This question sucks.
Or, I should say, in most situations it sucks.
You’ll often hear this question, “What do you bring to the table?” in job interviews or auditions, and it always ends with the same result: The interviewee listing off a bunch of random skills that they’ve acquired in the hopes that one of them lands solidly in the interviewer’s “good answer” list (Forbes has a good article about this if you’re curious).
Unfortunately, that question is also the best way I can think of to bring something to your attention.
I have to confess… I’m not a very good gamer.
I don’t really like gaming casually for fun on my own all that much. I don’t really play anything outside of Minecraft (and now 7 Days to Die), and even with those I rarely just sit down and “game” for hours at a time.
The thing that brings me joy about these games isn’t so much the mechanics and features themselves, but the potential for creativity. I don’t really care to beat the Ender Dragon so much as I care about telling a story along the way there. As I’m playing I’m day dreaming about new ideas for storylines, characters, settings, and adventures. These games, especially Minecraft, are perfect for letting people tell whatever story is in their hearts.
In fact, I made a video about this recently for work:
For better or for worse, that approach that I take to the game has also left me a bit… bored. I don’t mean to sound offensive to the many talented and entertaining creators out there who show off their gameplay in YouTube or on stream, but I don’t really enjoy watching too many these days.
It’s been well over a year, maybe even two, since I’ve watched a Let’s Play series and actually felt invested in it. There are plenty of great creators doing awesome stuff with their series, but I’m not hooked in like I used to be. Why do I need to watch, for the dozenth time, a Wither battle? Or building an auto sugar cane farm? Or beating a parkour map?
Maybe you love that stuff, and for you I am THRILLED! There are thousands of creators out there who can tickle your fancy with their videos about that stuff.
But for me… I need something more. I need a story that I can feel connected to and invested in. Something that I want to see come to a satisfying conclusion. I need a piece of art that is as much a picture of a vast imagined world as it is a reflection of the creator’s mind.
I need meaning.
Beyond videos and streams
The same thing goes for multiplayer servers and map making and mods. I, personally, have seen enough servers that present slight variations of the same gamemodes and leaderboards that get reset every few weeks. I’ve downloaded enough schematics of breathtaking builds that I look at for 20 minutes and then never revisit. I’ve installed enough mods that emphasize building bigger and better farms… but don’t add anything fulfilling in terms of storytelling.
The beauty of the blockiness of Minecraft is that the graphics prove that we don’t need more realism in order to let our imaginations run wild. We don’t need millions of specific items in order to engage players. We don’t need fantastical builds in order to suspend disbelief while telling our stories… we just need better stories to be told.
We need stories to be told in general.
Those things help with storytelling a lot, but they don’t replace it. So many of us get easily caught up in thinking of new features to add to our maps or servers or mods or the vanilla game itself, that we’re not paying attention to how what we already have can be used to create powerful results.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we need to stop creating new things or tweaking existing mechanics in order to release servers, mods, and maps. I’m not saying YouTubers should stop making Let’s Plays or that players should stop joining a bunch of different servers to go where their friends are.
Take a look at what Wintertooth100 is doing with his Let’s Play series. Maybe this story isn’t one that grips your attention like it does mine, but it’s a good example of someone who cares about telling a story beyond just playing the game.
I’m not a good gamer, I said that. You are. So, I’m not claiming to know what changes should be made in order to make you happy.
All I’m saying is that for me, personally, I would love to see more attention and work put towards world building, character development, storytelling, and satisfying conclusions.
Which is exactly what I’m doing going forward with my own creations.
Tell the story you want to tell.
No matter what the limitations were of the game itself, they found a way to tell the stories that they wanted to.
No excuses. No blaming Mojang for not adding specific new features. No waiting for a mod to be released to perform a specific task. If they wanted something to happen, they found a way to make it happen, even if by today’s standards their methods seemed a bit archaic.
For example, before resource packs were added to the game, there was no way to add in voice over scripts or custom sounds. They placed signs in the world with an ID telling the player which YouTube video to watch at that point. And guess what? The people who cared about the story went to those videos to watch it unfold.
Everything that you do tells the rest of us something about you.
As a YouTuber, do you want to make another Let’s Play series that follows the same steps as a million other Let’s Players?
As a server owner, do you want to remake Prisons, Factions, KitPvP, Bedwars, Skyblock, etc… etc… and compete directly with other servers that have been doing the same thing successfully for years?
As a modder, do you want to add another new item that people use once and then forget about because it has no significant importance to the story that THEY are telling in their world?
As a player, do you want to build something random that other players look at for 15 seconds and then walk away and forget it even existed?
Maybe you do. Maybe you’re building these things for you and because they make you happy. Awesome. Keep doing that if it makes you happy.
But if you’re like me and you want something more, ask yourself, “What do I bring to the table?”
What do you want to be known for? What response do you want to inspire in people? What story do you want to tell?
What do you want to bring to the table?
The table is big and has a whole lot of food on it. We’re all going to reach out and grab any food we can get our hands on if we’re hungry enough. There will always be a place for bread and butter at the table, and some people will never want to touch the desserts or lobster or fancy salads with homemade vinaigrette dressing.
But if you had to bring something to the table, and you do, what would you bring if you had unlimited time, resources, and tools to make it happen?
Guess what: You have all of those things. You have the time, the resources, and the tools to make it happen. That’s the amazing gift of Minecraft and its community. There are no excuses worth saying. There is no one that can be blamed for our own limited imaginations.
Start with the question, “What do I want to bring to the table?”, and after you find the answer, find a way to make it, then put it in front of me, because some of us are hungry… and we gonna eat.