Nov 302011

If you step back a bit and squint, you can see Minecraft as a microcosm of human development. Each player begins as a rugged caveman, punching trees, living in holes, and fashioning crude tools to survive in a hostile world. From there, he progresses to mining for resources, smelting ore, and even farming. By the time an experienced player has carved out a comfortable niche for himself in the blocky, auto-generated terrain, he is (more likely than not) a master of his own palace who’s sitting on a stockpile of weapons and resources, a “modern” person with all the pixelated comforts of an advanced civilization.

The game mirrors humankind’s ability to use whatever is available in our environment to fashion whatever we need to thrive. However, as one dedicated Minecrafter points out, the ecological effects of this relationship are not accurately reflected in the current build, so he decided to hack the game until they became more evident.

(More after the break.)

James Smith, a blogger and programmer with the Avoiding Mass Extinctions Engine (AMEE), made a few changes to Minecraft in order to more realistically portray the carbon emissions that ‘crafting would produce. He looked up a bunch of raw statistics from a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and, estimating the biomass of the various combustible elements in the game, created a carbon counter. Moreover, he altered the game such that players will eventually see tangible changes in the environment if they aren’t careful about planting trees to mitigate their output of CO2.

Here’s a video demonstration of how Dr. Smith’s hack works:

All told, these changes probably won’t catch on beyond a small circle of Minecraft enthusiasts who are looking for yet another challenge in the game, but they definitely make a point: our environment is much more fragile than we think. I could see this taking off as a powerful educational tool, which is more in line with how it was originally intended. That said, the carbon mod certainly is a chewy bit of food for thought, even if it never reaches a widespread audience.

If you would like to read more about Dr. Smith’s reasons for creating the mod or the tools he used to do so, check out this blog post on the AMEE website.

%d bloggers like this: