Emergent Dwarvish Behavior in Minecraft

So indeed, I was turned onto Minecraft by the Penny Arcade comic. Just played it for a bit; there’s clearly more to delve into.

Last night, I learned out how to create tools and create a safe space for myself, and then found myself walled in for the night. It was a sensible shelter: window to the outside, a corner to duck behind, a few torches.

The night wore on, with nothing but my workbench and raw materials. I dug deeper and deployed more blocks; I created a hallway to a slightly larger room for my workbench, and more torches. Then more torches still, and a higher roof as well as some steps, creating a greater sense of homeliness and space. And then I created an adjoining room: a proper corner to focus on crafting new goods, well lit from above to properly mark such an important place. Without the crafting of tools, I wouldn’t be here.

I continued to work on deeper floors, higher ceilings, and more torches in corners, desparately trying to make this little cave feel humane. I briefly mined upwards and accidentally reached the surface, revealing a dangerous vulnerability to the hordes outside; I quickly patched this mistake, and learned that it is far safer to dig below.

Morning came, and it was time to venture outside. I tried my newly forged sword on the wildlife, but was quickly bored. I dug through a new direction of my cave and discovered a nearby river. I was quickly focused with re-engineering the riverbed and even attempting to create and indoor lake, something to bring a little bit of the outside world to me.

Despite some near fatal mishaps, I created my little underground river, but I ultimately thought better of it. A gap for a river was a gap for the horde to get in. Why should I risk losing everything I built just for this river? Better to wall it off. I could still here it flowing beneath my footsteps.

Night came, and I walled myself in again. I set about to crafting more tools, and worked on making my rooms more grand, more spacious, more well-lit. Columns, walls, alcoves. This was decently interesting, but I wanted something even more special: a secretive keep for those who would travel further below, a reward for those who shared the love of a builder.

I built a spiral staircase, punctuated with torchlight, going down deeply; then a grand series of stairs leading into a narrow series of passageways. Day and night passed as I tunneled, because I was adequately entertained here.

Then came a critical question: how deep could I build? I started in the middle of a hallways: a cruel jab at anyone who would enter blindly. I simply stood upon ground and dug below myself, going deeper and deeper, waiting for clay and stone to give away to something more.

Deeper and deeper I went – only laying new torches when I could no longer see the torches above me – seeing how deep I could make this pit. I was clever about my strategy: dig down two spaces wide, so that at the bottom I could fill in one side as I climbed above it while leaving the other as a treacherous gap. I continued until I was finally too frightened of my own handiwork. I knew that I was simply too far below, and thus began constructing my ascent.

And yet, halfway up, I lost my grip and fell to the bottom. I survived, but with only a half-heart of health. My course of action was clear: snuff out the torches and build up words, filling this pit with sand as quickly as possible to return the surface. And so I did; a future explorer could quickly reach the bottom if they desired, but this little experiment was too gruesome to leave unchecked. I walled up the tunnelways, and thought uncomfortably of the explorers who would attempt to make their way through.

I walked up the spiral stairway and continued to adorn my little home. Experimenting with new touches, new lighting, trying to make it feel a little more grand. I dug sideways to discover new veins of coal and ore that could be brought to some other purpose; I filled them in afterwards, keeping the dark spaces at bay.

And finally, for reasons I don’t quite understand, my foolish builder lept from the height of his staircase and shattered his already-broken body. That was the end of him.

I can return to Minecraft with a new builder, and re-enter the same world. Somewhere, hidden in a mountain, is an empty home. I could enter, and wonder what became of the builder who was here. I could follow the staircase, and wonder what drove him to build so deeply. I could break down the clay wall and enter the catacombs, and hope to avoid any fatal pits. Or, I could adorn this stranger’s home, and try – again – to make it a home.