Escaping into the server

Feb 28, 2020 | Features

A fter cresting the top of the airship tower, the view is immaculate. Cerulean tunnels of bubbly water function as the elevators between each achingly high story; oak wood planks creak under footsteps and echo off the carved stone bricks. On the fifth story, the floating ships rest, armed with fireworks. Every block of the skyscraper has been stacked with the precision of a jeweler placing a diamond.

Across the shallow pond dotted with wooden homes and lily pads is a different Minecraft scene. Nintendo characters are emblazoned on vibrant woolen murals. Train tracks snake around their straight edges and ladders creep up walls hundreds of feet high. Farms of bamboo grow alongside wheat and the spruce trees of a neighboring forest. Off in the distance, the pearly quartz blocks of a massive courthouse and city hall shimmer.

It’s a separate world here. One where 37 stressed seniors can find solace during the college application process by collaborating on buildings and tightening the stitches of the friendships that keep their grade close.

The Minecraft server, which doesn’t have an official name, wasn’t always this big. Created in early June of last year, there were only four players at the start: seniors Ben L., Steven R., Casey M., and Aidan W.

“The opportunity to play Minecraft wasn’t what motivated me,” said Steven, who thought of creating the server. “It just seemed like it was a fun way that I’d be able to hang out with friends.”

Minecraft, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, is a wildly popular open-concept 

Lots of people who I wouldn’t expect to play Minecraft are on it. It feels very wholesome.

Amy C. '20

sandbox game (a game with few limitations and no official storyline) with over 112,000,000 monthly players.

Players can create their worlds, whether in survival mode, where they have to scavenge for materials to craft their creations, or creative mode where players can freely fly and have access to unlimited resources. Players can play by themselves or join servers where they can interact and create with other players.

Since the creation of the server in the last week of school and an inaugural LAN party, the server has swelled to 37 players, more

than a third of the senior class.

The server and its attached Telegram chat have allowed seniors to connect with peers they haven’t spoken to in awhile.

“It’s a really interesting dynamic because I’ve never played social video games before,” said Amy C., a senior who’s played since early October. 

The influx of players has caused some problems for the server. Ben, who hosts the server on ExtraVM (a hosting service for Minecraft and cloud servers) by paying a monthly fee, said the number of players kept crashing the server in the beginning.

“Now I don’t have to do that much,” Ben said. “It’s kind of self-sustaining.”

While not as much work has to be put into keeping the server up, attention to any arguments on the server has to be noticed. While there is a document listing rules, if enough players have agreed that someone has broken a rule such as destroying others’

Being on the server was another way to maintain that community [of seniors].

Tyler G. '20

property, the player will be temporarily banned from the server.

“It’s happened once or twice,” Ben said. “Usually we try to avoid it, but if people agree that it’s necessary we’ll do a ban for a couple of weeks.”

Most of the time, however, the server does its job of providing stressed seniors with a place to relax and bond with other players.

Arguably the busiest time for the server was during the months of October and November when seniors were working on college applications. Students would flock to play during the weekends, at times reaching close to 10 people on the server at any given time.

“That portion of senior year where everyone’s writing college apps, it brings the grade closer together, like mutual suffering,” Tyler G. ’20 said.

Steven said the server was seen as “an acceptable form of procrastination.”

“There were times where you had…moments of people saying, ‘Oh, I’m procrastinating on my college apps’ and then the rest of the server going, ‘You can do it, go get them,’” Steven said.

Tyler found building on the server a better use of his time than scrolling through Reddit or YouTube.

“Being on the server actually feels more productive,” Tyler said. “You’re working [with] a great community, you’re building things.”

For Steven, this involved a fantastical technical build in an unusual location: the world border. The journey posed a challenge for Steven, who wanted to get out of the densely populated town center and 

[Minecraft is] nice because you can do whatever you want and there aren’t expectations of you.

Tyler G. '20

explore the rarely reached end of the world. Coming up with the method of getting to the edge was easy; making it work, however, proved a bit tricky. Steven first set up a spring machine on the flat roof of the Nether (the underworld in the game) that would propel him forward at thousands of blocks per hour.

“That was going about 10,000 blocks an hour, and for reference, to get to the end of the world border, you have to go 3,750,000 blocks,” Steven said. “Once I realized how slow that was, I started thinking about it more and just [rode a horse].”

Leaving for his journey on Oct. 6 and arriving 24 days later, Steven finally reached the end of the world.

“I remember I was just grinning kind of stupidly,” Steven said of the moment he reached the edge of the world.

Steven ultimately decided against building a Game of Thrones–style wall at the world border, choosing to bring
his builds closer to home. He’s now working on a farming
village with “sprawling wheat fields, a quaint town and a large windmill.”

The collaborative atmosphere is one of the reasons students love the game so much.

“People are very open with their materials,” Tyler said. “It makes it a more relaxing experience.”

For most players, the low stress level of the game drew them in.

“I can’t lose in it,” Tyler said. “I feel like there’s a winner and loser [in some games] and it can get really frustrating, especially if you’re on a losing streak. It’s just very stressful to be playing a game where there’s stakes.”

Steven loves the simplicity and ease of the game, too.

“At the end, after putting in some of this mindless effort, you can step back and appreciate what you’ve done—that’s the joy in it. Planting a massive field, harvesting it, and planting it again.”

Despite its popularity among members, the server and chat have slowed at times.

“It’s just had a sinusoidal lifecycle,” Steven said. “It started out and it was very popular, then it slowed down, and then as a way of procrastinating for college apps, it kind of boosted back up. After college apps, it’s died down a bit.”

As the end of senior year draws to a close, there’s a pretty good chance the server will end with graduation.

“It’ll probably die,” Steven said. “I know
some people want to keep it going, but already there are not that many people that still play on it.”

It’s a melancholy sight to witness. Many of the seniors grew up playing Minecraft, so their engagement with it may end at the same time as their Nueva education.

“I think the appeal of the server is this specific time in our lives [when] we’re all seniors applying to college,” Tyler said. “It’s already a period that’s bringing us together and it’s also kind of nostalgic playing Minecraft.”