A few weeks ago, I was cooking dinner when Luca slumped over our kitchen counter. He whined, “I’m bored.” A light jab.
I countered with a flurry of attacks. “Well, why don’t you play with the literally hundreds of toys in your room? Did you know there are children in the world who have no toys? Zero.” He was against the ropes.
Luca said, “But I want to play with you! You never play with me. The last time you played with me was, like, last Tuesday.” Down goes Hamann! Down goes Hamann!
So I’ve been making an effort to avoid the above. But whenever I ask Luca what he wants to play, he suggests Minecraft. Which is a brilliant way to get me to give him more screen time.
Minecraft is a video game where you can build things if you want to. Or mine things if you want to. Or fight things if you want to. Or just sit there shooting off fireworks if you want to. I hate it.
I’ve taken to reading some of Luca’s Minecraft books on the side in a vain attempt to understand even the concept of the game. Deep within one of the treatises about fighting cubes of slime (yes there are just cubes of slime you have to fight) I found some blueprints and instructions on how to build castles. Ooh. That sounded fun.
For three weeks during a high school architecture course I thought I would become a builder of magnificent structures, High-rises, office buildings, art deco Pizza Huts. But then I decided to follow my dream of making things people DVR past.
I carried my plans for a beautiful seaside Asian dojo to the basement and I joined Luca in the virtual 8-bit ish world. Via split screen, we each walked around the weird, blocky, somewhat disturbing Minecraft world.
I told Luca I was going to build my dojo and he was welcome to join me and maybe we could live there when it was done. Luca demurred and wandered off. This still counted as playing together, so I got to work.
It was fantastic. Setting down block after block. So many straight lines. I felt like I had found my calling: Quietly following directions.
Every once and a while would stand back and smarvel at my growing structure. Occasionally I would see Luca’s character at the edge of my screen. He was busy with something. Digging. Placing things. Digging. Placing things.
I asked Luca what he was up to.
“I’m putting TNT all around your building.”
With as much effort as I was putting into my dojo, Luca was digging trenches all around and underneath my dojo and filling the holes with hundreds of red boxes of digital explosives.
“What? No. You can’t blow up my dojo. I was going to use this as my special meditation place. I was going to fill it with digital cushions and some digital dream catchers.”
Luca assured me, “Oh dad. I’m not going to blow it up now. I’m going to wait until you are done.”
I put my controller down and went upstairs. I couldn’t bear to watch my creation exploded. According to Luca, it was glorious.