We here at gaygamer.net love our Minecraft, and can you blame us? A testament to the strength of indie game development, Minecraft has built one of the single biggest followings in the entire gaming world. And of course, it's just good old fashioned addictive fun.
Now we have even more reason to love it, after original creator Markus "Notch" Persson took to his tumblr blog to share his thoughts on gender and sexuality in the game.
[Keep in mind I am no longer the lead developer on Minecraft, Jens is. This post is about what I thought about back when I was making it]
If it wasn't for the fact that the default Minecraft character is referred to as "Minecraft Guy" and that I once jokingly answered "Steve?" when asked what his* name was, Minecraft would be a game where gender isn't a gameplay element.
The human model is intended to represent a Human Being. Not a male Human Being or a female Human Being, but simply a Human Being. The blocky shape gives it a bit of a traditional masculine look, but adding a separate female mesh would just make it worse by having one specific model for female Human Beings and male ones. That would force players to make a decisions about gender in a game where gender doesn't even exist.
All the other mobs in the game are genderless and usually exhibit the most prominent traits of both genders. Cows have horns and udders (even if I've later learned that there are some cows where the females do have horns), and the chicken/duck/whatevers have heads that look like roosters, but still lay eggs. For breeding, any animal can breed with any other animal of the same species.
Obviously, I'm not saying this is a good way to deal with gender in all games, as the better your graphics are, and because of how quickly the human mind tries to identify the gender of other humans, you are going to have to make a decision as a developer about gender, but I felt we could get away with it in Minecraft.
There's no point to this post. I just wanted to clarify, so there's an official word on it.
Also, as a fun side fact, it means every character and animal in Minecraft is homosexual because there's only one gender to choose from. Take THAT, homophobes!
* I do regret using masculine terms to talk about the default character. These days I try to use the up-and-coming use of "they" as a genderless pronoun.
Quite the one two punch for gender and sexuality representation in gaming. Thanks Notch!
As Owen Pallett(née Final Fantasy, the musician, not the game - so named until he got famous enough for Square to care) once sang: "Darling, I love you but sometimes I need a day off."
I remember, years ago, being an active citizen of Vana'diel: I was young; I wasn't dating anyone; I was bored a lot. That is, anyway, what I told myself. Truthfully, I loved it. It was a great game and a lot of fun. I played as a red mage/black mage (which is a pretty sweet combo for those of you who never played Final Fantasy XI), and I'd leveled and leveled and leveled until I arrived at the point where things started getting really hard. The hard didn't bother me, though; it was welcome, in fact. It was the time that came to be too much. I remember running from my home to a port in the desert to wait for a boat on which I would wait in the hold to take me to another port in another desert; there I would wait some more until I found a party with which I would sit around and wait some more for a very rare something (I think it was a banshee, or something that looked like a banshee) that we would take a long time to kill in the hopes that it would drop another very rare something and we could go our separate ways. Of course, it didn't drop it, so I waited some more. I remember having to out myself to my group after one of them went on and on and on about how "f--ing gay" it was to sit around and wait for this thing. The conversation went well in that a) he apologized, said he'd stop, and then we got into a fairly adult dialogue about homophobia in online gaming; and b) I was glad to hear I wasn't the only one who was sick and tired of sitting around and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. I remember thinking "Man, I could be doing this in real life, with better graphics and close friends."
That was the beginning of the end.
I hung in until some time later when I realized that the waiting was a pattern in which I let myself get trapped. I'm not against online gaming by any means. I enjoy it a great deal, in fact, and I enjoyed most of my time with Final Fantasy XI and I experience pangs of nostalgia when I see dusty expansion packs sitting in sale bins. But with every every MMO I've ever played, I start feeling like enough is enough. I'm supposed to be playing the game with my thumbs, not twiddling them. I don't know how much of it is the fault of the game, and how much of it is my fault for getting TOTALLY INTO IT and then setting myself up for burn-out, but I'm too old to think that it's entirely one thing or the other.
This is the point, I dread to admit, I have reached with Minecraft.
Follow along, after the jump. (And even if you don't, check out Owen Pallett's "Hey Dad" for one of the most fantastic pieces of Super Mario Bros. 3 nostalgia that's ever been put to music.)
You know, I have absolutely no idea what this new map could possibly be named after, but the folks who brought us Sigil have crowned the new Adventure Mode map "The Redfields." Apparently one of the reasons is that, as opposed to "Sigil", "The Redfields" sounds like a real place, but I can't help but think there's some alternative reason for naming it that...some kind of cheeky double entendre, perhaps...
But I digress.
It's a testament to the popularity of the server that as soon as it went live the available player slots were full, but I still managed to get on the first evening The Redfields was up - and people had already gone crazy with the building and the mining and the shenanigans. For a few thoughts and some pics of the new server (and perhaps to shake your mind free of that double-entendre link), follow along after the jump.
As many of you may have ascertained from my hyperventilated mumblings last week, Minecraft 1.8 (aka. The Adventure Update) has rendered obsolete the survival multiplayer maps from earlier versions. If you want to play the full game from here on out, you have to start anew. For now. I'm sure some loveable nerd out there is working on a fix to make it easy to port old maps into the new Minecraft, but for the time being I am assured it is actually quite complicated to try to move objects from one update to the other. This revelation, which originally had me gasping like the goldfish your little sister decided to teach how to breathe outside the tank, has gradually become something I quite welcome. They say that, when you're trying to be creative, think up two ideas and throw out the first one because it's been done before. 1.8 is a perfect chance to do just that.
But enough about me. What about the other residents of Sigil (a map which will be available to die-hards, our server's mostly-benevolent overlord has assured me)? Today I present to our readers the fruits of Sigil's twilight days, an explosion of creativity unparalleled in the server's history: Princess Point. Whatever will become of Sigil's as-yet-unnamed successor, Princess Point will leave some mighty big shoes to fill. Follow along, after the jump.
I was going to say something witty about how gay people are always fashionably late, and so this column often is too...but frankly it has more to do with my time management skills than my genetic predisposition for facial hair and strong shoulders. But there I go again.
As you may know (and as you can see above), Minecraft Beta 1.8, the Adventure Update, is fast approaching. Much more than the previous incremental updates, 1.8 looks to revolutionize the game. In fact, 1.8 used to be 1.7, but the last update had to be broken up because of the enormous scope of it. The Adventure Update is meant to make Minecraft, well, game-ier than before. A full list of features can be found here, but here's a taste: New clouds, new lighting, new objects (including stone bricks, brick stairs, glass panes, and more), new mobs (including evil blue spiders, silverfish and endermen), canyons, villages, rivers, oceans, swamps, chargeable arrows, animations for eating, new items dropping from zombies. Honestly, the list just goes on and on, and it all promises to add layer upon layer to an already deceptively complex game.
Sigil is dead, long live Sigil
Long-time readers will remember that yours truly plays on one of the few LGBTQ-run and oriented servers out there, Sigil, that was started by members of GayGamer.net's own forums. In the past I've discussed how Sigil's membership has discussed wiping our current map for various different reasons - the imposing nature of the older parts of the server to those newer members being one fo the chief issues among them - but nothing firm had been decided. Now, with the onset of Beta 1.8, the server's fearless leader's hand has been forced, as it were, since pre-1.8 maps will not be compatible with the new update. What does that mean? It means none of the advancements mentioned above. No new terrain, no new mobs, no new items. Rather than become a relic, Sigil as we know it will come to an end.
Of course, completely wiping everything that's been done thus far would be enormously demotivating to people who have been playing for a long time. Having been on Sigil since the winter, I can say I would definitely feel cheated if the (completely virtual, totally inconsequential to my real life) work that I've done so far just disappeared, so there's a suggestion out there to preserve parts of old Sigil, to copy chunks of the old map and superimpose them onto a new map - a solution which is entirely workable. After all, Skytown, Creepertown, and Princess Point (the subject of an upcoming column, and the closest thing to a functioning village that Sigil has yet seen - complete with schools, a planetarium, housing developments, a grow-op, a giant golden phallus, and a fast-food joint) are part of the fun of Sigil - and part of its history. But if you're not a resident of Sigil and you want to see what your fellow gaymers have been up to, I suggest you hop on the forums fast and get yourself whitelisted, because the amount of change that's going to happen between now and Minecraft 1.0 is going to be huge.
Update: There's a clarification about Sigil's future from the server's owner, reech, in the comments section.
Hey, listen: I've done a lot of a lot of writing in previous Minecraft Mondays, but this time I don't think there's much I can say that isn't already in Captain Sparklez' video (and next week's feature is shaping up to be a wall o' text, so I really ought to be brief this time). Clever, well-produced, and funny, this is as much a parody of Minecraft as it is of Usher.
While the folks at Mojang work on beta 1.8, news about the big update keeps trickling out. Just this past week, Notch revealed the first new mob in some time - the Endermen. According to his account on his blog, they're an addition designed to evoke fear, and do they ever sound creepy.
So what are the Endermen? They're a passive NPC that picks up blocks and moves them, quietly minding their own business. But they do it in the middle of the night, and they're coloured to match. So, okay, that's a bit weird.
Just don't look at them.
Look at one Enderman right in the face and they'll all stop dead in their tracks, staring right at you. Look away and they'll chase you. And by "chase you" I mean they'll haul ass while you're not looking and kill you dead. It reminds me a bit of the Redeads from the Ocarina of Time and Lisa Trevor from the REmake, perhaps because they too are deceptively slow-moving enemies that start from a scary idea.
Meanwhile, the folks on Sigil have been debating the pros and cons of a total reboot when the Adventure Update comes out. A whole new world, to borrow a tired old chestnut. The thing is, the populated areas of Sigil aren't small any more. Sigil is big - bloody huge - and getting bigger all the time. Meanwhile, around the core of the old area stand empty testaments to players long gone. Walking out from the spawn point is a bit like walking through a historical recreation - a wild west town, or a medieval castle. On the other hand, these buildings are all testaments to the creativity and hard work of players past and present, and many of them are doubtlessly worth preserving. After all, in the real world far too many beautiful old buildings are demolished in favour of the flavour of the month. Trust me. I know this all too well. I'm from Toronto.
So what are the citizens of Sigil to do? These days it can take much to long for new players to get out from the spawn point to somewhere where they can do something, and I know how frustrating that can be. Before Sigil I tried several servers that suffered from the very same problem. I simply got lost trying to find a place to set down roots, and never went back.
None of this is to say that new players aren't coming in and finding a place of their own - far from it. Rather, it's a sign of how accommodating the server is. Its players want it to be maximally accessible to new and old alike. What a great idea.
This this series has tended to focus on the monumental architecture of our readers, and of Sigil (to the uninitiated, Sigil is a queer-friendly server that we've featured here for some time), which makes sense as monumental architecture is pretty much Minecraft's thing. That being said, there's much more to do in this vast Lego land than that, just as there's a lot more to do with stone than build a colonnade.
If you're at all like me, one of your favourite parts of sandbox games is finding the little hidden gems - the flourishes the developers leave behind. They may not advance the main thrust of the game, but they flesh the world out - little places in your adventure where you can just muck about, or features that are just there to be pretty, or to say something about the denizens of the game world. So, if you're at all like me, you'd love wandering around Sigil and finding the monuments, the random bits of artwork that its citizens have left behind. From a giant pink sheep and an even bigger atom, to 8-bit heroes and more, the people who populate the server I love have left me with no shortage of images to show you. Follow along, after the jump!
Yes, I know. Minecraft has been out longer than seven months...but. As this writer approaches 100 GayGamer.net articles, one year of playing Minecraft, and seven months of Minecraft Monday features, he's feeling a bit introspective. With any other game the passage of time might not be such a big deal, but this particular game is different for very salient reasons: Not only is Minecraft built around exploration and accomplishment - meaning that the game, especially online, can be very, very different from one month to the next - but it is also itself constantly changing. When I bought the game there was no ambient light at night, no sandstone, clay, lapis lazuli, pigments, or powered rails, no snow, rain, Nether, wall-climbing spiders, or beds, either. Even the game's lighting system was different. And as these features have been brought in to the game it has changed a great deal.
But more than that, over the past seven months we've featured a lot of talent. From brilliant architects, to boyfriends and artists, Minecraft Monday has shown off a lot of what the game, and gaming culture, can offer when the right people interact with it.
So follow us after the jump for a review of the complete Minecraft Monday archives.
While today may be a holiday for my fellow writers, here in Toronto it's business as usual. Well, sort of...Pride was yesterday (more on that later), so this will be flying through the internets while I recuperate on the shores of Lake Ontario. But I digress.
Today Minecraft Monday brings you a builder of superlative talent, which I guess is little surprise given that he hails from central Europe, the land of superlative architecture past and present. Snownova has been playing on Sigil for some weeks now, and while we've talked back and forth quite often I must admit I hadn't been by to see his place until he invited me - which is a pity, as I'd love to have seen what his grounds looked like throughout the building process, and we're only separated by a couple of lakes.
There are a great deal of fantastic builds in Sigil, but Snow's Castle wins the award for the most expansive. You can see an aerial view of it here, and check out the spread after the jump.
Are you gay and working in the games industry? If you are interested in networking with other folks like you within the industry, try joining the Gay Game-Industry Professionals mailing list.
Click here for all the details!