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How One Minecraft Video Proves The Futility of Increasing Police Budgets

by Alex Mell-Taylor 2 months ago in pop culture / social media / gaming / entertainment / comedy
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Minecraft, police abolition, and law and order politics

Policing is a contentious issue in the US. As crime increases (though it is still far lower than our country's high in the 90s), a lot of politicians are saying that we need to increase police budgets so we can hire more officers. 46th President of the US, Joe Biden, has made repeated requests for increased police budgets, and the same proposals have been made by mayors and governors across the country.

And listen, I could debunk those arguments. In fact, I recently have done so in response to Mayor Muriel Bowser's recent funding request for more police (see Mayor Bowser's Botched Public Safety Policy). If you are curious to know more about these arguments, consider Angela Davis's Are Prisons Obsolete? or Mariame Kaba's We Do This' Til We Free Us.

Yet today, I want to submit one more piece of evidence against increasing police budgets: Youtuber LoverFella's video I Trapped 100 Minecraft Players In A Dome For 100 Days!, where an attempt to increase a server's police force spirals wildly out of control.

The police of Minecraft

LoverFella's video falls into the "Minecraft Civilization" trend that has happened over the last couple of years, where a hundred or more players get together on a single server in an attempt to complete a particular task. Sometimes they are trying to survive an alien invasion, and other times they are trying to build a nuclear reactor. The most common is "starting a civilization," where players organize themselves into polities and battle it out for control.

The way these challenges are set up (usually) is inherently meant to provoke violence, and often the creators have a very supremacist outlook when it comes to policing. Nearly all of them operate under the assumption that if the guiding hand of hierarchy and "order" is not established, then everything will devolve into "anarchy." As the YouTuber Lich monologues in their civilization video: "Since the beginning of Minecraft multiplayer, players have fought over which side is best: order or anarchy?"

Note: Anarchy, for those curious, is a political philosophy about people who reject coercive hierarchies, not necessarily organization. Anyone who has worked with any anarchist groups of any size knows that they certainly have rules — many have bylaw after tedious bylaw. It's just that anarchists don't have as much reverence for hierarchy (see the Stanford Encyclopedia article to learn more), which is different from the "no rules" mentality that a lot of these "civilization" Minecraft videos perpetuate.

LoverFella's dome video is like many others in repeating this misconception, but it sets itself apart by being perhaps the most explicit with the "law and order" narrative I have seen. Akin to Stephen King's Under the Dome novel, he places all 100 players in a bubble they cannot leave and assigns some of them to be police officers so that they can enforce the laws he makes up. In his own words at the beginning of the video: "Basically, I'm the mayor of this city. Whatever laws I make have to be followed, and my police force goes around and enforces those laws and arrests people."

Almost right away, everyone starts ignoring his rules. Initially, there are only three stated ones: no murder, no sugar cane, and no griefing (i.e., disrupting other players' activities, usually by destroying their builds). There are, of course, unstated rules, too, like not manipulating game mechanics to leave the dome or leaving prison once an officer places you there, as well as new laws he adds later in the video, like "getting a job" and "not stealing."

LoverFella's police are not effective at enforcing these laws. Many acts of rulebreaking happen blatantly in front of "officers," who themselves are quite corrupt. Police in the video will often witness crimes happening in front of them and not do anything about them (something that is not surprising when you compare them to officers in the real world). LoverFella is "shocked" by this turn of events, describing the situation as chaotic.

And so, what does he do in response to this collapse in the "order" he wants to instill? He adds more rules and increases the number of police. LoverFella doubles and triples down on militarization. He ups his officers' gear and weapons with Netherite, the strongest substance in the game, and declares martial law, where he increases the police force yet again.

However, these strategies simply do not work. The players in the game still flagrantly break the law because he's never doing anything to ensure their actual cooperation. "A grief tower and a cop inside of it. What does a mayor do when society falls apart?" He laments shortly before declaring martial law and adding even more officers. LoverFella is so focused on this top-down approach that he never stops to work outside of it. The closest he comes is offering one random player $150 if everyone cleans up the city, but this is still a top-down direction. Police are, for the most part, the solution, and if that doesn't work, he hires more police, at one point having almost a quarter of the server being officers.

Now part of him probably wants things to fall apart because it will make for better content, but he cannot even incentivize the types of illicit behavior he does want to encourage. A gimmick in the video is that growing sugar cane is supposed to be an illegal item, and at the end of the game, he will tally up the results to see who has grown the most. It's something players should want to secretly do, yet very few players end up growing sugar cane, preferring to push against his top-down hierarchy than to conform to it. "There is a shockingly low amount of sugar cane that is being caught so far on this server," he says, confused.

Even as everything is falling apart, LoverFella cannot get away from this mentality that policing is the proper way to instill order. "It honestly feels like no matter what I do, the city is getting worse," he jokes. And, of course, his strategy hasn't worked. He tried the same thing over and over again and acted surprised when he didn't get different results.

Eventually, LoverFella's experiment spirals out of control. The ground level becomes overrun by griefers. The landscape turns into a TNT-laden mess, with most of the town's initial buildings in ruins. And in a perfect metaphor for our current caste-ridden system of capitalism, the other players are high above the clouds in a series of protected communities.

LoverFella tried to instill "law and order" and ended up with a dysfunctional society leaving most people to rot on the ground below.

Conclusion

The reason why I brought up this video is that normally "law and order" metaphors are not this earnest in showing their experiment's failures. Narratives will usually wax poetically about how we are all "Evil beasts" that need civilization to tame us, and then the moment that is removed, we descend into 'anarchy' (see Lord of the Flies, Society, Yellowjackets, etc.). They use fiction and narrative to justify a philosophy that doesn't work in real life.

Yet here we have a person trying to replicate this "law in order" fiction in real-time, and it's clear it is not working. No matter how many police officers LoverFella adds to this "experiment," the town continues to unravel more and more.

Is this hilarious example the silver bullet in the "defund the police" conversation? No, I am mostly just having a laugh, but qualitative data is still very useful all the same. Amongst an arsenal of already very well-researched critiques and easily accessible examples, I believe it's valuable to be able to make fun of this mentality as much as it is to deconstruct it.

The next time you want to show someone how "law and order" tactics can fail so stupendously, maybe share this video with them. If a YouTuber cannot even get thirteen-year-olds to conform to his rules in a server where he literally has the powers of a God, why should we expect it to work any differently in the real world?

pop culturesocial mediagamingentertainmentcomedy

About the author

Alex Mell-Taylor

I write long-form pieces on timely themes inside entertainment, pop culture, video games, gender, sexuality, race and politics. My writing currently reaches a growing audience of over 10,000 people every month across various publications.

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