There is a memory that I associate with Atlas more than any other.
It’s of a cold, slushy January evening. I’m walking home from a train station, crossing streets and making turns every which way under a featureless black sky. But my eyes aren’t on the road. Snow begins to sprinkle down, dotting my blurple phone screen with rainbow beads of melt. I hunch further over my phone, trying to keep it from becoming too slippery to type. Because I can’t afford not to be present in the conversation for even ten seconds - the stakes are too high, the messages too fast and long. For four months now, Cortesia Del Mar has been without a proper home. Stripped of all but a core of the most committed individuals, and exhausted by what feels a fruitless and unending search for a needle - an enjoyable, playable needle - in a haystack of monetized Hermitcraft clones, we have come to haunt ourselves again. Still reeling from a desperate, hopeless attempt to re-colonize our previous server (StarLegacy, or “SL”, reviled for its unnecessarily cruel gameplay and unempathetic administration), President IceCarim puts to words the unsaid secret of a dying community: “Lemme put it like this”, he says in the middle of what would otherwise be a nondescript venting session, “it’s basically SL or atlas unless we wanna wait 3 months more”. Immediately, I jump against this yawning gloom, arguing that it is a false dichotomy, fighting with every hopeful sentence for the future of Cortesia Del Mar as I have fought for months now. I’ve stopped walking, standing at a street corner, the walk signal beckoning me across the crosswalk. This is too important. And when it becomes clear that my argument for a third option is failing, I change my tune; reluctantly, I advocate to give Atlas a second try.
Atlas, you saved me. You saved Cortesia. And for this reason, this shivering memory will always be at the heart of what I see Atlas as: A desperate stopover.
I’m not going to purport a false history of my time on Atlas, I will not pretend that I always saw it the way that I do now. Less than a month properly into Atlas, I started a community project; that is not the mark of one with no hope in his server. Rather, I came to adopt a more sober view as time went on; for it is perhaps Atlas’s most impressive ability to keep its flaws subtle enough that one does not without assistance notice them before becoming thoroughly ingrained into the server. But, slowly, the flaws came to haunt me.
A cold and restrictive town system. Low and lowering activity. Questionable development priorities. A difficult and hidden political history. Administrative opacity. Opportunistic silencing. Unimpressive developmental receptiveness to criticism. Problematic expectations of surveillance and control. The distinct absence of empathy when the stakes were highest. Fuzzy rules. Shadow rules. Vindictive authoritarianism.
From June at the latest, I had acknowledged the wailing of the forbidden, dark corners of my brain that Atlas could never be a forever home. So, as I had done before, I fought. With every sentence, with every new enemy made, with every hour spent genociding ogres, with every hopeful sentiment, with every forum suggestion, with every protest, with every project, with every new friend made, with every hill flattened, with every diplomatic tie forged and broken, with every newspaper article, with every revolution, with every minute of time thinking about Atlas or its people I tried to prove myself wrong and save Cortesia Del Mar another needleless haystack.
The inevitable shattering of a false sense of perfection is far more devastating than honest imperfection. According to Discord, IceCarim’s quote above was put to text on January 12th, which was a Sunday. According to a screenshot of the quote from the day that its prescient words lit a nine-month fuse, it occurred at 5:31pm. I did not take the train on a Sunday evening. More than likely, I was sitting cozy at home, in the same seat that I write this from, when that fated conversation temporarily banished the darkness by embracing it. The memory is a lie, an amalgam of related experiences fabricated by my brain.
And for this reason, this shivering memory will always be at the heart of what I see Atlas as: A dead hope.