DIGITAL IS REAL / A LOOK THROUGH MINECRAFT
22 FEBRUARY 2022
The past years of amplified online lives, accelerated by staying at home and Web3 advancements, created a schism between the digital and non-digital, regarding their validity.
NFTspaces became the battleground, over which the public and large profile artists expressed options, from Damien Hirst’s and Takashi Murakami’s approval, to Brian Eno’s criticism, and Kanye’s disinterest. The fundamental misalignment seems to not be so much about the
contentof digital entities, but their very
that muchfor a jpeg?!” This reaction makes sense, since most people, even in digitally developed countries, were socialised in an environment with physical exclusivity, or at the very least, as in the case of Millennials and some of Gen-Z, physical-primacy.
There are several, already familiar, scenarios however, that demonstrate a non-binary categorisation of experiences. In this text, I’ll highlight some of these through Minecraft, revealing a bidirectional relationship between the physical – extending to income, identity, aesthetics and freedom of information – and the digital. Ultimately, this is a much larger question of what is considered “real”, but by drawing parallels between socially accepted forms of reality and emerging realities, we can discover that a fluent primacy inclusive of both categories is not as removed from us as initially seems.
Minecraft YouTubers find themselves in the peculiar situation that their income is dependent on a digital product. Their material conditions depend on playing Minecraft, and creating content of this process. Here, the digital materially communicates with the physical, in a bidirectional way – the “Minecraft money” with one’s needs for food, shelter and leisure. This process is of course more complex, but all throughout, it contains the same two-way communication: physical computer hardware + digital game and editing software; physical internet infrastructure + digital video sharing platform; and then for the consumer physical viewing device + digital video sharing platform. One redundant without the other.
Identity is another area where digital and non-digital converge. One carries their personality and interests into the game, which may be determining their digital identity and play-style. If someone’s more interested in exploration, they might play Survival or Hardcore in Minecraft, whereas someone interested in making might only build in Creative. Minecraft’s skins, as well as gamer tag system, also reflects qualities in personality, expressing taste, both visual and linguistic. And, in turn, the digital, gamer identity can affect the non-digital identity, if one considers it important enough in their lives to carry it across from the game.
WBC Builds(2022), showcasing his
International non-profit Reporters Without Borders worked with Minecraft design studio BlockWorks to create a digital,
The above scenarios of Minecraft gaming demonstrate already socially accept, ubiquitous cultural deployment of the physical and digital worlds meeting, positioning the digital as something just as real as its counterpart. Reframed this way, with the familiarity and weight of game experiences and content reassessed, other digital objects, such as
NFTsbecome easier to understand.
Again, the divide is not a result of the quality or financialisation of digital entities, but the
perceived validityof their medium. It is between those who hold the physical to be more significant, and those who put equal, or greater significance on digital. It’s not to assert either is better or more desirable, but to understand a fluid relationship between and across these two states is an option as well, an option that doesn’t deny or deprave the opportunities and freedoms found in each.
As of now (February 2022), digital objects are continuing to take up functions that physical ones do, only though a different medium. Recently, the cultural institution
One of the strongest arguments against the validity of digital entities, is the physical infrastructure and materials needed to create, sustain and expand digital entities. It is absolutely true that physical infrastructure and materials are the foundations of anything digital. But after their initial establishment, digital tools have been used for decades to create physical entities.
Endnotes / The physical in decline:
One accelerator of digital-primacy for the majority of technologically advanced population is the material decline they are facing. As living standards continue to decrease, since the advent of neoliberalism, with torturous reminders in 2008, and continuously since 2020, a simulated world might be more rewarding for most, than the dysfunctional capitalist system they are forced to sustain for the benefit of a few.
A Wojak animation by Low Budget Stories, titled
With a possible techno-feudalist system unfolding before us, such an outcome doesn’t seem too unrealistic, and could push many towards digital-primacy as a result of unbearable physical existences.
(1) David Rudnick on the podcast delves into great detail about our time’s struggle for primacy. His thoughts served as the foundations for this text.
(2) Baudrillard’s “hyperreality” can be extended to this context of digital and physical. Eventually, we won’t be able to distinguish which one is the original.
The Uncensored Library. Available at:
Minecraft : 10 YEARS in the Making - Whiteburg City : A History. 2 January 2022. Available at: