Some Stuff That’s Nifty (5/18/14)

Sorry for no link round up last week; we had friends in town and I didn’t spend my usual lazy Saturday morning poring over the internet for cool stuff.  No fear though!  That just means I have two weeks’ worth of links to share today.

Comics

1. Life in Aggro is a regularly featured webcomic on Kotaku‘s weekly webcomic, and for the past month it’s been running a story recounting what I’m assuming is one of the authors’ experiences playing through the game.  It’s a beautifully drawn comic, and this series has been particularly good.  The final part of the four part story just went up yesterday, so you can see the whole thing on their website.  Here’s the link to the first part of the story.

These Watercolors Distill Superheroes to Their Very Essence

Black Widow in Watercolor. By Blule. (Image credit: i09)

2. I don’t use ComiXology to buy comics.  When I do buy comics, I prefer to purchase physical copies (the one area where I feel like a luddite is digital purchasing; I just struggle to get over the hump of not having a copy of the content that I can store and maintain how I like).  Even so, this article is a fascinating look at ComiXology’s business model and how their recent decision to remove in-app purchasing from their iOS app impacts both their business and the consumers who use their service.

3. Because it needs to be said again (it always needs to be said again), there needs to be more to female superhero design than sex appeal.  Here’s a wonderful article from Lauren Davis explaining why (if for no other reason, read it for the plug that the new Ms. Marvel series gets; that book is fantastic and I want to read more of it like now).

4. Though I have a passing interest in comics history, I’m not really into comics from the Golden and Silver Ages.  Apparently that’s a mistake, at least for Golden Age stuff, because it was a diversity wonderland before the Comics Code came along and whitewashed everything.

5. I generally think of myself as more of a Marvel fan when it comes to superheroes, but I have to admit that I do agree with pretty much everyone on this list of in-universe jerks.  And yeah, Professor X just keeps getting worse and worse.  Cyclops, on the other hand, has always seemed like a justified jerk, and I love him for it.  Namor’s debatable, because I’m not sure you can classify the level of egotism he displays as necessarily jerkish so much as “I’m the King of the Ocean.”

Faith

1. Candida Moss explains what professions were not recommended for Christians in the third century by St. Hippolytus of Rome.  The list is, unsurprisingly, filled with jobs that Christians nowadays not only do, but often aspire towards.

2. Fred Clark is a straight white male.  I am also a straight white male.  If you want to read something not written by straight white males, then check out Fred Clark’s recent list of blogs that are written by people other than straight white males.

3. Richard Beck answers reader questions about his book The Slavery of Death.  There’s some really interesting thoughts going on here.

4. Zach Hoag: “The Christian faith, rightly understood and practiced, is both syncretist and separatist all at once, and in different ways. In fact, syncretism is at the core of Christian identity, as the very definition of the faith is the expansion of first century Judaism to include Gentiles without requiring total change to their religious practice! It was an honest to goodness combining of Greco-Roman religious practice with Israelite religious practice, seen through the lens of a new Messianic identity. Christianity IS syncretism!”

5. A breakup letter to John Calvin (I’m not sure I was ever in a relationship with him, but I think it still sums up my feelings about his theology rather nicely).

6. I don’t typically post articles from i09 in my faith section (mostly because their articles that touch on religious subjects tend to have a bit of an anti-faith bent), but this article from Mark Strauss is thoughtful and nuanced in how it approaches the problem of creationism.

7. More from Fred Clark (remember, I have two weeks of material to sift through), this time about the phenomenon of mondegreens and their relationship to interpretive differences between Christians who disagree about the Bible.  Don’t know what a mondegreen is?  Then go find out.

8. Rachel Held Evans, Tony Jones, Matthew Vines, and Jay Bakker had a talk this week discussing Vines’s new book God and the Gay Christian.  It’s an hour and fifteen minutes of good dialogue about the issue (complete with lots of technical difficulties!), and I’d definitely recommend watching the video of it.  Fortunately, Tony Jones has posted the talk on his blog.

9. Samantha Field at Defeating the Dragons wrote a post this week coming out as bisexual.  I’m really happy for her.

Fiction

1. I’m not the most educated person when it comes to speculative fiction.  Most of my knowledge has been acquired by proxy of Rachael, so this essay, which seems pretty impressive and persuasive to me, may be a bunch of hot air.  Nonetheless, I think it does raise some interesting questions about the relation between contemporary speculative fiction and literary fiction.

2. The Star Wars Expanded Universe is dead.  Nonetheless, it did give some good stories.  Here’s a list of 10 particularly notable ones (as an aside, I’ve begun watching the Clone Wars cartoon now that the whole thing is on Netflix, and being only halfway into season 1, I think it’s great; it’s a wonder what can be done with the prequel-era setting when George Lucas isn’t pulling all the strings).

Film

1. For all my criticisms of various movies that I see, I like to think that generally I’m a pretty easy to please viewer.  I have an overly developed fondness for superhero movies (even the ones that don’t deserve it), so I’m really a poor judge of which big movies are not so great (case in point: I really liked Man of Steel except for the ending, but everyone else I talk to thinks it was the worst Superman adaptation ever conceived).  This article and subsequent conversation in the comments does a pretty good job of elaborating on why certain superhero movies get really positive reactions from viewers while others don’t.  It’s all speculation and opining, but it’s interesting speculation and opining if you like to think about superheroes and the movies we make about them.

2. For your enjoyment, a comic explaining why DC hasn’t started production on a Wonder Woman movie yet (as an aside, I first came across this comic through Kotaku where a conversation in the comments erupted where one very obtuse fellow began complaining about how everyone’s constantly calling for movies featuring female and minority superheroes just irritates him, and we should all shut up because it’s going to happen anyway; except, y’know, it’s not going to happen if no one says that’s what they want to see).

3. I like animation.  I also like live-action.  I get a little wary when animated franchises get live-action adaptations.  Apparently so does Jason Krell.

Fun

If Disney Characters Were College Students

Of course Quasimodo would go to art school to be a sculptor. By Hyung86. (Image credit: Kotaku)

1. I wish I had space to display a four-foot wide drawing of an imaginary megacity that features iconic buildings from all the most famous cities in the world (and throughout history).

2. Did you know that the number of Nicolas Cage movies in a given year correlates with the number of people who drown in swimming pools?  Neither did I, but here you go.  Have fun.

3. What about Zoidberg?

4. And just in case you prefer real cephalopods to imaginary ones, here’s an octopus unscrewing a jar from the inside.

5. Someone invented retractable metal claws.  It’s pretty adorable to see how excited he is to be able to tear stuff up with them.

6. It’s not often that I see discussion of Breaking Bad where someone reads Walter White as so adamantly sympathetic.  For my part, I gravitated more towards Jesse as the emotional center of the show after the end of Season 3, but to each her own.  Here’s a post from Scribalishess where Susan Pigott discusses her experience of watching Breaking Bad for the first time.

Gaming

1. For what it’s worth, I’m still not tired of jumping and punching in video games.  I spent the last week of school this year playing Street Fighter II and Super Mario Bros. 3 with my students as a way of passing the time after we turned in our final grades.  Nevertheless, this is a good article wondering about the seemingly interminable popularity of first person shooters and whether gaming is due for a new golden genre like the platformers and fighters of the ’90s.

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past 3D Papercraft Map

The overworld map of Legend of Zeld: A Link to the Past as papercraft. By Wuppes. (Image credit: Kotaku)

2. Gilbert Gottfried is famous as the voice of Iago from Disney’s Aladdin and as the guy who did that video for the internet where he reads excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey.  We can now add to his impressive resume the fact that he made a video where he reads some of the most famous lines from video gaming.  “Holy hell is it erotic!” indeed.

3. Nobody likes trolls.  I’m not sure anyone really understands why they do what they do either; not even the trolls themselves.

4. Minecraft‘s pretty much the best thing ever when it comes to creating interactive online learning experiences.  The world’s fully customizable, and it’s a lot of fun to build stuff with friends.  So using the game as a lab for teaching Japanese sounds like a wonderful idea.

5. Jason Schreier has crowdsourced from the Kotaku commenters a compilation of good entry-level games in the JRPG genre.  I agree with much of the list (I’ve played a lot of them myself), so if you have any interest in that most quirky of story-driven game genres but don’t know where to start, this is a good thing to look at for ideas.

6. People like to play as characters who are not themselves when they’re gaming.  This article talks about what it’s like to play a character who also happens to not be the same sex as the player.

Science

1. Cartwheeling spider.  That is all.

2. Kidney disease runs in my family.  Just last year my mom received a transplant that she had been waiting on for three years, and the donor was, unfortunately, someone who had died.  We don’t know who the donor was, but it’s weird to think that my mom had to wait for someone else’s misfortune just so that she could get the kidney she needed.  It’s an objective fact that a live donor would have been better all around; kidneys from live donors last much longer than kidneys from deceased donors, and the donor’s still alive when the procedure’s over.  Of course, it’s a scary thing to donate a kidney; you’re voluntarily giving up one of your organs.  This article explores this topic more in-depth and considers some potential solutions to help incentivize the donation of kidneys, since there’s a constant need.

3. Scientists have engineered a strain of e.coli that contains six base pairs instead of four in its DNA.  This is kind of a big deal.

4. I donate blood on a regular basis because I think it’s an important thing to do if you meet the guidelines for eligibility.  One weird quirk of the experience that I’ve always wondered about was the fact that I’m always asked multiple questions about whether I’ve ever had sex with a man.  Seeing as I’ve not had that particular experience, I always answer no and move on with life.  It never occurred to me before that answering yes would prevent me from being able to donate.  What the heck, FDA?

5. So how would people react if we were to discover extraterrestrial life?  For my part, I’m pretty psyched about the possibility, but this article from i09 suggests that in general, people of faith tend to be poorly psychologically equipped to deal with aliens.  I’d like to counter that if you have religious beliefs, especially of a Christian variety (I’m not going to speak to any other traditions because I just don’t know well enough to say), and you’re still engaging in anthropocentrism as part of your faith practice, then you’ve probably missed the point Jesus was making about dying to the self; that’s not just a personal exhortation, but a fact of communal living that you have to accept things are bigger than what you see around you.

6. Neil deGrasse Tyson said that philosophy was a useless field to study.  Many people on the internet disagreed.

7. Hurray for advancements in prosthetics!

Miscellaneous

1. “How Misunderstanding Disability Leads to Police Violence”

2. I think this one’s already been all over the internet, but here, for anyone who hasn’t read that awesome Slate article about Phineas Gage.

3. We interred over 100,000 Japanese-Americans in camps during World War II.  That’s an important thing to remember.  Fortunately, Ansel Adams helps us out with that through these photos (here’s a link to the full online collection at the Library of Congress) that he took of the internment camps during the war.

4. I find it doubtful that China’s actually collaborating with Russia, Canada, and America to build an intercontinental rail line.  Still, it would be really cool if this does happen for reals in a few decades.

5. My students have an unhealthy fascination with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones.  You can imagine my childlike glee when I read this, because it means that I’m now justified in telling them that their taste in headgear is not only ridiculous, but also appallingly bad from an audiophile’s perspective.

6. H.R. Giger passed away this week, and i09 saw fit to post a collection of some of his assorted works in commemoration.  Giger’s work is extremely fascinating, and highly creepy (he did design the look of the original xenomorph in Alien).  Go check the gallery out if you’re interested, though keep in mind that one of Giger’s favorite subjects was the interplay between humanity and technology, and he tended to use lots of sexually evocative imagery.

7. Deaf culture is a complicated thing.  The introduction of cochlear implants into the deaf community a little over a decade ago was pretty big news; not everyone received the new technology with enthusiasm, because it was seen as a threat to Deaf identity (for a really good documentary exploring this issue, look up Sound and Fury; it’s available to stream on Netflix, or if that’s not your style, you can find the whole thing freely available on Youtube, along with its follow-up from 2006).  This article from The Atlantic discusses some of the issues surrounding a new type of cochlear implant that has no external component.

Some Stuff That’s Nifty (4/20/14)

It’s Easter and National Stoner’s Day (as my students so love to remind me).  Make of that conflation what you will.

Faith

1. Fred Clark writes about why he still claims the evangelical identity.  I admire his resolve, but for myself there’s too much of the identity wrapped up in a particular political stance.

2. Richard Beck: “There is the simple intellectual recognition that faith is provisional, and then there is the cognitive and emotional obsession over that fact. There is a doubt that doesn’t bring about negative mood, and then there is the ruminative doubt that creates or exacerbates depression and anxiety.”

Feminism

1. John Scalzi is a very intelligent writer, and I very much enjoy following his blog.  This recent post about the background bigotry that we’re all guilty of and how it turns into overt bigotry is really good, and I recommend you read it.  Yes, you.

2. As a white, fairly middle class person, I have somewhat varied tastes in food.  My coworkers complained very vocally last year when I said we were going to eat sushi for my birthday.  I told them to deal with it, because when we eat out, it’s usually at places with very limited options and lots of really greasy food, and I wanted to eat what I like for my birthday.  That’s all fair and in good fun, because I get along with my coworkers and we’re all adults who accept that we have different tastes in food.  Also, we’re empowered to eat what we like because we’re, y’know, grown-ups.  This article highlights an issue with how extracurriculars tend to be run at schools nowadays.  I remember pretty clearly from my days in marching band that it was the parents who could afford to donate their free time instead of working extra shifts to pay their families’ bills who did all the volunteer work for us.  They were a great group who went the extra mile to make sure marching band was fun for us students.  They also understood something that I think the parents highlighted in that article fail to remember: there can be huge economic diversity in an extracurricular, and it’s never a good idea to try to impose your own tastes on the realities that the students have to deal with.  If you can afford to help them, that’s fantastic; they are grateful.  Just don’t alienate them with sushi and spring rolls when it’s your job to feed them something simple and nourishing.  Leave that to messing with your coworkers.

3. I didn’t do policy debate when I was in college, but the debate society that I participated in did put an emphasis on a specific kind of oratory.  I find this article fascinating because it highlights a tension between the traditional values of order and decorum that my debate society prized in public speaking and a more recent trend towards highly theatrical oratory that’s not typically “white.”

Fun

Surly Link Is A Terrific Video Game Figure

Surly Link is Best Link. (Image credit: Kotaku)

1. Edgar Allan Poe is getting a statue in Boston.  The model features Poe doing a badass walk while a heart and a bunch of papers spill out of his suitcase behind him.  If anyone ever makes a scale model that could sit comfortably on a desk, I’d seriously consider buying it.

2. It’s not that I really like Frozen or anything.  It’s just that this video makes the same joke about super powers that I did in my post about that movie, and it tickles me.  Also, I feel like Wolverine singing Broadway is on the verge of becoming a major internet meme.

3. Bob Ross was a phenomenon before my time.  I mean, I get the schtick: the white man afro, the soothing voice, the happy little trees.  I can see how that could be pretty cool.  This remix video of Ross is really cool.

4. Myers-Briggs personality types mapped to Disney characters.  It’s fun, if completely unscientific (and there is absolutely no reason to read into the fact that my personality type matches up with Elsa from Frozen).

5. What happens when Bill Shatner travels back in time to kill Bill Shakespeare (in LEGO)?  Action Bill.

6. I enjoy the Harry Potter series, but I’m not a gigantic fan like a lot of people.  Nonetheless, I am very impressed with the polish on this fan project: Hogwarts is Here.  It’s a website where you can sign up to take free classes as a Hogwarts student and do actual homework for actual grades.

7. Screen caps from a 1974 book that explained to children how to do magic.  Not having lived through the ’70s myself, all I can conclude from artifacts like this are that it was a weird decade.

Gaming

1. The culture surrounding Islam is an interesting and often alien one to Western audiences.  This essay highlights some concepts in the aesthetic of Islamic artwork that could make for some really nifty innovations in game design.

2. For your weekly Minecraft here’s some 3D printed models of a guy’s Minecraft creations.  Yes, you can now have 3D printed models made of stuff you build in Minecraft.

Science

1. I posted this bit of news on Facebook when I first saw it, but I’m adding it in here as well just because I think this is too cool.  I try to donate blood as often as I can (and if you’re eligible you should do the same), and advances like this are a really big deal.  Yes, it may mean that someday I don’t get to go have free cookies every couple months in exchange for a bodily fluid that I’m constantly producing anyway (although realistically I think that’s doubtful; donated blood is almost certainly always cheaper to obtain than blood that must be bought), but I think that’s a small price to pay for better medical technology.

2. Scientists have discovered a bug in South America whose females have a never before seen sexual organ that they’ve termed a gynosome.  That’s cool.  What’s not cool is describing the discovery as “females with penises!”  The only similarity between the two organs is that they’re inserted into the mate.  There’s a good rant over at io9 to go along with that point.

Some Stuff That’s Nifty (4/6/14)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so forgive me if I’m rusty.

What Would The Muppets Look Like As Humans?

If the Muppets were human. By Nick Hoffman (Image credit: http://mr-book-faced.deviantart.com/art/The-Muppets-443630982)

Blogs

1. My friend James maintains his own blog which he updates infrequently.  The reason he updates infrequently is because he tends to write posts that exceed two thousand words and require a good bit of research.  This does not mean that he is not worth reading.  He frequently makes jokes about the absurdity of white middle class American culture while explaining complicated issues related to education and the economy, and those jokes alone make him worth your time.  I always enjoy reading his stuff, anyway.  This week he posted this wonderful explanation of why all millennials are pretty much screwed in regard to their retirement prospects.  It vacillates between funny and depressing, but I think the takeaway (that Social Security is not a broken system and should not be treated like one if we hope to keep it intact into the future) is worth considering.

2. John Scalzi posted a twitter conversation he had this week discussing how people own up to their own bigoted (racist, sexist, xenophobic, etc.) actions.  He used an example of his own sexist actions, which struck me as a fair assessment of problems he sees in his own behavior that need to be addressed and corrected where possible.  It’s also pretty self deprecating to own up to the fact that you more easily remember people you find attractive.  It’s worth a quick perusal if you’re interested in this topic.

3. Samantha Field wrote a two part post this week about why purity culture doesn’t seem to have any real conception of sexual consent.  It’s a good post, and I think it’s useful for elucidating why folks in the evangelical community may have difficulty in addressing problems of sexual assault and rape.

Fun

1. There’s a new X-Men movie coming out this summer.  I am mildly excited about it.  This excitement has virtually nothing to do with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, but I do get tickled at the disparity between Jackman’s work as an angry killer mutant with an unbreakable skeleton, and his career as a stage actor who does musicals (I’m not knocking musical theater; I’m rather fond of it).  So, y’know, video of him singing a parody of a song from Les Miserables that talks about what it’s like being Wolverine is all kinds of fun.  Not quite as good as Wolverine–The Musical!, but at least this time it’s really Hugh Jackman singing.

2. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV these days, but when I do, I like to watch stuff that’s good.  Enter this set of charts that plot general audience opinion about individual episodes of multiple sci-fi series.  These are great!  They can help you gauge when a series went downhill and whether it’s worth sticking it out (also, where a series got way better and it’s worth jumping onboard).

3. Recently I’ve been digging back into Minecraft a little bit, which has been great fun because I’m doing that most dangerous of Minecraft activities: playing on a publicly accessible server.  Of course, I’ve not built anything this impressive, but that’s okay.  I can see stuff like a giant steampunk turtle and think to myself, “I could build that someday.”

4. I don’t know why I even care about this, because it’s a movie that’s produced by Michael Bay, which means it will be unquestionably awful.  But here, because the internet loves to complain about things that we all expect to hate anyway, here’s some screenshots of the turtles in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.  The official screenshots are the ones where they have lips.  Yes, lips.

5. It is a complete and total myth that people only use 10% of our brainpower.  That’s bad science, and it should be taken out and shot as an excuse for sci-fi stuff to happen in stories.  There is absolutely no reason to use something so broadly understood to have no basis in reality.  On the other hand, this trailer for Lucy looks like a lot of fun (directed by Luc Besson, who made The Fifth Element).

Maybe I’ll go back to doing the link round ups regularly, maybe not.  For now, enjoy these things.  They are nifty.  Some of them might even be, objectively, the best things.

Some Stuff That’s Nifty 7/20/13

Who needs a preamble?

End of the World

1. Continuing with my fascination with how the world will end (apparently it’s going to be an asteroid, if my blog is any indication), we get this excellent xkcd comic.

Science

1. I recently read an article written by Virginia Heffernan where she explained her rationale for being a Creationist, and I found it headbangingly awful.  Her central point was that everything is based on a narrative and there is no absolute truth so just believe what you think is most awesome.  As a Christian who accepts the scientific theory of evolution, that kind of thought really irritates me because it’s a position that’s truly not going to make either scientists or people of faith appreciate that there is a way to reconcile both realms of thought.  This essay from i09 deals a little bit with this whole problem in depth.

2. So, there’s this ongoing experiment where a bunch of people have been watching a funnel full of pitch, because pitch is apparently viscous, although it runs extremely slowly.  This article from the Atlantic gives a bit of history on the experiment and all the times that researchers failed to see the pitch drop.

3. So someday, probably soon, there’s going to be a manned mission to Mars.  That’s going to be a really long trip.  I mean, I get tired of being in the car after about four hours.  I can’t imagine being stuck in a ship for 8 months each way.  Good luck with that, future Mars explorers.

4. I don’t understand quantum mechanics either, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with the existence of souls.

5. So say you own a cow.  Now say your neighbor comes by and says that your cow’s not in your field; it’s gotten through the fence and is wandering in your neighbor’s field.  You go to check this out, and you see a black and white splotch from a distance in your neighbor’s field and conclude that, yes, your cow is in his field.  In reality, that splotch is a ripped trash bag with paper falling out of it.  Unobserved by both you and your neighbor is your cow in a copse of trees in your neighbor’s field.  While what you believe happens to be true, you do not have any actual evidence supporting it.  Therefore you believe rightly, but you yourself are incorrect.

Feminism

1. I have a penis.  It’s what defines me as a man.  What I do not have is a total inability to control my baser desires when I’m in the presence of an attractive woman.  The justices on the Iowa Supreme Court disagree about that last bit, since they ruled that a guy who fired an employee because he felt that she was a threat to his marriage because he found her attractive was justified.  That’s it.  She didn’t make any advances on him, she’s didn’t reciprocate his own lewd advances, she did nothing but act professionally.  Way to uphold the dignity of both the sexes, Iowa.

Gaming

1. There’s already one official Minecraft LEGO set.  Soon there will be two more.

2. The other day Earthbound was re-released on the Wii U eShop.  This is a big deal.  If you have a Wii U and you’ve never played this game (because if you have played it then you’ve already heard this news, because who doesn’t play this game and not love it?) then you should consider downloading it.  If you need someone who writes about games for a living explaining why you should play it, then watch this video.

Movies & TV

1. I really, really wish that Fox would just give up their rights to the X-Men franchise.  Not all of the movies have been bad, but for a continuity nerd like me, the way they’ve gone about completely screwing with everything (plus ignoring their own continuity) just irks me.  Having said that, I like these headshots of some of the characters that will be featured in the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.  I’m almost tempted to go see it.  Almost.

Cover of "The Name of the Wind (Kingkille...

I never imagined Kvothe looking like such a lothario before I saw this cover.  Cover via Amazon

2. I recently finished reading The Name of the Wind, and I’ve started reading its sequel The Wise Man’s Fear.  As fantasy series go, I think this one’s great.  Patrick Rothfuss has entered the pantheon of my writing idols, because every time I sit down to read his stuff, I just think “I wish I could write something like that!”  Anyway, there’s a TV show in development.  Unfortunately, Fox is the studio developing it, so it may be awful.  But I still have high hopes for now.

3. If you have not seen Season 3 of Game of Thrones then don’t watch this video.  If you have and you also happen to love Arrested Development then by all means watch this video.

4. Also, if you haven’t seen Season 3 of Game of Thrones then don’t watch this video.  If you want a delightful recap of every character death in the show’s run so far set to Boyz II Men, then do watch it.  You will cry and then laugh and then cry again because everyone involved with making this series enjoys the suffering of others.

Comics

1. The Wolverine came out this weekend.  I’ll probably skip it until it comes out on DVD.  If you’re like me (a big nerd) then you might get a kick out of this infographic detailing all the changes Wolverine’s costume has gone through since his introduction in 1974.  Also, he never actually had a noseless phase; he was feral.  It was still a poor design decision, but we’ve all moved on from that now, okay?!

Mental Vacation

1. Enjoy this HD video of Niagara Falls taken from an aerial drone.

2. Watching dominoes cascade is wonderful.  Here’s a video of a lot of dominoes cascading.  Also, check out the comments on that post for a bunch of other domino videos.

And that’s it from my little corner of the internet.

Have You Played Minecraft?

So, did you ever play with LEGOs when you were a kid?  Those were fun, right?  I always enjoyed building my LEGOs into a big brick wall and then breaking it down.  I also occasionally tried to make actual LEGO sculptures, but I wasn’t very good at visualizing how to turn all the parts into something cooler.

It didn’t change the fact that LEGOs were a lot of fun.

I had a brief flirtation with returning to LEGOs when I was in college, because my roommate and I, on a whim, decided to buy a bucket of something like 1000 LEGO pieces and just keep it in our dorm as something our friends could play with while we were hanging out playing video games.

I don’t know what happened to those LEGOs.

Most recently, I discovered a love for LEGO minifigs.  See, I’ve done a little tabletop gaming, mostly using the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 system, and what I discovered is that minifigs are just about the perfect size for character tokens on a game mat, and they’re way cheaper than actual tabletop figures.  I now have a small collection of LEGO people that include Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, an underwater evil dude, a bunch of knights and pirates, Cleopatra, and some other odds and ends.  They are my cast of characters for when I get the urge to run an adventure, kind of like how you have Kermit and Miss Piggy and Fozzy Bear all playing roles in the Muppet movies.

Now there’s going to be a LEGO movie.  I can’t make this up.  Here’s the trailer:

Rachael thinks it’s going to be awful.  I don’t hold out high hopes, because I find that getting excited about movies is an exercise in willful disappointment.  Still, it could be fun.

So, let me bring this all back around to Minecraft.

I heard about Minecraft a couple years ago by way of Rachael, because she totally caught on to it before I did.  We watched some videos of people playing it, and saw that it could be fun, so we bought copies during the beta period.

In case you haven’t played it or seen any video of Minecraft in action, the premise is simple.  You are Steve?, and you have no goals but to survive in the desolate world that you wake up in.  Everything’s fine during the day, but as soon as night falls the dead rise and try to eat you.  Also, strange plant monster things want to give you exploding hugs.

So you set about to find shelter, and you discover at the start that you are some kind of strange superhuman who has enough strength to punch holes in trees with your bare hands.  You take the wood that you’ve gotten from punching trees, and you use it to start building.

In Minecraft you can build anything.  As so many people have said before me, it’s virtual LEGOs.

Yeah, Rachael and I once built a dog statue on a multiplayer server, just because we could.

Building structures isn’t all that you can do with Minecraft though.  Native to the basic game are methods for building logic gates, so that you can make working programs and mechanisms.  Because of Minecraft‘s flexibility, many players in the community like to build maps centered around an adventure idea, and that’s become a lot easier to do with recent updates.  Rachael and I actually made an adventure map a couple of summers ago, but we never released it; it was a story about a handyman who has to go around fixing problems in his town.  There was a twist ending that we thought was pretty clever, but the whole thing was of a moment.  Minecraft has incorporated so many new features since then that the map would need a complete overhaul if we ever revisited it.

So far I’ve only mentioned things that go on in the vanilla game.  Minecraft has a very large, active modding community, and there are a huge variety of mods that can be attached to the core game.  One of my favorites was the Tekkit mod pack, which allowed you to build more complex machines (though vanilla allows for some pretty complex stuff already) and manage lots of different energy types (like nuclear energy!).

It’s a fun game that has a lot of possibilities, and I’ve only mentioned my favorites here.  If you’re interested in checking it out, you should.

Do you already play Minecraft?  If so, what’s your favorite thing to do with it?