Thursday, May 5, 2011

A scale model of one's home.

When I was a kid my big fantasy was the creation and ownership of an action figure of myself. I played a lot with action figures generally, and for reasons I don't entirely understand it seemed to me that I should have one of my own. I don't know what the appeal was, precisely -- my plastic self could presumably join my favorite heroes on exciting adventures, but most of our "adventures" would have been free for all battle royales, and even at the time I'm pretty sure I knew I didn't have very good powers.

Maybe it's a similar instinct that lead this Minecraft player to create a massive scale model of his home. He shares a sort of related memory of his childhood about two thirds in. Still, it's one of the strangest, most mysterious YouTube videos I've ever seen. I've expressed puzzlement before about players who choose to painstakingly recreate video game worlds or real-world architecture, but there isn't even any escapism about recreating one's own home: when he takes you to the virtual model of his chair and workstation, he's showing you a simulation of the chair where he sat, for hours and hours on hours, creating said simulation. He sat in his chair piling virtual bricks to make that chair. I'm not trying to be dismissive or snotty about this, honest -- I just don't get it. This was clearly a massive undertaking. He speaks with a mixture of fascination and awe at what he's built. But what has he built? A sterile, simplified model of his own living space. And while it looks like a nice home, it certainly doesn't seem like anything that uncommon.

Variations of the word "representation" show up a lot in his monologue. He reminds us often that this is only a representation of his home; he reassures us that his couches are not in fact made of boxes and perfect right angles, that his mirrors are in fact reflective though the game cannot model reflection. What surprised Tracy the most was what he chose not to represent; he makes a point of those places where he decided not to render a room, a pile of toys, a collection of books, because it would have been too much trouble. Too much trouble? How did he know where to draw the line? He spent hours stacking identical black blocks to simulate a filing cabinet.

Perhaps the simulation's power comes from its ability to mystify the familiar. The bookshelves, the television screen, the desk, the Wii, the filing cabinet, the counter-tops, seem to hum with a strange energy, precisely because they were made, because they're simulations. Why? What? How? There is this, and then there is the memory of being so small in one's own home. There is something sort of primal. I don't know. Just watch it.

Really, it's probably the surprise of the flaming skeleton that really makes the video. You've got to admit, that was cute.

1 comment:

  1. Mike: when you get a chance, look up the documentary "Marwencol"