February 14, 2013

Why do people become addicted to video games like Minecraft? The objective of Minecraft is simple: to survive. You keep digging to find resources underground like iron and coal so you can craft tools of survival like shovels, axes, and an oven to cook food. You build a farm of wheat, sugarcanes, chickens, cows, and sheep to feed yourself. You protect yourself from intruders by building a house and learning how to fight. If you think about it, we already do this in our everyday lives (albeit in different forms). Why do we have to play a simulation of it when we are already playing the real thing?

I’m not criticizing the people who play it. In fact, I myself find Minecraft addictive, and am wondering why. My theory is that we have evolved to find survival inherently fun and addictive. After all, evolution itself is a mechanism for life to survive in this universe. Those who find it fun and addictive would naturally have a greater chance of passing their genes. But why don’t we find the survival in our real lives to be fun and addictive? Some people do but most people do not get up in the morning obsessing about getting to work as soon as possible, and refusing to stop after 5 O’clock. I think it is our unconscious fear of mortality that extinguishes the fun and excitement we actually feel about surviving in the real world. That is, we do find real life to be fun, exciting, and addictive, but our fear of mortality is so great that we do not even realize that we have those passions within us.

The reason why we become addicted to games like Minecraft is because it retains all the fun of surviving while removing our fear of mortality. Our avatars in the game can die but we ourselves would not die from it. If the game was set up with a physical contraption that would shoot us in the head when our avatars die in the game, we would no longer enjoy the game, and having to keep digging and farming to survive would be just as depressing as what we do in our every day lives. We would then need a video game within Minecraft to feel the excitement of survival again.

In other words, games like Minecraft remind us how fun it actually is to survive, if we can get over our fear of mortality. It also proves to us that life can be full of fun and excitement without knowing what the meaning of life is, or have any ultimate purpose in life (as there is none of that in Minecraft). Survival itself is the meaning of life, and we don’t need anything else because it is already fun and exciting enough.