A few months back, when I first started at my new job, my new coworkers– by way of subtle hints and overheard conversations — got me into this game called Minecraft. Right now? It’s late in the evening as I write this, and rather than stress myself and my fingers trying to explain the game and its addictive properties in my own words, I include the following excerpt from the latest iteration of Wikipedia’s entry on Minecraft:
The core gameplay revolves around construction. The game world is essentially made up of cubical blocks arranged in a fixed grid pattern, that represent different materials, such as, dirt, stone, various ores, water, tree trunks, etc. While the players can move freely across the world, objects and items can only be placed at fixed locations relative to the grid. The player can gather these material “blocks” and place them elsewhere, thus potentially creating various constructions.
It’s addictive. Or something.
I introduced my brother Derek to the game and between us — on the private, multiplayer server we rent specficially to play the game — we’ve built a considerable network of dungeons, tunnels, castles, island fortresses, farms, and a couple of moderately sized castles.
Did I mention it’s addictive.
Actually, I don’t know why I mention it. I was sitting here thinking about adding another article to the blog and all I could think of was — ah, gawd, I should write something about what I’ve been up to in the last few months… but what have I been up to in the last few months besides working and… ah, right… playing Minecraft.
As I write this, Derek is in Tokyo for work. And I logged on a few minutes ago, thinking I might get a few screen captures to add to this post, and I half expected to see him logged in, working on his castle. As if he doesn’t have better things to do in Tokyo.
I’ve described the game to some people by saying, simply, it’s like this limitless, virtual lego-construction kit — with monsters that are trying to nuke you and everything you build. And the stupid thing is that even as the words come out of my mouth — dribble across this very page, even — they sound ridiculous and weird. Fanboyish. Silly. Yet, I’ll probably publish this post in a few minutes and go load up the server and smash some bricks, build some more on my latest tunnel, or explore another randomly generated mountainside.
I guess the part of it I enjoy is really, simply, that it’s the game I’ve been waiting for; by that, I’ve got to step a decade or two backwards in time and extoll whistfully upon the games I used to read about in those darned gaming magazines I used to buy. They were not real games. They were conceptual games. Or experimental software, that was lurking in someone’s minds eye, deep enough to find its way into a magazine article, but far enough out to have never seen the light of commercial production or sale. The games always promised crazy, far out things: interactive tools to build unique virtual, three-dimensional worlds, full interactivity with every single pixel of every single object in the game, or vast, infinite landscapes generated on the fly by fractal algorithms. And somehow, Minecraft has delivered on these, successfully, commercially, and award-winningly.
It’s a phase, though. I can feel it. I’ve been building so much that I’ve nearly stopped wondering how much new there is to see around the next cube-faced mountainside. I’ve only played a little in the last weeks. Not never, just not as much as we had been. And with Derek gone for three weeks… well?
Nevertheless, addictive or just fulfilling a long-lost dream, I’m interested to watch where this kind of game can evolve. Grow. And if this is something of a whole new iteration of gaming — or just a fad, doomed to fade and eventually never respawn.