I am a lawyer. And being a lawyer results in a lot of fairly common questions being thrown around: Where did you go to law school? A northeastern school. What type of law do you practice? Actually, I don’t. Could you look at this contract for me? Sure, if you’ll wait a month for a response by someone who hasn’t read or negotiated a contract since law school.
I am also a gamer (as some of you might know), and one particular game has helped me deal with a particularly troubling question that was asked of me a few months back. That game is Minecraft. You see, each time you boot up Minecraft you are greeted with two things: serene music and a random tag line. Sometimes you’ll see “Minecraft: 90% bug free!” Other times you might get “Minecraft: Absolutely no memes!” or “Minecraft: Larger than Earth!” These messages really help set the stage for what you’re about to experience: a relaxing and light-hearted trek into a world of creation.
Shifting gears back to those “oh, you’re a lawyer” questions–typically, they are harmless enough when asked by an acquaintance or stranger, but when asked by a relative, they can have unforeseen consequences. Case in point: a few months ago, I was asked to review a contract for the dissolution of a partnership. The individuals were married professionals who worked together and owned a firm (let’s call them “Jamie” and “Jackie”). They were also my close relatives. The partnership they wanted to dissolve was a successful firm that had recently been valued at a fairly high price. The contract was drafted with the intent of settling up the details. I did not want to read this document. I did not want to be involved in this dissolution, or the likely trial separation. I wanted to be left out of this one. Sadly, that didn’t happen. I received a phone call one afternoon at work.
“I need you to look at this for me, I want you to tell me if its ‘fair’ or not.” Jamie said.
I told Jaime I didn’t know anything about partnership dissolution under New York State law and that it would be borderline malpractice for me to offer any kind of opinion on the matter. This wasn’t technically true, but I was trying to voice my discomfort in the shadow of the law.
“You went to law school and you’re a professional, just give me your educated opinion,” Jaime pressed on.
I reiterated that I am not qualified to do this since I don’t know the underlying law and reminded Jaime that they have their own attorney for this very reason.
“Look, Anthony, I need you to help me. Jackie is trying to alter the deal we agreed on and I need someone to push Jackie to see what’s fair here.
After numerous qualifications and caveats and another 20 minutes of prodding, I eventually relented and said I would sleep on it.
Fast forward a few hours. I get home, turn on the Xbox, and change out of my 9-5 clothes into track pants and a black gaming t-shirt my girlfriend bought me.
“Minecraft: Turning Complete!”
I create a new world and set the difficulty to “peaceful.” The world slowly generates and I make my way for a small isolated hill. The pixelated blocks of clouds guide me as I jump up green squares of grass, strike a few blocks of wood, and create a crafting bench.
I slowly smooth out the uneven surfaces around me, remove some trees from the skyline, and start collecting wood for a 16 x 16 home. I then find some charcoal, build a furnace, and get some sand. I need windows for my home.
Its dark now; I guess its been 15 minutes or so of in-game time. The glass is almost done, so I carve out a few spots for its eventual placement–in the ceiling, flanking the doors, and parallel to the backyard garden that I plan on creating. After converting it into glass panes, I’m all set just as the sun rises and shines through my latest digital abode.
It’s the next morning. I get up and go to work. I drink my coffee, peruse the morning news, fire off a few emails and then close my office door. The sticky note outside reads “Conf. Call.” It’s not–I’m only calling one person.
“Hi. So I’ve thought it over and I don’t feel comfortable offering any kind of opinion on this. I just don’t know enough about the law and I don’t want to get involved.” My voice lacks its usual confidence.
You see, last night Jackie sent me the contract and asked me to look it over. I told Jackie that Jamie asked me to do the same. Jackie then told me to delete the email and realized I shouldn’t be placed in the middle of the dispute.
“Ok. Is this because Jackie already sent it to you and you’re helping Jackie?” The voice is piercing and cold.
“No. Of course not.”
“But Jackie sent you the documents right?” I notice a raised and slightly agitated voice.
“No.” I lie. I don’t know why.
“Anthony, I know Jackie did. You can’t live and work with someone for this long without knowing when they are lying to you.” Jamie hangs up.
I’m standing there stunned, receiver in hand. I don’t even remember getting up. A moment later a barrage of upbeat sounds hits my ears. My phone has seven new text messages. Each one from Jamie. The sum and substance cannot be repeated but they were not pleasant. I respond only once: “It hurts me that you feel this way.” I dick around for a few hours, occasionally drafting an email response to some question that is posed to me before heading home for lunch. I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can walk to work.
“Minecraft: Kind of dragon free!”
The world is recreated and I’m in my home. The house is empty. Nothing in it but a furnace and a crafting table. And my windows; I love my windows. I decide it’s time to make this into a proper home, one with a little bed (red, naturally), lights (torches), a “kitchen” (blocks set up as a table), and that all important backyard garden I was planning.
And so it goes. I gather, I craft, I build. 54 minutes later my alarm goes off, its time to get back to work. I leave the Xbox on and turn the television off.
Over the next few days I receive more and more texts from Jamie. I choose to ignore them. Jamie can be vicious, especially in writing. No internal checks. No desire to think before hitting “send.” Jamie feels betrayed and Jamie is angry. I contact Jamie and Jackie’s 16-year-old son to see how he is holding up. Shit trickles downhill, after all. He isn’t doing well; the situation is bad. He wants to visit me in the city for a few days. Jamie won’t let him. Jamie confiscates his phone and starts texting me from it, hoping to hurt me through him. This is bad. Very bad.
“Minecraft: A riddle, wrapped in a mystery!”
“[Jamie and Jackie’s son] wants you to join a party.” I accept and invite him to my world. He gathers materials and builds with me, all while talking about what has happened. He’s emotional, but there is a sense of catharsis in creation. I can tell that he is doing better when we sign off for the night. Come to think of it, so am I.
The weeks continue on like this. A barrage of texts and emails (thank you Google for auto-sort in Gmail!) that I choose to ignore followed by a party invite via Xbox Live, all while [Jamie’s son] and I build and create.
Fast forward to last month. It’s his birthday dinner and I’m heading out to see him. All isn’t as it used to be, but its certainly feels better. After dinner I go home and turn on my Xbox.
I walk around the home made up of bits of code and 3D pixels. The house is complete. So is the backyard garden. It’s the spitting image of the house Jamie and Jackie live in–my home base for seven years while attending college and law school, the house that drew me close to my extended family, where I acted as a big brother to Jamie and Jackie’s son. Most importantly, it is the house as I remember it, not this broken and dilapidated shell I’ve been dealing with over the past few months. It feels good to walk through my Minecraft mansion. Each aspect of it brings back a fond memory for me and for Jamie and Jackie’s son as well, I hope. I save the game and go to bed. This has become a ritual of sorts on those more trying days.
“Minecraft: It’s a game!”
Actually, its more than that. Its a place where I can revel in imperfect creation, a place where memories can be digitally manifested and preserved, even if they are pixelated and incomplete versions.
Check out Episode 123 of the D Pad D Bags podcast for our takes on Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Metal Gear Solid 4: