Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Men, Maps and Minecraft

Although I am not an afficienado of Minecraft and am genuinely amazed at the hours and hours that children of various ages seemed to dedicate to creating their own blocky universes, I have to accept there is case to recommend it from a geographical viewpoint.

Take this world below ...
Zelda: Twighlight Princess map created in Minecraft by Kezsonaj 
It has been created in Minecraft and is a faithful recreation (or so I am told in the blurb that accompanies it) of the lands created in the game Zelda: Twilight Princess.  When you zoom in the landscape is created in fine detail such as this palace below.

Although it is clearly uberadictive and for some people who fear daylight, it has become a way of life, it is useful to help teach children how to visualise in 3D cartographic 2D information. It is a sort of virtual Lego.
A long time ago I extolled the virtues of games such as Doom and Wolfenstein, for once you ignored the gratuitous violence and spurious plot, playing them involved a sort of virtual orienteering: you had to find objects or locations on a map and then find them in the virtual reality of the game. Even better, if you could take your bulky PC around to your friends house you could connect your computers with a serial cable (the days before USB and indeed wireless connectivity) and spend many happy hours chasing each other around the mazes with a rocket launcher: such fun!

Level 1 of Doom: Remember to shoot the exploding barrels ...
These games, especially Doom, took this to the next level as 'creator' software was spawned that enable you to create your own mazes and hide objects, monsters and secret doors all over the place.
Minecraft is an illogical development from here but it shows that perhaps human nature is more interested with the creative than the destructive and violent. People all over the world are spending thousands of hours creating virtual environments that would have made Slartibartfast proud. 
Slartibartfast breaking the news to Arthur Dent in the Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy that he designed Norway on the original Earth ... (Original BBC TV Series)
However harmless this passtime may seem, there is part of me that thinks that these people ought to not just look outside their window, but open their door and walk around and find out how extraordinary the real world is ...
Picture by Dave Morrow: Most Amazing Landscapes (go to his page and see more images)
... the advantage of the real world is that you can smell it and feel it.