My Gaming Balm

Some time ago, I told you all about the difficult choice I had to make. In case you missed it, it was all about how I gave up gaming so I could get the best possible result from my time at university, and while I had the best intentions to getting back to gaming, the best laid plans gang aft agley; I’m a ‘grown up’ now, with ‘grown up’ responsibilities.  Try as I might, when I got home from work in the evening, I just wanted to deny the existence of technology. Having spent all day staring intently at a computer screen, the thought of coming home and battling my way through the endless torrents of games that I haven’t yet completed just…  well, it exhausted me. And that was before I’d even found my controller. Most often I would come home, finish my chores and then just merely exist for the few hours between dinner and sleep.

About six months ago, in an attempt to introduce myself to the daunting world of PC gaming, I guess, I bought a copy of Minecraft. While supposedly compatible with my laptop, if I tried to play the actual game – where you have to mine for your items and not just take them from an inventory – it would jar and glitch every three or four steps. After a while of falling off the structure I was building because I hadn’t noticed that I was going too close to the edge, and endlessly having to destroy blocks that I didn’t want to place, only to over-mine and have to start all over again, I gave up. As much as I was enjoying the structural creativity and the ability to make something as awesome as a treetop paradise, I just couldn’t handle the constant lag. Which was a shame, because I saw how much fun my friends were having, and the potential for the gaming balm that my life so sorely needed.

Lately I have not been too well. I recently left my job and am currently rocking the unemployment banner. And while you might tut and roll your eyes, assuming (as many have) that I’m lazy/naive/insert judgement here, I will unashamedly tell you that I left work for health reasons. Today is officially my first day of unemployment, and while many people have already wished me well and called me lucky for getting to spend the day in my pyjamas watching TV, I am choosing instead to be proactive and attack job hunting with full force. In my pyjamas, granted, but still… shut up.

If it hadn’t been for the constant support of friends the past few weeks, I don’t know what I would have done. There are varying degrees, from the friends who openly insult me with the knowledge that I’m still smiling, to those who have sat and listened to me splurge total rubbish through the medium of my keyboard. But one friend in particular has given me something so much better, and for that, right now, I am so deeply grateful; he gave me gaming back.

When it was announced that Minecraft was coming to XBLA there was an outcry. Most people who hadn’t discovered its charming nature on the PC were proclaiming quite clearly that they didn’t want to play such a ‘basic’ game – although, since it has now become one of the fastest selling XBLA games, I wonder how many have stuck by their guns. I, for one, was excited from the start. Though disheartened to realise that I couldn’t justify the purchase, as I no longer have a form of income (savings only last so long!), I was looking forward to the future when, one day, I would get to download it. So when a random Xbox code appeared in my inbox with the single word “Present”, I was intrigued to know what was going on. To be honest, I should have clicked sooner. This particular friend and I had been discussing how excited we were that it was coming to a console for quite a while, and he mentioned that it would have been nice to have someone to play with; so his sending me a mysterious Xbox code from nowhere was rather obvious, really. Either way, when I typed it in and realised he had given me a copy of Minecraft, I was more than a little bit thrilled.

The next day, when I got home from work, I was instantly on my Xbox, digging my way through as much dirt and stone as I could. I even splashed out on a couple of months of Gold membership so that I could enjoy it with friends. What I didn’t anticipate was just how much I would enjoy it.  The last week and a bit have flown by. Getting back from work saw me rushing home to turn my Xbox on and add to my world. And what’s better is sharing it with other people. Between us, my friend and I have built a castle, a tree-house that puts Windsor Castle to shame, a roller coaster and extensive (read: unfathomable) mines that have caused us endless laughs when one or another of us has fallen down and got lost. Again. My Xbox has seen more action in this past week than it has in months, and I have laughed heartily and found joy in the discovery of gold.

The best way that I can describe it is Zen gardening. You can control, build and destroy as you will. Yes, there are creatures that come along and fuck that up from time to time, but holes can be refilled, swords can be re-forged. I can’t explain it to you, but that repetitive mining is so damn relaxing.  While a great little game to play alone, Minecraft really takes on a whole new form when played with others. I understand that not all games are for everyone, but I don’t think I’ve spoken to a person yet who has played it and not enjoyed it in some capacity. The charm of Minecraft is almost magical, and it’s so easy to sink hours into it.  I think it’s a shame that people won’t give it a chance because it’s come from a PC, or because the graphics and the concept of the game are so “simple”. I am thoroughly in love.

Last five articles by Jo



  1. Keegan Keegan says:

    I completely agree. The Minecraft phenomenon passed me by on the PC, so when I got it on the Xbox I killed a lot of hours. Its relaxing in a way that few games are :)

  2. Rook says:

    Glad to hear there’s a game giving you so much joy. I’ve not trited it on PC or 360, just one of those games that doesn’t spark enough curiousity to find out more. And I already have quite a few games untouched that I should give some time to. :)

  3. Ste Ste says:

    I’ve still not tried Minecraft. I think the only think holding me back is that I KNOW I will get hooked to it. I’m hanging on for the time being but I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out.

    Really glad you got your gaming back though. It’s about bloody time!

  4. Lorna Lorna says:

    I’ll put my hand up to being one of those (apparently few) folk who aren’t keen on it. When I first saw it, I thought “You’re kidding… is this what everyone has been banging on about?” Then I tried it and, as much as I wanted to like it, I was just not enamoured. Terraria looks more visually appealing but, again, I couldn’t get on with it and kept chucking my workbench away by accident (or picking it up when I wanted to do something with it).

    After a short time faffing with Terraria, I concluded that I couldn’t be bothered putting in the effort that a grand structure would require, and that if they weren’t going to even bother with a tutorial or any guidelines as to what I was actually supposed to be doing, then they could pretty much keep it. I haven’t returned to it since, nor picked up Minecraft again. As much as graphics don’t usually bother me, I just find Minecraft unappealing, which is odd. I was just bored, which was a shame.

  5. MrCuddleswick says:

    Minecraft is scary when the monsters come out. Terrifying.

  6. Edward Edward says:

    My favourite part of this article was that the day it went up you got an awesome new job :D

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