Minecraft is a simple game. When you log on, you appear in a world formed out of blocks. As you explore the world around you, the world continues expanding. Any edge to contain you is so far away it might as well not exist. There is no princess to be saved, no bosses to fight, no path to follow. The game gives you no goals. Alone, the player has to find meaning fast or get bored. But if a player can learn to want things for themself, the game provides infinite resources and little constraint. That a world of boxes can be mined not only endlessly for in-game resources but also real-world meaning should not really be a surprise. In McKenzie Wark’s GAM3R TH30RY he writes, “Whether gamespace is more real or not than some other world is not the question. That even in its unreality it may have real effects on other worlds — is. Games are not representations of this world. They are more like allegories of a world made over as gamespace. They encode the abstract principles upon which decisions about the realness of this or that world are decided.” I have yet to be convinced that wanting is separate from living and that living is separate from gaming.
In Minecraft you are represented by pixels, the character’s appearance made customizable via “skins”. These skins can be “worn” and “changed”. This terminology is uncomfortably creepy, turning each player into something of a virtual Ed Gein-adjacent freak. Yet the customization of skins also allows for self-expression and creativity. Players can make their own skins from scratch, but most of the time it easier just to customize an existing skin. Thus there is a disjointed lineage that can’t quite be traced but nonetheless exists in all players. Before the addition of a second built-in design, Alex, all players defaulted to appear as Steve. Steve has a scruffy yet generic look, wearing a turquoise shirt and blue jeans. His hair is dark brown, his eyes blue. The image of Steve is unavoidable for players of the game. Although Steve does not “exist” in the sense of embodied personhood, he is surely the truest Minecraft celebrity. His fame is in and of the game. While celebrities are sometimes function as just “people too” they can also not be people at all. Steve is not a person, not even a player, but in his many iterations he embodies celebrity’s literal roots– the latin celebritas means multitude. The way celebrities make their way both in and out of the game is just another reminder that the divide between game and life is not much of a divide at all.