Farming in Minecraft:

by tommy.rousse

Joonturbo & me gathering pigs

Joonturbo & I, just before the pig massacre debacle.

I bought Minecraft months ago, but I haven’t really played it for more than a few hours.  I have a post to make about how Terraria is superior in every way that is relevant to me & how its recent cancellation is a travesty that proves we live in a fallen & degenerate world.  That is not this post.

This post is about farming.  The food mechanic is something that distinguishes Minecraft from Terraria.  Food as necessary nutritional item, rather than a culinary bonus or vanity item, is a trope that’s fallen dramatically out of favor in video games lately.  Every simulation has its limitations; designers must make decisions about what elements of a reality are simulated.  The incomparable Ian Bogost discusses this concept as “simulation fever.”  Alack & alas,  being away from the sturdy shelves of my word-hoard means I can’t give it you direct from the horse’s mouth, but this Cameron Kunzelman fellow does an admirable job1 summarizing the concept in this blog post.  An excerpt:

Most important for me is [Bogost’s] notion of “simulation fever,” an evolution or co-option of Derrida’s archive fever, which Bogost loosely defines as “the simultaneous drive toward and fear of archivization.” Simulation fever, then, is deciding/being indecisive about what is included in a simulation–racism, weather patterns, the potential for nuclear fallout, attitudes toward current leaders, etc. Where is the line drawn for what needs to be simulated? This really just transports us to a conversation about how ideology works in video games. The player is always “living” in ideologically-driven inclusions and exclusions at the whim of the programmer/designer/director. The bounds of the game a predefined, especially in video games, and so we are forced to operate within those bounds if we play the game.

—Bogost’s Unit Operations and the Strangeness of Simulation

It makes a certain degree of sense that the “survival mode” of Minecraft is interested in simulating hunger; after all, it is one of the fundamental requirements of a continued human existence.  In EverQuest, keeping your character properly stocked with food was a constant task, and in the old Microprose Magic: the Gathering game, my juvenile self always starved to death a few hours into the game.2  Minecraft doesn’t have the same compunctions about making sure you’re properly hydrated.  But eating is at least some concern.

Our class is playing on a joint server, so I thought I’d build a farm and domesticate some animals so people would be well-fed: if players don’t have their “food bar” (a row of ideograms depicting chicken-wing-ish pieces of meat) full, they don’t heal, making run-ins with monsters or racking up falling damage a much more serious problem.  I fashioned a pen to keep animals in; I carefully hoed rows of dirt and planted seeds;3  I irrigated my farm; I harvested the wheat; using the wheat as a lure, I gathered up some wild animals and brought them back to the farm.  Satisfied with a long day’s work, (say, 90 minutes) I logged off.

And you dirty bastards murdered all my livestock!  When I came back, all was still: not a moo or an oink in the whole joint.  Joon was in a particularly conciliatory mood, so I gave him some wheat and we set out gathering a bunch of livestock, mostly a huge mob of pigs (see picture, above).  Regrettably, by the time we had gathered together our host of oinkers, it was quite late.  Naturally, in Minecraft, when the sun goes down, the undead denizens of its world creep out to feast on unwary players.  We started heading back to the farm, and I stupidly stopped for a quick photoshoot, which produced the image above.  A few seconds later, Joon said, “Look out, look out, look out—”

He was cut short by the familiar boom of a Creeper.  My blocky avatar fled forward, inadvertently scooping up the heaps of raw porkchops that had been a gaggle of porcine followers a few moments before.  There was still one pig left!  I showed the wheat to the pig and started furiously backpedaling towards safety.  A few seconds later, another boom, and the respawn screen.

In short, there are still no pigs in the farm, and everyone is hungry.

  1. Anyone who describes Unit Operations as “easy to read” must be an incredible hardass.
  2. Some of my friends have told me they were totally awesome at that game when they were little kids, but I am inclined to believe they are full of shit.
  3. I am ignoring the episode where Joon ruined my farm and replaced my crops with eternally burning pieces of stone.