Let's Take a Look: Minecraft Review
Up to this point, I have predominantly discussed table-top gaming (from miniature games to role-playing games) and my interests therein. As a gamer, I do have a vested interest in video gaming in all of its formats; although I am mostly a computer game player and not too heavily invested in many consoles at this time. With all of that being said, one of my favorite games is Minecraft. It allows for an amazing amount of creativity without being hampered by campaign play that will come to an end (or guilt you into driving towards a conclusion in game); and provides the option of having no conflict or other obstructions, and not just toning down the difficulty.
One of the things that truly surprised me about Minecraft is that besides the fact I am not alone in my appreciation and enjoyment of the game (my wife treated herself to purchasing her own copy to play on her laptop as but a personal example), but that there are those who truly feel as if it has a potential far greater than I gave it credit. I saw this video and was amazed and inspired by their words:
After watching that video, I began to reminisce about my experience playing Minecraft; I say it that way, because while I may go on hiatus for a while, I always come back to my saved world and continue playing to this day. And so, I wanted to share my experiences and my observations of the most open-world sandbox game I am playing; and have ever played.
Let us start off with a bit of an explanation of terms. An “open-world game” is where the player is afforded a great deal of freedom of choice in how they approach the game and its objectives. This means that players do not have to go from point A to point B to reach point C. While that may end up being the most direct and efficient route, players can choose to take a detour at point D, set up reservations at point F, before settling down with the family at point X, and then remembering just what exactly they were doing and going back to point C. This allows for more immersion and makes the players FAR more invested in their games, because it sorta becomes their game after a point.
A sandbox game is similar to an open-world game in that players are granted a greater deal of freedom than traditional games. However, where an open-world game may have a story (that players may or may not engage with), a sandbox game takes away those final borders and just lets the players loose. Typically, it means a game without rules (supposedly because in a child’s sandbox, there are no rules), but for me it makes more sense to think of it as a game where the fun is you making your own entertainment. No singular story or multiple endings to dance for your entertainment; instead, it expects you to figure out how to make it your own and to have fun doing it.
My First Exposure
The first time I heard about Minecraft was from watching a review from the Escapist’s Zero Punctuation page.
(Warning: incredibly fast-passed dialogue)
Yahtzee ‘s distinctive take on the game intrigued me enough to track down the site and purchase a copy for myself. I haven’t come to regret that choice since. While the initial challenge is figuring out what you need to do and how best do it, part of the entertainment is discovering recipes and designs on your own. Of course, if you do get stuck somewhere, there are TONS of videos and websites that can help you out with tips and recipes; there are even a few official guidebooks you can purchase that will get you started and provide guidance for some of the more involved aspects of the game.
Playing the Game
I started out in the middle of nowhere with pretty much nothing to work with. At nightfall, I had to dig out a hole in the ground and then fill in the entrance so that zombies and skeletons on the loose outside don’t come by and gnaw on my character’s face or pelt him with arrows (skeletons are armed with bows and arrows); and this was on the easy difficulty! This is not to say that it is needlessly difficult or unbelievably hard. Instead, the game simply does not hold back and does expect you to figure things out on your own; and not hold your hands through tutorial after tutorial. And yes, this makes for a more difficult overall experience, but it also intensifies the sense of discovery and accomplishment when you figure things out for yourself. After all, you figured it out on your own.
Beyond the initial shock of being dropped (thankfully, not literally) into a strange land without guidance, Minecraft is about exploring your individual world and making it your own; and it is distinctly your own world! In general, each time you create a new world to play, it will be unique to your experience and different from other worlds. Not to mention, it will grow as new updates happen to the game. There are seeds that you can input that can provide duplications on certain themes and environments, but that gets into more involved aspects of the game than we are discussing here.
For Love of the Game
Once you get past the immediate concerns of safety and survival (in my case, by switching into Peaceful mode and removing the hostile creatures), Minecraft becomes a game as much about creative endeavors and artistic expression as it does about exploration. Besides looking to a horizon and going as far as you feel comfortable, you are going to need any number of projects to keep the game interesting for you. These can be abstract (such as developing your own bits of artistic or architectural pieces for simple or complex aesthetics) or more in-depth (such as recreating real or fictional locations and architecture). These projects are important because there is no story for Minecraft; no campaign to follow (or ignore). There is an ”ending” and “final boss,” if such concepts are applicable here (and admittedly I have not reached either at thetime of this article), but even those comprise a minute portion of the overall gameplay. So without objectives built into the game itself, you are set adrift to find your own course. While this can be daunting, it is also rewarding. You set your own goals and experience that sense of triumph when you accomplish them on your own terms.
For me, the enjoyment can be slipping right back into a project that I haven’t worked on in days, weeks or months (years has not popped up quite yet) and picking up like no time has passed. My projects tend towards creating works of architecture or art of my design, rather than attempt to replicate an existent work.
I have also experimented with Redstone, Minecraft’s ore to create circuitry. Seriously, this stuff is awesome for those who know how to program in binary code; and you can make some truly impressive “programs” within the game. Someone actually made a few games within Minecraft, such as Tetris and Space Invaders. I, on the other hand, have stuck to designing a few secret doors and even an automatic opener for one.
No matter your intentions (or anybody else’s for that matter), your experience with Minecraft is going to be uniquely yours. That alone should make procuring a copy of the game a must. If you are even slightly tempted to unleash your creative drive and express yourself, I cannot recommend Minecraft enough.