Minecraft: More Make-work for an Abandoned Generation

by Persius Juvenalis
File under: Fake Labor 30 May 2013 17:21 EDT

A memorable quote from the 1999 film Fight Club proclaims, "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need."

We at Fakenation believe that we can say equally, "We're a generation raised by lazy educators who gave us make-work instead of teaching us anything. We doubt that giving ourselves more pointless homework is really the answer to anything."

Yet this is exactly what millions of American youths do when, out of the school system, they are abandoned to a world that has left them entirely ill-prepared to function like adults. They may not realize it, but the structure of games like Minecraft appeals to them because it is an exact unconscious replication of the conditions of their schooling, a deep metaphor for a circular, self-referential existence of meeting arbitrary goals without reference to reality. 

The premise of Minecraft is really quite straightforward. Enter a massive virtual world, and live in at as a kind of rootless builder, who has virtual parameters he or she must meet to stay alive and continue building. Wikipedia explains:

The creative and building aspects of Minecraft allow players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. Other activities in the game include exploration, gathering resources, crafting, and combat. Gameplay in its commercial release has two principal modes: survival, which requires players to acquire resources and maintain their health and hunger; and creative, where players have an unlimited supply of resources, the ability to fly, and no health or hunger. A third gameplay mode named hardcore is the same as survival, differing only in difficulty; it is set to hardest setting and respawning is disabled, forcing players to delete their worlds upon death.

The fascinating thing about Minecraft is that it gives the appearance of freedom, with the deemphasis on achievement standards and an optional 'creative' mode, yet this only feeds the illusion of reality. In most video games, the game environment itself is only a back drop to some kind of action. The value comes from navigating a certain structured environment in a challenging and, hopefully, stimulating way. The virtual plane is just a means toward some human end of momentary enjoyment. 

But with Minecraft, the goal of the game itself resides in the virtual realm, in staying alive in it and building buildings in it.  This means all the 'gameplay' takes the form of fake work in a fake world, with the illusion being that this pretend work, like mining for imaginary minerals, is necessary to achieve the digital creation. Take a look at some impressive Minecraft creations:

There they are, in all their glory. Of course, all the effort put into creating these structures from the digital equivalent of LEGO blocks was pure make-work, because if we really wanted a digital recreation of the Golden Gate Bridge, we could just design one as a graphic from the start:

The only value added to Minecraft over any graphic design program is the process of fake labor you are forced to undergo to build anything. Yet this is its entire appeal. 

What's really going on here is a kind of self-victimization of the younger generation, who are reenacting the divorce between effort and reality taught to them as children in school. You are just supposed to do well in school as an end in itself, follow any procedure, however unrelated to reality, to get ahead in the 'game'. College represents a kind of boss level, and it proves too much to handle for many, contributing to our massive drop out rate

You can stretch the metaphor even further. It's children that have been programmed to meet educational goals separate of their reality that these games are appealing to, and the video game industry generally tends to encourage the same blind make-work that passes for 'education' in our schools. Some further similarities:

  • Cheats are rampant, and hacking the system is often the best way to get ahead.
  • If you are good at the game, you get to unlock a lot of self-referential achievements of dubious worth and legitimacy in real human affairs.
  • It is very easy for admins to encourage or discourage players by inflating or deflating the game's standards.
  • There's extra credit (remember collecting all the coins in Mario?),but it mainly indicates an excess of time and dedication than any real talent.

As Fakenation's infrastructure crumbles and a massive cognitive deficit prevents any solutions to social, economic, and political problems, a generation raised on fake education can only channel its productive capacities toward a fake digital future. 

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sara says:16 Apr 2017 16:24 EDT
what is the seed for the fifth picture of the castle?
Anonymous says:24 Oct 2014 13:36 EDT
I play Minecraft and I happened to skip 3 grades, 1st, 5th and 6th and I'm about to skip 9th and I'm only 12.
Anonymous says:04 Dec 2013 6:40 EST
Mind = Blown. Amaaaaaazing analysis, imo! This doesn't mean you guys are stupid, it's actually saying these people made this fucking insane shit and think about what they could have achieved in the world we live in with access to tools or the will to use them. Pretty fucking deep. :-)
Johann Goethe says:03 Dec 2013 15:43 EST
There is a schooling method, I forget the name, that teaches children real skills such as fixing engines, building houses, cooking, fishing, and so on. Their homework projects are to work in their own neighborhoods.

If writing is your thing, a true investigative journalist is as rare as a unicorn.
anthony says:27 Jul 2013 19:18 EDT
ilove this minecraft
bradley the minecrafter says:07 Jun 2013 11:37 EDT
I think that children should be educated on minecraft because they will thing logicly and think about building

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Anonymous says:31 May 2013 0:18 EDT
Another reason why young people game is that they have little or no agency in the world. Schools do not educate them in practical skills, and resources are owned by others, so they must simulate both. They aren't able/allowed to actually build something in real life, so they're stuck with Minecraft.
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