The $1.1 trillion spending deal approved by the House on Wednesday will stave off the threat of another government shutdown until September 30th of this year, ending Washington’s vicious cycle of crisis-based budget management that seemed like it would never end. But on Thursday, the media learned that some in the Department of the Interior get to celebrate more than just the lack of furlough-related fear… because soon, they’ll be playing video games.
Buried deep inside the spending bill is an appropriation of $119,000 for the Department of the Interior, which they’re to apply toward buying and playing the video game Minecraft for PC. This includes approximately $81,000 to purchase 3,000 copies of the game, and another $38,000 for what the bill defines as “server hosting fees for one (1) year.”
According to Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the idea behind the strange budget item is to, quote, “inspire our park services employees to more creatively tackle the challenges our nation faces in our nation park system.”
For more insight into how this game will help the department, we spoke briefly with Deputy Secretary David Hayes this morning. “Minecraft is a game about building,” Hayes explained. “You break different sorts of blocks, craft them into tools and objects, and build a world of your own creation. So, for instance, one of the first things you do in Minecraft involves building a house for yourself, and you start with just your bare hands. This game teaches invaluable lessons to our park employees, about looking outside of the box… or block, as the case is in this game, to solve issues.”
But Hayes admits the program had a rough start. “We did a trial program last summer, in July and August, but it didn’t go so well. Several park workers injured themselves punching trees and rocks, and one of our rangers shot a hiker in the chest and killed her because she had a green hoodie on, and the Ranger confused her for a `creeper,’ whatever that is. I haven’t played the game myself.”
Despite these setbacks, however, Hayes says the Minecraft project was largely successful. “I think the applicable knowledge gained out of playing this game will go a long way for our employees. From using torches to keep scary monsters away, to building whole castles in Yellowstone, our staff is better prepared to take on the tougher challenges we in this department face. And should zombies, suicide bombers, skeletal archers, or teleporting boogeymen befall one of our parks, may God have mercy on their souls. Our people are going to be prepared.”
We asked Hayes if he could think of any ways the budget may have been trimmed to cut back on expenses at the Federal level. He just shrugged and asked us if we wanted to catch an early dinner, which he promised to pay for.