Firstly, I would like to say that I have now completed my forfeit for not posting on Sunday for five consecutive days now, and I must say that the conclusion has been a good fifty minutes of sadness. (The forfeit, if you don’t remember, was to think about my future for 10 minutes).
Minecraft is not the reason for my procrastination. It very easily could have been.
I approached Minecraft with the same hesitance one might have before kissing a frog – I’d heard it had worked for some people and produced amazing results, but I couldn’t see the attraction. I will easily confess that I was talked into it. On the outset, I thought the graphics looked rubbish, it seemed childish, and I could only imagine it as a 13-year-old boy thing. My friend, however, liked to watch a lot of Let’s Plays involving Minecraft and I ended up watching some. These did not give me any idea of what the game was actually about, but did give me an idea of what could be created in it. And after seeing some of the truly incredible things that could be done, my curiosity was peaked for this creative tool. Or you could say I succumbed to a pretty Grade-A case of the mere-exposure effect, given that some of those Let’s Play episodes are pretty long and they ended up in a significant portion of the background noise of my life. Either way, I bought the PS3 version and gave it a shot.
The brief: You mine. You craft. Go figure. Survival mode gives you monsters with different abilities. They will probably kill you. You get hungry. You can drown. You can swim in lava – just kidding, you die. You can build. You can farm. You can fall to your death because you thought having said farm on a cliff edge would be cool, right? Meanwhile Creative mode gives you infinite resources, no health or hunger bar, and the ability to fly. With this mode, you essentially have a 3D canvas. Build a cathedral, a scale model of the Taj Mahal, or a giant cat made entirely of gold. Whatever you fancy.
We started on the tutorial mode and pretty quickly ran out of patience for the vast amount of stuff available to learn so after getting the basics down we shifted to Survival mode on a new map and got started – and after a few deaths switched to the Peaceful difficulty to continue. We decided we wanted to build without worrying about monsters (or the hunger bar), but still have the sense of achievement from the difficulty of finding and collecting the materials. We plan to shift up to Easy to get monsters at a later point, and also to try Creative mode on the same map for some of our other ideas. Anyway, my friend decided to build a castle whilst I discovered my spirit animal was a mole and started mining into all the nearby caves I could find.
The result was a 10 hour solid gaming session.
We were addicted. We had our goals and our mini goals and once one thing was completed it was all too easy to say ‘oh, those caves could do with some signposting’ or ‘I wonder how hard it would be to get all the way down this sheer-sided lava gorge to get the gold ore I see down there’ and off you go again. I realised that this game formed the ultimate for my natural inclination in open-world game environments – to mess around and do side stuff. Hell, I have a tendency to get so distracted by side quests normally I often forget what the main story is whilst I get distracted buying all the available virtual Rome real estate (*cough* Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood). But in Minecraft wandering around, exploring, and finding what new and random thing you can do is essentially the point. My friend went on a massive exploration and filled in the entire map at one point. I covered maybe a fifth of that. I was mining.
We’ve played more than that one session now. I have a glass bridge over my terrifying lava gorge so you can look right down into your would-be death through the very floor you’re standing on. We found a dungeon in my attempt to make an underground tunnel leading from our home to the northern edge of the map, and since then I’ve started signposting it. More than anything we have an ever-growing list of plans.
It’s not for those who want the game to set their goals for them, or to lead them along a linear path. The basic do-not-die goal is challenging initially but nothing to write home about. But it will inspire you to explore, to consider what you want to create. Better still get in on it with a friend and plan things to build together, or even games within games that can be made and played. It’s full of possibilities.
I don’t consider myself anything of an architect, an artist, or even a particularly creative person. But I feel powerful. See that boulder? I put that there. That is a nice boulder.