Video games are just work

Nick Irving
9 min readMar 21, 2021
Building a longhouse in Valheim (image: author)

One of the saving graces of the first Covid lockdown was a small personal Discord server I started to enable a group of my friends who lived across the eastern Australian states to connect and play games while stuck in their houses. Initially we used it for Tabletop Simulator, but over time we shifted to other games; we rediscovered our love of Overwatch, got caught up in the Phasmophobia hype, and then, like five million other gamers, succumbed to the siren’s call of Valheim. We rented a small server, built longhouses, went on sailing expeditions, and hunted mythical beasts.

After a long play session, I was regaling my housemate with the saga of my silver mining exploits. I’d found a vein on the side of the mountain, on an island not too far from our main base. I thought, I’ll sail to the shore nearby, drag the cart up the hill, fill it, drag it back down to the longboat, transfer the silver, and sail home with the loot. Easy!

The problems started on the trip up. The cart kept getting damaged because I was running it over rocks at too high a speed. No problem, I thought, I’ll just build a repair bench. So off I went to chop some trees. One I got back to the cart, it had been destroyed by wolves, and they now set upon me. So I killed them and skinned them, and went to cut more wood for a proper little hut, since you can’t build a new cart unless the repair bench has a roof.

With that little extra task out of the way, I started mining the silver (finally), stopping occasionally to empty my pockets of the ton or so of useless and heavy stone that was the by-product of such an endeavour, or fight off the wolves or drakes that occasionally tried to make me their lunch. Once the silver was all mined, I dragged the cart down the hill — careful to avoid the rocks — pausing occasionally to hack my way through the undergrowth with an axe.

The woods between the mountain and the shore were thick and dark, and I got easily turned around (while fending off hordes of Greydwarves, a sort of forest goblin). Growing ever more flustered, I somehow managed to drive the cart into a ravine full of water, only to find it hopelessly bogged. Fine, I thought, I’ll simply build another workbench and hut on the hill above the cart (more wood chopping), destroy the cart in the ditch and rebuild it on the hill, lug all the (very…

Nick Irving

PhD in Modern History and government functionary. One-time historian of peace and protest, now researching and writing about work.