Friday, September 14, 2012


Sitting in the van with my 12 year old the other day, he was animatedly describing to me the joys of Minecraft.   Minecraft, in the event that you don't game, is a stunningly successful game that involves... well... mining.  And building.   It is a blocky, simple, unassuming thing, and yet it has been remarkably successful.

You can build, well, anything.  And people do, taking the simple foundation of the game and pouring hours upon hours into meticulously constructing worlds.   A deep love of building and creating has produced some pretty impressive results, which can be shared and explored online.

But then there are, my son told me, the griefers.  These are players who go into the servers containing the worlds of others with the sole purpose of destroying them.  Using the same tools that can build and create, they rampage through a server, defacing and destroying.

Why?  For fun.  Because they're bored.  Because if they want to do something, it must a priori be a good thing.  Because they're...well...who knows.

But griefing is a universal and ancient human impulse.   Why?  Because destroying things makes us feel powerful.  Tearing down something is the easiest way to express our will in the world, far easier than building, and utterly devoid of risk.  It requires no relationship with the one whose work you obliterate, beyond disdain.  It is utterly devoid of compassion.

So strange, how fully we carry our darkness into the virtual realms we create and the games we play.