Amongst the under 10 male set in my neighborhood the computer game Minecraft is a big hit at the moment. It follows in the wake of Wizard 101, last month’s his. The game’s conceit, at least as I understand it, is intriguing. You are suddenly in a strange land at the beginning of a day. Your only tools are your hands and wits and there are creatures out to get you. Luckily they only come out at night. Your first priority is to build a shelter. You do this by digging holes or building up structures of stone and earth.
For a game in 2013 the graphics are remarkably primitive, everything is a block that can be used to make things. The basic rules of physics, like gravity, apply to you but nothing else: I’ve fallen to my death, but also seen a sheep happily munching away on top of a tree.
Once darkness falls, baddies come out to eat you up: skeletons, creepers, spiders, zombies and something called a ghast. You need to be in your shelter. As the game progresses you have to find or create the essentials of life by harvesting raw materials “mine” and turning them into goods “craft.”
Computer games don’t have much allure for me. First person shooter games lose their limited appeal quickly, but Minecraft game scratches an itch. I get to pretend to live on my own wits and “work.” In the real world my ongoing effort at providing food is fun (I am still eating something I’ve grown every day), but I can’t really pretend that I support myself from the garden.
Still less can I argue that I built shelter that houses the Rounds Family Operation (RFO). Most of the mortgage remains unpaid, I’m not sure I even really own the place. I seize any opportunity I have to feel self-sufficient and sustainable.
Over the long weekend that swept us over the New Year cliff the Rounds Family Corporation (RFC) spent some time with a few other families in an undisclosed location. Near the driveway of said undisclosed location was a huge pile of snow. Shortly after arriving I promised the youngest indigent boarder that I’d help him build an igloo.
I was lying of course, we were going to build a quinzee. A quinzee is essentially a hollowed out pile of snow. Once a pile of snow has settled for a few hours, the crystals form bonds that give it some strength. By hollowing out the inside, you can fashion a little shelter. Inside the temperature stays above freezing as long as you have a few people in there. It makes a wonderful emergency shelter.
These games always break down pretty quickly. Old man Rounds wants a traditional Native American shelter. The boarders and the boy children of our gypsy friends want to play war. The two girl children who hail from Texas want to play house in the quinzee. We really tried not to gender code them, it just didn’t work.
Finally even the young Texan who wanted to play house went inside. I spent the better part of two hours hollowing out a pile of snow so that I could just barely sit up and think to myself: I could survive in this if there were a blizzard. Luckily I didn’t have to. There was a lovely bottle of champagne and some homemade pizza inside. They weren’t fully sustainable, but they hit the spot.