So last week I buckled and bought Minecraft. I say buckled, what I actually mean is, I was cruelly subjected to an airy suggestion by a good friend, and as such have now lost what was left of my tiny little life. Yes my life was tiny. That makes sense. You hear!
Okay maybe that’s an over-reaction. I haven’t given my life to Minecraft, because that would mean losing my job, which I still sort of need. However it has consumed my gaming time in the same way that job I just mentioned has consumed my abject presumption that the general public have anything more advanced than a dull collection of squashed apricots residing in their heads. Ahem.
If you don’t know what Minecraft is, give me the address of the rock you live under and I’ll bring it to you. Along with a copy of the News of the World if you like. Why not. I highly suggest jumping onto YouTube and watching some videos as Minecraft’s immediate allure is in its visual dexterity. User ‘Seananners’’ collection is good place to start, as it not only explains, in great detail, the world of Minecraft, but it’s also charming and delightfully funny. Go ahead and do that now. I’ll wait.
Done? Excellent. This is fun isn’t it, kind of like those peculiar adventure books where you could choose the path the characters took by turning to different pages, which inevitably lead to you losing your page and the story and the plot and shortly after the book because you threw it out of your window. Probably. To the people who infact know all about Minecraft, for the last paragraph I bid you a thousand apologies. A thousand.
As I mentioned, the first droplet of intrigue Minecraft dolls out is its visual. The blocky, 8-bit stylized world looks oddly inviting. Bursting with charm, the world is populated, by day, with chickens and cows and pigs, and by night by zombies and spiders and Creepers and all sorts of ghoulish nasties.
The crafting mechanic is the hinge the game swings around on, allowing you to chop down wood, to turn to sticks to be the handle on an axe made from the stone that you collected whilst mining for coal to make lights so you can see down into the mine you’ve created by burrowing down into the ground with a spade you made from….
You get the picture, right? It’s all about making things, and discovering things.
The game’s heavy emphasis on both exploration and creation though, is what really grabs a hold of you and starts wildly shaking you, maniacally screaming obscenities, refusing to let go. Figuratively speaking of course.
There are two occurrences of the mind (‘thoughts’ for normal people, I don’t get them often enough to refer to them with such nonchalance) that have caused me to pause playing Minecraft and actually consider them in depth.
I remember clambering my way through my mine one day, back up toward the surface where I’d built a house, recognizing the little nuances in the manner I’d hacked away at the rocks, and using them as a signposts pointing a way through the maze of corridors and rooms I’d created whilst haphazardly flailing a pickaxe every which way.
I almost instinctively wondered how far my Partner in Mine (what?) had gotten in the game since we’d last spoke. And then it occurred to me that he hadn’t done any of this. He hadn’t seen the entrance hall, with the stairs, or the magnificent cascading waterfall in the deepest point of the mine, or even the 50ft plummet I’d mistakenly mined myself down, breaking both my legs and dropping my precious diamond axe.
If you didn’t already know, or hadn’t guessed, Minecraft randomly generates its worlds, including dungeons and mountains and trees and contours and hill sides and all that geographical jazz. So your adventure is entirely unique to you and your game. No one else knows my mine, anyone else would in fact, likely get horrifically lost in it, and would eventually be arrow’d to death by a skeleton. Which is good, because what were they doing in my mine in the first place!? It’s mine. Bedum.
Secondly, there aren’t many games that leave a ringing in my ears when I go to sleep. Minecraft does in the same way that Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts did. The monstrosities you create are limited only by your imagination, and as well as a mining, crafting adventure game, you’ve got a giant Lego world to play with. I built a hut out of wood, which quickly became a stone house, with a ladder down to the mine and a secret entrance in the side of a mountain. Then I built an underground passage that lead to the beach, where you’d find a boat and a little dock.
That kind of extraordinary building rampage leaves you thinking about what you’re going to build next. What you could build. What is possible?
There is more to this game than I’m going to cover here, and more over it’s still in beta, so huge, pivotal game mechanics are being added all the time (latest at the time of writing is the addition of Pistons) but with such an unprecedented emphasis on the two factors I mentioned earlier, creation and exploration, here are the continued foundations of a game that is a perfect demonstration of the flexibility and potential of modern video games as more than just non-descript Call of Duty sequels.
Minecraft is a gift to the imagination.
Go and get it.