The Power of Minecraft

A while back I read a piece about how the casual game Bejeweled can help sufferers of depression, when played in “endless mode”. The idea is that playing takes on a calming property, allowing you to feel like you’re achieving something, even if you feel incapable of doing anything. It was an interesting piece, and I would like to share my own experience with games as a form of therapy. In my case though, the game I would like to talk about is Minecraft.

Minecraft is as casual as you like, and it never ends. There is no real end-game, no timer, not even a clear objective, beyond simply building stuff and exploring the digital world created for you. Unless you play in hardcore mode, you will never see a game over screen.

In our household, we’ve used Minecraft as a mental escape on more than one occasion. When my dear wife had surgery and radiation treatment, she was physically unable to do much more than sit, and even that was a chore. Being physically weak like that also has a mental toll, and she definitely went through stages of frustration, wanting to do things that were still impossible to accomplish. So to combat this feeling of uselessness, she turned to Minecraft.

Salvation Keep, one of my medieval inspired builds. Click for a larger image.
In Minecraft, an entire digital world is generated for you to explore, and all you have to do is imagine what you want to create, find a suitable location (or carve one out of the landscape) and build it!

For myself, Minecraft helped me catch a break while taking care of Kelly, who had been hit with Cancer only a few months after my mother died, also from Cancer. Playing also turned out to be a great way for Kelly and I to do something fun together, while she was unable to do much of anything at all.

Like everything else, gaming should be enjoyed in moderation, but I don’t think it deserves the bad reputation it has outside the gaming world. I still meet people who categorically dismiss games as being a waste of time – or worse, that playing somehow makes you anti-social and dumbs you down. Gaming can be a tool to feel productive and get a sense of accomplishment – a confidence booster – and a way to socialize when the normal channels are unavailable. As long as building digital castles is not all you do, and unlocking achievements is not the only thing you strive for, gaming might even be good for you.

Spawnville, where the players on our server start out, and meet up to trade etc. Click for larger view.
I know it was good for Kelly and me, and it continues to be so. Our own multiplayer server has a small, thriving community of friends who share, inspire and help each other. There is no element of competition, except when we choose to introduce one. It’s all about being creative and having fun.

I love Minecraft, not just as a game, but for what it has contributed to my household. It kept us sane when times were rough, it’s a fantastic stay-at-home activity, and I’ve even learned a thing or two about constructing cool stuff. I can’t recommend it enough.

After several months of playing in privacy, we have finally started a tumblr blog, where we’ll be sharing screenshots, videos and more from the “Realm of Rasmania”. Yes, that is the name of our digital world, and no, I did not come up with it. The images and video included with this post are all from our multiplayer server.

Seven Years of Happiness

On July 18th, I will have been married to the amazing Kelly Cline for seven years. Meeting her changed my life in many, many ways, all for the better. If you had asked me eight years ago, if I thought I’d be married and stay that way for this long, I would have laughed. Now I laugh at the old me.

Besides being my better half in many ways, Kelly is also a muse and my greatest supporter. No matter what crazy projects I have come up with in the past, she has been there to lend her support. We’ve been through some tough times, tougher than any other relationship I’ve been in, from both of us losing a parent, to Cancer and surgery, to getting hit hard by the recession. Our relationship has not only endured, but grown stronger.

The secret to our success? I chalk it up to us both being tp-over-the-roll people, for I have no scientific explanation. I guess the real answer is that love is strong. Way strong. I would not be who I am today, were it not for Kelly. She’s awesome, and I can’t wait to spend the next seven years with her as well.

To share the love, I’ve decided to do a one-day giveaway of my iPhone game, Nebula Rescue. So, on the 18th, the game will be free to download!

The Fork in the Road

I’m at a fork in the road. Truthfully, I’ve been standing here a while, for several months in fact. One direction is lit up in bright neon. Down this road lies ambition, dreams and risk alike. The other is murkier, but I can sort of make out an alarm clock and getting old before my time. All my life, I have wanted to create and build things, from songs and photographs to a self-sustaining business. Creating jobs for other people is high on my wish list too. You’d think choosing a path would be easy, but it turns out, it’s not.

Creatively, I have reached the point where I really should hire a part time assistant, because my projects get more and more complex, as my ambition grows. Which is great, and the way it should go. Another Passion is the best example. What started as a side project grew into a priority, and instead of a one-man creativity blog, I wanted to build an Arts & Culture site with multiple contributors and high quality content, as well as a framework through which other, original projects could take root. And all of that is happening, slowly but surely. It’s pretty awesome.

But. Other things have made me reconsider many a plan and ambition. Most importantly Kelly’s cancer, the treatments and the toll all of that has taken on our household. A situation that makes life difficult, even if you’re not trying to make your own way and build a business. It’s made me realize, that if I really want to go down the neon lit path of risk and possible wonder, I need a better plan – and help.

Of course, while I’m busy working on said plan, Life keeps happening.

Kelly is not out of the woods yet, which means I still have to focus on supporting her more than anything. It’s not a chore or a duty, it’s a privilege, but it does drain a lot of energy of both the physical and emotional variety. I channel most of what I have left into Another Passion. And when there is nothing left at all, I hop on Minecraft and take a mental vacation.

On tough days, you might find me here in the Clearview Lounge, hanging in the bar or at the jukebox.

While standing at this fork in the road, I have been living off of my savings – leftovers from selling my apartment last year. There is still a little left, but not enough for another year of living like this. So I need to get that plan done, get my ducks in a row and buckle up (and whatever other clichés you can fit in) – or dial it all back and focus on work that pays me, instead of being paid for by me. But I’m not quite ready for that.

The one good thing I have to say about cancer, is that it puts everything in perspective. There’s a lot of little stuff I don’t sweat anymore, and I appreciate the good people in my life more than ever. Even on the tough days. For that very reason, I still want to build and create, and I still want to create jobs instead of just taking one.

These are interesting, and scary times.