been playing Minecraft a lot lately. At first I dismissed it, thinking it was a craze that would fade, but I finally caved and bought the game about 2 weeks ago. Playing it with the Minecraft Wiki open in another window constantly, I've learned a thing or two about the game -- it seems like I learn something new every day.

So today, I happened upon a large amount of obsidian for the first time and I decided that I would build portals and investigate the Nether (also for the first time). The Nether creeped me out as I'm sure was the intended purpose, but I snagged several Lightstones to play around with for when I returned to the main world. I noticed while I was in the Nether that it was pretty dark unless you were next to fire or a Lightstone and the Minecraft Wiki suggested just burning any of the Netherstones around me to help see as they would burn indefinitely. I stored that little factoid in my brain and kept playing.

After a time, I went back to the main world so that I could experiment with portal placement for fast traveling. It was night time in the main world so it was obviously pretty dark in the forest I was exploring. Then the factoid about burning some Netherstone came back to me. Without considering the consequences, I placed a Netherstone and set it on fire. For about a second, it reminded me of the burning barrels that homeless people stand next to in big cities to keep warm in the winter, just producing lots of light and heat very effectively in a self contained area. I thought "this will be a great alternative to torches." Then I noticed the low hanging tree limb nearby.

It caught fire.

I didn't know what to do. I had never played with fire in the game before and I wasn't sure how it would act. I immediately panicked and started hitting the burning tree with my shovel, just like Smokey the Bear had taught me. But as I did that, the grass nearby caught fire too. It was spreading quickly. Before I knew it, several trees were on fire. There was no way I could put them all out. I thought to myself "This is just a game, there's no way I started a forest fire. It will burn out soon enough." I couldn't have been more wrong...

At this point, there's absolutely nothing that I can think of to do. It might have been manageable early on, but now it's completely beyond my control. I'm either going to have to start up a new game (not a problem, I'm on my 5th start over at the moment) or just move all my gear and items to an island separate of the ever-burning fire.

One thing though that really struck me as interesting is how bad I felt after I realized the fire was uncontrollable. Despite this being a game with very stylized, simplistic graphics and no real consequences for messing things up, I felt total remorse for what I had done to the world. The pigs, cows, birds, and sheep were running around on fire. They were dying because of me. I went around collecting some of their byproducts at first, but there were so many that I didn't even bother any more. And now I'm powerless to prevent future deaths from this fire unless I erase the animal's world.

That kind of has me thinking about the nature of existence. If you think about actors playing characters in a movie and the movie causes you to have a real emotion (you laugh, you cry, etc) then in that way, these fake characters and scenarios of the movie are triggering a real emotion from you. You could say that makes them take on qualities of a real person or event, despite the fact that you know they're fake. A thing which is not real is interacting with a thing which is real. I know the animals in Minecraft aren't real and the game world isn't real (the artwork in the game is a testament to that), but to a person playing a game, they are real enough in that same way, and it goes even deeper than film because the player has direct control over that fake world, giving the whole situation an extra layer of realism. This game can trigger pure terror in me with its moody and sparse musical cues. I can cause complete and utter destruction upon the animals of the world, even if by complete accident. And the animals' deaths can trigger sadness in me.

All of this has got me wondering -- do the animals care if I delete the game world that they live in? Do they cry pixilated tears right before their existence is obliterated? Obviously not. It is after all just a game. But just the fact that I'm wondering that question at all is a perfect example of why Minecraft is one of the best games I've ever played.

Also, I might have a slight addiction to Minecraft because when I close my eyes, I picture the real world in terms of blocks and I consider punching walls and the floor to reconfigure everything to my liking.
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