Before meeting my girlfriend, I thought that long distance relationships were probably the dumbest thing two people can do. I would never set myself up for that kind of heartache. And yet, here we are.
We’re in this odd transitional place where we’ve been traveling cross country to see each other, but it’ll be March before I go to visit her again, and June before we’re able to move in together under the same roof. In the meantime we’ve been video chatting on Skype every day, and although we can see and hear each other, the fact that we’re currently on opposite coasts becomes ever more apparent.
In between working and talking with her, I play Minecraft. I’ve been playing for well over a year, and she’s never in her life been much of a gamer. But as it turns out, Minecraft is a great way to approximate a liminal space that we can occupy together.
I had seen plenty of people on Reddit talk about playing Minecraft with their girlfriends. A few have even proposed over Minecraft. Regardless of whether this behavior was legitimate or Upvote-bait, I decided to buy her a copy of the game and see if she’d like playing with me.
After setting up a server for two, we both logged in and I proceeded to show her around the house I had been building.
We walked through the glass-paned threshold into the sunken living room, the fireplace roaring, the sandstone walls lit by the fire and a few Glowstone and Netherfence lamps.
“This looks like a house I’d actually want to live in! Right down to the pixelated skull painting!” she exclaimed. “Wait! Do I hear a dog?” Just then a domesticated wolf in a red collar came bounding down the stairs to greet us.
I nervously explained how I had gone through five dogs in the last week. Some died valiantly defending me against monsters. Others kept falling into the lava pit I use as a trash disposal until I finally put a fence around it. So I hadn’t been naming the dogs.
We headed up the stairs behind the fireplace to the balcony on the 2nd floor and the tone of her voice changed, as she discovered the nerdier elements of the game.
“Whoa! Where am I? What’s… this room?”
“Oh that’s my library,” I explained, a little embarrassed of what was to follow. “This is the enchanting table for making your weapons and armor stronger, this the potion brewing station for powers like healing and fire resistance, and this is a portal to the hellworld known as the Nether.” I wondered for a minute if I was verging on so-nerdy-its-scary territory, but after reminding myself that we had first met at ROFLcon where we bonded over Internet memes, my concerns subsided.
We ventured outside where I taught her the basics of the game – how to collect different blocks, how to craft tools, and together we began to build a basic hut. Soon enough, the sun began to set, and she caught her first glimpse of a zombie.
“During the night time, or when exploring dark areas, its probably a good idea to keep your sword at the ready,” I told her. We continued to work on the hut as the zombies and creepers closed in. Then it happened. I fell off the roof and into the path of a few skeletons.
“SHIT SHIT SHIT” I scrambled to defend myself against a barrage of arrows, fumbling to find my sword. Just as I had it ready, all of the enemies were dead, and there she was, collecting the item drops and experience points.
“I did it! You taught me to keep my sword at the ready, and I did, and I killed the monsters!” She was so proud of herself. I was proud of her too. Over the course of the next few hours we defended each other against monsters, tamed more wolves, ate in-game meals together, and explored the shoreline.
“I like it here.” She said as we watched another square sunset from the side of a cliff. I looked at her, down at our dog, back at our house, and off into the sunset. “I like it here too.”
I’ve got to hand it to Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, for giving the game a soundtrack perfect for these kinds of moments. Click play on the video below to hear what I mean.