20 December 2011

Minecraft Monday #3: The Disappearance of Father Scowell

Minecraft Monday is a fortnightly feature on Hyp/Arc that documents a playthrough of the hit indie game Minecraft, as well as discussing news and updates regarding the game and the cult phenomenon surrounding it.


Previously on Minecraft Monday, we explored the Little Town of Remedy from its inception as a prison camp up to its recent modernisation that made it slightly less gulag-y! Today, you'll be visiting a number of Remedy's prominent buildings, as well as learning about the Disappearance of Father Scowell...

Construction in Remedy has progressed well; the little town is expanding nicely as I attempt to replace all the cage-like fences with buildings that surround the town so that the villagers don't start some kind of revolt. After all, last fortnight we learned that if just one villager feels suicidal, they all feel suicidal; if one villager begins to harbor feelings of resentment towards their benevolent dictator (me), then it won't be long before they crowd around my house with torches and pitchforks (or pickaxes?) as I sleep - that's the back of my house at the top of the post there, and given that it's made entirely out of wood and glass, well, it only takes one of them to realise the destructive properties of fire.

One of the construction projects that was recently completed by the Minecraft-Masons of Remedy (me again) was the Remedy Pier, a short elevated platform above the Varonese River, that looks out upon the river, and the Varonese Cascade Steps, a small waterfall where, for whatever reason, you can catch fish presumably attempting to ascend the stairs towards some kind of fishy Nirvana.

The Pavel Cavery was another recent addition, a small restaurant resting along the western steps of Remedy. The interior is mostly glass, allowing patrons their own little glimpse of the outside world without having to forlornly press their giant scowling faces against the fences caging in the town to make me feel bad.

To the joy of all of the town's regular travellers (me again), the town was finally equipped with the Remedy Travel Center! This unassuming little building on the corner of the town's fence allows access to both the Remedy Railway and the Northwestern Canal; and for that reason, it is locked away behind huge iron doors that require button-presses to open. The villagers' inability to fathom the intricate workings of buttons and doors prevents them from randomly throwing themselves into the canal in a vain attempt to drown themselves or instituting some kind of suicide pact where they take turns running over each other on the railway. Also in the distance, you get a tantalising glimpse of one of Remedy's neighbouring towns, accessible via the rail, canal, or the northwestern road!

Lastly, the town's meagre one-storey guardhouse-with-ladder was upgraded with a second storey, and then topped with a rooftop storey that provides light for the town center and allows for unparalleled views around Alexander County! (Well, except for the Mason's building to the right, which is several times larger and also has rooftop access...) And speaking of the Mason's building... as it turned out, I had built the building but not really done anything with the interior. And since I had recently provided a place for my large-headed constituents to gaze out at the world they were not allowed to partake in, a place that allowed travel to other lands which they weren't allowed to enter, and a place for them to ruminate over the river that they could not fish in as their arms are permanently fused to their stomachs, it seemed only right that I take some time out and build something for myself. Being a selfless philanthropist for virtual people is so taxing, after all.

The main room of the Remedy Chapter of Minecraft-Masons was finished relatively quickly, but... working in that single room of a colossal building, with no-one else around... there was an unusual atmosphere to the Mason building that persisted as I built the room, almost as if someone else was in the building, watching me. It was unsettling, and it made me wonder - can places in videogames be haunted?

The Disappearance of Father Scowell

I got out of the Mason building as soon as I was finished building the main hall, and headed straight for the chapel. I don't know why - perhaps I wanted to check and see if the only other "religious" place in Remedy had the same atmosphere. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism, visiting a place of holiness and devotion after an encounter with something unknown. Perhaps it was just a subconscious reflex - I did, after all, picture the chapel and the Masons of Remedy being somewhat in opposition with one another.

There was a cluster of villagers walking around outside the chapel, and for a second, it seemed as though there was something deeply wrong - I couldn't tell exactly what it was, but just being in their presence as they ambled helplessly about made me a little unsettled. I hurried past them, opened the door to the chapel, and stepped inside.

The Remedy Parish Chapel was deserted. This was, of course, impossible. The door to the chapel had remained closed since it was rebuilt, and the High Priest - whom I had dubbed "Father Scowell", after his sinister attitude, stern appearance and tendency to cast glares through the windows at anyone walking past - could not have possibly left of his own accord.

I stepped back into the streets, and wandered about, puzzled. The rain had begun to fall, and nearby were two villagers, standing close to one another underneath the overhanging roof of the Remedy Farm. I simply watched them for a few moments, and the unsettling feeling I had experienced before came back. It almost seemed as though they were wordlessly communicating with one another... It was then I realised what must be happening. Despite their limited intelligence, they realised that something was deeply wrong in the village, and although they could not communicate it to me, their congregation around the chapel suggested that they realised one of their number was gone. They were searching for him.

I joined in. What else could I do? One of my constituents had vanished as I had been working on the Mason lodge, and it had perturbed the villagers to such an extent that their emergent group intelligence commanded them to search for him.

But by dawn, there was still no sight of Father Scowell. We called the search to a halt. We allowed a few days for him to come back... but he never did.

The Funeral of Father Scowell

By that time, the villager's heightened emergent groupthink had settled down, and they returned to their docile selves. As the only being in Alexander County presumedly possessed of memory and an individual mind, I was the only one that remembered Father Scowell. I was the only one that attended his funeral ceremony on the hill at the back of the church he disappeared from; after all, even Scowell's casket was empty. There was literally nobody else.

Except for him.

Our eyes met briefly. The unsettling feeling arose once more; he seemed to understand what I was doing. But he also seemed possessed of such insight that he should avoid directly partaking in the ceremony. Why he was there in the first place was a mystery - he just seemed to wander over, look at me...

...and then walked away.

I continued with the ceremony. Father Scowell - Requiescat in Pace.


For a few days afterwards, I felt uneasy in Remedy. There was something wrong in the town. The atmosphere in the Mason building, the disappearance of the Priest, the way the villagers seemed to know that something was happening - especially the solitary villager who attended the funeral briefly... I didn't know what to make of it.

One night, I went back to Scowell's grave. I simply stood in front of it, wondering what had happened to him, where he was. I spoke to him through the game's chat function, asking him what was going on, asking anyone who could hear me to help...

 ...what the...

... ?

NEXT - MINECRAFT MONDAY #4: The Villager That Knew Too Much »

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