Prison servers are a few of the most popular game manners in Minecraft: daily, thousands of individuals wade through anarchy, murder, and lots of grinding. It's a dystopian experience, unlike anything I have ever experienced in a video game.
Unlike many Minecraft servers, where you could jump into the action straight away, prison servers start out you in the bottom position with nothing more than a pick and perhaps some starting gear. You can earn cash and rank up by mining rock, ore, or gems from mines, which can be open and generally PvP safe zones. When you've grinded your way through a couple of dozen layers of stone, you can sell your earnings and-- even if you've worked hard and saved all of your gold bars--rate up. Position up gets you access to some perks, based on the server, though before you reach the highest ranks it all means is that you have access to a different mine with much more profitable ores. If you can make it on the very top, you're going to end up getting a distinctive title, chat privileges, lucrative resources, and a place on the leaderboards. It's a long way up.
The ranks, it's worth mentioning, are grueling. The first few are intended to go by quickly, sometimes in only a few minutes or seconds, but once you get into the middle rankings, it can take hours or even days of nonstop grinding to make enough in-game money to progress. The grinding itself isn't terribly compelling, as the mine's all seem to be designed using the identical template: a big cube of stone and ore encompassed by unbreakable cubes that resets every couple of minutes.
Most servers throw in a mixture of useless cubes like clay or sand to mix it up, and I even encountered one that had spider webs strewn throughout the mine, just in case you were beginning to get in the rhythm of things. I have not done the math with any great accuracy, but the progression on many servers appears to be exponential, and the more lucrative blocks which you find in more advanced mines do not do a lot to mitigate the rapidly advancing cost of rank up.
There is one method to turn the drudgery of ranking up just like a typical plebeian into something a lot more pleasurable: donating. Prison servers provide advantages to players who shell out real-world money for progress. Some of the advantages are as modest as better items and use of exclusive mines, but more substantial contributions garner advantages like flight, picks that can mine a whole section of blocks at one time, and avatar flair. These perks start out relatively inexpensively: 5 dollars may supply you with accessibility 'donator' privileges such as better picks, storage, and replaceable fittings. Buying your way to the top rank, though, can cost hundreds of dollars.
From the moment you log in, each input you receive is geared toward pushing one to donate. Flashing messages seem to remind you of donator perks, upcoming sales, auctions, sweepstakes, or giveaways that are happening right now. These messages are almost overwhelming at times. They make prison hosts feel less like being more like visiting a casino.
When you've created your fortune in the mines, then you can spend your hard-earned money buying equipment to compete at the PvP arenas. Until I learned to understand the areas I should not go to, I managed to wander into those PvP zones, where I was summarily executed by flying gamers that seemed to be firing nuclear warhead-tipped arrows. There is not any equity of any sort here, no effort to level the playing field for new players-- even the wealthiest and most recognized players dominate these spaces, wielding god-like power to lay waste to their enemies (if they may be bothered to compete). Besides prestige and bragging rights, residing in the stadium can get you free loot from fallen foes, particular names, unique tools (at least one server provides bounties on participant's heads), and also an opportunity to progress on the leaderboards. Competition for the best things and advantages is ferocious, with the wealthiest players aggressively bidding (with in-game currency) on overpowered equipment.
If PvP isn't your speed, some servers also supply plots that you may build on and decorate, as soon as you've saved up enough from mining. You can even set up stores and market your extra equipment and items to other players, or simply show off your wealth by creating statues from diamond blocks or something equally ostentatious.
In this sense, prison servers aren't so much providing you with a"prison" experience as, well, a sort of savagely objectivist one. Prison servers present a world where the wealthiest wield essentially unlimited power and everybody else strives to join their ranks. This is strengthened not only by the in-game mechanics of the mines but also by the donator arrangement that makes it essentially impossible to advance and compete without opening your wallet.
Prison servers remind me lots of the early days of Ultima Online or Runescape, where you could expect someone stronger to come together and take your things --but it's interesting that prison hosts have stripped away all the trappings of the genre and decreased the formula to its constituent components. I mean, sure, everything you are doing in many competitive MMOs is grinding followed by fighting, but the visual and procedural gloss we put over those actions is what keeps us playing. Prison servers have done away with that pretense.