Games of 2010: Minecraft • Page 2

Built to rule.

There's an argument, and one that Persson himself has used, that this was largely a fluke. It could have been any game - his blocky game just happened to achieve the right momentum at at the right time. I've never heard so much nonsense. It could only ever have been Minecraft that did this. It takes the major backbone of MMOs (persistence, self-made narrative) and FarmVille (resource management, instant results) and puts them in a new context. It is, fundamentally, built upon elements that untold millions of people, gamers and otherwise, thrill to: selfishness and collection.

Add to that its casual lawlessness: anything can and does happen, with the sweet side-effect that catastrophe is often on such a scale that it's entertainment in itself. The videos of unexpected lava-based destruction of players' impossible structures are terrible, beautiful documents: heartbreaking but unforgettable with it.

But you can just bet they all went straight back and started building again. Just one more go. For all its openness, arbitrariness and esoteric blockiness, Minecraft is built upon that oldest of gaming foundations: just one more go. I'll do better this time.

Which rather makes Minecraft sound like an inherently solitary pursuit. In a way, it is: this is a game which hinges on personal achievement, an epic LEGO challenge. At the same time, it sings when played in groups: teams of builders with abstract, immense visions, with time the only obstacle in the way of realising them.

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Out there, there's a universe of universes. An instantly forgettable multiplayer server IP could be your gateway to unforgettable sights. Everest-high staircases to nowhere, floating castles built around lava waterfalls, smilies the size of Wales, working animal pens, functional computer processors and to-scale starships. Endless new masteries of fire, earth and water... The sheer volume of time, effort and pixels is extraordinary: selfish obsession meets community endeavour, a world of grand, evolving art projects that anyone can almost immediately contribute to. Together, we are stronger. That's Minecraft's paradigm all over.

What I can't decide or predict is whether Minecraft is just 2010's game - a bright, unexpected star that burned with enough amiable ferocity to attract the world's attention for a few months - or if it's only just getting started. The more tools and features Persson provides, the more players can achieve, and the more YouTube-dominating wonders will be hewn from digital clay.

Compulsive playing of games is bad for society, screeched the BBC last month - that so much time and energy focused into a screen and an input device can lead to so much unfettered creation makes that argument all the more hollow.

Minecraft busts just about every games-circa-2010 stereotype there is. Like it or not, doff your hat to it.

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About the author

Alec Meer

Alec Meer

Contributor  |  bonzrat

A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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