I love Minecraft. And the crazy thing is, for a game that has been “complete” at its core for well over a year. The down part is that it fell off my radar due to school and other pressing games to review. So when I recently logged into my account into the full-blown 1.0 version, nothing was truly surprising. However, it still sucks me into its world and makes the world melt away.
In case you didn’t know, < I>Minecraft literally drops your avatar into an open-ended world with no real goal and no shelter. Once night time comes, prepare for old childhood fears to be resurrected as monsters will jump out and hunt down your avatar. Thus, you must mine for the proper resources, build your home and explore.
In fact, I strongly suspect that the game’s foundation is play therapy. And this is something that has occurred to me as I was reading a book on the topic. Minecraft is nondirect as it lets you decide what needs to be done. Ultimately, the question is about how you want to play and what goals you have. You can lead animals to your home through the use of wheat. Do you desire a lavish mansion, small home with “bushes” and flowers, a place for your inner dwarven carver to go wild, an underwater base or a mixture of any of the building types? It is accepting as the game doesn’t care who you are in real life and lets you construct your own life in the game. Are you a monster hunter, a farmer who puts Old McDonald to shame, a builder or a spelunker? Regardless of your preference, you’ll be engaging in all of those activities as they are required elements to further your causes. Wood is needed to craft torches, planks and sticks. Sticks are then used as the handles and wooden planks let you dig into stone. This in turn allows you to craft furnaces to refine your resources even further. There’s even a multiplayer function for you to fiddle with if you are so inspired.
However, Minecraft is not permissive (provided you play on easy or higher difficulties) as monsters hunt you down as the game makes you work for every aspect of your new life. The animal you desire may not be near your camp. You can spend hours digging into the earth and collect massive amounts of coal, yet never finding a diamond ore. Reeds may exist on a distant shore. Monsters tend to “pop up” when they are least expected. Furthermore, you must know the recipe of the item you want (thank goodness for the Minecraft Wiki!) or tons of time can be wasted as you figure it. Worse, if hunger isn’t properly maintained, you’ll die. Thus, you’ve lost your entire inventory until you return to the death spot quickly. (Items in chests are safe). In other words, Minecraft is not an easy game even on “peaceful.”
However, Minecraft is not a game for everyone. First of all, and perhaps important for everyone, the game is expensive — a $35 admission fee. Second, not everyone will like or even enjoy the game’s open-ended nature. You literally are playing in a sandbox with your shoes off. It’s an odd experience for the first few hours. And third, as well as the game plays, combat is clunky. It is satisfying to kill a skeleton. It isn’t very visceral as your avatar just swings in front of him up and down.
Yet I love this game. Once I find the session’s flow, the world melts away. I can turn this on at 9, and the next thing I know, an hour or two has passed. Whether it’s due to traveling into the wilderness and hunting for the necessary reagents for my alchemy, animal husbandry, farming or exploration, time is easily eaten up. There’s joy in creating a farm, knowing that hunger won’t be an issue. Crafting is quick and easy. And creating my own home and modifying it to suit my needs.
So go check out Minecraft. Look at the videos and websites of all the different creations that players have made. This is an incredible game as something of this caliber coming from an indie studio — that has now rapidly grown — is a bit rare. What’s even rarer in this day and age is a game that has created its own genre. Welcome to a sandbox folks, and feel free to get your feet as wet as you wish.