Sunday, December 29, 2013

Minecraft (How Video Games Changed the World)

This is a brief excerpt from How Video Games Changed the World, a recent two-hour special on British TV.

I haven't seen the show and likely never will. I've heard different things about it, good and bad. But this brief clip about Minecraft was very interesting.

I've never thought of Minecraft as a children's game. But then, I don't have kids. And I've never played it multiplayer. For me, it's always been a single-player survival game. And sure, building elaborate structures is a huge part of the game, but there's elaborate and there's elaborate.

I've seen very elaborate structures, sure. And I knew that some people play in shared worlds, where they both compete and cooperate in building the most incredible things. But that's been a part of the game I've never investigated. And I never really thought about how easy it would be for children to express their creativity in Minecraft.

Now, that's not how I play Minecraft. For me, Minecraft is a survival game, where I've got to find shelter before night falls and the zombies, skeletons, and creepers come out. For me, Minecraft is also a game of exploring and digging and crafting and, yes, building, but there's always danger. I don't play it as a pure building game, and I don't play it multiplayer.

But the neat thing about Minecraft is that it's open-ended enough to be anything you want. If you just want to build, if you just want to be creative, you can set it up to do that, without worrying about any of the rest of it.

Child-friendly or not, Minecraft has had a huge impact on indie computer games. This was a game developed by a single person, with no vast corporate resources behind him, which has sold more than 33 million copes, so far, in just the last three years or so.

And although Minecraft took a great deal of inspiration from Dwarf Fortress, it's a lot easier to play and a lot more appealing to the general public. So it's probably done more than Dwarf Fortress to make crafting and building and mining cubes a part of other games, too. Certainly I see a lot of games these days which have been inspired by Minecraft, as unique as they might be otherwise.

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