I am a recovering game addict… that a huge exaggeration but it does feel that way sometimes. I have always enjoyed video games and whenever I could afford them I would buy them, usually this meant second hand or on sale. And Minecraft was no exception, I bought the game half off when it was in the alpha phase, and it was fun then. Since buying the game, the development team has entered the Beta phase and have added all sorts of cool features. But the most intriguing aspect of the game is actually its lack of features.
So some of you may know about this game, from playing it or from random videos on YouTube, or from friends who play. But for those of you who do not know about Minecraft let me briefly describe it. Minecraft, as the name suggests revolves around two key elements, Crafting items and tools, and Mining Ores and Materials. You begin the game alone, washed up on the shores of a strange land, made of cubes; blocks. You are surrounded by an untamed landscape of 90 degree angles. That’s it. No instructions, no tutorial, no weird old man who seems hopelessly intent on telling you about every aspect of the world. You just go. It’s the first true sandbox game I have ever played that did not feel like an exercise in math.
And that is the real beauty of this game, the rules are simple and nearly identical to those of reality; gravity, friction, health, night, day, rain, sunshine. Your task: To tame the wilderness in any way you see fit. You can destroy and replace any block you wish in any way you wish. Some build sprawling metropolises, other go underground and tunnel a network of antechambers, still others play the game as nomads searching the near infinite landscape for interesting features. I say near infinite, because you are limited by the amount of hard drive space and memory available on your computer, but the game uses an algorithm to produce the landscape as you play, so the longer you walk the more “world” you have to play in.
Now a game without conflict would get old fast so there are “bad guys”. When night falls the Monsters come out; Archer skeletons, zombies, giant spiders and more. These beasts swarm over your location and try there best to destroy you and any structures you might have made.
But while this is an entertaining aspect of the game it is not what makes the game unique among many. As I said earlier, what I find to be the defining element of this game is the lack of conventions. This is not just an open ended RPG or a free roaming adventure game. This game becomes whatever you want it to be, and with a huge community of programmers being involved in playing as well as development there are even a near unlimited number of Mods and skins to give the game any extra layers of depth you may desire.
Community is another element of Minecraft that makes it so amazing. In addition to the surprisingly diverse number of online servers that can be played on, there is also a growing community of You Tubers that has sprung up in the wake of the great game, people sharing videos about tricks they learned as well as simply showing off their creations.
I personally have spent many hours, probably in the hundreds, playing this game with our ever getting bored. I fact I have to actively resist playing the game, in pursuit of more productive takes. That’s another surprising aspect of this game’s depth, even though there is no specific end to the game, when you play you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time. At the end of even gaming session you can look at what you’ve done and see the progress that you have made. This effect is even stronger if you are apart of a community in the game, whether that be simply playing on a multiplayer serve or recording your game play to show other players what you’ve made and what you learned about the game.
So, while I do admit that I have spent entirely too much time playing this silly game I can also confidently say that it is the game and not my personality that is the source of the addictive quality.
And that’s my take on Minecraft.