A Study of Creepers


1. A Study of Creepers

In a game of unlimited creation, that which can destroy is a builder’s worst nemesis.  While it would be easy to pin this on griefers, trolls, and other online ne’er-do-wells, Minecraft servers can easily be protected against the human element that finds amusement in destroying the work of others.  No, when I speak of a miner’s nemesis, I refer to the viridian stalker of Minecraft known as ‘The Creeper’.

The first time a miner hears the tell-tale hiss of impending doom is a memorable moment.  Perhaps he or she is building a house or chopping down wood, or simply attempting to dig just a little more sand before the sun sinks below the distant horizon.  Whatever the miner happens to be doing, the end result is the same; a momentary hiss, an earth-rending explosion, then the blood-tinted screen proclaiming, “Game Over!”  As the new miner stares at the small crater littered with the materials they worked so hard to get, a rush of emotions flood through them: Confusion, not unlike that experienced by any accidentally caught by the anger of a cruel and uncaring deity. Anger, as the reality of their situation catches up to them.  A desire for vengeance, a chance to smite that which had struck the miner such a fell blow.  Finally comes emptiness; the realization that vengeance is impossible; in bringing an end to the miner, the creeper has also brought an end unto itself.

All of the fell creatures of Minecraft are dangerous, but the Creeper carries with it a special fear.  Zombies are relentless, and the arrows from a skeleton’s bow will bring down many a miner, but the explosion of a creeper isn’t just a loss of life but of time and effort.  A miner is just as involved in his or creation as any practitioner of the creative disciplines; it is a part of the miner, lovingly rendered in blocks and pixils just as a artist pours him or herself onto canvas or a writer puts his or her soul into a book.  When a creator pours so much of himself or herself into his or her creation, said creation’s destruction strikes a particularly deep nerve.  That is why creepers are such fearsome villains; in damaging a miner’s work, they go beyond the miner’s avatar to strike directly at the miner him- or herself.

What drives the creepers to do such a thing?  What lies behind the sad green faces that drives these creatures to seek the destruction of miners with such eagerness?  What is it about the very sight of miner that makes the creepers instantly rush to their inevitable demise?  Learning the truth might very well bring with it a deeper understanding of both the Minecraft world and the Mainstream in which we all live.

To truly understand the creeper, we must first discuss the creeper’s place within the flora and fauna of the Minecraft world.  Other aggressive creatures have been recorded in other realms or due to alterations to the fabric of the minecraft world (put simply, mods), the only creatures that exist in the purest minecraft world are as follows: The Zombie, the Skeleton, the Spider, the Ghast, The Enderman, the Slime, and the Creeper. 

Given their nature as the walking dead, we may assume that the Skeleton and the Zombie are simply Miners who have previously lost their lives: they roam the underground caverns and the moon-covered lands, searching perhaps for that last piece they sought on the eve of their deaths.  They attack the living out of instinct; no longer able to truly see, they perceive all life as approaching threats and potential resources, and attack without mercy.  With the rising sun, they are set alight and eventually fall back to death until the moon rises once more.

The Silverfish, a life-form from a forgotten era slumbering in ancient ruins, exist to protect the remains of the lands they inhabit; they ward off miners and looters so that something of the past survives.   Even when startled, they will eventually tire of the assault and hide in another block.  While their existence brings into question just what brought an end to the ancient civilizations whose ruins they protect, they are simply creatures who seek to be left alone.

The Ghast is a fearful creature that floats through the Nether.  Normally docile, the sight of a miner with drive the Ghast into a fearful rage.  With each shriek, it sends a burst of fire down with enough force to destroy the very land of the nether in an attempt to destroy the miner.  Unlike the other monsters, however, the Ghast will not actively pursue a miner, indicating an almost territorial behavior; it is not attacking out of true anger, but rather to eliminate the outsider who rudely barged into the Nether and began chipping away with shovels and mines.  They are, in a sense, protectors of the Nether.

 The Spider and her poisonous sister will attack in darkness, often in packs.  While fearsome within the darkness of a cave or other light-deprived place, in the light of the sun, the Spider becomes docile.  It won’t attack the player; it will barely even give a passing glance to a miner unless provoked into attacking.  Ultimately, it is simply an insect that has a place in the ecology of Minecraft.

The Enderman is a most mysterious sort; neither man nor monster, it toils away endlessly at a task it no longer truly remembers.  Much like the Zombie and the Skeleton, the Enderman shares a connection with miners; perhaps it is simply a shade that has taken a basic human form, or a shadow given life, or the lost soul of a miner who seeks to build, but no longer remembers why.  The Enderman is still not by nature aggressive; provided a careless miner does not anger the Enderman by staring directly at it, the Enderman will continue to work in peace until banished by sun’s light or the burning touch of water.

The Slime is an interesting creature; forming deep beneath the earth regardless of light or darkness, it hops around stone tunnels and abandoned mineshafts.  The slime will instantly hop towards a player, but when small will cause no damage; indeed, the Slime is a curious little fellow merely excited about the presence giant miner; any damage incurred is more due to the size and weight of larger slimes than to actual aggression, as evidenced by the correlation between the damage a slime causes and its size.

Finally, we have the Creeper; a strange, four-legged creature that wanders the land for no apparent purpose.  Once it has spotted a miner, the Creeper will attempt to rush him or her, even going so far as to circle around the miner once close in an attempt to evade attack by sword, arrow, or even a desperate punch.  Once close enough, the Creeper will detonate and destroy itself, a sizeable chunk of the landscape, and any miner not quick enough to evade the blast.

One may dismiss the Skeleton, the Zombie, and the Enderman as supernatural beings, given their appearance only in darkness and their coming deaths at dawn.  The Spider and the Silverfish may be overlooked as well, as they are merely insects.  The latter only fights when forced from its home while the former acts as as you might expect from a spider; they attempt to capture and consume anyone foolish enough to draw too near while safe in the darkness, but will not approach the player in the harsh light of the sun.  The Ghast is part of the Nether, a separate world that can only connect to the main world through the effort of a miner; it is a being from a different world, perhaps even a different dimension, and is therefore irrelevant to this discussion. Slimes are more curious than aggressive, and though they may be careless, are ultimately not truly aggressive.

But what of the Creeper?  In a world of undead and spectral foes, where does the leafy-skinned suicide bomber of Minecraft fit into the ecosystem of the world?  

Let us begin with an analysis of the Creeper’s appearance; it has four short legs, each appearing to end in a foot-like appendage.  The Creeper’s body is covered with a green skin that might be described as leafy or scaly, and stands as tall as a miner, zombie, or skeleton.  The expression on the Creeper’s face can be interpreted as hauntingly sad or downright horrified.  As the Creeper’s head can swivel around, it must have a neck or similar internal structure. 

Given that a creeper will survive a fall from an impressive height seems to indicate a skeletal structure not dissimilar to a standard humanoid.  Indeed, the Creeper’s height is very close to that of a miner

Despite lacking arms, the Creeper is capable of climbing up miner-built ladders.  It can be assumed that this is possible through the use of the Creeper’s four legs, indicating that the four appendages are highly maneuverable as well as unusually strong.  Indeed, a Creeper will rarely (if ever) stop while chasing a miner.  

The skin of a Creeper is often described as “being crunchy; like dry leaves”.  From this, we can assume that the creeper’s skin is in fact leafy.  Coupled with the Creeper’s natural green coloring, it may very well be possible that the Creeper receives energy through photosynthesis.  This would explain why the Creeper does not attack non-miner creatures, as it receives nourishment through sunshine rather than consuming other creatures. 

We might also assume that the Creeper’s explosive ability is fueled by energy it has stored within its very body.  Given that a Creeper’s explosion will be augmented if the Creeper is struck by lightning, it seems clear that the explosive energy is electrical in nature, perhaps hinting at the presence of mitochondria or a similar structure present in the Creeper’s cells that converts the energy produced by photosynthesis into electrical energy.

What can we make of the Creeper’s face, and the frowning mouth and sad eyes.  It would be easy to ascribe these features to emotion, but consider that a happy Creeper has yet to be sighted.  Surely Creepers are capable of more that simple sadness, if indeed they are capable of emotion.  Miners have spied many a Creeper wandering around with the same sad expression on its face, even when it is unaware of the miner’s presence.  From this, we can assume that the Facial expression is biological in nature; a product of evolution, rather than a reflection on the Creeper’s state of mind.  The question is: why?  What function does the sad face serve?  Do the pigs find it comforting?  Do the zombies think it is angry and stay away?

The answer is simple; the Creeper’s face only affects one being that inhabits the Minecraft world: the Miner.  The Miner is the only creature that the Creeper will chase, and the sad expression is no doubt an evolutionary alteration meant to evoke sympathy and lull the Miner into a false sense of security.  The leafy green body provides camouflage from a distance quickly closed by the Creeper’s four legs.  Every aspect of this Creature is dedicated to destroying the Miner.

This leaves us with the final question of why?  Why has the Creeper evolved into a form suited to destroy the miner and his or her creation?  Perhaps this is speculation, but I believe that the Creeper was once the dominant life form in the Minecraft world.  Dismissing the creatures of the Nether (a separate realm), and the zombies, endermen, and skeletons who are in essence simply remains of miners long since past, we are left with only with the spider and the slime; the latter, a cavern-hopping creature of curiosity, and the former an arthropod that also prefers the dark.  The Creeper is the only creature considered aggressive that walks around the sun; it doesn’t shun it like the spider, it isn’t burned by the harsh rays; it might even gather strength from the warm light.  If the miner was not in the minecraft world at all, the creeper would display no hostility to any creature, save to those who foolishly attack it first.

Before the miners arrived, the creepers had no reason to be aggressive.  After the miners began to tear apart the earth and plantlife.  Just as miners kill pigs, chickens, and cows for resources, early miners no doubt slaughtered creepers as well to harvest the gunpowder-like remains for their own uses.  Who knows how many innocent creepers were slaughtered by rampaging miners?  Who knows how close the creepers might have been to being destroyed altogether?  Is it truly any surprise then that they now treat miners with such unrelenting anger?  It is possible that even the ability to explode was an ability creepers learned how to do, realizing that it would take nothing less to defeat the invading hordes.  Over time, that anger was directed not just at the miner, but at that which the miner created.  In its final act, the creeper seeks to return the world to what it once was.  It truly makes one ask who is the true monster in this blocky world.



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