I am not a bigot. I’m five foot five, I have wonky teeth, and I’m currently out-of-shape: if I’m an example of the ‘Master Race’, then we’re in trouble. I’m telling you this because you need to know that I’ve never built a building-sized skyline dominating swastika on a Minecraft server, and I wouldn’t want to know someone that did. So why would I spend time on a server that lets that sort thing happen?
2b2t is an admin-less world, an experiment in anarchy: the server runs in hardcore mode, the map is 100GB in size and is never reset, and the players can do what they want. It’s not that racism is encouraged, it’s just that there’s no-one there to stop it. No rules, no law. Just the internet doing what it does, giving a voice to everyone with a keyboard.
Even racists. They’re not organised, they’re not the Aryan Nation, they’re not even the majority of users. They’re the sort of people that would find Encyclopaedia Dramatica’s articles funny, but would be unable to write them. The chat channel is a nexus of every hateful word you’ve ever heard. It’s anti-everything, invectives spewed out so thickly that, quickly, it becomes part of the background. But if you take time to notice, it becomes boring. I am the sort of person that’ll laugh first then feel bad second, but my limits are drawn at people just spewing ‘naughty’ words because they want a reaction. “Nigger! Lol”. I’ve spent about a month dipping in and out of it. I turn the chat off when the ‘lulz’ becomes too much.
What the hell was I doing there? Someone told me there was a place full of broken builds, empty castles, water-filled towers, farms, and cities. It was the ultimate expression of Minecraft. Of course I was going to visit.
The initial problem wasn’t the dark, dark language. It was that I wasn’t used to Minecraft punishing me. 2b2t’s spawn is a broken place. Everyone that comes through it has to fight to survive: it’s been so decimated by players that it traps you. With the server running in hardcore, I died trying to escape. Not through pain, but because of starvation. Hunger is the biggest killer, because no-one leaves anything. You need to find a farm to keep going.
I stumbled on one, an underground watermelon farm, through dumb luck: it’s a terrifying distance from the spawn, just far enough that it’s touch-and-go if I’ll make it each time. Luckily it’s a world full of landmarks to orientate by: head towards the cluster of water-covered crucifixes, keep on past the half-built castle. But the main thing I used was a giant swastika.
I’ve no idea who built it, but on top of a column in the middle of a lake was a huge swastika. Whatever it meant to the person that made it, to me it was the thing that told me I was heading in the correct direction. I’d tell myself I needed to head right at it. Because I died a lot in the first week, it was distressingly useful. Eventually, when I knew the lay of the land, it became part of the scenery. I wasn’t using the swastika, I wasn’t even noticing it. I had my little underground hole, well-protected from the outside world. It wasn’t part of my life.
Forgetting to turn off chat one afternoon reminded me of the tone of the place I found myself in. I started mentally remonstrating the racists before part of my brain kicked in.
“Wait? Weren’t you the guy using a giant symbol of Nazi oppression to navigate?”
“Yes. But I used it to find watermelon. Surely that counts on some sort of ironic level?”
“No dice. You owe me.”
“I owe you what?”
“You know what. ”
I made my way back to the beacon of hope that was the swastika. How could I have ignored what this was? It’s not exactly subtle. It’s even lit up at night. Something inside me said I was here as a writer, as an observer, but that doesn’t work in games. Particularly in Minecraft: you’ll always make a mark on the world.
I tooled myself some pickaxes and climbed. It was more elaborate inside: some elements of a living space existed. Was this someone’s home? What sort of person would live in the prongs of “an equilateral cross with four arms bent at right angles”? The symbol has a history that’s been largely forgotten since it was adopted by the Nazi party in the 1920s. I was comfortable assuming that the creator wasn’t a Hindu.
I don’t have any screenshots. It took an hour to destroy. I had to stop and make more pickaxes. I’ve never spent an hour on anything in Minecraft, but every chink of the axe was a pleasure, every bite of watermelon that kept me going was contrasting every disgusting, hate-filled word that maimed the chat-channel. I kept chat on while working.
I worked through the Minecraft night and day, checking that no-one was watching me. That said, I’d have loved to have listened to someone’s argument for keeping it in place. Maybe it was really an orphanage? Eventually it was gone. I left nothing but the column leading up to it and the obsidian blocks that peppered the build. Then I went on a quest. I found other buildings with inset swastikas that I remodelled into smiley faces, and one that I turned into a peace symbol.
Now, whenever I pass the rubble I left, I get a small sting of pathetic liberal pride: I destroyed a sky-line dominating Nazi symbol, while eating a fucking watermelon.