How Minecraft’s Soundtrack Improved My Mental Health
If you’ve ever played Minecraft, chances are you’ve had your fair share of listens to the occasional piano-synth soundtrack as you explore the vast, infinite world. Usually, you can hear these ambient sounds surround you as you explore through blocky caves and forests. Despite the music popping up randomly and infrequently, why does it feel that the music plays at just the right moment?
In this post, I’ll share with you why this happens as a very personal story that ties it all together.
I would be lying if I didn’t say I felt pretty damn emotional while writing this.
Why is Minecraft Music so good?
The key lies in the intention of the sound design. Daniel “C418” Rosenfield wanted to apply randomness to the OST as the game is exactly that, procedurally generated and never the same stack of blocks. Minecraft, unlike other popular titles of 2009, had no linearity to motivate the players to do certain things. It’s a creative sandbox with unlimited potential: just you, the unique world, and the biomes. As this is the case, C418 didn’t wish to introduce rigidness or structure in a game that does so well without it, so he directed and designed what the OST is today.
What makes the Minecraft OST so good?
The tracks immerse you and breaks away the feeling of monotony of digging through tunnels, chopping trees, or creating beautiful structures. The music also feels incredibly poignant and melancholic, immersing you fully to the world that is within your hands. But if I were to pick just one thing, the reason why it works so well lies in its unpredictability – it dips in and out, rewarding you through an infrequent audible treat right when you’re about to mentally tune out as things get repetitive.
Minecraft OST and Mental Health: My Escapism Story on Grief
Last November, I experienced a tremendous wave of grief as I watched my cat lose his battle of life. It wasn’t a pretty sight; he was visibly losing strength and vitality as time passed. I didn’t know what to do. I was in complete panic, cursing the fact that we couldn’t go to the vet at night. Up until the very moment he passed away, my mind was in complete disarray and I was in a constant flux of panic.
When I got the news of his passing, it’s as if a surge of calm engulfed me. It’s as if the soul of my cat molded within mine and brought out a feeling of comfort and compassion throughout this ordeal, telling me that it’s ok, he’s in a better place now. Instead of a sudden burst in tears, I felt tranquil and at peace. He didn’t have to suffer in pain anymore – and I didn’t have to suffer alongside his suffering at that very moment.
Grief is handled differently by everyone, so I snuck in some time to self-reflect and understand why I didn’t suddenly feel a surge of emotions when I was so obviously losing it before his passing. But the next day, it hit me.
Grief did eventually happen
The following morning I was crashed by a wave of sadness. I’m not going to beat around it – I cried profusely at random times of that day, knowing he’s gone for good. It continued for a few days, only managing to get over it after two weeks or so. It’s not perfectly tucked at the back of head – but I’m doing much better now.
During my most painful times of grief however, I’ve embraced a strange and oddly specific longing.
I wanted to play Minecraft
What I wanted most in the world at that time was to be inside a 4×4 dirt hut in Minecraft, under the pitter patter of constant and ambient rainfall, alone, and immersed in the beautiful soundtrack and block world. Although it wasn’t yet clear to me what made me want to play Minecraft after years of not doing it, it started to click as I did some digging (in-game and out) and reflecting.
Grief and Minecraft – How It Helped Me
To tell you the truth, I’m really just a total casual in Minecraft and haven’t played it in over 8 years. I never played multiplayer as well, nor did I have ambitious goals of making full-blown castles or soaring buildings. So I wondered to myself, why did I want to play Minecraft at this exact moment that I did?
The reason why I sought out Minecraft was because the music reflected my mind state
My grief felt unique and deeply personal. I was the only one who completely loved my cat, and anyone who knows what it feels to lose a pet knows how much it blows. Imagine if everyone else in your family didn’t particularly share that grief though and moved on really fast. It felt lonely. I learned to live with that fact and found ways to circumvent it and meet my needs elsewhere. One of the main ones is none other than Minecraft.
My own world in Minecraft – personal and intimate
During my grieving moments, I had very specific needs.
I wanted to be alone. Minecraft provided me comfort of being alone.
I wanted to escape out of this world. Minecraft gave me a unique world, just for me and with no pressure from reality.
I wanted to feel in control. Minecraft gave me the tools and means to do so; the whole world within the game is interactable and craftable under my hands.
Most importantly, I wanted to temper my grief
This one’s a bit of a unique one. Unlike some people who get hit by it hard at the onslaught, my grief came in like a tidal wave, surging up and down in random times of the day. I attune my feelings validated through my own mental state best, preferring to feeling the brunt of the emotion when it happens and catering it the best way I thought I could.
What compelled me to play Minecraft was really the accompaniment of the wave of unpredictable yet moody ambiance that the game brought out. The constant negative droning I experienced from my grief was felt incrementally, like a constantly refilling bucket of water. And once filled to the brim, it comes crashing back down at full force.
These moment were largely unpredictable
The bucket filled up sporadically. I found comfort in the Minecraft OST as an outlet during the moments that I needed my bucket to be poured out again, synching my mental turmoil with the music. The infrequency of the music, coupled with the nostalgic quality that it already brings about, was the sort of melancholic melody that met my specific needs to release emotions. It felt incredibly meditative through its ability to provide clarity and distraction from a re-emerging pain.
The Minecraft OST allowed me to grieve a little bit better.
Thank you, C418
I needed something to resolve or align my own turbulent feelings with, and the Minecraft OST was the tool I didn’t know I needed. With that, I salute C418 deeply for designing tracks that can evoke these feelings and capture such great moods so damn well. Thank you.
MICE ON VENUS – Minecraft Volume Alpha 11 was the song that inspired me to write this bit, and was also the song that I longed to hear during my worst grieving moments.
Read my review on Persona 4 Golden here.