Critique of Sarkeesian’s “Women as Background Decoration” Video

Every few months, Anita Sarkeesian, feminist media critic behind the popular website and YouTube channel Feminist Frequency, releases a new video about women in video games. Her videos draw sharp criticism from gamers, but over time, people are slowly starting to recognize the value of her critiques. She even recently won the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award for her work in drawing attention to the plight of female characters in video games.

For all the research she puts into her videos, inevitably the videos arrive short of perfection. All arguments are open to critique (including this critique). And I want to state at the outset that a male writer (myself and others) critiquing a woman espousing feminist views is not in and of itself evidence of the oppressive patriarchy trying to silence and condemn women or feminist ideals. Feminists don’t have a monopoly on the discussions surrounding gender and sexuality in our culture; other perspectives need to be encouraged.

In her latest video, Sarkeesian examines the “Women as Background Decoration” trope in video games, which she defines as:

The subset of largely insignificant non-playable female characters whose sexuality or victimhood is exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty or racy flavoring into game worlds. These sexually objectified female bodies are designed to function as environmental texture while titillating presumed straight male players. Sometimes they’re created to be glorified furniture but they are frequently programmed as minimally interactive sex objects to be used and abused.

Before going any further, here’s the video in question. Please watch to understand the specifics of this critique. Unfortunately, the video is quite long (31 minutes, and it’s only Part 1!), so buckle in.

Areas of agreement

Of Sarkeesian’s five videos on women in video games, I probably agree with Sarkeesian most in this video. Women have been used as background decoration in video games for a very long time, and the problem has only gotten worse in the last 6-7 years with the development of near-lifelike 3D female characters. Sarkeesian focuses on NPCs, Non-Playable Characters, in this video, which she reterms Non-Playable Sex Objects. I mostly agree with her when she says:

Non-Playable Sex Objects can usually be found on the sidelines of role playing or open world style games, populating the many virtual strip clubs, red light districts or brothel locations that have become almost obligatory in many so-called “mature” titles.

I don’t play a lot of mature video games, and I’m not a fan of sexualized characters in general. They feel cheap, crude, and immature. She goes on to show that in many modern mature titles, characters are forced to walk through strip clubs, brothels, and women’s dressing rooms in order to advance the plot. Now, I don’t think these sorts of places or characters such as prostitutes should be eliminated from video games entirely: there might be many justifiable story reasons to include such seedy establishments. I don’t want to deny storytellers any tool that could potentially tell a compelling story.

But she’s right that in most cases, these sexualized NPCs and strip clubs don’t really add much to the game.

How not to critique cultural studies

Before I outline my areas of disagreement with Sarkeesian, I think this conversation (which is already happening on a variety of video game websites, as Sarkeesian doesn’t allow comments on her videos due to continued harassment directed toward her, which I understand) could be advanced if we outlined some rules for debate. Whenever Sarkeesian posts a video, people invariably nitpick all of her specific examples. They will highlight one specific point she made and explain it away in the larger context of that game’s world and logic.

A second strategy is to present counter-examples, perhaps a video game that has a justifiable use of prostitutes or something. But people miss the point about what cultural studies is supposed to be. Cultural studies, which Sarkeesian is a student of, is a research methodology in which some aspect of our culture is examined. It takes a forest-level viewpoint, and in the process, misses some trees. So yes, we could nitpick some of the specific games she uses to highlight her points. And we could probably come up with 10 examples that contradict her points. But do a few counter-cases outweigh the evidence she has gathered? I think in this case, the answer is no.

Instead, I want to focus on broader problems with her argument.

Sarkeesian’s zeal to provide overwhelming evidence goes too far

This has always been her biggest problem. Sarkeesian wants to provide overwhelming evidence of some trend in video games, and in the process, she ignores not just individual counter-examples, but entire bodies of evidence. Then, with the evidence she has left, she reads so far into it that I start to question: do gamers even take these issues as seriously as she is presenting them when they are playing these games? Isn’t she being just a little hyper critical?

For example, she spends much of this video examining open-world or “sandbox style” video games like Grand Theft Auto and Sleeping Dogs. She points out numerous examples of Non-Playable Sex Objects, which the player can beat, stab, kill, kidnap, and stuff into the trunk of their cars. And she says that the player is encouraged to commit acts of violence against women, that designers put these systems in place and want the gamer to test the boundaries of the game’s rules.

Maybe so. But anybody who’s played an open-world video game knows that acts of violence aren’t just committed against sexualized women: you can perform acts of violence against most anybody in these games! Sarkeesian anticipates the argument that I just used, and responds:

Typically all the non-essential characters in sandbox style games are killable, but it’s the sexualized women whose instrumentality and brutalization is gendered and eroticized in ways that men never are. The visual language attached to male NPCs is very different since they are rarely designed to be sexually inviting or arousing, and they are not coded to interact with the player in ways meant to reaffirm a heterosexual fantasy about being a stud.

Correct, male characters often aren’t sexualized. But they are still killable. What is the greater sin: killing a sexualized woman, or killing a man? In Sarkeesian’s worldview, the first. But in my worldview, and in the worldview of many gamers, the killing of any innocent NPC is bad. A life is a life, and all life is precious. Sarkeesian states:

But even if sexualized male NPCs were more prevalent, equal opportunity sexual objectification is still not the solution to this problem, especially considering the existing power differential between men and women in our society. Women are constantly represented as primarily for sex. Men may be sexual too, but they can also be anything else, they are not defined by or reduced to their sexuality and their sexuality is not thought of as something existing chiefly for the pleasure of others. Which means the fundamentally dominant position of men in our culture is not in any way challenged or diminished by the rare male depiction as sex worker.

I agree with her that our society has a more oppressive “script” when it comes to violence against women compared to violence against men. This is a problem for women, yes, but also a problem for men. Why aren’t more men outraged by violence against men? Why aren’t more women outraged by violence against men?

NPCs are always used for the player’s benefit

Sarkeesian spends considerable time examining how women NPCs are objectified in video games. She has example after example of women NPCs being used for sex and providing stat boosts, being killable so that they can be robbed, or fulfilling some cheap mission objective. She says:

In the realm of interactive media I use the term “instrumentality” to refer to the practice of using virtual women as tools or props for the player’s own purposes.

But NPCs by their very nature are designed for the player’s use. Some NPCs sell objects to the player. Some NPCs give objects or keys to the player. Some provide information. Some provide money. Some offer the player quests to complete. Virtually every adventure game (e.g., the Legend of Zelda), role-playing game (e.g., Final Fantasy), action game (e.g., Resident Evil 4), and open-world game (e.g., Grand Theft Auto) has NPCs who serve to assist the character in some way. Herein lies another instance of Sarkeesian going beyond what her data says while simultaneously ignoring vast swaths of counter-points.

She then criticizes the interchangeability of sexualized NPCs:

Since these women serve an identical or nearly identical “resource” function within the game space, they are created to be interchangeable with any other female NPC of the same type. A fact reinforced when developers simply copy and paste the same character models into various locations throughout the environment.

Yes, it is true that women NPCs, like prostitutes, are interchangeable, and on some level, I can understand how this is dehumanizing to women. On the other hand, this is a very common practice in video games for the treatment of all NPCs! This primarily has to do with technological constraints. Up until very recently, video game technology was not sophisticated enough to have completely unique NPCs throughout the entire game. Even if the technology is there, asking developers to create unique NPCs (and for open-world games, this would be asking for thousands of unique character models, character animations, catchphrases, and so forth) would require far too great of an investment in resources on the developer’s part.

For instance, consider nearly every RPG, from Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior on the NES in the 1980s through today. Most RPGs feature a variety of towns that the player visits on their quest to save the world. And every town includes shops that sell weapons, armor, magic, potions, and other useful items. Those shops are usually run by NPCs. If the developer is really ambitious, the NPCs will look different each time. But essentially, are they not interchangeable? They exist to provide the player some benefit, and character models can be swapped at will and it doesn’t affect how the game is played. Are shopkeepers in RPGs objectified? I suppose on some level. But there are a lot of technical reasons for this, as I’ve explained.

Most video games do not accurately mirror reality, both in representations of characters’ bodies and in treating characters like real people. There are a variety of game play reasons why video games don’t mirror reality. For instance, who would play an adventure game if it honestly took 3 hours to walk between towns? Or who would play any game if the character had to sleep for 8 hours each 24 hour period? So cuts are made to reality to facilitate the game play. It has to occur, though how it occurs varies from game to game.

A final example. She points out that when sexualized female NPCs are killed, their bodies disappear after a few seconds:

Their status as disposable objects is reinforced by the fact that in most games discarded bodies will simply vanish into thin air a short time after being killed.

Again, this phenomenon of disappearing bodies isn’t unique to sexualized NPCs. This is probably her weakest point in the entire video. In almost all video games, defeated characters disappear. There is largely a technical reason for this: when a video game renders different objects, like characters, cars, etc., it takes memory. If that object is no longer being used (i.e., the character is dead) then the game simply makes that object disappear so that it doesn’t clog up the memory. In fact, games in the 1980s through the 1990s were very limited in the number of unique objects they could display on a screen. So having objects disappear allows the game to continue functioning.

Areas yet to be addressed by Sarkeesian

In my previous critique of Sarkeesian, I ended the post by identifying four areas of gender and culture that Sarkeesian has not addressed sufficiently, to her detriment. I’ll conclude in a similar fashion.

  1. What about violence against men?I mentioned this last time, but this critique now has more nuance. As I’ve elaborated in this post, violence against women is bad, but violence against men is equally bad. In the vast majority of video games (and practically all of the video games Sarkeesian used for her analysis) the protagonist is a male. Do video games not perpetuate the stereotype that men must resort to violence and death to solve their problems? Isn’t this a problem? Not only are the playable characters male, but the vast majority of enemies that these male protagonists kill are male. Yes, you can kill prostitutes in games like GTA. But most of the policemen, gang members, and other enemies you kill will be male. Video games are primarily a spectacle of male-on-male violence. While many victims of violence in real-life are women, and that is bad, are not the majority of perpetrators of violence male? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, men are 3.6 times more likely to commit homicide than women.
  2. Are the critics affected by the games they research? This is an honest question I have for all cultural studies researchers, not just Sarkeesian. If violent and sexualized media is so detrimental to viewers, why are not the researchers affected by what they study? Like I said, I’ve played almost none of the games Sarkeesian examines in this video. Yet she’s played them and studied them for months now. If seeing images of sexualized images is so damaging, then critics like Sarkeesian should probably be the most affected by them. These images probably do affect her on some level, and she probably does have a strong support system to help her cope with the images she sees (at least I hope so). It’s clear that she is bothered by these subjects, so it is commendable that she is proceeding with her message in spite of the dangers these games might be doing to her mind. But even so, it is also clear that she has not internalized the poisonous aspects of these games. She doesn’t commit violence against women; she doesn’t degrade women in her talk or her beliefs. She doesn’t tell off-color jokes about rape. She has a very high respect for women as individuals. So if she can find a way to “see through the lies” and she can find a way not to internalize the destructive messages of these games, why does she assume that gamers cannot? Why does she assume that the majority cannot? Gamers are a lot more intelligent and thinking about the games they play than critics give them credit for. Which leads to my last point:
  3. Do we know if these games are actually affecting gamers? That’s the big question. Even if we accept all of her critiques, how do we know that gamers are actually playing these games and internalizing regressive patriarchal attitudes toward women? At the end of her video, Sarkeesian resorts to a logical fallacy I refer to as “phantom studies.” She says, “Studies have found, for example, that after having viewed sexually objectified female bodies, men in particular tend to view women as less intelligent, less competent and disturbingly express less concern for their physical well being or safety.” Phrases like “Studies have found” or “research shows” are tip-offs that somebody is resorting to phantom studies. Which studies? Who were the participants? When was the study conducted? By who? Who evaluated the study’s findings? We don’t know! Her phantom studies provide an air of authority, yet are essentially meaningless. I can say this as somebody with a PhD in mass communication, who has examined the same studies that Sarkeesian has examined, that social science research is highly contextual and contains many caveats. We don’t have time to examine why, but there are a variety of methodological shortcomings of social science research, primarily, researchers don’t have the time, money, or resources to see if the media really does have a long-term effect on the people who view it. A study that provides evidence for a phenomenon in a lab is very different than a study conducted outside the lab. In fairness to Sarkeesian, she does include links on her website to additional resources, many of them studies (or summaries of studies) about the destructive effects of playing video games. However, I still believe the research still has many shortcomings regarding these issues.

Thoughts? Where am I going wrong with my analysis, and where do you agree with Sarkeesian? Leave your respectful comments below so we can continue this discussion!

Game on,
~Dennis

I Turned My Old Computer into a Robot

In a couple months I’ll be moving across the country. As much as possible, everything needs to fit in my car. When I moved to my current location, everything that I needed did fit in the car.

But that was three years ago. And I’ve accumulated more stuff, so much so that everything cannot possibly fit in the car. About 2 and a half years ago, I bought a new desktop, an HP. My old desktop, a Dell Dimension 2400, has sat in my closet unused. As much as I loved that computer, it was time to part with it. I had so many memories with it, though, that I didn’t want to just throw it away.

So I turned it into a robot.

A boy and his computer

I bought this computer right before my freshman year of college, back in the summer of 2004. My dad and I researched computers extensively, and looked for one that met my needs.

And what were my needs? Just something to get me by for a year and a half. See, I was enrolled in architecture, and starting the fourth semester of the architecture program, all students were required to buy high-power laptops capable of running AutoCAD and all the other design programs. So we reasoned: buy something cheap now, because in 18 months I’ll be spending $2,500 on another computer.

I made it through three semesters of the architecture program, then changed my major. I never did buy that high-powered laptop. So my Dell computer, meant to be temporary, ended up lasting me through undergraduate, plus post-undergraduate, plus my master’s program, plus the beginning of my PhD program. I used that computer for approximately 8 years, far longer than I intended.

And I pushed that computer to its limits. I upgraded a few components, such as the RAM, but basically it was still the same computer as the day I opened the box.

Dell Dimension 2400 front and back

Front and back view. That little antenna on the back is the Netgear wireless card.

Dell Dimension 2400 sideview

Side view. Years ago I got a first generation iPod Shuffle and it came with a little Apple sticker. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I stuck it on my computer, hoping I’d infuriate Apple fanboys everywhere.

This computer and I went through a lot together. All of my schoolwork was conducted on it. And I wrote a massive amount of personal documents, including five or six novels (unpublished). This computer was my companion as I transformed from a boy into an adult. The expansion of my mind, heart, soul, and faith was facilitated by this computer. This computer was easily the possession most important to my development throughout the 2000s. Countless hours were spent in front of its screen and typing away at its keyboard.

The computer must go

Computers are funny artifacts. They get outdated so quickly, and within a few years, their value is next to nothing. Due to the rapid advance in computers, far superior models can be purchased for far cheaper prices every few years. So keeping a computer like my Dell Dimension around really doesn’t do me any good. Was I honestly ever going to use it again? It had Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft. All the software is out-of-date. And everything that I could do on this old computer I can still do on my new HP with Windows 7.

Now, I’m a connoisseur of old video games and find it worthwhile to keep and maintain old video game systems. But old video game systems don’t really go out of date. Sure, graphics improve on newer systems, but the old games still play just fine. And in many cases, old games aren’t available for newer systems. So I keep my old NES and SNES because they offer different gaming experiences than the N64 and PS2.

However, the functional difference between my Dell Dimension and my new HP are slight. The new computer is faster and runs better software, obviously. But I still use my computer primarily for Word, Excel, and the Internet. New computers runs these programs faster, but that’s about it. I still interface with these programs in essentially the same way as I did with my Dell Dimension. In other words, that Dell Dimension didn’t offer a unique experience; it wasn’t worth keeping.

But this computer was important to me, so I thought constructing a robotic figurine would be one way to remember it and easily transport it.

So let the deconstruction begin!

Dell Dimension inside

You can see quite a bit of dust inside. And it’s been cleaned several times throughout the years!

Seagate portable hard drive

My 5 GB Seagate portable hard drive. I bought it my freshman year for $150 and it served me for 9 years. I bought it when flash drives were just becoming popular, and at the time, it was way bigger than any flash drive.

Dell Dimension guts

All the guts of the Dell Dimension.

Once everything was taken apart, I began the task of sorting and imagining. How could all these parts fit together? What sort of robot could I make with them? These parts actually sat on my kitchen table for about a month as I tinkered with them.

Finally, I had an outline of my robot. The Seagate hard drive casing would make a torso, and the two RAM cards would make legs. Once I began putting the pieces together, though, I realized that the RAM legs wouldn’t work. The top ended up being too heavy, so I scrapped that idea and instead made a hovercraft robot.

Della parts laid out

Introducing Della, my robotic companion

Della, rising from the parts graveyard

Della, rising from the parts graveyard.

Here is Della, the completed robot. Let me explain how everything came together.

Della's face

Della’s head is a reader of some sort from the hard drive or CD drive. There’s actually a magnet inside holding the screw-eyes on. I found two little rings wrapped in copper wire (if anybody knows the names of these computer parts, please enlighten me in the comments). They look like little candies. But they also look like Princess Leia’s hair. I glued the rings to the side of her head, added some more copper wiring for hair, and that’s how Della, a female robot, was conceived.

Her neck is a piece of rubber. Initially her head was too heavy for the neck, but then I found a stiff spring in the computer that fit perfectly over the rubber piece. Now the head stands up straight and kind of bobbles around.

Della's shield

This is Della’s shield. I found this computer wheel somewhere and it was too cool not to use. The ring it sits in is also a magnet, so this isn’t even glued in place. I imagine that this shield generates an electrical force field to protect her.

Della's spellbook

Della’s spellbook is in her other hand. This is actually the guts of the Seagate portable hard drive. Della’s holding the spellbook high, either reading from it or conjuring a spell. I figured a textbook was the most fitting “weapon” for Della, considering my computer was primarily used for academic purposes. Her forearm is actually made from the computer’s power button.

Della's torso

Della’s torso, made from the Seagate casing. The feminine cut to the casing further reinforced Della’s gender. I found an even bigger copper ring in the computer, so I put that inside the casing to represent her internal power source.

The little shield on the front of the hovercraft portion was originally a Dell logo from the front of the computer. As a kid, my dad used to give us these Mr. Yuk stickers to play with. At some point I acquired some and put one on the computer. I figured the Mr. Yuk shield made a nice, threatening hood ornament for Della!

Della back view

The back view of Della. The hovercraft portion was made from a (very cheap) microphone I occasionally used. The base became the hover mechanism, and I turned the microphone around to act as the exhaust. Remember those RAM legs that I wasn’t able to work out? I really wanted to use the RAM, especially because I had a long two-month battle with Dell to upgrade my RAM and was never sent the right one until the end. I envision the RAM cards as the propulsion for the hovercraft.

Sideviews of Della

Finally, side views of Della so you can see the entire profile.

In the end, I’m very pleased with the memories my first computer gave me, and this robot figurine was the perfect way for me to commemorate the passing of that computer.

Computers are very important to our way of life and to our development. They facilitate our becoming and shouldn’t be discarded lightly just because they get a little slow in their old age.

~Dennis

The Minecraft Travelogue: The Tiny Island Terraform: Days 80-91

Seven witches are destroying this world by raising an army of undead warriors. My job is to hunt and kill them. Perhaps killing these witches will restore balance to the world.

Five witches have been slayed: two more remain.

This is my journey. My only goal is to tell a good story.

Days 80-82

I built as far as my materials would take me, several kilometers into the Orange Ocean. The land bridge was getting quite long now, and the shore of the fabled West was nowhere to be seen. How many more weeks would I be stranded at sea?

I was running low on materials and knew that if I was going to make any significant progress forward, I had to stop going back to Waystation Island. I needed a new waystation.

This leg of the land bridge did take me through Decimation Island, which was a bountiful land far more rich in resources than Waystation Island. But I died here, and the place was still overrun with monsters. I needed a new base of operations.

And then I found it. A very tiny island peaking above the ocean floor.

Minecraft Travelogue

It didn’t look like much, but this would be my new home. All I needed was dirt to grow trees. I envisioned a massive terraforming project to turn Tiny Island into a functioning lumber yard.

I built a small resting platform nearby, complete with a pen for Lightning, then started the long trek back to Waystation Island. This would be the definitive last trip there.

Minecraft Travelogue

Henrietta was still clucking around. This island was hers now.

Minecraft Travelogue

Instead of felling a forest of trees, my mission now was to gather as much dirt as possible. I dug underground so as not to ruin the visual aesthetic of the island. Once underground, I cleared a huge cavern. Now I had enough material to terraform Tiny Island.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

Day 83

All of my materials gathered, I loaded up Lightning and left Waystation Island for good.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

When I reached Decimation Island, I passed very quickly now that I was on the back of Lightning. Good thing, because I reached Decimation Island at night.

Minecraft Travelogue

Days 84-91

All of my valuables were safely stowed on my cobblestone platform. I had a bed, I had a small amount of food, and Lightning had her pen. I had soil, and I was ready to begin the terraformation project.

I knew early on that creating an entire flat surface for my trees would be resource intensive, and entirely unnecessary. Instead, I constructed long, spindly arrays of dirt, meter-wide paths that the trees would be planted next to. Using Tiny Island as a base, my plan was to construct four arrays, one in each direction, and grow 10-14 trees on each array.

Minecraft Travelogue

Once my first tree grew, I realized I was spacing them too close. Oops. They needed to be 6-7 squares apart so that they could grow without touching each other.

Minecraft Travelogue

I remade the first array and replanted the trees. Now Tiny Island was coming together. I lined the paths with torches. I wanted no monsters to spawn on this small tract of land. Not on my watch. This little outpost would be the first, hopefully of many in this world, where no monsters had refuge.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

My arrays constructed, now I had to wait for the trees to grow. I soon had enough trees planted that by the time I finished harvesting them new trees had sprouted up. Within a couple days, I realized that this set-up at Tiny Island was far more efficient than Waystation Island.

It was so successful I was breaking tools left and right. I needed stone to continue my work, so I dug a small tunnel in the middle of Tiny Island to get fresh material.

Minecraft Travelogue

While I was working, I came up with a new strategy for felling trees. When oak trees grew, they came in two varieties. The first, the standard short tree, yielded 5 blocks of wood. Not much, but very easy to chop down. Occasionally, though, a massive grandfather tree grew, which could yield 30 blocks of wood or more. While it might initially appear more efficient to fell these large trees, they were so tall that it took a lot of effort to clear them.

Minecraft Travelogue

Half of the time, the lumber would fall into the water. While I could retrieve some of it, Tiny Island didn’t have a very large footprint, so much of the lumber would fall to the bottom of the ocean. I could swim down a ways, but it was too dark to find the ocean floor.

Minecraft Travelogue

So I came up with a new strategy: chop as much from the grandfather trees as I could, then burn the rest. It would be much quicker to burn it down and plant a new tree.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

Around night 89 I saw a zombie swimming near my island. My plan for a monster-free refuge failed. Fortunately, this was the only one I saw during my tenure at Tiny Island. I killed him quickly. I hadn’t killed a zombie in about a week.

Minecraft Travelogue

As the sun set, I checked my inventory and realized that I had as much wood as I could possibly carry. I had 4,600 blocks, enough for over 4 kilometers of bridge. Hopefully this is the last time I need to gather material for this stupid land bridge. I went to bed, getting a good rest (I’ve been awake nearly a week), before my final trek to the mainland.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

The Minecraft Travelogue: Henrietta and the Storm: Days 75-79

Seven witches are destroying this world by raising an army of undead warriors. My job is to hunt and kill them. Perhaps killing these witches will restore balance to the world.

Five witches have been slayed: two more remain.

This is my journey. My only goal is to tell a good story.

Days 75-76

I have died too many times now. My failure at Decimation Island was a clear sign: I could not navigate this world without proper weapons and armor. The enemies are too many. Even with all the work I’ve done to slay the world’s witches, the undead are as numerous as ever.

Minecraft Travelogue

First, I needed food. The apples I was getting from my trees just weren’t staving my hunger. I needed bread, something filling. I went back to my crops, which were a little bigger, but they needed to grow faster. If I could kill skeletons at night, I would have all the bone meal I needed to fertilize these crops.

Minecraft Travelogue

Once I was confident my crops could take care of themselves, I went back to my hole in the ground, my makeshift shelter, and started digging down. Soon, I found iron, and knew I was on the right path.

Minecraft Travelogue

I improved my pickaxe and continued digging. Soon, I had a breakthrough, and found a decent cave system.

Minecraft Travelogue

I had my bow with me, retrieved from my storage chest above ground. My horse Lightning was still safe, but I really needed this bow. If monsters crept out of the darkness while I was mining, this bow might be my only protection.

To my surprise, I didn’t hear the hisses and snarls of fiends while exploring underground, but rather, the clucking of a chicken!

Minecraft Travelogue

How a chicken got underground I have no idea! There were no air vents, no passages to the surface. This cavern wasn’t that large.

This chicken could be very useful. Bread was a good food source, but meat was better. The chicken would lay eggs, and some of those eggs would hatch into chicks. Perhaps my days of struggling with food were over!

To lead the chicken out of the cave, I needed seed, something I was out of at the moment. To keep the chicken safe, I sealed her in a vault until I could return.

Minecraft Travelogue

Days 77-78

I was finding iron, but didn’t have enough yet for a suit of armor. Just as I was preparing a second trek into the caves, a massive typhoon hit the island.

Minecraft Travelogue

It lasted all day, and I was worried it would flood my island and my caves. The storm was so intense I could hear the rain and the thunder a hundred feet underground.

When I explored the caves, I found plenty of skeletons. I killed them without suffering a scratch, and now had the bone meal I needed to fertilize my crops. Once the rain let up, I put the bones in the dirt, and soon had a full crop of wheat.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

My bread problem solved, now it was time to worry about meat. I lured the chicken from the caves with fresh seed and built her a small pen.

Minecraft Travelogue

As soon as that task was completed, a wild creeper appeared! I didn’t even hear it sneak up on me. The creeper exploded before I could react appropriately. I suffered no injuries, but my island wasn’t so fortunate.

Minecraft Travelogue

The hole looks much worse than it really is: the creeper didn’t do that much damage. In fact, this creeper exploded in exactly the same spot as the first creeper all those days ago: I didn’t fill in the hole that well after the first attack.

The caves exhausted of material, I finally had enough iron for a suit of armor!

Minecraft Travelogue

I even had quite a few ingots of iron left over: these would make great tools and weapons.

Just as I clamped the armor around my body, I was attacked by a zombie villager! It traveled across the sea in broad daylight, making a beeline straight toward me!

Minecraft Travelogue

As I slayed the monster, I contemplated what this could mean. The monster attacks were increasing, and now real, living people were attacking my island. A witch had to be on my tail. This island wasn’t safe anymore. I had to leave as quickly as possible.

Minecraft Travelogue

The island was now a forest, so I had plenty of wood for the journey ahead. In one afternoon’s time, I cleared the island of every tree. I replanted the trees when I could, but I wouldn’t be sticking around long enough to see them mature.

Minecraft Travelogue

As the sun set, I looked at the beginning of my land bridge. I had to leave tomorrow. Waystation Island was unsafe.

Minecraft Travelogue

Day 79

At dawn, I gathered my effects and prepared to leave. I wasn’t bringing Lightning or all my prized possessions yet. I needed to make sure I got past Decimation Island first.

The chicken wasn’t much interested in laying eggs: I guess my plan for a fresh stock of meat wouldn’t come to fruition. I named the chicken Henrietta and let her out of her pen. This island was hers now.

Minecraft Travelogue

I stepped onto my land bridge and started running down the completed section. The land bridge would take me all the way to Decimation Island before I had to continue construction: that’s what I was worried about.

Once I arrived, though, I saw few monsters, but I did find an Enderman. Perhaps he destroyed most of the undead? I gave him a wide berth. If he was clearing this island, who was I to intrude?

Minecraft Travelogue

I crossed to the end of the island, searching for a point to launch the next segment of the land bridge, and lo and behold, I found in the water a skeleton archer, the same one that almost shot me to death.

Minecraft Travelogue

Minecraft Travelogue

He was weakened by the sun, but did I have sympathy for him? Not in the slightest. A couple arrows to the head shattered his skull, and he drifted to the bottom of the ocean.

By nightfall, I’d gotten a good start on the land bridge. Now that I had some distance between me and Decimation Island, I could work in peace.

Minecraft Travelogue