March 5, 2009

Miner Dig Deep

Dale Culp Says: As I play “Miner Dig Deep,” I can’t help but wonder what ol’ Tennessee Ernie Ford would think of this community game on Xbox Live. Just what do you get for loading 16 tons? Well, I’ll tell you what I got… I got a lesson on the work habits of the petite bourgeois, that’s what.

Work harder, earn more; greater risk, greater reward. That seems to be the overall lesson of “Miner Dig Deep” as I push further into the earth in the pursuit of more valuable material to sell at the store. It’s kind of a modern day parable on consumerism, entrepreneurship and The American Dream. Of course, I’m sure this wasn’t what the developers had in mind at all while they made the game, it’s just something that occurred to me while I played it.

“Miner Dig Deep” is the story of a miner with some simple tools, a bit of land and big dreams of getting rich. To get rich, however, you’ll have to dig deep, avoid the pits and watch out for falling rocks. It’s those dangers that make things interesting, though. The drive to get rich quickly overrides the fear of becoming trapped—or worse—and all too often I found myself getting too greedy to slow down and think things through. Like in real life, we find it too easy to forget about the simple things in life and push ourselves to the breaking point, often finding out, too late, that we’ve painted ourselves into a corner. There was something more driving me, though, something beyond material gain. It was the mystery of what I might find, down there. In this crazily addictive game, I felt compelled to keep going—deeper and deeper at the cost of all else—just to see what lies at the bottom of this thing. Is there even a bottom? I had to find out for myself.

What makes the game so addictive is also, personally speaking, one of the game’s most depressing aspects. The ground becomes denser the deeper you go, slowing you down until you buy a stronger pick. You could keep the one you have, but, eventually, you hit a point where a stronger pick becomes a requirement. Later, after upgrading to a drill, you find that stronger drills are also required. Likewise, better kerosene lanterns put out more light so you can see where the different ores and materials are while longer winches help pull you back out of the mine.

Ultimately, you save up, and repeat the process of mining the valuable material out of the ground and going further into the dangerous depths to do so. Then—and here comes the depressing part—after you’ve acquired enough wealth to buy that new item you’ve been coveting, the instant you purchase it, it’s replaced by an even better, more expensive item. You don’t even get a moment to enjoy your new purchase before you find yourself back in the pit, grinding your life away just so you can buy the upgraded version. The parallels to real, every day life are staggering as you constantly spend vast amounts of money only to come away slightly disappointed and wanting the next best thing.

I feel “Miner Dig Deep” could have been more punishing with random cave-ins, equipment break-downs and more elements of danger to keep players on their toes. It was more tedious than difficult. Even so, “Miner Dig Deep” was a lot of fun and stands out from the vast amount of lower-quality stuff available in the community games market. A praiseworthy attempt, for sure, and well worth the 200 Microsoft points to purchase from the community games market on Xbox Live.

Check out Dale’s video game column in The Weekender.