This post is NOT about creating controversy or me complaining about aspects of Minecraft. I think this post highlights unintended side-effects from implementing new game mechanics in to an already complicated environment. Where something sounds good on paper, but in reality encourages unethical in-game behaviour. This post will show how you can enslave and torture the local population within Minecraft to give you the best equipment with very little effort. I think it’s comical that in a game targeted towards kids the most efficient method of getting rich and powerful is to destroy the lives of the native population.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a game about mining and crafting. The goal of the player in survival mode is to beat the boss Ender Dragon in the “End” dimension. You need to mine resources to craft items, equipment, armour and weapons. The start of the game you work with wood, then progress through iron to diamond as you mine and explore more. Mining for resources is a time consuming task. The tools have durability and you’ll use many iron pick axes while mining for diamonds. Diamonds are the most prized resource in Minecraft and can take hours to acquire a sufficient amount for a single set of tools/weapons and armour.
The survival aspect of Minecraft comes from having a day and night in game. During the day, the world is relatively safe with a few monsters around. At night, monsters spawn anywhere there isn’t light and will actively try to kill the player when they’re nearby. Recently, Minecraft has introduced non-player characters (NPCS) in the form of villagers. There are randomly created villages throughout the world with NPC inhabitants. The player is able to trade resources to the villagers. The more they trade, the higher level items the trader will offer back in return. Traders with maxed out experience will offer diamond tools, weapons and armour… but at a significant cost.
Villager professions and trading
Villagers in Minecraft can have a profession (or job). There are specific blocks that are profession blocks. When a profession block is placed near a villager with no profession they will move to that block and adopt that profession. So placing a brewing stand near an unemployed villager will cause that villager to walk to the brewing stand and become a cleric.
Each profession has a list of different possible trades the player may make with the villager. Each villager has a limited number of trades that can be made per item per day, this can be refreshed once per day when the villager interacts with their profession block. So in any given day the player may make the maximum amount of trades to a villager twice. This limit applies per villager per trade. So trading sticks for emeralds will not affect the string for emeralds trade.
Emeralds are the currency of choice for villagers. Many trades will require you to give multiple of an item to a villager in exchange for an emerald. One of the more common is trading sticks to the fletcher for an emerald. The fletcher will require 32 sticks per emerald. Is this fair?
We can get sticks from planks and planks from logs. One log will produce four planks and four planks will produce eight sticks. So one log is worth eight sticks. 32/8 = 4. So four logs is worth one emerald. But how valuable is an emerald? One emerald can buy a pair of iron boots and 13-27 emeralds can buy a pair of diamond boots. So we can place one emerald at a value of 4 iron bars, as this is the amount required to make a set of iron boots. This is an approximation as other items are both cheaper or more expensive. But what we can conclude is that an emerald is worth significantly less than a diamond.
Trading tends to favour the villager. One diamond can be traded for one emerald from the Armorer. But when we’re trading back emeralds for diamond equipment we see 13-27 emeralds being required for boots that require four diamonds.
All n all, trading provides a fun and interesting aspect to the world. It allows the player to choose multiple paths towards the end-game. They can focus on farming and selling their crops to a farmer for emeralds, then using those emeralds to buy better tools and equipments; or they can focus on mining and exploration to find resources that will be purchased by the Cartographer, Leatherworker, Fletcher etc.
Side-note on enchanting
Enchanting in Minecraft allows you to make good items better with perks. This requires experience points to be spent. Trading with villagers is a really good way to get experience and using librarian villagers to get books is a cheap and efficient way to get the best enchantments. So this path of getting rich also gets you powerful by giving you cheap enchantments and heaps of experience points
So where does slavery enter the picture? This all sounds pretty innocent so far.
As mentioned above, monsters will hunt and kill the player when nearby. The same is true for villagers. Monsters near villagers will also hunt and kill them if there is not a player target nearby. So to ensure the safety of the villagers, we’ll use profession blocks to lure them into a nice secure facility we’ve built. All villagers living in a single area with their job blocks. In my world, each villager gets put into a 3x1 cell where two squares are taken by a bed and one square for them to stand during the day that is adjacent to their profession block for the trade refresh. While a bed isn’t necessary and you can trap the villager in a 1x1 cell, I find it beneficial to let them sleep so that I can make alterations during the night without them trying to escape.
The villager is forced to work for me without the ability to leave their cell. But I’m providing protection from the monsters and a bed. So that sounds fair right?
Torture… Yea.. probably even less ethical than the above imprisonment.
As mentioned above, monsters will kill villagers. When a villager is killed by a Zombie, they become an undead infected zombie villager. This is an interesting mechanic because now the villager will actively hunt the player and other villagers to kill them as well. Minecraft fortunately provides a way for you to cure a zombie villager turning them back to normal. You need to build a potion of splashing weakness to throw at the zombie villager and them gift them a golden apple. Once this is done, the zombie villager will return to normal after approx 2-5 minutes.
No torture here right, this actually seems pretty wholesome. So what is the problem?
The problem with this is that whenever you cure a villager they will give you a discount on their trades, and this stacks. Cure the villager once and get a good discount, cure them 5x and get insane discounts. But how do you cure the villager multiple times… well you have to get them continually killed and infected by a zombie.
So you trap a villager in a room that has a door to another room with a trapped zombie. Then you let the zombie in to murder the villager. Once the villager is an infected zombie villager you separate them from the zombie and cure them. Once cured you can check their trades to see how good the discount is. Then rinse and repeat until you’ve happy with the trades your slave… err employee is giving you.
Is this effective? Yes
Yes. You can get pretty much any trade to one item for one emerald, and one emerald for any one item.
So one stick can get one emerald, and one emerald can get one diamond chest piece.
Let’s jump back and work through this. At the start, one log is worth eight sticks. And 32 sticks is worth one emerald.
By repeatedly infecting and curing the fletcher, we can get him to trade us one stick for one emerald. By repeatedly infecting and curing the armorer, we can get him to trade us any diamond armour for one emerald.
So one stick is one emerald and one emerald is worth up to 8 diamonds (diamond chest piece). So every log is worth up to 64 diamonds.
Why would you ever mine for diamond? Enslaving the local population to work for you, and torturing them through repeated zombie infections to drive prices down is much better. The most efficient pathway to being rich and powerful in Minecraft is the most unethical.
And people complain about violence in Grand Theft Auto…