Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Minecraft: of Building Blocks, Blocky Pigs and Exploding Cacti

I remember first reading about Minecraft. I was reading Penny Arcade, and they did a three comic series about the game. Usually, this only happens if a game has reached a certain point in gamer culture, that is to say, that a large portion of their audience will “get it.” If this is not already the case, community interest is piqued by the sudden exposure, and assuming a game is good, it'll take off from there. My own gaming tastes tend to line up with the Penny Arcade guys, so I looked around to see what the fuss was all about.

What's all this then?

At the time, the best way to experience minecraft legally without paying for it was to play the free version in your browser. I was prepared for the retro, blocky graphics so that didn't bother me. I saw a landscape, I could punch trees or dig in the ground, and seemed to have an infinite supply of various bricks I could set anywhere. I was baffled. THIS is what all the fuss was about? I guess I could dig around, build something with all those blocks, but WHY? I couldn't see the fun in it. I almost gave it all up right there.

This doesn't look like fun.

Something was bothering me though. The more I looked into it, the more insanely popular the game seemed, and it bothered me that I couldn't fathom why. It would be one thing if I understood why others liked it and decided it was just not for me, but I couldn't figure out why anyone would ever want to play this. I slowly realized that there is a big difference between the free version and the full version of the game, and some of the differences were intriguing. I noted how cheap the (then-alpha) version of the game was, took a deep breath and bought it.

Though I'm not precisely sure why, the importance of the scarcity of resources was the first thing that hit me. I no longer had unlimited blocks. I had to gather resources, and not having them, but knowing what to do with them took these blocks from meaningless objects, to something to be coveted. Crafting tools and other objects to affect the world, and knowing that at nightfall, the monsters would come added a sense of urgency to the game. I understood now, but I wasn't quite there yet. Hiding in a hole for long boring periods of nightfall was frustrating, not fun.

Just a few of the objects that can be made in-game.

I can honestly say that torches made me see the light, literally and figuratively. Now I could build, dig deep beneath the earth, there were different activities for day and night, and I was hooked. I merrily built forts and castles, mines and diverted waterfalls to my own liking. I was working on a sidewalk in broad daylight, when I suddenly heard a “Sssssssssss”... then there was a large explosion, and I was dead. WHAT THE HELL. I didn't know about the creepers before that... now it is kind of funny.

I've played around on multiplayer servers, built a lot of cool things and created four of my own singleplayer worlds to explore, as well as playing a little with the Survival Island scenario/save. I put Minecraft away for days or weeks, but I come back. One of the things that still gets to me, that I can't quite explain is the feeling of creeping dread when exploring a cavern. I play a lot of survival horror games, but somehow NONE of them match the terror of what is essentially a bouncing lego skeleton or spider around that next dark corner. I actually feel fear at these cartoony beasts made of blocks.

Yeah, we've all been there.

My creations would be boring to an internet that has access to full-scale reproductions of the USS Enterprise, or feats of architecture that boggle my mind, but I'm getting better... I've made a waterslide elevator in a mountain fortress, and almost have enough obsidian for my first trip to the Nether (no USB required.) I'm glad I got in on the ground floor, and NOW I know what all the fuss is about.

Boring or not, showing off what you make is part of the fun. My house in Minecraft.

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Admin said...

haha awsome.

Moobeat said...

this is pretty cool

Jay said...

this is MINECRAFT!!!

The Awesome Alien said...

them 8bit blocks will burn out my graphic card to much graphics for me bro

The Angry Lurker said...

Finally a good explanation on this gaming phenomenon.

R.C said...

That's for explaining the appeal, I think I'll give it a shot now!

Chris C. said...

Love your house! That alone piques my interest!

Alpha said...

This is a quality elaboration on a newbie's approach to the game.

Matt said...

Thanks for the review! I've seen a lot of reviews that consist of "YAY MINECRAFT RULEZ" but I also didn't get it, but now I know that it is apparently because I'm a cheap ass who didn't pay for it. I'll have to check out the real game!

Sphyrix said...


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