I’m close to finishing Dragon Age: Origins. Looking back on my time in Ferelden two sentiments dominate:
1) I am surprised that the game’s scripted narrative was so engaging and delivered only through conversation trees (conversation being something I’m not very patient with in games).
2) I am not so surprised that the game was stuffed with repetitive filler game-play: waves upon repetitive waves of cookie-cutter entities that needed vacuuming up with my spell cleaner.
The sum of those two leave me with an over-riding sense of time-wastage and reluctance to play Dragon Age 2. I understand that a game like this needs a bit of combat-filler, but what I don’t understand is why it needs to be so bloated with repetitive filler. Why send 20 waves of identical (in terms of actions fed in from my end) enemies instead of engineering fewer more interesting encounters.
Of course the issue here is not only the kind and amount of enemies thrown my way but what interactions are made possible by the combat system. The difference is best highlighted by comparing Demon Souls and WoW. In Demon Souls each action you make, the distance to your target and your positioning in the environment make an important difference to the outcome of the combat. Every opponent, no matter how easy they are meant to be, is going to cause you grief if you time your blows incorrectly. Time too many blows incorrectly and even the lowliest minion is going to severely punish or slay you. Time and space are interacted with on a more granular level than WoW. In WoW, or for that matter Dragon Age, you queue up your special attacks and place yourself relatively far or relatively close and let the system do the work. In between your special attacks you’ll go on with “filler” standard attacks that impact even if the enemy has moved away from you slightly.
There is also little interaction, on a blow by blow basis, with your enemy. On attacks that take longer to execute there are some actions that cause interrupts but these tend to be special attacks themselves, usually witha cooldown value, making them a one-off rather than a standard part of combat.
Once a sequence of attacks works in Dragon Age, it tends to work for most enemies. Ok, some creatures have immunities to certain things, but otherwise there is a clear pattern of optimal actions you can take with the abilities you have at your disposal that once discovered makes it hard for your enemies to disrupt greatly.
This wouldn’t be such a problem if I wasn’t forced into wading through so much filler combat between the thing that really shines in the game: its dialogue-driven narrative. I can’t help but feel that the latter becomes diluted by the former. I can easily envisage a scenario where the opposite is the case: where the surmounting of obstacles (in this case the waves of enemies and rare puzzle) enhances the appreciation for scripted narrative parts, especially when they are done as well as they are here and you actually WANT to get to the next dialogue section rather than skip through it. But this scenario would involve more interesting obstacles not simply… MORE obstacles.
It’s hard not to see this is the result of outright sloppy design. Even if one decides that combat is going to be the obstacle du jour, a bit more care in designing interesting combat systems rather than replicate a rather basic one designed for the limitations of mass online play would be in order.
But the more interesting question is: do we need to stick to combat as the principal obstacle and time filler in the game? Aren’t there more interesting sets of obstacles we could include to challenge the player, even in a combat-associated genre like fantasy?
My point here is that this issue is not only an issue with Dragon Age or fantasy as a genre but exists in most AAA games on the market: combat as main obstacle and time-filler is definitely fun and adequate for some games, but not ALL. And there are more interesting ways of designing combat than others (another nod towards Demon Souls). What clashes, in my view, is the drive to tell a compelling story populated with interesting characters, as is the case in Dragon Age and necessarily coupling that with combat in order to afford interesting and engaging gameplay.
And before you start throwing Heavy Rain-shaped tomatoes at me please note my emphasis on INTERESTING AND ENGAGING gameplay, and I doubt David Cage would notice engaging gameplay if it slammed a brass rhino on his head.
At GDC this year, the Game Design Challenge occurred with three game designers who were asked to design a game which “is a religion or could be a religion”. I have watched the panel and decided to comment on each of the three game designs.
Feedback and comments welcomed of course.
In my many talks of Heavy Rain, many have mentioned the name of Uncharted. I have been told that if I wanted more movie-like games I should look in that direction. What a “movie-like” game is, I have no idea, but if it contains similarities to Heavy Rain, I suppose it does warrant my attention. This was prior to my purchase of a PlayStation 3, so I had to resort to other methods. Though seemingly unknown to my fellow gamers, there is a huge group of people who record their play sessions with a specific intent. These can range from providing others with a firsthand experience of their experience to showing off every hidden detail of the game. A particular duo known by the Internet names as Chipcheezum and General Ironicus has provided me with countless hours of humorous video game commentary of games like Spiderman for the Nintendo 64 to Metal Gear Solid 4 for the PlayStation 3. They comment on the absurd possibilities which can transpire within video games while also respecting the story the game is trying to tell. As such they differ from many ”Let’s Players” because they are able to draw a fine line between fun and information.
To my luck, Chipcheezum and General Ironicus had created a Let’s Play of the first Uncharted. So while I waited for Uncharted 2 to arrive, I could sit back and relax while reaping the fruits of their endeavor. Uncharted can be seen as the Third Way (to quote Tony Blair) between game play and game cinematic. A scripted story can be hard to convey with player freedom and thus cut scenes are needed to disclose information to the player. Metal Gear Solid is particularly notorious for having long cinematic cut scenes (some are reported to be up to 45 minutes long) while a game like Call of Duty 2 barely has any. Uncharted tries to combine the best of both worlds by keeping the cut scenes long enough to propel the narrative, but also allowing the player greater freedom to explore the story on their own. To me, that sounds like the perfect dream and mix between what I see as two extremes of video games.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is our entry point into the world of Nathan Drake, descendent of Fracis Drake, and his Indiana Jonesy exploits. What sets Drake apart is his every-day guy attitude and his seemingly boyish charm (and humor). He is in it for the thrill (and money), but does not hesitate to pull out when things become too dangerous (compared to some other treasure hunters *cough* Lara Croft *cough*). However, Drake never gets far as he is also encouraged to continue by the supporting cast and the player.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is the search after El Dorado, the Golden Man, purported to have been found by Francis Drake back in the 16th century. Hoping to score some cash and the thrill of an adventure, Nathan Drake dives into more trouble than he had hoped for. Along the way he experiences betrayal, love interests, action, horror and death-defying stunts, but he always ends up unscathed. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves opens up a new adventure along the same lines of Uncharted 1. The search is now for the Cintamani Stone whose abilities are said to grant the owner any wish.
In contrast to Uncharted 1, Uncharted 2 has more of an Indiana Jones feeling in the sense that the Cintamani Stone is build up to possess some other worldly power. The El Dorado was only of interest since it was made of pure gold. As such the myth surrounding the Cintamani Stone builds up an expectance of what it truly is. Does it really do what it says? Or is it superstition and the Stone is merely a giant raw sapphire? These questions linger throughout the game with subtle clues spread all over the place. It isn’t until the end that the game finally reveals its secrets.
Though I only finished it yesterday after a manic 25ish hour long session (with sleep and bathroom breaks) and the experience has yet to solidify, I am of the opinion that Uncharted 2 is the grail of gaming for me. It invites me to partake in an adventure, to play a game where the stakes are high and the dangers quite real. But we are all just playing. Just like we used to do when we were kids and playing robbers and thieves; to us, the events surrounding our actions are real and we may fall and get a few bruises, but we get up again and laugh because we are having fun. We are truly playing.
It is games like Uncharted 2 which reminds me of the great times we had when we were kids. When we could look past the seriousness which envelopes our world and forget about the consequences of our actions. We are all playing within an artificial construct made up by negotiable rules. We are not truly aware of ourselves and we bask in our ignorance. That ignorance is lost as we grow up and it is hard to engage in the same kind of play when the world expects you to behave responsible and be aware of your own actions. My only consolation lies in the fact that video games are now an acceptable form of entertainment, no longer confined to the nerds, and as such allows video games like Uncharted 2 to exist; to take us adventure longing adults for an extra ride and to truly feel that the last adventure has yet to be told.
As usual I am late to the party with Dead Space 2 though the wait has been worth its while. I have had to skip the previous post entries by Isaac and Simon due to my personal engagement with games; their stories. A spoiled story is almost not worth sitting through. Its mysteries are there for me to ponder and wonder, to take me on a rollercoaster of an adventure through its scripted narrative visualized by an expansive universe with minute details. Okay, the last bit was too contrived, even for me, but it is game’s main pull for me to play them. So I stomp the Dead Space 2 disk into the PlayStation 3 and sit back to enjoy the ride.
Dead Space 2 picks up nicely after the events of Dead Space 1. Though there is no explanation as to how you were found floating around in space or why you were brought to The Sprawl, it were things I could look past as a good story is a story which knows what elements to focus on. So I… ahem… Isaac wakes up from coma and is thrown from the ashes straight into the fire. Isaac’s old buddies, The Necro-get-away-from-my-face-you-freak-of-nature-Morphs, are here to visit from and pay homage to his exploits. If only that… actually they are here to rip him a new one in innovative different myriad of ways. So I grab my trusty plasma cutter and… wait a minute… where’s my Johnny?! And what is this? I’m in a straight-jacket?! And the guy in front of me is being brutally murdered and there is nothing I can do to fight back? Damnit! So I run for it while getting slashed by a couple of Necro’s along the way.
The act of restraining the player made me think of Amnesia’s way of inducing horror in its players; you cannot fight back. You are at the mercy of your enemies and they will show you none. Since the game ends once the player reaches zero health and zero health is the equivalent of dying, players will try to keep themselves alive as long as possible. So I sprinted out of the mental ward without so much as knowing where I was going – merely that I was getting the hell away from here. The darkness, the chaos and the unfamiliarity of the space, made me experience what I would assume to be the equivalent of waking up from sleep (or coma) in an unfamiliar space, surrounded by people you do not know and you have no recollection of how you got there. A nice start and perfectly in line with the initial start of Dead Space 2.
It is no surprise that I had high expectation for Dead Space 2. Dead Space 1 was a very pleasant surprise in terms of universe, setting, actual game play, development of story and its untraditional discourse. The few logs you could find aboard the Ishimura told only a fraction of a vast universe populated by EarthGov and Unitologists. The Unitologists themselves were quite fascinating as they could be seen as a parallel to our world’s Scientologists, but they also contained enough information to warrant them as a separate and functional religion. The developers even went as far as to create an alphabet of Unitology letters.
But most importantly, Dead Space 1 provided me with an adventure where the main protagonist wasn’t a pumped up version of a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Rambo, but a normal every-day-guy who was merely at the wrong place at the wrong time. Over the course of DS1, Isaac became more confident and rose above the everyday-man, but without forgetting where his roots lay. He just wanted to get the hell away from Ishimura and so too did he want to get away from the Sprawl.
However, I am afraid that my journey through DS2 was not as fruitful as DS1. The world was not new and so I was not as intrigued when I discovered I had been brought to the Sprawl and Necromorphs were ravaging through the station. These were common knowledge by now and so I kept going, hoping to find new information which could satisfy my questions: What is the Marker? Where is the real Marker? What is the purpose of the Necromorphs? Is there more to Unitology than what we have seen? Why do they stash their dead bodies? And yet I only gained a fraction of what I asked for.
The Markers were still as mysterious when I finished the game. More information was disclosed on their origins, at least the one located on The Sprawl, but nothing which could prompt further discussions. The Real Marker, mentioned in DS1, was not mentioned at all in any relation and the mystery surrounding the purpose of the Necromorphs was not dissolved. The only new addition to the universe was a game chapter devoted to an area where you enter the Church of Unitology and take a guided tour providing you with some new (propaganda) material. But beyond that, nothing.
As such Dead Space 2 has left a strange taste in my mouth. I genuinely enjoyed this new addition to the Dead Space universe, but also felt that a lot of my time was spent doing nothing. It was one long walk down a corridor to another. The mystery surrounding the Ishimura was not be to found on the Sprawl. It was taken for granted that the station was fucked up because someone had constructed a new Marker. End of story. Go blast some Necromorphs, Isaac. I only have one question left.
How is it possible to experience a new story and come away with no new knowledge?
The loading screen tells me I ve been playing Dragon Age Origins for 40 hours. I can’t help thinking what I could have done in those 40 hours
-started and finished two medium sized paintings
-written and edited a decent short story
-read a book
-watched the entire collection of my fav director’s (Chan-Wook Park) movies… twice.
But instead I’ve happily decided to log 40 hours in a game which, aside from its mildly interesting but cliche fantasy narrative is pretty much a cycle of rinse-repeat combat that is either far too easy or frustrating (mostly due to the way you interact with the game rather than actual, tactical challenge).
The first 10 hours were spent exploring the limits of the game’s system: its primary device for narrative delivery-the conversation wheels, the combat system, the restricted space for traversal that passes for a world etc.
The next 20 were spent wondering why I was still playing but figuring I was right about the middle so might as well continue playing.
The last 10 hours were spent thinking that I was close to completing the game only to realize I was not as close as I thought.
And that is roughly the pattern I have experienced with most (single player) console games I have finished in the last years. The games I play on the PC tend to be more multiplayer oriented and the ones that aren’t are usually more niche titles like Mount and Blade or Amnesia.
But going back to the opportunity cost of these 40 hours spent gaming, I can’t help but wonder why I automatically feel that reading a book would have been a more worthy and less guilt-ridden activity then playing a game, for example. It depends on the book of course, but I guess the assumption here is that it would be one of decent enough quality that would resonate with the little gnome inside me that ponders the universe and I would come away from the experience culturally enriched.
That argument doesn’t quite fly if I m completely honest with myself. In the last three years, for example, I ve read a lot Murakami and now I started on some Annie Proulx. Both writers are technically apt and enjoyable to read - Murakami resonates with me more than Proulx and Proulx dazzles with her fantastic form and technique. But I can’t say I’ve put down any of those books and had a deep think about my life, humanity or the seven cherubs that operate the crank of my soul.
Most of the time, finishing a book gives me a similar feeling as finishing a game, namely one of satisfaction at completion and an overall “ahhh that was nice - let me make some pasta”.
Well written literature might tickle the admiration taste buds, but that’s because I write fiction myself and am always looking for devices to absorb (steal) and implement in my own work - not the experience of a consumer of the thing per se.
It would be easy to counter the sentiment I m forwarding here by saying that literature more readily addresses the human condition - that it speaks to the soul more readily than slaying goblins in a dungeon, but I m increasingly doubting this to be the case.
The different media seem to address different aspects of the human condition. Literature is terrible at making us experience the satisfaction of attaining goals - the sense of agency at having completed a puzzle or found a way across a danger-filled post-apocalyptic landscape. Those are as significant treatments of that holy grail of audience-affect: the human condition. And I am sure there are creative means of exploring the latter more readily in games than we have given them credit for. It’s just that most attempts at doing so, such as Dear Esther or The Path, lack the readily engaging mechanics that we expect of games and thus have a harder time (or at least I did) sticking with them. With most decent literature I expect a challenging trudge for the first few hours of reading.
I am sure that if game-makers had an audience that EXPECTED more effort from their audience to engage with the game (as was the case back in the garage-design days of the 80s where most new games had their own weird system that needed days to unravel in order to to get into) then we would have a wider range of commercially viable poignant games. Or not.
I managed to go off on a massive tangent from the point of this entry right after the first paragraph, so I ll stop my Sunday morning ramble and go buy me some tasty soup from downtown Copenhagen.
PS: This entry was more about making drowning the guilt of long hours Dragon-Aging than anything else…
It’s common for me to feel stupid when playing games. There are many reasons for this, one of them is, I believe, my lack of game literacy. So, I usually feel that “stupidity” as normal in some way.
A few days ago, my stupidity was different, though.
I’ve been playing Minecraft irregularly but for quite some time now. That means I should have some basic understanding of common things like how to pause and exit the game. That’s the minimum that’s expected from someone who plays a game for more than a couple of minutes, I think. Well, not me, apparently.
A few days ago, as usual, I was playing Minecraft and doing some other things at the same time. I had just stopped my boat at some beach and had just found a natural cave, placed a couple of torches I had with me and moved deeper inside the cave. When someone talked to me on facebook I pressed “esc” to pause Minecraft and went on facebook for a short moment. After pressing “back to the game” I saw the screen “ReSpawn”.
After all this time, I had never realized the game wasn’t really paused after pressing ‘esc’. Am I the most stupid person on Earth or is this an example of bad design?
Having been rather intrigued by the Crysis 2 Multiplayer pitch I decided to have a quick go at the demo. Crytek are clearly aiming at a different-but-same experience here. There are nods to elements taken from various multi-player FPSs, but more than enough new stuff to intrigue the FPS buff. As one might expect the suit plays a central role in the whole game and choosing between stealth or armour mode at any given time changes drastically who you experience and effect the game.
What has impressed me so far is the game’s balance in every aspect. I am not sure how much variety there is going to be in the actual game but right now the limits on upgrades and weapons one can have is sober - in a very good way. Every little change to your load-out makes a distinct difference without over or underpowering any aspect of the game.
The game is paced really well through the use of energy. One can sprint, leap and camouflage themselves at dizzying speeds, but these bursts of speed are curtailed by an energy meter that depletes very quickly. This makes speed as important an asset as armour or invisibility in the game and trying to combine one of the last two with even the most basic sprint and jump is going to see your energy bar flash red quickly.
If I have one gripe about the game it’s more of a personal pfff than an objective critique: the maps are quite small. Especially the skyline map starts feeling old very quickly. There are internal areas but in straight out death match mode these are scarcely used, leaving about a third of the map under-utilized. I LOVE multi-player FPSs beyond any other genre, but the repetitiveness of rounds played on tiny maps is making it harder to justify the 12th, 15th and 20th round in a sitting…
Will definitely be looking more closely at this one when the full version comes out.
So my adventures in Dragon Age Origins continue. The more I play the game the harder it is to shake off the feeling that the whole experience is a product of Captain Shepard’s dreams and I m soon going to wake up in a bland cabin on the Normandy with another gruelling day of grinding half-arsed aliens on a series of Ikea-clone planets.
The whole situation is not helped by my vanity. I cannot help but try to customize all my characters into looking like me. The different customization engines tend to have enough variety in deployment that the resultant characters don’t look identical, but since Mass Effect and Dragon Age spew forth from the same piece of mother-software the Grinn the bastard blood mage and Shepard the bastard sniper and blue-alien-hotty wooer are pretty much the same person in different attire.
Oh right, the game. Well it has some finely written dialogue whose consequences make up for the sameness of combat and spatial navigation. If Mass Effect has identical planets strewn across the galaxy and identical facilities with the same furniture and decor plopped on them (the epitome of Ikea-ness), the world of Dragon Age must have a really dominant dungeon-architecture school which churns out the foremost dungeon/castle/tunnel designers… for the last few centuries or so.
Here’s some gossip for you - I’ve received a message!
On the wall above the workbench in the house I’m squatting, someone put a sign:
When I say someone, it’s because I’m not sure it’s from the owner of the house. When I check on the content of the chest, it looks as if stuff has been moved around, so someone is still rummaging about. I’m somehow doubting it’s the original owner, as there’s a good chance this intruder was expelled at the mass extermination, courtesy of the server admin: Anyone not on our course would be thrown out.
So I’ve done some investigative work amongst my fellow minecrafters, but they all have pretty solid cases to show for themselve:
Two of them have this massive wool-moon building project going on, they are too occupied to fool around.
Another has that nicely striped house keeping her busy. I think she has a squatter as well by the way.
And Another made a breakwater seafort.
And Another.. I’m actually not sure what she’s doing, but knowing her, she would have left cake and mushroom soup for me - not a sign on the wall.
And Another… has been griefing a little, ending up somewhat aloof. I think he expected more from his personal creation: The Lava Pyramid
I’m not anticipating him to be online much, I don’t think he likes you, Minecraft.
And yet Another one of them went crazy one day and built a massive fortress with the danish flag on top.
Despite his striking architectural skills, I know he used to live in a hole in the ground, well hidden and well rural. Who knew he would turn out this feudal, gosh!
But it isn’t him, and I doubt it’s the original constructor either. It’s more likely to be someone pranking me.
I’m still to find out who…
Your speculative friend
- Virtua Lee
I’m writing you to tell you about what a great time we’re having together. Although you’re very quiet, or well… you’re basically completely silent, this is not a bad thing. I have a history of playing games that let me decide what will happen, I might even prefer it this way.
We plan out all these projects together, or well… I plan them and you listen. Then we build them.. or well, I build them and you watch. In fact when we’re together, I do all the talking. Remember - I don’t mind, it’s nice having someone sit and listen to you for days on end.
This game is all about me - me me me.
Every block I break up to put down again, makes it mine - mine mine mine.
There’s one thing that concerns me though: There might come a time, where I run out of things to say, become exhausted and uninspired, and you will not be able to carry on the conversation on your own. I know this day will come eventually, and right now, I wish it never would. But I know that day will be the day you go from being the attentive and non-judgemental friend I adore, to just kind of boring.
Don’t worry, there’s a difference between boring and forgettable, you’re only the former, not the latter. I promise the time we spent together will be framed in all the snapshots I took:
Right now, I’ll close my eyes and live like our friendship will last forever.
Your blissfully ignorant friend
- Virtua Lee
It has been sitting on my shelf for months. Every time I pick it up and insert it into my xbox I find some excuse why not to start the damn thing. Excuses that range from “I need to wash the dishes” to “I better find some space of time when I can dedicate more than x hours to it…” or “let’s just play 20 minutes of COD/Ruse/Total War/Battlefield etc and THEN I ll start Dragon Age”.
Getting into a game like Dragon Age takes long, lonnnng hours. Now I don’t mind spending long, long hours in multi-player rounds of almost any FPS, but I go into each session with self-deluding claims like “bah, I’ll just go for a few rounds until it’s time for fencing…” and then extends over the next few weeks or months of obsessive compulsive trials of every skill, weapon and attachment the game can sport. But a game like Dragon Age demands commitment right up front. You know there’s no way you can play this game on the casual one to two hours here and there basis. This is serious commitment - and I’m hugely phobic of committing my leisure time to anyone or anything that expects more than 2 or 3 hours of my attention.
Then there was the added de-motivating factor of extremely linear environments. If I am going to spend long hours in a game-world I want it to be one that lets me go where I please; that gives me props, characters and events to populate MY internally generated narrative, or biography. Linear plot-lines squeezed into corridor-like environments sends my imaginative input sobbing in a corner and brings out the annoyingly critical git in me that is notoriously intolerant when it comes to narrative segments shoved down my throat by cliche-ridden [fill genre here] characters reminiscent of the most basic examples of writing found in the respective genre.
But Dragon Age has really been a surprise. The narrative is palatable, if utterly ripped off stock fantasy classics. More importantly, the quests attached to both the main story line and side-quests are not as repetitive as one would expect from the genre. There’s a bit more than mass-chicken-killing and gullet-collecting going on here that keeps one interested in the story surrounding the quests.
[to be continued…]
I recently completed Gears of War 2 in coop mode with Pippin. When the final cut-scene kicked in and the credits started rolling I felt this surge of relief - it was finally over. I lay back on the sofa and thought:
That about sums my experience of Gears of War 2. Just something that had to be done - completed in the face of hours of repetitive tedium; like completing a predictable balance sheet. There’s that mild sense of satisfaction you get when completing tedious tasks. It disappears after 20 seconds and you’re left with a lingering sense of:
3. Name your cities and strive to be a founder
The act of naming
After I created the standard settlement building, as mentioned in the previous post, I noticed something was missing. They would all look the same and, with enough time and settlements, I would lose track of how many I had built. I wanted them to feel unique, even though they are similar: I started naming them and coding what was their distance from the starting point. This way, I felt I was, even if alone, inhabiting this world: at any point in my walks, I could find a place, a named place, that I can remember in my mind and look forward to. Orfalese, Damasco, Tirus… Slowly, the list keeps growing as I am occupying this land, making it mine, making it understandable. As in The Neverending Story, the act of naming gives these places a symbolic quality that makes them survive longer in my mind.
The tale of the two brothers
When I was a kid, I heard a story that got stuck in my mind. One brother, the older in the family, would dedicate himself to reading and learning, always asking his father about old history and philosophy. One afternoon, the younger brother was building a castle of cards as that older brother read about empires and conquerors. “Father, why some great men are called founders of cities and others conquerors?”, he asked at some point. At the same time, his younger brother had just placed the final card in his tallest castle so far and started jumping around, celebrating. The older brother, angry by that unwanted noise, with one slap destroyed what his brother had spent so much time building. “My son, your brother is a founder and you are a conqueror”, the father told the older brother.
I don’t want to conquer this world, I want to found it, to set the foundations for a civilization that I will not see. I have this civilizing feeling in the single-player even more than in the multi-player game (as virtualee hints on her post), where I feel I am in a public space trying to understand what is going on in an ever-changing scenario. In single-player, it is almost like building something that, in the moment it is completed, turns into a ruin, a mark of a distant past (or future?), but that I instill hope into by the meanings it has to me.
By acting in the game world, every Minecraft player is actually exercising a basic human condition: working to create an artificial world to inhabit, as discussed by Hannah Arendt in her book The Human Condition. The fact that humans are conditioned beings, both by their natural environment and the environment that we create through our work and labor, appears clearly to me in the world of Minecraft. Every block I take out of a stone wall, turning it into cobblestone that later I’ll use in one of my settlements, is evidence of that conditioning: to survive in the game I have to create, alone and directly, my own artificial world by subtracting blocks from this natural emptiness. Does that sound as over-interpretation? I’m not sure.