I don’t like change, not one bit. When I was a teenager, my mum bought a new TV for the lounge and wanted to give me the old one, which was far better than the one I currently had. I resisted this for weeks, content to play on a smaller, less detailed screen just because I hate change that much. Obviously, it’s not great to be controlled by something like this, especially when it can prevent you from getting better things – like a cool new TV. Fortunately, sporadically playing Minecraft over the years has helped me overcome this fear.
Not to brag, but I started playing Minecraft back in its alpha days, so I’ve seen it be born anew more times than I care to count. For the most part, I loved all the early updates. I did freak out a bit over enchantments and potions, because they are confusing and scary, but I’ve eventually come to love them. I do not understand the redstone stuff at all, but I did manage to make an automated chicken farm, and even a nifty little waste disposal bin that would drop rubbish you put in a chest into a pit of lava. Basically, I am a genius.
Because these updates were spread out and I was free to engage with new mechanics as much or as little as I wanted, I could dip my toe into the vast sea of change without having to be dragged into its undercurrent. Some mechanics like hunger and the autocrafting menu I had to just deal with – again, I was resistant at first – but after a few hours or a couple of weeks off, I really didn’t mind.
I never got into playing on a big online server like some people. I mostly just played single player or local co-op, and by the time Minecraft officially launched I’d already moved on to other games. This meant I only ever returned to it for a couple of weeks at a time, two or three times a year. The changes to the game during my absences were big. Suddenly, Minecraft had an End, life in the oceans, new – frankly useless – rock types like andesite and granite that just cluttered my inventory, and a hugely overhauled Nether. After a break, the shifting tides of Minecraft don’t just catch you in their current – they grab you by the back of the neck and hold your head underwater until the bubbles stop.
Minecraft taught me that change isn’t necessarily good or bad, it just is. I liked the wolves you could tame and have as pets, but I hated the potions; I liked enchanting, but hated that hunger had replaced the standard video game eat-to-heal mechanic; I liked the new Nether, but not the End. The point is, some of the changes made me love the game even more, and what I didn’t like would grow on me the more I engaged with it and tried to understand it – I still use my redstone lava bin to get rid of all my andesite and granite though.
I thought I’d conquered change in Minecraft, but I was wrong. My friend told me he only played ‘hardcore’ Minecraft. He’d crank the difficulty up to hard, and if he died, that was it, no respawning, just delete the world and make a new one. Horrifying. I was clearly still afraid of change.
I don’t play Minecraft to reach the End. I just use it as a way to relax and create nice little bases in trees or on islands or in cliff faces. I tell myself a story about being a lost adventurer or a farmer trying to settle down and go from there. Permadeath means these stories have an end. I have trouble with some longform games, and find myself easily distracted in RPGs, so in a game where I can basically wander endlessly, endings are hard to come by. When a creeper sneakily blows me up while I’m tending to my crops, or a drowned spears me with a trident as I’m fishing, or a skeleton pings me with an arrow that pushes me into a pit of lava, I get an ending. Untimely, sure, but by choosing to play this way, I’m not so scared of the change I know death will bring about. Now, instead of being afraid of the new world I’m going to create, I look forward to the wonders it may hold.
As I’ve grown up and come to terms with my depression and anxiety, I try to make sure I do more things that scare me so I don’t let my life pass me by. I don’t mean things that are rationally scary, like skydiving or starting scraps with people. I mean things like sitting in the front row of a comedy show or going to the cinema alone. Because Minecraft is whatever we make of it, it has this uncanny ability to help people overcome their demons, find acceptance, or even get married. For me, permadeath playthroughs helped me put on my scuba gear, dive down into the deepest depths of my fear of change, and overcome it.