Sword Art Origins

Image caption: The Town of Beginnings! – Sword Art Origins #1 (Minecraft Sword Art Online Roleplay. Uploaded to youtube by: Hayden Blake, Mar 18, 2022

Lately I’ve been interested in Minecraft roleplays, specifically the Origins series. I’m not their target audience: they’re mostly made by gamers in their teens and twenties, whereas I’m a book reader and author in my . . . well, let’s just say “middle age.”

Minecraft roleplays are a form of collaborative, animated storytelling, using Minecraft worlds as the theater. They’re tough to watch if you don’t play Minecraft. Compared to a TV show, their production quality is terrible–but that’s part of their appeal for me, because it means a low barrier to entry for creators who don’t have tons of money or access to television executives and whatnot, so I get to see raw creativity. Sometimes, what comes out of it is amazing.

Here’s how it works: a group of people will have a shared world and some general idea of a shared plot that goes on for a season. Some are there to play, while others have youtube channels where they post their final, edited videos. One of the biggest Origins series, My Hero Origins, had 30 youtubers and 32 other players. Their fans, which number in the hundreds of thousands, are constantly commenting and participating in the shared world with fanfics and fan art.

The full list of series is on the OriginsMCRP Wiki, but my personal favorites are Fairy Tail Origins Seasons 4 and 5, Origins of Olympus Seasons 2 and 3, and My Hero Origins. I’m hoping to have some time to point out some of my favorite characters and moments.

Sword Art Origins is in the Isekai genre and is a fan response to the manga and anime Sword Art Online. All the characters joined a virtual game, some serious gamers and some just to try it out, and were trapped by “the godfather” in a game world, where they must clear 100 levels to escape. I’m not a fan of that plotline, but the series is more polished and more consciously crafted than previous Origins series. It also represents a turning point because a wave of players have departed the Origins group, including @ItsRichieW (the original creator of the group), @ReinBloo, @TheFamousFilms, and @_HaydenBlake. Hayden Blake’s departure is a mystery to fans and colleagues alike: she just made a Twitter announcement that her YouTube channel, with its 50,000 subscribers, was for sale. Her character’s story arc in Sword Art Origins, like many others, will stay unfinished.

My favorite episode in this series is “Found in Minecraft SAO,” which aired May 18, 2022. Previous episodes took place before the first-floor boss, which not all the characters would necessarily survive. This one skips forward in time, bypassing the boss fight, and treats us to a rendition of Scarborough Fair by the characters Crocus, Enzo, Sierra and Venom. After that, they wander about home a bit in domestic bliss, eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and then they chase each other off into the sunset.

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