Ah Minecraft… You’re a videogame but also so much more.

A little while ago this game was brought to my attention by Penny Arcade in a pair of comics and write-ups that evokes something mysterious and yet interesting (see this here and here). I immediately downloaded the free version (though you can play it in your browser over at minecraft.net).

You begin utterly naked, in an unfamiliar landscape.

As you can see, the graphics are nothing special but the engine is surprisingly dynamic. And the thing could run on your microwave oven it’s so undemanding. Anyway, as soon as you start the game you are on the clock. When the sun goes down, monsters emerge and begin hunting for you. They are ugly, annoying creatures but they are also cool and very dangerous. There are skeletons, zombies, giant spiders, and these weird penis-looking green things that explode destroying the landscape and you. That first night in, you must beware these creatures. It will remind you a little of the pilot of Lost especially if you hear the zombies or whatnot before seeing them.

It’s easy to gather some simpler resources like wood and dirt and begin building a rough shelter. Eventually you figure out how to combine different items to make more complicated tools like workbenches (where the bulk of crafting is done), furnaces (for cooking food and turning sand to glass), and a variety of hand-held tools and weapons to use when mining, digging, building, farming, hunting, and logging. Everything is breakable but it’s easy to manage your resources and collect enough to get by.

What’s harder is getting the lay of the land, especially if your randomly generated map is especially mountainous. There are natural rock formations, rivers, waterfalls, and even caves everywhere and you have to terraform carefully to keep yourself alive with your bearings intact.

You don’t have much health and it is rapidly depleted from falls, fires, and monsters. When you die, everything you’re carrying drops and you have to find your body (kinda like Everquest back in the day). The best way to minimize risk is to build small outposts frequently both as shelters against the night (when the monsters come!) and as resupply depots equipped with furnaces and workbenches.

As you get better resources and equipment and begin to carve your niche you may feel like something is missing. At that point you start to either want to create monolithic objects and sculptures:

A 1:1 scale model of the Enterprise? Really!?

Or if that isn’t ambitious enough, you could try something like a computer:

I don’t understand what he’s saying but it certainly looks complex.

Then there’s the guy who built a gigantic model of the Earth and filled it with a city:


If those videos don’t convince you to at least try it I don’t know what else to say. It may seem ugly and simplistic but it’s endlessly rewarding. There is always something new to build and you’ll find yourself coming up with progressively bigger and more ambitious ideas as you get a grasp for what you can really do. Want to build a floating city? Sure. Want to carve the face of your beloved into a mountainside? Why not! Want to dig into the bowels of the earth to hunt monsters and rare resources? Get going!

There are two main games. There’s Minecraft Classic which is just the creator without the survival elements and with reduced content due to it being an abandoned version. Minecraft Alpha is currently the definitive version of the game. You can play multiplayer with others, as you can see in some of those videos above, which is a fucking neat idea. This isn’t even in beta yet and the final version of the game should cost around 20 Euros. For now, it’s 10 which makes it about $15 for Canadians.

I urge you to try it if it’s still free (Notch, the maker of the game, said he’d offer it for free for a while but he isn’t updating that version I don’t think) and maybe even if it isn’t. It’ll be like the best $15 you ever spent. In addition, you won’t have to pay more for the game when it is eventually Beta or when it is finally complete. It might take a while but given how much money Notch is making off this or the fact that some major developers are courting him… it might not take that long after all!

I’m super excited about this. I consider it an investment into indie gaming and not just that but into gaming as an artistic medium. This game also makes me think of all my most optimistic predictions of what the world of the uploaded mind will be capable of. There are people creating entire worlds out there, you could be too!