What the hell is going on in 'Minecraft'?
No, not 'with' Minecraft. We're not asking about the reasons for its titanic success - though it is occasionally baffling how far the gravy train appears to have travelled into the underground, dragon-guarded cavern that houses Mojang founder Notch's (and latterly Microsoft's) glittering, ever-expanding bank account.
What we want to know is… what is happening inside the game.?
Who is 'Steve?'? Why is he dumped unceremoniously at the start of each session with no possessions and no hope of rescue? Why is no one else alive? Why is there a moon and a sun, but why do they not move? Why is the geology screwed up? Who are the pigmen? What is the Nether?
Oh, and why is everything MADE OF BLOCKS?
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Pondering this, we turned to the Internet, and Reddit, to see if anyone had any theories.
And yeah, they do. Oh boy.
A certain school of Minecrafters prefers to keep things short and sweet. To whit, TeamCarbon's entry into one of the many backstory threads on MinecraftForum.net:
"Once upon a time everyone died in the world and only one person remained, Steve. He must now start to rebuild and survive on his own. Short but true."
Neat, but not entirely satisfying.
"Once there was a world…"
"…not too different from ours, where people lived in. In that world, magic was a common thing. one day, portals were discovered, they were a magic way to travel to another world. people were excited when the first "other" world was discovered. they called it the nether, but since in the nether there was hostile monsters, portals to the nether were banned…"
This theory roughly posits that Minecraft Survival Mode begins after an apocalyptic invasion by the Ender Dragon and his minions, who normally reside at The End. The invasion is foiled "but the curse/disease spread upon the mankind and soon nearly all the people were zombies".
Which is why there were zombies. Then…
"The survivors tried to escape from the cities, even lefting behind them all their belongings. that's where our part start. steve, one of the last survivors, wake up after running all night in a random direction, without knowing where he is. He only knows that he could be the last human on the planet and that he has to take revenge against the ender dragon. The only way to break the curse is by killing the ender dragon."
Not everyone is convinced by the apocalyptic theory.
Over at Reddit, Roothorick makes this point beneath another version of the long theory:
"Where are the ruins? You can dig deep, DEEP into the earth -- where are the fossils?"
"So much of Minecraft can't be explained without "the world's rules are different than ours" handwaving," he adds. "It's probably best to take it at face value and move on."
And yes, naturally Rootherick does have his own theory.
In Minecraft there is a sun and a Moon. But while the sun rises and sets, the Moon is always there - and opposite. The Moon does appear to rotate, but it doesn't move relative to the sun. As described by Spumwack, the only way in which Minecraft makes cosmological sense is if… the Sun is actually the Earth. And the Earth is a paved-over neutron-star version of the Sun. (This black hole idea pops up elsewhere in relation to falling into the void and also in this theory about an energy collapse… Anyway.)
His argument, realistic via Kotaku, is roughly that Minecraft is set in a future where the Sun is dying - and the citizens of Earth are forced to turn the Earth into a sun and live on the actual sun's cooling surface to survive. Essentially, he says, they swap the Earth and the Moon. And that explains why the sky is the way it is, and why the planet is so dense just beneath the surface.
As he explains in his FAQ section:
Q: You can't just blow up a planet and turn it into a sun.
A: That's not a question. Anyway, this society had millions of years to adapt to a fading sun. This would likely lead to a plethora of creative ways to store and utilise energy, and I'm sure that given a million years to figure it out, they would come up with a solution. Maybe they ignited the atmosphere. Maybe they stripped the crust and exposed the core. Maybe they pulled energy from another dimension. A dying star gives you a long time to figure things out.
A certain line of inquiry in Minecraft theories entertain the idea that the entire game is a dream -- and that Creative Mode is the lucid version while Survival is a nightmare:
"Do you remember the ambience noises, like the one that sounded like a train. What do they mean? They are noises from the outside world, heavily distorted because in the dream, if one is to hear such a noise normally, they may become aware it is a dream. The reason you can hear these noises is because these objects are around Steve."
"And finally, who are the two people in the poem? The two people conversing are Steve's own alter ego, Herobrine (or the Enlightened Steve) and the embodiment of Steve's fears (The Ender-Dragon) with which they reveal that the entire thing is Steve's own personal quest to overcome his sorrows and fear.
"So my belief is that the aim of the game is to help Steve overcome his own turmoil and sorrow, and in turn to transform a man who would rather hide and run into a warrior that can slay a dragon. Everything in Minecraft is part of Steve's dream."
It's a nice, neat idea. But unfortunately we're discounting it on the grounds that it's about as satisfying as the average fairy tale dreamed up by a six-year-old 'Frozen' addict.
One branch of Minecraft theories (pun intended, you'll see why) argues that the game is actually about an evil maniac human running around killing plants - and the plant's swarm intelligence attempting to bring him to justice. Or maybe a type of aggressive funghi or, you know, a personification of jealousy.
Again over at Reddit, Terapinrex argues:
"The Creepers are a form of intelligent plant. The main character is going crazy chopping down trees, killing wildlife and tearing up the earth and destroying the environment in his quest to get rich and build monuments to himself.. The subterranean creepers know the Minecraft guy must be stopped. The creepers animate dead bodies from the ground to help get rid to the destructive guy."
Although JesusofBorg has a good argument against it:
"If I stand perfectly still and make absolutely no changes to your world beyond my presence in it, even going so far as to sacrifice myself via starvation so as to completely prevent altering your world at all, you STILL kill me. No, Mr. Creeper, it is you that is the monster."
That's right, pigs.
This theory is based on the (canonical) story that the actual Creeper model as made by Notch was a messed up attempt to make a pig. The theory goes on to state that in the game they are actually evolved/de-evolved versions of pigs.
"Height: As they evolved, they grew to become a more forest-dwelling species, or wherever there may be an edible source of plants for that matter. (I also think that a Creeper is a Herbivore, because, well let's just say it's not exactly on the cover of Hunting Magazine...)
Camouflage Skin: They developed this because they are often found where there is lots of plants, they need to blend in with their environment in order to hide from predators, or sneak up on an opponent.
Behavior: Creepers live in small herds of up to 3-5, & are very territorial as you probably already know. The reason they are probably so territorial is because if they were passive, I mean with that huge open body area any mob could just run right up & bite the Creeper in half, so it has to be tough."
It sounds outlandish, but then Waaghboss82 chimes in:
"Then are Zombie Pigmen the souls of 'sploded creepers?"
This theory type argues that the central character in Minecraft is actually a robotic android. Why? Because he can carry 2304 cubic meters of material. He can punch a solid tree and he has an insane level and variety of skills. Also:
"He can also eat an entire rotisserie chicken in...7 bites? (if the chomping sound effects are to be trusted), and, all this in a matter of seconds."
Over at Reddit, Rlyauzum replies:
"There is only one explanation. STEVE IS BATMAN!"
Okay now you've gone too far.
This theory starts with the supposition that Steve? is a homo sapiens while the other humanoids in Minecraft, like the villagers, are neanderthals:
"Every humanoid Steve encounters in Minecraft world looks very similar; big nose, monobrow, etc. Steve looks less derpy and can do so much more than they can."
But from there it gets… intense.
"The zombie plague, which can now be transferred through blood and bodily fluids, will wipe out everyone," the theory by Wulfruna explains.
"Apart from Steve Miner who flees deep underground with the Ender Dragon's egg and uses it jump start the human race using his own DNA. What he didn't know, though, and what he couldn't know, was that because the Endermen had been fooling around so much with String physics, instead of repopulating his world with an infinite amount of clones, he created an infinite amount of worlds, each with a single Steve clone.
"Each world was based upon his world at the time he conquered the Ender Dragon and took its egg, just eight years before he fled underground. Each Steve Miner has eight years to steer his world the right way. He doesn't know this, but it's in his unconscious. All he knows is what was in his head the day he inserted his seed into the dragon's egg... and one other thing: Golden Apples cure the plague.""
Golden apples cure the plague. Now it all makes sense!
This theory is included to illustrate the fact that we have only barely scratched the surface of the Minecraft minefield with this survey of the fan backstory landscape.
Enter the Pigman-Testificate war, by SporeTheSaiyan.
"Long ago," it begins, "there were 2 great empires that inhabited the Minecraft land: The Pigmen and the Testificates."
There is a war, and the Testificate villagers were winning. They moved underground and survived, for a time, but then the Testificates found them and were on the brink of destroying them for good. Then they work out how to survive in the Nether, and have quite a nice time, until the Testificates send in a zombie and the rest is nightmarish history.
"This was the beginning of the end. Pigmen were bitten, infected, & their zombie apocalypse had begun! The Pigmen tried to fight back, but eventually, time got the better of them. This foreign virus had gotten so wide-spread, even the sand was highly contagious."
"The reason the Testificates don't fight much now, in the present, is because they've been living for so long in (somewhat) peace, they've stopped teaching their men to fight & they've started teaching Iron Golems to do that instead.
"This is the way I see the Pigmen, a once-great empire long-since reduced to ruins & zombies."
Okay, look, we lied. We didn't include this story because it's that much more intense or weird than the others. It's not. They're almost all like this - bizarre and funny, and ambitiously odd.
The reason we actually included it, is because it absolutely sums up this pointless, fruitless, wonderful game.
"I guess I need to play more Minecraft?" reads the first comment beneath this last theory, by Reddit user Pikk.
And what other possible conclusion could there be?