We went for a hike on the Fourth of July in a state park in upstate New York. It was our family, and my sister’s family. Between us there are five kids, and five very enthusiastic Minecraft aficionados. The weather was perfect for a hike, especially after several days of rain. We had reached our turn around point and had started back when one of the kids (my increasingly fallible memory protects the innocent here) said, “I’m staying here.”
We all kept walking.
“How far would you guys go before turning around and coming back for me?” they asked.
Someone might have said, “Why would we?” (That someone might have been me.) Of course, we were joking.
“That’s okay,” the straggler said, “I’ve played Minecraft in survival mode. I could survive here in the woods no problem.”
And that’s when my writers imagination took over. What I saw was this:
The Little Man and his cousin decided to attempt to survive in the woods overnight applying the lessons and skills they’d learned from countless hours of playing Minecraft in survival mode.
The Little Man, who is nothing if not methodical when it comes to playing video games (if only this were true about, say, putting wrappers in the trash or turning off the light when he leaves a room), takes a look around the woods and says to his cousin, “First thing’s first. We need to make some tools. And the most basic of the Minecraft tools is a pickax.”
“Great idea!” his cousin replies.
Now, the Little Man, who sometimes forgets to put his shoes back where they belong, magically comes up with the formula for a pickax from memory. “First we need three wooden planks and two sticks,” he says.
“Why not make a Netherite pickax?” his cousin asks.
“Bro!” the Little Man says. He says “bro” the way I used to say “dude” when I was thirteen and living in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. “Netherite isn’t real. Besides, we’d need a diamond pickax first, and we can’t get a diamond pickax without getting diamonds and that means having a pickax to begin with.”
Now in my imagination, they somehow locate three wooden planks in the midst of this state park. The sticks are easy. They each collect one, and before they’ve been alone in the woods for an hour, they have the five pieces needed to create a pickax.
“Uh, Bro?” the Little Man’s cousin says, “what do we do for a crafting table?”
“Easy,” the Little Man says, “we’ll find a clearing and use one of these sticks to sketch out a 3×3 grid that will be our crafting table.”
So they hunt for a clearing and after brushing away leaves and other detritus, they carry out their plan and sketch out the grid.
The Little Man wipes his dirty hands on his shorts. “Now all we have to do is lay the three planks across the top, and the two sticks down below the central plank.” He and his cousin set to laying out the planks and sticks as described. They stand, waiting.
“Something’s wrong,” his cousin says.
“Bro, I can see that.”
“What do you think is wrong? Do we need some redstone?”
“I’m getting hungry,” the Little Man says.
They stand there while no pickax forms from the material they’ve gathered.
“What should we do?” his cousin asks.
The Little Man considers for a long time. Then his face lights up. “Bro, I’ve got it!”
“We’ll use a cheat code.”
“What cheat code?” his cousin says.
A wicked smile draws across the Little Man’s face, and he pulls out his iPhone. Carefully, he taps out the cheat code, which it turns out, is Dad’s phone number.
When I pick up, the Little Man says, “We’re hungry. Can you come get us?”
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