30 January 2012

Minecraft Monday #6: The Remediation of Remedy

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.


Last time on Minecraft Monday, I had to escape the little town of Remedy after burning down the prison, with its only prisoner still inside it - a villager named Virgil who I believed was responsible for the disappearance of Remedy's priest, Father Scowell - I ran to the north-eastern desert village of Medicine in an attempt to begin a new life away from the madness in Remedy. This week, we discover more about Medicine - and a major revelation about Father Scowell's disappearance comes to light at last...

Medicine is a quiet town. Not as populous as Remedy, and with fewer buildings; most of Medicine's villagers stay indoors, which, following my flight from the villagers of Remedy who seemed to stalk me around the town at every turn, I was very thankful for. Remedy also has its own church, and thus, its own priest; He seemed to keep himself to himself, and reminded me strongly of Father Scowell from Remedy. I christened him "Father Frowen".

I built a small house for myself, in the style of the surrounding homes. I was eager to prevent Medicine's citizens rising up against me as Remedy's seemed to do, so to begin with, it was a humble affair. I also constructed a wall around the village - but, remembering how the great wall in Remedy seemed to inspire a deep depression in its inhabitants, I made sure that the villagers could still see the outside world from the elevated dunes in the center of the village.

I also made sure to build in some more features, like the passages out through the walls, to give the villagers of Medicine a little more community spirit.

The little structures seemed to brighten the otherwise gloomy place, and give Medicine a desert flair that helped remind me that this was decidedly not going to be another Remedy. I'd also started working in the church, having built a safehouse adjacent to the building on a previous visit to Medicine. I also realised that in building the safehouse, I'd accidentally knocked down the ladder to let the priest travel up and down from his mezzanine floor.

I stared up at him.

He scowled back at me.

This was the same priest I had strolled by in the village multiple times before. And now he was in the church, with no visible way of actually getting up or down to that floor. I ran out of the church immediately, and searched from one end of Medicine to the other, looking for someone. Someone I thought had disappeared.

And I found him.


Scowell hadn't disappeared. He had come to Medicine. I couldn't believe it, but after helping the priest down from his platform inside the church - coincidentally stuck in the same room that his predecessor had once been stuck in - I got the two together, side by side. There was no denying it - the man I had referred to as Father Frowen was actually Father Scowell.

The Little Town of Remedy was just another pastoral community upturned by overdramatised events. The Disappearance of Father Scowell had been nothing more than a man travelling to a new vista. Virgil, the Villager That Knew Too Much, was simply a man who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time... many times. The Fire in Remedy was simple hysteria, burning away what wasn't understood. Remedy was remediated.

But what about the attempted suicides? What about the villagers emergent intelligence? What about Virgil's apparent attempts to communicate? What about the strange atmosphere in the Mason's Lodge? What about the secret tunnels?

If there ever was some dark secret behind the recent goings-on, it seems as though we may never know. Jeb, who recently became head developer for Minecraft, announced that he will be working on adding better artifical intelligence to the NPC Villagers that populate all the little minecraft worlds like Alexander County - and when that day comes, any intelligence that Remedy's townsfolk seemed to have developed would be nigh-impossible to discern from their programmed intelligence.

In the end, it doesn't really matter. Because of course, there never were any misdoings and mysteries in the little town of Remedy. The only seedy drama was the drama I developed. The only strange behaviour in the villagers was the behaviour I acknowledged and mapped together as linked events in my head. The only narrative was the one that I read into the game.

And when you think about it, the emergent intelligence of Minecraft's villagers was always there, only on a bigger, deeper level. A game with very little narrative built into it, nevertheless managed to build a story around my experiences. Lines of code that were endlessly rational but had no underlying reason, nevertheless managed to instill every pre-scripted action and event with meaning, with incidence, with irrational reason. A piece of software without any thought and no language nevertheless managed to speak to me, to communciate the experience of a vision to me. All these things - story, reason, vision - culminated in an experience that felt as though it was trying to teach me something - the same something that is spoken about in the game's "End Poem".
"I will tell the player a story. But not the truth. No. A story that contains the truth safely, in a cage of words. Not the naked truth that can burn over any distance."

This is the story of a little town called Remedy. I hope you enjoyed it.

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