Minecraft Reader Review
Video games are highly addictive. There I said it, cue the slander and outrage from all those cardigan wearing hippies in the left-wing games media (obligatory smiley face). But you see I know this for a fact because I have been addicted. The realization came one rainy afternoon in February, 8 hours after I made the grave mistake of sitting down to “give Minecraft a go”:
Discovering that the stores in my kitchen were bare, I dragged my boat down to shore and set about devising a make-shift fishing line, so that I could hook a few tasty morsels for dinner. But then I hit upon a snag.
Oh! You want to make that fishing rod do you? Well first you must grab your sword and slip into some armour, I'm afraid it's the only way to harvest string from the ferocious giant spiders. Hold on a minute, you haven't forged armour a sword? Well you had better head underground quick sharp to mine some iron, military hardware doesn't come for free you know! And what's that? I mean, , you don't even have a !?
Musing over my predicament, a sharp hunger pang reminded me that I was genuinely in need of food. Snapping out of my opium-like stupor, I remembered that the cupboards in my kitchen - the real one full of unwashed plates and mould - were actually bare. I rubbed my eyes and looked around the room, confused and dizzy. What time is it? Where am I?
But hold on a second, let's go back to the start. A time when my phone was switched on, a time when I could still remember that other place, the one with council tax, Jedwood, and the Jeremy Kyle Show...
Picture, if you will, a procedurally generated landscape. It is spanned by oceans, mountains, wooded grassland, parched desert, Arctic tundra. A land where everything is rendered in distinctive cubes, even the clouds and sun which sweep majestically overhead. The world stretches out into the distant horizon along all four lines of the compass and here you stand on a deserted beach, with only a floating cuboid arm and a minimalist HUD for company. What am I supposed to do? You ask, but no one answers.
And then the darkness sets in.
A blood curdling moan echoes in the distance and you skip nervously in panicked circles. . Thankfully, years of gaming experience has prepared you for every eventuality. Your finger springs into overdrive on the left mouse button whilst you mash the keyboard repeatedly with an outstretched palm. Where is the shoot button? You scream, as the menacing silhouette of a Skeleton crests a distant hilltop. Without realizing it, instinctively, you are pawing at the dirt with your clawed hands, digging deeper and deeper into the earth's comforting bosom. I'll be safe down here, you mutter to yourself. I'll be safe down here.
Next morning, emerging from your blackened cave into the blinding sunlight, you are reincarnated, your purpose is clear. Yesterday's exploration of the keyboard has uncovered an inventory, and the alluring “Crafting” panel. What's more, you notice that the excavated dirt is already present and correct along with a motley collection of fauna that was trampled during last night's escapades.
For the hardcore, this is the start of a long and difficult road. How shall I combine my dirt and flowers to create something that will help me defeat the evil Skeleton horde? However for the rest of us, a quick glance towards Google provides the path to salvation. With my mighty fists I shall punch wood (sic) from the trees and with wood I shall build a crafting table. From the tools crafted on the surface of the holy crafting table, my great empire shall be crafted-ed. And God said, let there be the right mouse button to place blocks from the inventory back into the world, and it was good.
Fast forward to the Sixth Day and here you are. You have only left your computer to eat, sleep, and take a dump. The once barren landscape is now filled with your creations; massive stone towers blot the skyline whilst a labyrinth of hidden mine shafts snake down into the bowels of the earth. The monsters have been driven back, sheep and cows now roam without fear across your ploughed fields, but there is something troubling you. It is something which has played on your mind for many moons, and threatens to tear apart the very fabric of your kingdom.
If only you could finish that bastard fishing rod.
The disarming thing about Minecraft is that there are no high scores, no end of level bosses, no cut scenes, no mission objectives. There is just you, a bucket and spade (which you have made yourself on the crafting table), and one humongous sand box. Head over to YouTube and you will be confounded by the weird and wonderful creations that have already been tried. Everything imaginable is on display from a giant Mario statue to an entire city, complete with skyscrapers, suspension bridge, and rudimentary electricity. At times like these, Minecraft seems to have more in common with the likes of Paint Shop Pro than the games we know and love.
Then of course there is the multiplayer. If you thought that you could faff around for hours on your own, just think of the time that can be plunged into a free-form world filled with other people. Suddenly there is the opportunity for collaboration, community, trade, theft, war, retaliation, pacts, laws, order, . It is at this point where Minecraft begins to get a little terrifying. When does a game stop becoming a game? After a day's hard work you will crawl from the mines of your New Utopia into the world you left behind. What have I done? You ask. An entire day spent digging imaginary holes in an imaginary landscape like some soul destroying theory of Nietzsche played out for real. Never again, you tell yourself, but deep down you know it's a lie. If you don't collect enough coal to keep the furnaces burning, who will?
Yet to simply write Minecraft off as a curious waste of your time is like explaining to Renton and Sick Boy that their life would be just dandy without heroin. It would miss the point, and spit in the face of the immense achievements of Markus "Notch" Persson, the man who built the game single handedly in his spare time. Minecraft is truly one of a kind and bears more than a passing resemblance to that cave you crawled into on your first night. Once you have experienced it's warming embrace, you will emerge into the sunlight a new person. You will emerge ready to dig.