I don’t have a PS4 or Windows machine, so I can’t play No Man’s Sky (which seems to deliver on the long-ago promise of Will Wright’s Spore), but through the magic1 of Spotify, I was listening to the soundtrack this morning.
“Minecraft is a game about creation,” writes Robin Sloan. “But it is just as much a game about secret knowledge.”
There’s no official manual, so the game’s teeming network of devotees, young and old, proper publishers and web-based wildcats, have worked to create them by the score. Not just guides, but wikis, videos, hints, tricks. The rules can only be discovered by observation, reasoning, and experiment. Like science — or magic:
Imagine yourself a child. Imagine yourself given one of these books: not merely a story of exploration and adventure, but a manual to such.
Imagine yourself acquiring the keys to a mutable world in which you can explore caves, fight spiders, build castles, ride pigs, blow up mountains, construct aqueducts to carry water to your summer palace… anything.
Imagine yourself a child, in possession of the secret knowledge.
Maybe the most interesting thing about this, Robin writes, is how the game “calls forth” the books — another kind of magic. Is this a function of how much Minecraft players love the game? Or is that arcane, indirect, networked, bottomless well of knowledge, asking to be impossibly filled, what they love about it?
I think it’s the sound system in our car 2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI,” Madrigal says. “We have one of those magical devices that lets you play an iPod through the tape deck (how do those work?) — but it makes a horrible screeching noise when it gets hot.” That leaves the CD player and terrestrial radio: “We seem to rotate between the same three CDs we burned or borrowed some time ago, and the local NPR affiliate.”
Madrigal hastens to add that what he really wants is a stereo with “an aux-in so that I can play Rdio throughout the vehicle.” The problem? “I am scared of car audio guys,” he says. “I knew a lot of them in high school. They are a kind of gadgethead that just kind of freaks me out. I loathe the idea of going in there and having to explain why we have this old-ass tape deck, and then — because I don’t know any better — getting ripped off on a new stereo.
It’s either that or our cable box/DVR…that thing records about 20 minutes of HD programming and is 20 years old now. Really should trade it in for something made since Clinton left office. See also Robin Sloan’s dumbphone.
The soft, froggy voice startled me. I turned around to face an approaching figure. It was Larry Page, naked, save for a pair of eyeglasses.
“Welcome to Google Island. I hope my nudity doesn’t bother you. We’re completely committed to openness here. Search history. Health data. Your genetic blueprint. One way to express this is by removing clothes to foster experimentation. It’s something I learned at Burning Man,” he said. “Here, drink this. You’re slightly dehydrated, and your blood sugar is low. This is a blend of water, electrolytes, and glucose.”
I was taken aback. “How did you…” I began, but he was already answering me before I could finish my question.
“As soon as you hit Google’s territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws-or lack thereof-apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn’t speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it.”
I was thirsty, so I drank the electrolyte solution down. “This is delicious,” I replied.
“I know,” he replied. “It also has thousands of micro sensors which are now swarming through your blood stream.”
“What… ” I stammered.
“Your prostate is enlarged. Let’s go hangout now. There’s some really great music I’d like to recommend to you.”
You could consider this a follow-up to 2004’s EPIC 2014 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson.
But before the party, Robin will be interviewing a variety of people over a 24-hour period and streaming the whole thing online. I am one of the scheduled interviewees and I have no idea what we’ll talk about. But because my slot is right before the party starts, after almost 20 non-stop hours of Robin interviewing people, it’s possible we’ll just change into our sweatpants, split a pint of Cherry Garcia, and spoon on the couch.
Robin Sloan has a new app, Fish: a tap essay, discussing the difference between liking something on the Internet and loving something on the Internet. It’s thoughtful and well done. And it’s something you ought to check out if you spend a lot of time on sites like this one. One way or another, you’ll have an opinion, the essay demands it, and Internet that makes you think is the best kind.
In the essay, Robin mentions the difference for him between what he likes and what he loves is if he keeps going back to it. Writing up this post, the last sentence of the first paragraph specifically, I think I might have realized for the first time that for me, the difference between a Tweet or post that I like or fave or star, or whatever, and one I love is if it makes me think. I might not ever visit that URL again, but I’ll think about it later. Again and again, maybe. I love that. Since I’m simple, I sometimes also love, vs like, remarkable animal videos.
Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years?) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.
Nail on the head. Although I think you can also consider something like “trust” to be stock as well, in which case you can use quality flow to build up stock.
What I love about the approach is that it’s showing us a complicated, virtuoso performance, but making it really clear and accessible at the same time. It’s entertaining, but it’s also an exercise in demystification — which of course is exactly the opposite objective of every music video, ever. Their purpose has been to mystify, to masquerade, to mythologize in real-time.