In short, Minecraft is pointless. You live in this generative reality (all worlds are generated randomly with some sort of algorithm). You gather wood, soil, rocks and gravel. And you do what you want, just making sure to have a shelter at night so as not to get killed by monsters.
You can’t really win or lose (if you die you get re-spawned indefinitely) and you don’t have a points system. Yet this has been one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played. I feel like I’ll play the game for the rest of my life! But try to explain that to other gamers – let alone non-gamers!!
So what makes Minecraft so darn addictive ?
Is it its generative reality? Or its reminiscence of Wolfenstein 3d and Tron graphics (in particular the shape of the clouds (yeah the original tron – and yes kids, people who saw the original Tron are still playing video games))? Is it because you can’t really win or lose? Or is it because it reaches both casual gamers and hardcore gamers in one platform?
“It seems like Minecraft has redefined what a game could be offering”
YOUR OWN GENERATIVE WORLD
One of the major points is that Minecraft gives you the feeling that you are actually building something. Similar to what SimCity introduced many years ago, but without the tension that you have to maintain it. You can let it sit forever and nothing bad will happen to it, no citizen leaving your city nor Godzilla coming in. You can even forget all about your world and come back to re-discover it again. That sense of building a reality creates a feeling of attachment to the creation. The world I created so far is sitting at home and I don’t want to create another world at this point; my own creation keeps me attached to the game itself. I even backup my world to be safe! What makes it even more interesting is the uniqueness of the worlds. All worlds are different and as soon as you start mining one world, it becomes yours!
The creative aspect is also a major part of the game. You have to decide what you are doing. You can simply build a sand castle and hang out, or use your creative skill to build towers, castles or houses, and endless cave systems. Of course it’s all digital creativity, but I’m fond of computer art – the creative aspect of Minecraft does satisfy part of that craving.
That generative aspect is also quite intriguing while exploring Minecraft. You might find cave formations that host underground water systems, or lava and minerals which create a natural beauty that is exciting to discover! The mountain formation is also quite unique, and the fact that the world is 8x bigger than the earth makes the exploration everlasting.
CASUAL MEETS HARDCORE
On a second level of addiction is that you have the casual gamer experience (you can play few minutes everyday if you want) combined with the more involved type of gaming (you can travel through your world for hours without seeing the same scenery).
You can keep it really simple (with pickaxes, building towers and rock castles) or raise the complexity level a notch with buttons, boats, armor and many other tools. You define your own involvement in the game, which is quite particular. With most other games, you have to play by the rules – the game defines how involved you have to be and you choose the game you want to play if you have a lot of time or not. With Minecraft, it’s the other way around: you can log into your world, kill some monsters, cook some steak and log out. Or you can take a few weeks to build castles and explore infinite mines!
This simplicity/complexity is also quite pleasing – at the moment I haven’t looked at all the wikis and documentation (I really enjoy discovering new tools by myself) so the most complex item I can build is a compass – and I like it! I see that you can create buttons, switches, carts, rails, TNT and all that. Since I haven’t discovered it, I am quite happy with my level of technology and nothing in the game is forcing me to go past that level.
WELCOME TO MY WORLD
As if it wasn’t addictive enough, you can put your world online, by either creating your own server (which is quite easy) or hosting a server. Again you define your rules, who you invite, and whether it’s public or private. For myself, I used my server only to be able to play in my world from anywhere in, well, the external world!
I feel Minecraft is a new way of looking at games and I hope that it will develop and evolve nicely, or at least inspire other games in that direction! That casual/hardcore, simple/complex balance is really important in the game industry – when too often games aren’t flexible enough