Friday, October 23, 2015
What happens when form overwhelms function.
This video is making the rounds again on twitter (even though it's from 2011) and I assume it's because it's a school project done in Minecraft. It's getting the kinds of "look what kids can do if we just let them!" feel to it mojo. Cue technofuturists, school reformers, blah, blah, blah.
I admit, the project looks cool. I'm sure it took a ton of time. And the kid was good at minecraft. But the project is about creating a self-sustaining village and on that level, it's a complete failure. It shouldn't be held up as example of good work, it should be held up as an example of what happens when form overwhelms function and kids (and adults) end up missing the point.
The assignment was to create a self-sustaining village. To be a good place to live a village would need a) a food supply b) a fuel supply sufficient to cook food (if they are doing that) and heat homes and workplaces (if they need to) c) a water supply and d) a method of getting rid of waste. To be self-sustaining they also have to have energy outputs that don't exceed their energy inputs. (In other words, they need a source of power that they aren't going to use up).
So let's see how the kid did. Food supply. I hope they like bacon, eggs, and crappy bread because that's mostly what they are eating. And maybe some sheep's cheese. The cows will mostly be dead since they won't have anything to eat that I could tell; the sheep will take up most of the grazing and the villagers aren't growing hay. So it's all pork products all the time. With maybe some mutton. To go with that, they'll have plenty of god awful bread to eat.
But not for too long, the small amount of wood that is left is their sole source of energy and also is used for building materials (and maybe as torches?). Planting the trees close together will stunt and kill them, by the way. The folks who live here are going to be in a wood-shortage pretty quickly. Without wood, they won't be able to preserve the pork (there's no salt anywhere for food preservation which is also going to mean the bread's going to suck).
Even more pressing is the water supply issue. There's a well and baths, but no river or sewer system for disposing of wastes. Most of the folks here will be dead from dysentery right quick. (And come to think of it, the fields don't have irrigation either. One drought and they are done).
Further, the population here is massive. There's an army and tons of workers to build the cathedral. They have to extract this wealth from somewhere that isn't this village to support all those folks.
Even if we assume that redstone and glowstone are basically free energy, there's not nearly enough inputs here to equal the outputs. Clearly those soldiers are using their archery skills to raid nearby villages for wood and food and slave labor to work those mines.
And if you think, I'm being overly harsh, this is all middle school curriculum stuff. For example, I could have pointed out that the well next to the mines means that the mines are constantly flooding and that the drinking water is likely contaminated. But I didn't did I? I'm not vindictive. I'm not trying to beat up on the kid. What I am trying to do is point out his project isn't very good no matter how creative he is. Creativity shouldn't be an end in of itself. It can't be. It has to serve some other end.
Otherwise you wind up with very pretty castles, where everybody dies.