Minecraft: Confessions From An Addict
In all honesty, I’d rather be playing Minecraft right now than writing these words.
Hello. My name’s Chris and I’m a Minecraft addict.
I must admit, I didn’t know a great deal about the game before I finally started playing it last Wednesday. I knew people had used it to create working analogue computers, 1:1 scale replicas of the Starship Enterprise, and a whole host of other time-consuming but neverthless impressive feats of construction, but I knew little about the underlying mechanics. I wasn’t completely aware of how it all held together, or what lay behind the creation aspect of the game.
When it was released on Xbox I thought that, being a games journalist, it was my responsibility to finally give the game a go and see what all the fuss was about. After all, it’s getting to the point that being in this profession and not having played Minecraft is tantamount to not having played Tetris.
So, I started a game and played the tutorial (and thank goodness they created one to make the 360 version more accessible or I likely would have given up a lot sooner). I jumped into the game proper and created a small hut with a bed to protect myself from the monsters outside, and slept through the first night. The next in-game day I tried, and failed, to create a moat, and then attempted to boil an egg using a furnace, to which I experienced similarly negative results.
I turned off the game, not really sure what it wanted from me, and went to bed.
The next day in work I could think of only one thing. My hut needs a balcony. The thought swirled around in my brain continuously; somehow this goal seemed more important than any other throughout that day, and the minute I got home I booted up Minecraft and created a rather shoddy looking balcony atop my wooden house. I stepped back and admired my work, but something wasn’t right. Wood’s not good enough, I thought. Maybe I should make the house out of stone? So off I went, burrowing deep into the earth in search of enough to cobblestone to heat into solid stone using my furnace.
Once that task was complete and my hut resembled more of a fort, I realised I wanted a second level. I wanted a pool. I wanted pool lights. All of this was going to take time, dedication and whole lot of mining.
I’ve been obsessed with the game since. My house/fort/castle/ultra-mansion currently stands atop four broad pillars, above a large body of water that keeps any nighttime nasties at bay (there are pool lights too, of course). It has a not-at-all-shoddy balcony, a glass roof, and a beautiful sea view. Nearby is a small hut which houses the entrance to my mine, which I have turned into a veritable rabbit warren of winding tunnels that it’s perhaps to easy to get lost in. My flatmates have watched in dismay as I’ve endlessy hacked away at stone looking for iron ore. Why? “Because I’m making a ROLLER COASTER” I yell at them like some frenzied OCD sufferer, before turning back to the screen and drilling yet another burrow deep into the earth.
I am obsessed. Even now I’m thinking about what new additions I can add to my creation. How can I make it bigger? Safer? More exciting? More interesting to potential visitors to my world? I played it until 1.30am last night.
I think the reason for this is that, like Tetris, Minecraft bores right into your subconcious. It plays on our desire to create, build and share by allowing us to do so in extremely simple fashion. Well, ostensibly simple. Placing blocks atop of other block is easy enough, but it’s the effort that goes into finding those materials – the mining and crafting and smelting – that makes everything that little bit tougher; it ensures you’re always so close to your goal but never able to fully achieve it until you’ve put in just a few more hours, then a few more, then more still. Suddenly you realise it’s 1.30am and you’ve got work the next day.
I wonder how long it will hold my attention? How much further can I go before I realise whatever I create is ultimately useless to me in the real world? I’m really not sure, all I know is right now I’m obsessed by something that’s seemingly so simple, yet in reality is deviously complex, and is ever demanding just a few more minutes of my time.
This isn’t to say I haven’t experienced problems with the game. Being that I’m completely new to Minecraft – and I’m only just experiencing not only the game itself but also the meta game that exists beyond it in countless YouTube videos and Wiki pages – I can’t tell whether or not some of the things that are occurring are by design or are in fact related to bugs in the code. Monsters still often wander my world during the day, for example, and I had to abandon my first creation as it flat out refused to allow me to place water in the moat I had carved out around it (and I’m pretty certain I did everything necessary to ensure that it could hold it).
But despite these niggles, I’d still have to say that right now Minecraft feels like one of the finest games I’ve played on XBLA, perhaps on Xbox as a whole. I haven’t seen enough of the game to fully understand the big picture yet, but I already know that it’s far greater than the sum of the parts I have.