I’ve been in another of those gaming funks where I’m not playing one game “exclusively”, but I’ve played all of the active games I have and it’s like being “bored” but not really but lemme tell you about what I was thinking about and experiencing while playing Minecraft.
I’m not afraid of heights. Where am I going with this? Stay with me. Way back in the day, I’m on my Xbox 360 and I see a demo for a game called Crackdown. Okay, it’s free so let’s check it out but I didn’t have a lot of hope for it because some game demos back then were just shitty. I download it and get to playing it and, holy shit: This game is fucking amazing! I was hyped! I called my son-in-law and told him about it and that he had to download the demo. He did – and I can tell by the way he said that he would that he was just humoring me but he calls me back maybe an hour later and he’s as hyped about this game as I am and now neither of us can wait for the full game to come out.
It does and I’m having a grand time running around this open world game, killing bad guys, sometimes having to deal with the police because I “accidently” shot or blew up an innocent bystander or nine or fifteen. Since we could play the game together – pretty much unheard of at the time – we’d wreak havoc in the game and on each other – he loved to sneak up on me and shoot me or blow me up and thought it was funny until I’d get my revenge. One day, we’re doing something crazy. The game has a lot of ways to collect achievements, from racing games to jumping vehicles through targets that can be found in a lot of places.
Some of those are easy while others are like, “How the fuck do they expect me to get that one?” But my son-in-law figured it out: Spawn a vehicle and drive to one of these targets and pick up the car and throw the car – and me – through the target. Genius. We’re laughing our asses off as we’re taking turns chucking each other at and through the various targets and often with hilarious results when he asks, “Dad, did you get the Agency achievement?”
The Agency is the headquarters for the crimefighters, and I tell him that I didn’t know of any achievements in there; he tells me that you can get an achievement by climbing the Agency building to the very top… and jumping off – but don’t die. It’s the tallest building in the game but I tell him that I didn’t know about it so I hadn’t done it and, well, who cares?
He says, “I did it.”
I’m competitive. So was he. Those three words and the snarky tone they were delivered with had me thinking, “Oh, it’s on, motherfucker!” because there is no fucking way in that I’m not going to do something he’s bragging about having already done! Indeed, we’d been taking turns one-upping each other in the game but in this, he didn’t as much throw down the gauntlet than he had punched me in the face with it and, oh, fuck no, I can’t let him clown me like that!
All I had to do was figure out how to do it. It took me almost two weeks to accomplish this because of two things. One, I had to work and the other was me discovering that my character wasn’t powerful enough to make some of the jumps which meant having to run around the city looking for the powerup orbs so that I could reach the places I needed to and, um, dealing with falling off the building in places, dying, and having to start the climb all over again. What I had noticed in one attempt was I was up really high on the building and I looked down… and do you know that feeling you get in your guts when you’re up high and look down and it makes you think, “Oh, shit – what the fuck am I doing up here!”?
Well, I had that feeling and it was weird because I know that I’m sitting on the sofa in my living room with my feet on the fucking floor but I am… afraid of being up this high in a damned video game! Let’s not talk about experiencing that feeling of falling; one time, I’m like three-quarters up the building and I misjudged a jump and I fell off the building and as I’m watching the ground approaching, I’ve got that “I’m falling” feeling in my body… but I’m not really falling, of course. This weirded me out big time and was about to think that maybe there’s something wrong with me but my son-in-law had mentioned the exact same sensations when playing the game and messing around on the tall buildings.
What the fuck? Man, talk about being immersed in a game? I finally make it to the very top of the Agency building; I’m standing on the tip of the tallest spire and looking out over the city as a master of all I survey and I look down because I have to jump in a way that’ll land me in some water way down there – and I learned that I had to hit the water to get the achievement because I’d jumped off the building and from the wrong place – and I had a great urge to run to the bathroom – and missed the water, died, and didn’t get the fucking achievement. Back up the building – but now, I’ve mastered climbing this motherfucker. I look down to aim my jump and… vertigo. That sinking feeling in my stomach because my mind is telling me that I have no fucking business being up here but, again, I’m sitting on the sofa.
And now, I’m afraid to jump off of the building’s highest spire. I actually put the controller down and walked around to calm myself before going back to the game, saying “Fuck it!” to myself, and jumped off the building… and I wanted to jump out of my skin as my character dropped like a rock and… into the water.
Achievement achieved. I tell my son-in-law that I got it and he was telling me how afraid he was when he’d done it and… he’s not afraid of heights, either. This game fucked with both of us in ways that, honestly, I never thought was possible and no matter how many times I’d been up way high in the game, that feeling would always show up and I’d just ignore it and tell my mind that, no, we’re 100% safe and not in any danger.
So, last night, I started a new world – the forty-eighth one this year, by the way – and digging my usual mineshaft and as I always do every time I start a new world. Ever since Mojang – the creators of Minecraft – gave us the Cliffs and Caves update, I learned that you have to be careful when digging because you can’t know that if you take out a block there might not be another one beneath it and, yeah, found that out the hard way when I’d took out a block but it was kinda dark in that corner, I stepped down and… dropped like a lead weight – and feeling that sensation of falling – and the only reason I didn’t fall to my death was I landed in some water.
What the fucking fuck? So I learned to look before taking another step while digging a mineshaft. I’m doing this and removed the last block and… there’s a black hole under that block and I thought, “Okay, here we go with this again…” I put a torch on the wall in front of me so I can see how far down this goes and… I get that damned feeling of being up “too high” and something I hadn’t felt in years! I shake it off and change the setting from Survival to Creative and, yes, I know that Minecraft purists (like my daughter) would give me some shit about “cheating” like this but as I say, this is my game and I’ll play it any damned way I want to. While playing with my grandson and one of his friends, I learned what has to be the coolest trick I’d ever seen in Minecraft: Making an elevator out of bamboo scaffolding.
Normally and when you wanted to, say, get to the bottom of a ravine, you had to have a bucket of water on hand, make a waterfall, then ride down it and hope that you don’t drown before you get to the bottom. It’s a technique that I employed when discovering all of the amazing caves that can be found in the game but the scaffold elevator trick literally blew my mind and I have no shame in changing over to Creative, grabbing a block of scaffold, and creating an elevator so I can have a nice, smooth and relatively safe trip to the bottom… because I did learn what happens if you move from where you have to stand in order to make the elevator trick work and, yeah, sometimes, it’s a very long way to that sudden stop at the end.
And having to ignore that sensation of falling. So, after dropping an “oh shit” amount of scaffold blocks, I step on the top of the last block placed, hit the “A” button and one express elevator, going straight down! I get to the bottom and now it’s exploring time… and dealing with another disturbing feeling that only Minecraft seems to give me. I’m roaming around and dropping torches to light up the place but doing it in a way that will allow me to get back to the place where I started my exploration and feeling scared of getting lost and not being able to find my way back.
I’m feeling this and laughing to myself as I remember the many times my now late son-in-law would go exploring and getting lost because he refused to adopt my “way” of marking an area, which is placing torches on the left so that, on the way out, they’re on the right and if you’re on your way out and there’s a torch on your left, you’re going the wrong way. But, as I said, this dude was as competitive and hard-headed like no one else I’ve ever known, and I’d spend a lot of time laughing my ass off at him for getting lost in his own mine or cavern and laughing even more because I knew he couldn’t stand me laughing at him for this.
But here I am in yet another magnificent cavern and feeling afraid of getting lost and thinking about Crackdown and how… irrational this fear is since if I do fuck up and get lost – and I have done that a few times (but not as much as my son-in-law made it a habit of doing) – well, I’m in Creative mode and I can fly and it’s a no-brainer to fly straight up and dig my way to the surface. Duh. I’m not lost, though, and I usually don’t get lost because I have a good sense of direction, or I always know where I am relative to where I started… but I still put down torches in my way just in case. I know I can get back to where I started… but that fear of getting lost is fucking with me just the same, which got me thinking about being “afraid of heights and falling” in Crackdown. It gets better. I have Crackdown 3 and, yeah, it’s got some stupidly tall buildings and other structures that have to be climbed and, yeah, that feeling of not wanting to be up that high and let’s not fall but, sure, I’ve climbed to the top of these things, done what I’ve had to do, and have jumped right off the top of them but that sensation of falling is still there.
Weird shit. It doesn’t happen in any of the other games I play, like, I can jump off a cliff in Borderlands and not get that sense of “fear” being up high or falling even though it’s rare that you fall out of bounds in the game and wind up dying – and I’ve done that, said, “Oops!” and kept right on playing. I have yet to figure out how and why these two games… fuck with me like this. I’d had a summer job working on a construction site and tasked to work on the top floor of a pretty tall building and being up that high – and sometimes, going to the edge of the unfinished floor and looking down at the “ants” going about their business didn’t bother me one bit. I’m just not afraid of heights… except when I’m playing these two games.
And I’ll be damned if I know why other than to say that game designers are really good at making you feel like you’re in the game and not “just playing” it. I left the cavern to empty my inventory, which was full of the coal and iron I desperately needed and, yeah, I know that I can switch back to Creative and make all of this stuff but I don’t do that; it just feels… fairer to collect this stuff without being in Creative and, yeah, that’s just me. I’m back in the cavern and finding out that this bitch is deeper than I thought it was. I’m flying around the place, placing torches and putting scaffold elevators in and I’m doing this not so much for myself but for when someone else, like my grandson, comes into my world and wants to explore the cavern and now they can get down there without having to worry about getting killed and losing all of their stuff – and then having to hustle back to get it.
And something in the back of my mind is telling me to turn around and go back before I fuck around and get lost. I get to the very bottom of this cavern and look around to see that there are lot of places that are still cloaked in darkness which means I have a lot of work to do to light things up and thinking about doing it and making sure I don’t get lost… and, fuck, I don’t know why this is “bothering” me since I obviously know that I’m sitting on the sofa in the living room. Duh.
It’s just weird. I’m not concerned about it, mind you, but, yeah, it’s just weird.