Minecraft, for the unintiated, is a benign Swedish game that combines Atari-era visuals with the breakneck pace of ice fishing and the adrenaline rush of Minor League baseball. You pick up Lego-style blocks and use them to build any kind of shelter you want in order to avoid cute, hopping zombies. That's it. It's like watching chamomile tea steep.
But for some players, Minecraft inspires collaboration, creativity—and occasionally fascinating writing. Here's Jonathan Gourlay, a University of Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate-turned-linguist, on Sartre, parenting, and recreating "a memory in block form" in the game:
Most of what is around you right now is empty air. Yet, someone will insist on filling that emptiness with Taylor Swift music, especially if you happen to share your swath of emptiness with a nine-year-old girl. And if that little girl is suddenly absent, at a sleepover for instance, your walls will resound with the lack of "You Belong with Me." The denuded trees in the front yard offer only bare ruined choirs where late the sweet tweens sang.
I sometimes carry with me the lack of a house I once lived in. Picture a house on a mountainside in the jungle overlooking the ocean. Picture a little girl peeing off of the second floor balcony every morning; claiming the world for her own. Now take the house away. Change the girl so that she faces the world from inside a room with the door closed and the YouTube Taylor Swift channel blaring. She could be in that room for hours while I retire to my computer, re-creating our old house in Minecraft, placing a waterfall on the balcony, trying to fill the emptiness with an approximation.
There's more to Gourlay's short, compelling tale. It's worth reading in full; click here for the rest over at The Bygone Bureau.