Here we are at the end of the road. There’s been a lot of theory and a lot of creating, and now it’s time to wind it up. There’s been a lot of building with blocks, yet Operation Sassafras is not quite as finished as I would like. We (my friend who requested the airship) decided against doing the interior until the holidays and the back balloons still need to be connected, but overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out.
I also found a nifty feature in Minecraft that tells you your stats – how convenient! So, for the course of this project I have spent 2.15 days (in real time) Minecrafting, and the airship consists of over 50,000 blocks. This is not including any time or blocks contributed by Matt in assisting me. There were of course many set backs (wicked problems, weather, lava, fire, explosions and the like) but it was certainly very interesting and a lot of fun.
And now, after much confuzzling, I have finally figured out how to do a video of the airship.
Hope you like it, and I’m happy to answer any questions :3
In today’s society the advancement of technologies is almost viewed as a non-event; the processing power of microchips double each year (Kanellos, 2003), new items and features come into vogue as ‘essential’ to daily life (Gartenberg, 2010; Sullivan, 2012), and people’s sense of self has become more strongly associated with these products that they consume (Ewing, 2012). Yet even though the constant creation and implementation of new technologies has become a somewhat obsessive cycle, it still continues to present new possibilities and opportunities; we do not simply exist in a world created through technology, we are shaping the world by creating with technology.
As a Game Design student, I seek to work in a field that is devoted to creating and sharing content through technology. Although part of this career will no doubt center on the consumer’s ‘need’ for the latest games and product-based identities, I hope the key factor for me will continue to be the creative element of forming entire worlds, writing engaging stories and shaping new experiences for other. The intention of my project for CCA1103 was to utilise the creative potential of gaming technology and, by working within a game world, create something that would otherwise be impossible in reality. The project centered on connecting with a friend of mine as a ‘client’, to realise a digital product based on one premise; he required an enourmous airship to act as his base of operations in the building game Minecraft.
Minecraft is a PC title that allows players to create anything they wish simply by placing 3D blocks in the game world. Although Matt had a great deal of experience building structures in the game, he had only worked from existing designs and was seeking someone to ‘think outside the box’ and develop a unique creation suited to his needs. The system for building within Minecraft is similar in many respects to playing with LEGO blocks (in fact, there was recently a partnership between the two companies with a LEGO Minecraft set released). Yet unlike it’s real-world counterpart, once the player steps into the game-world their ability to build is no longer bound by the rules of reality; among other things, all manner of material can be easily accessed, gravity is of little concern, and a project’s size is simply a matter of preference. As such the game world can provide a creative environment that lets individuals think ‘outside the box’ by removing perceptual, cultural and environmental confinements (Harman, 2012).
In addition to the new creative possibilities provided by building in this game, anecdotally the game’s lack of storyline encourages players to imagine their own story through the elements they build around them. I felt that this form of project would allow me to experience both the creative nature of building within a game engine, as well as the ways in which a digital medium can encourage players creating their own world and story; in turn I felt this would illustrate to some degree the ways that advances in technology have changed how we engage with the world (Ekirch, 2005).
In relation to my client’s own game ‘story’, the airship was to be a towering structure suitable for his self-appointed position the benevolent overlord of his server; thus it had to conform to the aesthetic of the game’s society, function logically in relation to the world created and fit the overall ‘feel’ of his story. In order to lay an appropriate foundation for the project, it was important that we discuss a brief of the ship, and spend a great deal of time preparing; both useful starting points as discussed in CCA1103 by guest lecturers Paul Dennis (2012) and John Harman (2012). As was advised throughout the semester, I made note to explore a wide variety of sources and domains for inspiration (Davis, 2004; Dennis; Harman; Visosevic, 2012), so that we might copy, combine and even transform it within the project (Ferguson, 2011). Then slowly but surely the airship, dubbed Operation Sassafrass, began to take shape; from sketches to blueprints, from colour schemes to material lists, and at last from testing layouts to final block placement.
Just as Ekirch (2005) described the way the technology of lighting changed how people interacted with the world and each other, so too did the acts of building and constructing for me evolve through my use of Minecraft. I was able to think beyond contemporary structures, and create in ways I had not previously considered; “Let’s make a pool with a glowing floor” “Can we power the engine with lava?” “Do you want your giant statue to be made out of emeralds, gold, diamonds, or all of the above?”. Furthermore, it gave me the opportunity to interact creatively with people I had never worked with before; working simultaneously from separate locations through an online shared server, being able to document progress easily and immediately through screenshots and online services, and even receiving comments from random observers (friends of friends of friends) who pass by in exploring the world.
Not only did I experience a new way of creating, I also became involved in a new way of experiencing a story. Yet even though in commencing this project I considered the creative side of forming one’s own story through the act of building; it only occured to me in hindsight that the act of physically creating your own world may be akin to an act of reflective therapy as discussed by Jung (O’Shaugnessy & Stadler, 2002; Visosevic, 2012). Self reflection through play is still practiced today in therapies such as sandplay (Jung, 1997), and perhaps there is an opportunity for practitioners and individuals to explore its potential within a digital environment such as Minecraft.
An example of self reflection on ‘Minecraft play’ from my own experience relates to the aspect I most enjoyed building; the promenade/lungomare on the ship’s bow. When thinking (in game) about how I would design that area, I would unconsciously frame it in relation to myself; for example “This would be a really nice place for a promenade, where I can go for a walk to relax after a hard day of ruling the world; maybe I can sit in the sun, look down on my citizens, feed the animals and even play some chess”. Looking back on this, perhaps my plan for the area was a way of expressing my desire to relax and spend time outdoors after completing this particularly intensive semester? When planning and working on this creative project I did not at all expect this kind of experience, but it is certainly interesting to look at in retrospect.
Overall the creative project was an enjoyable exploration of technology and creativity. I was surprised at the connection one could feel to a digital project and world that had no story outside of a person’s own imagination, and also by the relevance of theories developed in a context so different to what I worked in. This may have been my first foray into Minecraft, but it will certainly not be my last.
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Dennis, P. (2012, September 14). Design Principles. Guest lecture presented in Creativity: Theory, History and Practice. Edith Cowan University, Western Australia.
Ekirch, A. R. (2005). At day’s close: Night in times past (324-339). New York: Norton and Company
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